The dissolution of the USSR at the end of December 1991 and the reunification of Germany were, without doubt, two of the most remarkable international events at the end of the 20th century. Analysis of the consequences of these events with respect to international law has proved challenging to international legal norms due to the fact that the kind of “micro cosmos” exemplified by these events served to highlight the principal sectors of international law. The consequences of the dismemberment of the USSR proved to be extensive and they were felt not only in Europe, but also in the rest of the world. The breakup of such a prominent strategic actor put an end to the restricted stability that characterized the bipolar nature of the Cold War. Thus, international society witnessed a period of instability in succeeding years marked by a renewed rise in issues such as the right of self-determination and the principle of uti possidetis. Therefore, events unfolding in the former Soviet Union, at times tedious and even tragic, led to the creation of a new international organization called the Commonwealth of Independent States, which tried to fill the “black hole” left by the breakup of the USSR as well as deal with the problems confronted by the successor states, notwithstanding its own deficiencies. Moreover, some disputes of a territorial, interethnic, or national character became very violent, such as those in Central Asia and the Caucasus, in particular in Georgia. This article provides researchers with instruments to study the recurring problems in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as the Georgian-Russian conflict in 2008, and also treats the consequences of these crises in international law. Issues such as military operations, the cease-fire agreement, and the succeeding evolution of events are discussed. A section focuses specifically on important violations of international law that took place during the conflict, for which an international report was published. In addition, the consequences of the conflict are addressed with respect to NATO-Russia and EU-Russia relations while the effects of the conflict in the geostrategic and energy fields are also considered.
The accession to power of Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the concepts of perestroika and glasnost to bloom and boosted the reemergence of nationalist movements among the diverse republics of the Soviet Union, in particular in Georgia. Apart from the Georgian nationalist movement that demanded secession from the USSR, secessionist movements also appeared in specific regions such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On 30 November 1990 a referendum was held regarding independence in which approximately 90 percent of the population participated. Taking into account all the referenda held in the republics, the vote in favor of independence in Georgia registered 98.93 percent, which represented the second-highest percentage after that in Armenia. In consequence, the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Georgia proclaimed independence and appointed Zviad Gamsajurdia the new president of the Republic. Following a period of instability, which led to the dismissal and expulsion of Gamsajurdia in January 1992, the return of Eduard Shevardnadze, former minister of foreign affairs during the Gorbachev era, prompted big hopes for a country immersed in an economic and political crisis. Shevardnadze, who was designated president of the Council of the State, would later be validated as president of the Parliament by universal suffrage, thus becoming the highest authority figure in the country until the presidential elections of 1995. Shevardnadze attempted to take advantage of the prestige he had acquired in foreign affairs to advance recognition of Georgia by the international community. His efforts proved fruitful as the country joined the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) as well as the United Nations. Nevertheless, the main focus of his work concerned the management of an increasingly grave internal crisis, including the incitement of uprisings supported by Gamsajurdia in western regions of Georgia and the rise of secessionist movements in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This section provides an introduction to this article; therefore, the citations provide a general overview of the events surrounding the dissolution of the USSR and the emergence of an independent Georgia. Weerts 1999 is cited regarding uti possidetis. Blanc Altemir 2003, Urjewicz 1995, and Forsyth 2013 analyze topics from diverse perspectives, including economic and social issues as well as taking into account international aspects. Additionally, Diasamidze 2008 summarizes the essence of the conflict in providing political and legal perspectives. Finally, Intskirveli 1996 treats the Constitution of newly independent Georgia, and Hille 2005 explores the kind of state most suitable in Georgia. See also Alexidze 2012.
Alexidze, Levan. International Law and Georgia, from Antiquity to Present: Selected Papers Published in 1957–2012. Edited by Keteva Khutsishvili. Tbilisi, GA: Tbilisi State University, 2012.
The author of this work is the foremost authority in the field of international law in Georgia. Therefore, this collection represents a very valuable tool to study the problems with which Georgia has been struggling since its independence in 1991.
Blanc Altemir, Antonio. Conflictos territoriales, interétnicos y nacionales en los estados surgidos de la antigua Unión Soviética. Valencia, Spain: Tirant lo Blanch, 2003.
The author analyzes the consequences of the dissolution of the USSR, focusing mostly on territorial and interethnic conflicts. Therefore, it constitutes an excellent introductory reference to the topic. In Spanish.
Diasamidze, Tamaz. Regional Conflicts in Georgia: The Autonomous Oblast of South Ossetia, the Autonomous SSR of Abkhazia, 1989–2011: The Collection of Political-Legal Acts. 2d ed. Tbilisi, GA: Regionalism Research Centre, 2008.
This handbook includes the 802 most important political-legal documents dealing with developments in the conflicts in Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia). Therefore, it represents a voluminous source of information regarding the conflicts.
Forsyth, James. The Caucasus: A History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Forsyth analyzes the area from prehistory to the present. It is a very good tool by which to acquire an understanding of the roots of the conflict.
Hille, Charlotte. “What Future Legal Status for Georgia?” Humanitäres Völkerrecht 18.1 (2005): 29–37.
