Alexander SKAKOV

Alexander Skakov, Ph.D. (Hist.), Senior Research Fellow, Work Group Coordinator, Center for the Studies of Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Urals-Volga Area, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow, the Russian Federation)


By mid-2011, the Republic of South Ossetia (RSO) was gradually sliding into the abyss of a political, social, and economic crisis. The people of South Ossetia had lost confidence in those who ruled them: the republican leaders were making too many mistakes, the republican elite were bogged in contradictions, while postwar rehabilitation was deliberately slowed down. This and the conviction, very popular in the Russian public (and even in the expert community), that the rehabilitation money was being shamelessly embezzled served as another argument in the political struggle raging in the RSO.

Very much as usual, an external factor (in this case Russia) merely added to the far from simple situation. I have in mind certain bureaucrats accustomed to semi-military discipline and gray practices.

Left alone to shift by itself the republic would have degenerated either into another devitalized Oriental despotic state (even if a tiny one) or, if the opposition came to power, into a small developing state with a democratic future.

By the November 2011 presidential election, the republic had reached a crossroads: President Eduard Kokoity was completing his second, and last, presidential term.

Pre-Election Casting

Early in 2011 (when Eduard Kokoitys second presidential term was drawing to an end), one of four equally possible scenarios was in the offing:

  • (1) Eduard Kokoity amends the Constitution to run for a third term. It should be said that his personality defies straightforward description along good/evil lines; his role changed along with the circumstances. It seems that after 2008 he lost his bearings; protest feelings were gradually mounting, while Moscow, which no longer trusted the president of South Ossetia, created a new center of power headed by RSO Prime Minister Vadim Brovtsev.
  • At the same time, a group was set up to initiate a referendum on a constitutional amendment to allow a third presidential term. Its head, Deputy Defense Minister of South Ossetia Ibrahim Gaseev, a bureaucrat without political ambitions, would have never dared to do this without the presidents explicit orders. The situation was not that simple: the question of a third presidential term was coupled with the question of Russian becoming the second official language, which, if it failed to be approved at the referendum, would have been an unpleasant surprise for Moscow.

    The law enforcers and President Kokoitys retinue, meanwhile, launched a campaign to persuade the public and deputies to support the referendum.

    The president put a brave face on a sorry business: he insisted that Moscow was on his side and parried all statements about the opposite signals coming from Moscow by saying that they came from obscure experts and insignificant officials.

    On 14 June, 2011, the Supreme Court of South Ossetia ruled that the planned referendum was unconstitutional. This caused what can be described as a de facto coup détat: on 15 June, a group of law enforcers under Ibrahim Gaseev and..

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