The disintegration of the Soviet Union (USSR) in the early 1990s led to statehood for a number of countries in Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus. This reconfiguration of territorial and institutional boundaries was a difficult process, which left many Russians outside their own country and in Russia itself with a lingering desire to reclaim areas of influence and reassert its great power status.
While some of the newly formed post-Soviet countries have made significant progress in terms of state-building over the past two decades, others continue to suffer the Soviet legacy of poor governance, economic stagnation, poverty, and intractable conflict. In Georgia, the existence of unresolved disputes in the break-away territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia undermine stability and led to brief but significant war last year.
In early August 2008 Georgia launched a military strike on South Ossetia in response to separatist attacks by South Ossetian forces. This in turn led to the military occupation of Georgia by Russian forces, arguably to protect the ethnically-Russian people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. During the month-long fighting, significant destruction of Georgian villages took place, well documented human rights violations were committed by all sides, and over 192,000 people were displaced from Georgian enclaves in South Ossetia. Mediation by the French through the European Union Presidency led to a ceasefire in September 2008, but Russia continues to violate the terms of the agreement and undermine regional stability through efforts to curtail the United Nations and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) missions in Georgia. Today, sporadic violence continues and the possibility of renewed conflict with significant destabilizing effects is very real.
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