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Political semantics: What’s in a word?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, March 28
Speculation has resumed over the term “occupation” as it relates to Georgia’s breakaway territories. These are the breakaway territories that declared independence from Georgia, backed-up by the deployment of a large number of Russian troops in Abkhazia and in the Tskhinvali region of South Ossetia.

This term was used as a reference to the situation in the country sometime after the Russian aggression had begun. Slowly the term “occupation” became familiar for Western politicians and political pundits. Later, the term even appeared in the vocabulary of the official documents adopted by various international organizations, diplomats and politicians.

Today the term “occupation” offers the best description of the current reality in Georgia. Indeed Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region are kept under the control of Russian troops. Russian military forces are deployed in multiple spots along the perimeter of the administrative border with Georgia, which according to the interpretation of Russians and their separatist puppets, has become a state border between the two “states”– Georgia and the “Republic of Abkhazia” and the “Republic of South Ossetia.”

These territories are peppered with Russian military experts, advisers, trainers, intelligence, heavy equipment and so on. Their exact number however, is impossible to calculate. Moreover, it is interesting that almost all the people residing in those territories possess Russian passports and are therefore Russian citizens.

It is difficult to determine what else is needed to justify the term “occupation,” whatever is meant under this term. The possible synonym to the word “occupation” could be “conquered.” If this will make things easier to understand, we can say that Russia has conquered these Georgian territories.

In its classical understanding, the word “occupied” is close to the word “hold”. One could suggest using this word instead of “occupied”, but in reality, the latter is describing the situation going on those territories more precisely. Needless to say, whatever you want to call it, the two Georgian territories remain occupied either from a civil point of view or from a military.

This term irritates the Russians; the word “occupation” has an international stigma attached to it and it hinders any further proceedings in the process of peaceful negotiations on various levels. But this is the reality – the territories are occupied. Russia is engaged in this process. If the situation within these territories irritates anyone– it is the Georgians. Few Georgians remain there, because Georgians by the thousands were ousted from their rightful homes and property on account of their ethnicity. This has upset and worried many.

So, if the current Georgian administration can offer a better, more applicable term to describe the current situation– let them do it. Unfortunately, it does not much matter how the current situation is identified, or how it is termed. What matters most is the commitment of the Russian Federation to follow the protocol laid-out in the agreement signed with France under the auspices of EU in August 2008. If Russia abided by their commitments, then the need for using the term “occupation” or any other pejorative terminology would automatically disappear.