The first part of the article examines developments following the Rose Revolution, and the second analyzes what kind of state, whether unitary or federal, is the most suitable solution for Georgia.
Intskirveli, G. Z. “The Constitution of Independent Georgia.” Review of Central and East European Law 22, 1 (1996): 1–8.
This article constitutes an essential tool to acquire an understanding of the Constitution of Georgia immediately following independence.
Urjewicz, Charles. “La Transcaucasie face aux fantômes de son passé: Le cas géorgien.” In Le Caucase post-soviétique: La transition dans le conflit. Edited by Mohammad-Reza Djalili, 35–47. Brussels: Bruylant, 1995.
The author explains the evolution of domestic events in Georgia from an historical perspective. In French.
Weerts, Laurence. “Heurs et malheurs du principe de l’uti possidetis: Les cas du démembrement de l’URSS.” In Démembrements d’états et délimitations territoriales. Edited by Oliver Corten, 79–142. Brussels: Bruylant, 1999.
This edited volume is the result of a joint effort between specialists in international law and sociology. This chapter provides a very detailed analysis of the principle of uti possidetis with regard to the USSR.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
- African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the Af...
- Agreements, Bilateral and Regional Trade
- Agreements, Multilateral Environmental
- Arctic Region
- Armed Opposition Groups
- Aut Dedere Aut Judicare
- Bandung Conference, The
- Children's Rights
- Civil Service, International
- Collective Security
- Command Responsibility
- Common Heritage of Mankind
- Complementarity Principle
- Conspiracy/Joint Criminal Enterprise
- Constitutional Law, International
- Consular Relations
- Contemporary Catholic Approaches
- Cooperation in Criminal Matters, Cross-Border
- Courts, International
- Crimes against Humanity
- Criminal Law, International
- Cultural Rights
- Cyber Warfare
- Debt, Sovereign
- Development Law, International
- Dispute Settlement
- Disputes, Peaceful Settlement of
- Drugs, International Regulation, and Criminal Liability
- Early 19th Century, 1789-1870
- Economic Law, International
- Enforcement of Human Rights
- Environmental Compliance Mechanisms
- Environmental Institutions, International
- Environmental Law, International
- European Arrest Warrant
- Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties
- Feminist Approaches to International Law
- Financial Law, International
- Foreign Investment
- Freedom of Expression
- French Revolution
- General Customary Law
- General Principles of Law
- Grotius, Hugo
- Habeas Corpus
- History of International Law, 1550-1700
- Hostilities, Direct Participation in
- Human Rights
- Human Rights and Regional Protection, Relativism and Unive...
- Human Rights, European Court of
- Human Rights, Foundations of
- Human Trafficking
- Hybrid International Criminal Tribunals
- Immunity, Sovereign
- Indigenous Peoples
- Institutional Law
- International and Non-International Armed Conflict, Detent...
- International Court of Justice
- International Criminal Court, The
- International Criminal Law, Complicity in
- International Humanitarian Law
- International Humanitarian Law, Targeting in
- International Investment Agreements, Fair and Equitable Tr...
- International Investment Arbitration
- International Investment Law, Expropriation in
- International Law, Aggression in
- International Law, Climate Change and
- International Law, Hegemony in
- International Law, Military Intervention in
- International Law, Peacekeeping in
- International Law, Proportionality in
- International Law, Reasonableness in
- International Law, Self-Determination in
- International Law, State Responsibility in
- International Law, the State in
- International Law, the Turn to History in
- International Law, Trade and Development in
- International Law, Unequal Treaties in
- International Law, Use of Force in
- International Trade and Human Rights
- Intervention, Humanitarian
- Investment Protection Treaties
- Islamic Law and Human Rights
- Jurisprudence (Judicial Law-Making)
- Jus Cogens
- Law of Treaties, The
- League of Nations, The
- Lebanon, Special Tribunal for
- Liability for International Environmental Harm
- Maritime Delimitation
- Martens Clause
- Medieval International Law
- Mens Rea, International Crimes
- Military Necessity
- Military Occupation
- Modes of Participation
- Most-Favored-Nation Clauses
- Multinational Corporations in International Law
- Nationality and Statelessness
- Natural Law
- New Approaches to International Law
- Non liquet
- Nonstate Actors
- Nuclear Proliferation
- Nuremberg Trials
- Organizations, International
- Palestine (and the Israel Question)
- Peace Treaties
- Political Science, International Law and
- Protection, Diplomatic
- Public Interest, Human Rights, and Foreign Investment
- Rational Choice Theory
- Russian Approaches to International Law
- Sanctions, International
- Soft Law
- Space Law
- Spanish School of International Law (c. 16th and 17th Cent...
- Sports Law, International
- State of Necessity
- State Succession
- Superior Orders
- Territorial Title
- Theory, Critical International Legal
- Transnational Corruption
- Treaty Interpretation
- Ukrainian Approaches
- Underwater Cultural Heritage
- Unilateral Acts
- Universal Jurisdiction
- Uti Possidetis Iuris
- Vatican and the Holy See
- Victims' Rights, International Criminal Law, and Proceedin...
- Watercourses, International
- Western Sahara