FRESNO (Independent Exile) -- Ames tells me the eXile must now "be more sensitive to Russian interests" and I've got to play along. Tough job. But like any Cold-War brat, I always kinda wanted to be a Russian agent of influence -- just like that all-American boy Hansen at the FBI, who turned traitor just because he was bored at his desk. So I spun the globe a few times and came up with a war where, believe it or leave it, Russia actually comes off like the White Knight. I'm talking about South Ossetia.
I see your little eyes glazing over, so I better give you some idea where and what South Ossetia is. Well, for starters, it's just south of North Ossetia. Does that help? Didn't think so. OK, how about this: it's in Northeast Georgia. And I don't mean Jimmy Carter peanut-farming country. I mean the other Georgia, on the east shore of the Black Sea, just north of the Caucasus, where all us Caucasians came from, although we got sorta less hairy along the way, thank God.
The east shore of the Black Sea -- that's where Jason went to get that Golden Fleece, only he ended up with Medea, one of those high-maintenance foreign girlfriends. She ended up feeding Jason his own sons one night. Moral of the story: those exotic war brides never work out, long term.
Other moral of the story: folks in this part of the world play rough. The Caucasus may be the part of the world that's hardest for Americans to understand, because over there every inch of land is marked off with its own language and basketweaving traditions. We're just the opposite, which is why it's so hard for us to get. In the US you can drive a thousand miles without seeing one thing different. No matter how far you go, it's the same Interstate landscape, like you're in a stuck video game: crops, offramp, Denny's, Mickey D's, AM/PM Minimart, more crops, offramp. You cheer up when you come across a car crash because at least it's a little variety.
The Caucasus doesn't have an Interstate. If it did, you'd pay a toll in blood every single mile. The Caucasus is a crazy maze of mountain valleys, every damn one marked off as the property of one tribe or another. Step across some imaginary line and you're walking into a blood feud that's been going since the last Ice Age. This is feudin' country that makes Appalachia look like Haight-Ashbury.
While the Soviets were in charge, the Caucasians put their feudin' gear in storage. Stalin was one babysitter you didn't act up with. He came from this part of the world himself. That's where he got so tough.
In fact, as long as Comrade Stalin (real name: Dzhugashvili) was on top, every Caucasian tribe wanted to claim him. The Ossetians said he was Ossetian, and the Georgians told everybody he was Georgian. And when everybody decided Stalin was a bad guy, it reversed: the Georgians said he was nuthin' but a bloodthirsty Ossetian.
When Georgia turned independent after the USSR dissolved, the locals changed their tune again. Instead of going on about how Ossetians were totally different from Georgians, the Georgians went around yelling that Ossetia was an integral part of Georgia, with no reason to go thinking about seceding. At the time Georgia was run by this crazy poet-fascist named Gam-sakhurdia, one of the first post-Communist rabid nationalists, and he kinda got all the non-ethnic Georgians a little paranoid with his Gruzya (Georgia) for the Gruzininy rant.
See, Georgia's small enough already, but even so, there are at least three parts of it that may or may not be ethnically distinct, depending on who you ask and who's got the gun at the moment. Think of Georgia as a big mouth, opening to take a bite out of the Black Sea. There are three teeth in this mouth that are sort of loose, like GULAG prisoners' teeth used to get from the scurvy. There's Adzharia, the bottom front tooth; Abkhazia, the top front tooth; and there's South Ossetia, back inland there like a top molar.