This Week In Vexillology #296

We started a theme of all countries strange or 'not-quite-officially-recoginized' countries last week and we're moving forward with it this time a look at Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Let's start things off with Abkhazia.
Let's unpack the flag before we get into the ins and outs of the Republic of Abkhazia itself. Adopted on July 23, 1992. Right off the bat, it's interesting to look at. The hand, the stars, the green and white stripes-- it's a unique combination and actually kind of striking when you step back and really think about it. There's a sort of odd echo of the Stars and Stripes that is undoubtedly something of a political statement on the part of the Abkhazians-- even if it's a subtle and perhaps out and out unconscious one. The red canton is based on the banner of the old Kingdom of Abkhazia-- so what about the hand? Well it means 'Hello to friend! Stop to Enemies!'' The seven stars stand for the seven historical regions of the country and the alternating green and white stripes stand for the tolerance between Islam and Christianity that allows them to co-exist. For the numerologists out there- yes, that's a lot of number seven here- but the number seven is sacred to the Abkhaz, so that's why it's important in their flag.

Which brings us back around to Abkhazia...  basically, it's had on and off autonomy for centuries now-- but in the past one hundred years it's pretty much always been autonomous in one form or another- even if it might be within the Republic of Georgia's boundaries. As the Soviet Union began to break up, tensions between Abkhazians and Georgians increased and finally broke open into an ugly little war over 1992-1993 that culminated in the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from Abkhazia and the defacto independence of the region.

(Mildly crazy tangent: if I'm reading the wiki-page right- then Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze actually camped out in Sukhumi and refused to leave the city no matter what during the war-- rebels actually surrounded the city, trapped him there and after ten days of heavy fighting took the city and he had to dodge snipers and damn near got killed getting out of there. You can have plenty of takes on Shevardnadze and his rule in Georgia, but that's pretty goddamn hardcore, imo. Can't think of a world leader even back then that would have done that.)

Next up, South Ossetia:
I feel like I've sort of got to apologize to the Republic of Georgia. We're sort of picking at all the old wounds/separatists movements they've got and if Abkhazia was one, another more recently geopolitically relevant one would be South Ossetia.  Let's jam out about their flag before we move onto the ins and outs of South Ossetia and what they're all about. The flag was set down in the Constitution of South Ossetia on November 26, 1990 and confirmed by the law on the Regulation of the National Flag on March 30th, 1992. It was created by the historian and former leader of the independence movement Alan Chochiev. It's almost identical to the flag of North Ossetia-Alania, except South Ossetia uses a slightly darker shade of yellow than North Ossetia does. It was said to represent the social structure of ancient Ossetian society which was divided into three social groups that formed a whole: the military/aristocracy, the clergy and the ordinary people. The colors stand for moral purity (white), martial courage (red) and wealth and prosperity (yellow.)

The TL;DR of it all on South Ossetia seems to mirror a lot of the experience of Abkhazia- various periods of autonomy that were eventually confirmed by the USSR. When the Soviet Union began breaking up in the early 90s, tensions increased and then escalated to the point of open and very nasty warfare over the course of 1991-1992. Georgia ended up in control of large portions of South Ossetia, but the rest had more or less defacto autonomy/independence. This was more or less confirmed when tensions ratcheted up once more after the 2003 Rose Revolution that culminated in the Russo-Georgian War of 2008. Ethnic cleanings/atrocities and general nastiness were reported on both sides durng both conflicts but right now, Georgia claims that both South Ossetia and Abkhazia are Russian-occupied Georgian territories. 

And that's Abkhazia and South Ossetia! Remember until next time keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

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