After independence in 1991, followed a long period of deterioration in socio-economic conditions, large internal contradictions and a growing proportion of poor residents. Economic growth in the 1990s led to improved living conditions for some, but the gap between the large amount of poor and the small group of newly rich people increased. The development was halted by the 2008 war and the global economic crisis, which reduced the assistance of countries in the West. In 2009, 31 percent of the residents lived below the poverty line.
When the country became independent, there was a free medical care, but it was ineffective and corrupt and mainly located in the larger towns. A health care reform was started in 1994 and included privatization and paid medical care. The sickness insurance was previously linked to employment and did not apply to the majority of the population who lacked work or were farmers or self-employed. Continued reforms have meant that the state now provides free healthcare for those living below the poverty line. However, many interventions are chargeable, as is all medicine. At the end of the 1990s, the residents utilized health care to a much lesser extent than twenty years earlier. This is especially true for those who do not have employment or live just above the poverty line. The differences in quality and accessibility are very large between private health care in the cities and the health care that is located in remote mountain areas, which is state-run, poorly equipped and has staff with low and outdated education. Low tax revenues have meant that the state has not been able to realize the decisions that have been made on increased health care investments.
In 2006, there were 37 beds and 47 doctors per 10,000 residents. Qualified help was available at almost all deliveries. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of GEO and acronym for Georgia.
In 2010, the retirement age was 60 years for women and 65 years for men. Unemployment is higher than in neighboring countries and during almost the whole of the 1990s it was over 20 per thousand. Nearly half of the employees are unionized. Threats and reprisals against elected representatives are not uncommon. Since the middle of the 1990s, the regime has succeeded in cleaning up most of the corruption at lower levels in society. In the two decades since the country became independent, the position of women has deteriorated.
South Ossetia History
The origins of the Ossetians are not entirely clear, but among the theories are that they originate from the Alans, an Iranian people, and that they settled in the southern Caucasus during the early Middle Ages after being expelled from their former settlements south of the River Don in present-day Russia. Most were Christianized under the influence of the Byzantine Empire, but a minority converted to Islam.
The Ossetians who lived farthest south came under Georgian influence while their neighbors in the north were incorporated into the Russian Empire in the 1760s. In 1801, the Ossetians were also occupied in the south, and the entire Georgian kingdom, in the Russian Empire. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, North Ossetia became part of what was to become the Soviet Union, while South Ossetia became part of the short-lived independent Georgian state (1918-1921). During these years, several South Ossetian rebellions were broken down by the Georgian leadership. Since Georgia was also invaded by the Red Army and incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1921, South Ossetia was given some autonomy within the Georgian Soviet Republic.
When the Soviet Union began to fall apart, South Ossetian leaders raised demands for increased self-government and connection to North Ossetia. This led to clashes between Ossetians and Georgians living in South Ossetia, and in September 1990 the Ossetes issued a declaration of independence. The Georgian government responded by revoking South Ossetia’s autonomous position, and civil war broke out that year.
Civil War of 1990
The war lasted until June 1992, when the parties managed to conclude a ceasefire agreement. By then over 400 Georgians and 1,000 Ossetians had been killed. A joint Russian, Georgian and South Ossetian peacekeeping force was deployed in the province. Later that year, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) set up an office in Tbilisi to monitor the ceasefire and establish a dialogue between the parties.
Following the ceasefire, lengthy peace talks were held under the OSCE leadership, and in 1996 the parties signed an agreement on a peaceful solution to the conflict but no lasting relaxation could be achieved.
In 2001, 37-year-old businessman Eduard Kokojty was elected South Ossetian “president”. He announced that he was holding talks with Abkhazia’s leaders on common requests for “associated status” with Russia. Kokojty also did not exclude the possibility of letting South Ossetia merge with Russian North Ossetia. Since the Civil War, many South Ossetians had been granted Russian citizenship.
When Micheil Saakashvili took office as President of Georgia in the winter of 2004, he declared his intention to unite Georgia and re-establish the outbreak provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia under the control of the Georgian government. During the summer, repeated clashes occurred between Georgians and South Ossetians, and several people were killed. In mid-August, Georgia agreed to withdraw its domestic troops and hand over to the joint Russian-Georgian-Ossetian peacekeeping force to try to maintain order in the area.
Referendum on independence
In November 2006, South Ossetia organized a referendum on independence. As expected, almost all South Ossetians voted yes. At the same time, Kokojty was re-elected as President.
The Georgians in South Ossetia also held their own presidential election. It was won by Dimitrij Sanakojev, who organized a government and local administration in Kurta north of South Ossetia’s capital Tschinvali. At the same time as the election, Georgians in South Ossetia voted for a proposal to begin negotiations with Georgia to convert the country into a federation where South Ossetia would be a sub-republic. In May 2007, Georgia’s parliament passed a resolution that made Sanakoyev head of what was called South Ossetia’s temporary administration.
When Kosovo declared its independence in February 2008, the conflict gained momentum. The South Ossetian parliament in March called on the outside world to recognize the province as an independent state.
Russia then announced that it no longer intended to observe the ban on trade and other contacts with South Ossetia adopted by the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in 1996. Russia’s reasoning was that “conditions had changed” and Moscow announced that contacts between Russian ministries and their counterparts in South Ossetia would be intensified.