South Ossetia Calls Referendum to Rename Itself
De Facto South Ossetian Leader Leonid Tibilov signed a decree on February 6 setting the referendum on renaming the breakaway region to “the Republic of South Ossetia – the State of Alania.”
The referendum will be held together with presidential polls on April 9, 2017.
“For a long period of time the public has persistently raised the question of returning to the historical name of our state – Alania. The name dates back to the era of Alan national unity [referring to the medieval kingdom of Alania in the north Caucasus], to the era of prosperity, power and glory of our people,” Tibilov wrote in his February 6 statement.
“The country needs to carry the name of those, who created it. In parallel with the revival of Alan statehood, the ancient name of Alania needs to be revived as well … the ancient name of predecessors, which it shares with the people of brotherly Republic of North Ossetia – Alania [one of Russia’s republics in North Caucasus] in the Russian Federation,” Tibilov stated.
The de facto leader added that the region’s current name “is known throughout the world” and that “discarding" it entirely would mean “forgetting important volumes of the motherland’s heroic history.”
Therefore, Tibilov proposed to name the republic into two “identical, equivalent and equal” names. “[We will be] keeping the current name – the Republic of South Ossetia and adopting the second – the State of Alania.”
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili issued a statement on the matter on February 7, saying that “any attempt to rename Georgia’s occupied region without the consent of Georgia’s central authorities, represents an attempt to infringe on Georgia’s sovereignty and integrity, as well as a next step taken towards further annexation of Georgia’s occupied territories.”
“Plebiscite, elections or any other action that entails the expression of free will of the population cannot be held on the territory, which is occupied by a foreign state, where majority of local population has been expelled from, where ethnic cleansing has taken place and where the Russian Federation represents the only force that carries out effective control on the ground,” Margvelashvili explained.
He also called on the Russian Federation “to take real steps towards de-occupation of Georgia’s occupied territories and fulfilling its international commitments” and on the international community to counter “the infringement of Georgia’s sovereignty and integrity and the attempts to legitimize the so called elections and plebiscite.”
Tibilov first proposed to rename the region in December, 2015. He spoke again on the matter at his December 29 press conference, saying that the referendum on renaming breakaway region to “the Republic of South Ossetia – Alania” would coincide with presidential elections in April, 2017.
“In my view, we need to rename our state into South Ossetia – Alania, just like it is [in the case of] North Ossetia – Alania, and after that, unite with North Ossetia within the Russian Federation as the state of Alania. But there are different opinions on the issue of renaming our republic, and we will take them into account,” Tibilov explained then.
The breakaway republic’s leader was also planning to conduct the referendum on joining the Russian Federation in July 2016. Tibilov, however, announced on May 26, 2016 that Tskhinvali would postpone the referendum until after presidential elections.
Elections in the breakaway region are denounced as illegitimate by Tbilisi and the international community, except of Russia and few other countries, which have recognized the region.
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