Stephen Jones Takes a Fresh Look at Russo-Georgian War

Russian and Eurasian Studies professor Stephen Jones is the editor of a new book that takes a multidimensional view of the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. War and Revolution in the Caucasus: Georgia Ablaze considers the various causes that led the two countries to fight over the secessionist territory of South Ossetia. In the book, a series of authors analyze the historical relations between minorities in the region; look at the link between democratic development, state-building, and war; and explore the role of leadership and public opinion in the buildup to the clash.

“Karl Von Clauewitz famously said, ‘war is a continuation of political activity by other means’; his point is that war does not happen in a vacuum, it always has a domestic context,” Jones says. “That is what we try to analyze in this book. What domestic groups and interests were behind this war in Georgia, in the secessionist region of South Ossetia, and in Russia? We are trying to get around the simplistic Western focus on geopolitics.”

While the conflict took place in the South Caucasus, the war had global implications, highlighting the deepening tensions between Russia on one side, and the United States and Europe on the other.

“Western analysts too often forget that Tip O’Neil’s quip that ‘all politics is local’ applies to other countries too, not just the United States,” Jones says. “The 2008 war had a major impact on the Eurasian region, and on U.S.-Russian and EU-Russian relations. We all understand that. But what impact did it have on Georgians, on Georgian political structures, and the economy? Think of Vietnam’s political and social consequences at home in America. We are analyzing both popular pressures for and against the Russo-Georgian war, and the consequences of military defeat for the Georgian people and the Georgian state.”

The book is Jones’s latest on Georgia and the South Caucasus; he’s also the author of Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European Road to Social Democracy, 1883-1917 and has just completed a new book, Georgia: A Political Life, 1991-2010. He’s been studying Georgian politics and society for 30 years and was elected this summer as a Foreign Member of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences.