Thursday, Aug. 28: Mount Abraham, 4 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 23: Rice Memorial High (scrimmage), 10 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 28: at Burlington High School, 4:30 p.m.
October 7, 2015
Thursday, Aug. 28: Mount Abraham, 4 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 23: Rice Memorial High (scrimmage), 10 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 28: at Burlington High School, 4:30 p.m.
Aug. 21, 2008
Armadillo ace Bill Supple pitched seven shutout innings and left the game after eight innings with a 9-1 lead as the 10-3 Armadillos bettered the 9-5 Killington Saints by the score of 9-4 in Sunday’s Vermont Senior Baseball League game.
“Supple threw as well today as he has all year,” said Billy “Vegas” Daw. “The last batter he faced in the bottom of the eighth struck out on a ball in the dirt. That tells you how well his breaking ball was working.”
Reliever Greg Bolger pitched the ninth inning, giving up three unearned runs on two hits and one walk.
The Armadillos collected 14 hits and were led by catcher Bambino Fitzgerald (3-4, 2B 2 runs, RBI), outfielder Daw (2-4, 2 runs 2 RBIs), second baseman Darby Crum (2-4, 2B, run, RBI) and third baseman Pookie Martin (2-4, run).
Killington was limited to seven hits and one earned run.
The game was a scoreless pitchers’ duel through the first four innings, with just two Armadillos and three Saints reaching base. In the bottom of the fifth, Crum and the Bambino both singled to put men at first and second with one out. When left fielder Dan Van Der Vliett singled, Crum tried to score but was thrown out at home on a perfect throw from the Saints’ left fielder. Undaunted, first baseman Dennis Johnson (1-4, 2B, 1 run, 3 RBIs) followed with a line drive to the gap in right center, scoring both runners to break the scoring logjam. Daw followed with a single to score Johnson and Danis tripled to bring in Daw, giving the Dillos a 4-0 lead.
The Dillos scored five more runs in the sixth as they sent 11 men to the plate. After shortstop Greg Bolger (1-3, 2B, BB, run) walked and Martin singled, Crum doubled off the fence in left center, scoring Bolger. The Bambino and right fielder Roberto Seals (1-4, run, RBI) both singled, bringing home Martin and Crum. Johnson’s grounder to second brought in the Bambino and Daw singled in Seals, as he collected his second single and second RBI in as many innings.
The Saints got on the board in the bottom of the eighth on a walk and two singles. In the ninth, Bolger relieved Supple, but it quickly became evident that he had hurt his arm on a relay throw in the prior inning. After the leadoff hitter reached on Crum’s error at shortstop, the following two batters singled and walked, respectively, to load the bases. Manager Johnson tried to bring Supple back in, but Killington argued that the league rules required Supple to sit out one inning before he could return to the mound. Rather than risk an appeal, Bolger stayed in, and after a sacrifice fly and a single scored the three runners, Daw, who was then playing second, tracked down a grounder in the hole between second and first and dove to grab a hard grounder up the middle for the last two outs.
On Sunday, Aug. 24, the Dillos are at home against 4-8 Mad River Valley, the team which gave the Dillos their only loss last year. Game time is noon.
League standings and individual team statistics are online at www.scorebook.com (click “Search,” then “Vermont,” then “Vermont Senior Baseball League”).
Aug. 21, 2008
By Mal Boright
“We have been emphasizing cardiovascular (conditioning), so some of the kids are a bit sore,” said Champlain Valley Union High girls soccer coach Brad Parker during a Monday night telephone call.
Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Candidates for the Champlain Valley Union High School varsity girls soccer team practice during a scrimmage last Wednesday evening.
Parker has been working with 43 candidates at the varsity level. There are another 40 freshman and junior varsity aspirants.
“We have big numbers this year and that includes a lot of freshmen,” said the veteran coach.
The schedule opens Tuesday, Sept. 2 at Rice Memorial High. The first home game is scheduled for Sept. 4, when South Burlington blows into the Redhawks’ nest.
Parker has to replace 13 players, 12 of those lost by graduation.
Thus far, Parker has reason for optimism.
The coach got his first look at his 2008 edition under game conditions last weekend in a four-way scrimmage at Essex against the Essex High Hornets, Hartford High and Rutland High.
“We did pretty well,” said Parker.
CVU won one and tied two in the shortened scrimmage games.
“It was also nice to get on a dry field,” he added.
The rain and thunderstorms of the past week and a half have made “squish” a common noise on the soaked practice fields.
“Last week we had one session in the gym,” Parker said.
Impending thunderstorms forced all practice teams indoors.
The coach is hoping to line up another scrimmage before the season opener, which follows Labor Day weekend. The Redhawks in recent years have participated in a pre-season jamboree in New Hampshire, but it has been cancelled.
Parker was hoping to have his final varsity roster set by the end of this week, adding that he wanted to give the kids plenty of time to try out.
Aug. 21, 2008
Back to school
Get ready, kids, because the carefree days of summer are nearly finished.
School starts next week. Kindergarten through eighth grade students in the Williston School District, as well as freshmen at Champlain Valley Union High School, return to class on Wednesday, Aug. 27. Students in grades 10 through 12 at CVU start on Thursday, Aug. 28.
Changes of note
As the 2008-2009 school year begins next week, both upper and lower houses within the Williston School District are experiencing changes due to the new classroom configurations.
As reported earlier by the Observer, Verve and Phoenix upper houses have been disbanded and the new Harbor House has been created. Journey House at Williston Central School has changed its name to Pinnacle House and has added two teachers and expanded to six classes.
Also, the Williston School District is instituting full-day kindergarten this school year for the first time.
The school day has been extended as well, after the district split from the Champlain Valley Union High School bus system. Allen Brook School will start at 7:55 a.m. and end at 2:35 a.m. Williston Central will start at 8:10 a.m. and end at 2:55 a.m.
Aug. 21, 2008
By Tim Simard
The Williston School District is being required by the Vermont Department of Education to provide extra academic assistance to special education and economically disadvantaged students who did not meet proficiency levels on standardized tests. The district will have to allocate funds from its budget to pay upwards of $1,900 for educational services outside the schools for each student that qualifies.
The requirement has been made because Williston did not meet the federal Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, standards for certain students over the past three years, as determined by the New England Common Assessment Program test results. Williston joins 22 other schools in Vermont that must provide the Supplemental Education Services for certain students.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to meet AYP to track improvement each year. Vermont measures progress through the Common Assessment Program tests, more commonly known as NECAP, which are given to students in grades three through eight. The NECAPs test math and reading, as well as writing in grades five and eight.
Though Williston students as a whole performed above state averages on the NECAP tests, students considered special education or economically disadvantaged, known as free or reduced lunch students, did not show enough progress in the past three years, leading to the district’s AYP failure. As a result, those students are eligible for the Supplemental Education Service.
The DOE has given schools and families a pre-approved list of service providers that specialize in tutoring students in math and reading. The providers, located in different parts of Vermont as well as online, are chosen only by families. School districts do not have a say in which provider a family chooses.
For Williston, the closest organization is the Stern Center for Language and Learning, located on Allen Brook Lane. Students can go to the center and receive tutoring for $80 an hour, according to the state’s list.
Allen Brook School Principal John Terko, who is overseeing the start of the program, said he would like to see as many qualified students as possible take part in the added services.
“We want kids to succeed, so if the extra help helps, then we’re all for it,” Terko said.
Terko said the district was required by the state to inform every parent, regardless of socio-economic status, about the programs. In doing so, some families might realize they qualify for free or reduced lunch if they have not participated in the past.
Since sending out the letter to families earlier this month, the district has already received four applications, which Terko said was a good start.
Money for the programs will come from Williston’s Title 1 funding, which had already been allocated in the school budget. The Title 1 money is given to school districts by the federal government to help finance education programs geared to low-income students.
Chittenden South Supervisory Union Chief Operations Officer Bob Mason said Williston would receive more than $183,000 in Title 1 funds for the upcoming school year; the portion of that money that will fund the Supplemental Services Program has yet to be determined. All Title 1 funds are given out through CSSU, Mason said.
Williston Central School Principal Jackie Parks said each student would receive $1,943 per school year for the supplemental programs. If parents were interested in continuing the supplemental service after the allotted funds were used, they would have to pay on their own, Parks said.
Parks said families must apply by Oct. 31 for a child to be considered for the program. Parks added space would most likely be limited in the program, although she did not have an idea about how many spaces would be available. She did say priorities would be given to the lowest achieving students on the NECAPs.
“We think this is a good thing for the kids because more services never hurt,” Parks said.
Interestingly, the deadline for applying comes just weeks after the fall NECAP tests are administered in October. Services would then begin in November. So while Williston did not make AYP last year, the results of supplemental services will not be seen in the 2008 test data, but in the 2009 test data. In fact, results might not be fully released to schools until the spring of 2010, said District Principal Walter Nardelli.
“It’s a little bit off on the time frame,” Nardelli said. “(Students are) being tested before they can enroll in the program.”
Nardelli said it’s difficult for schools to play catch-up when the process is a year behind, but the positive benefit is that students can get the extra help they need, even if test data might not show it for some time.
Parks said the school district is taking its own steps in improving its NECAP scores among students. The district is being more aggressive in intervening when students fall behind in reading and math. Some students who did poorly on the tests were able to get help over the summer. During a two-week period, students who signed up were able to get instruction in math and reading.
“With any child who didn’t score well on the NECAP, they’ve had a whole slew of intensive support,” Parks said.
Terko said the one of the goals of the administration was to “get the word out” in regards to the Supplemental Education Service. He said families of students who think they might qualify should contact him or Parks at 878-2762 as soon as possible.
“This is important to all of us and we’re all going to make an effort,” Terko said.
Aug. 21, 2008
By Glenn Rosenberg
While the subjects studied and level of intensity change drastically as students advance through school, many back-to-school safety tips apply at any age. Students of all ages and grade levels need to get to and from school safely and be sure safety is always a top priority. The following tips can help students of any age stay safe as they head back to school:
> Bus safety – Whether it is a school bus or public transportation, safety considerations remain the same. When boarding, students should remain in clear view of the driver, and wait for the bus to completely stop before approaching it from the curb. Remember to remain seated when the bus is in motion, and when exiting, move directly to the sidewalk, out of the street and away from traffic.
> Backpack safety – Choosing the wrong backpack and packing one improperly can put strain on the back muscles and may increase curvature of the spine. So when choosing a backpack, select one with two wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Also, remember to always use both straps and pack as lightly as possible. A rolling backpack is a great alternative for students carrying a heavier load, but remember that it must be carried up steps. A backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight.
> Bullying – Teaching a student how to respond to a bully, including making eye contact, staying calm and walking away, is extremely important. Additionally, onlookers should not cheer on or encourage bullies. Students of all ages should know that bullying is never acceptable, whether they are the victim, the culprit or an onlooker. Developing practical solutions with school staff and encouraging students to identify instances of bullying can help with prevention.
> Stranger danger – This term is often something taught in kindergarten. However, even college-aged students need to be reminded that people are not always who they say they are and that we should all be cautious about who we trust — both in person and online.
> Internet safety – Many students utilize the Internet for research purposes during the school year. Social networking is also a common use of the Internet as students are back in touch with old friends and making new ones. Parents should be aware of, and talk to their children about, content that is not appropriate for young computer users, the potential dangers of online conversations with predators and cyber bullying.
> Car safety – Young riders should be in age- and size-appropriate car or booster seats and older children should always wear their safety belts. Teenage drivers need to focus intently on the road and parents should encourage the elimination of distractions, such as cell phones, while driving. Curfews, driver education classes and parents setting good examples can help reduce risks.
> Bike helmets – While riding a bike, no matter how short or long the distance, wearing a helmet is critical. Helmets can help prevent the risk of head injury and even death. A properly fitting bike helmet should be horizontal on the head, with a comfortable fit. The front should be about two fingertips’ width above the eyes, and the Y-shaped side straps should hit just below the ears. The chin strap should fit snuggly, but leave enough room to open the mouth widely.
> Money matters – Students of all ages may need to carry cash for reasons such as transportation, food and other small purchases. To prevent loss or theft, students should not bring credit cards or large sums of money to school — they should only carry what they actually need for the day. Many schools and colleges are making it safer and easier for both parents and students by utilizing digital technology to help students manage their money or even eliminate the need for cash.
> Home alone – Throughout childhood, students need supervision before and after school. If a parent cannot be home at these times, a responsible alternate adult should be present until the parent returns. If a commercial after-school program is utilized, ask about the staff’s training, the child-to-staff ratio and the rooms and playground. These special efforts to supervise young children can keep them safe until they’re mature enough to be home alone after school. Older students should have clear guidelines regarding inviting friends into the home. Additionally, adolescence can be a time for experimentation and parents need to have open conversations about the illegality and dangers of alcohol and drugs and the potential consequences of irresponsible behavior.
> Pedestrian crossing – A student’s trip to school should always be a safe one. Walkers face hazards that can be especially dangerous, especially in heavy-traffic areas. Students should always walk on a sidewalk or as far to the side of the road as possible, be aware and cautious of their surroundings, pay attention to all traffic signals and crossing guards and never walk alone, especially when taking an unfamiliar route. Take note that many younger children do not have the pedestrian skills necessary to walk to school without parental supervision, so carefully consider whether or not they’re ready.
Glenn R. Rosenberg is vice president of AlliedBarton Security Services Higher Education division. Rosenberg has worked in higher education for more than 30 years as a senior university administrator, management consultant and business developer. He can be reached at [email protected]
Aug. 21, 2008
By Kim Dannies
I had a Vermont ‘staycation’ last week and it was a blast. I visited Shelburne Farms for the Vermont Fresh Network event; learned about primal cuts at a workshop on grass-fed meats; saw the Mary Cassatt exhibit at the Shelburne Museum; biked up ApGap; and ate a maple creemee from the Sunoco station every day. At the Richmond farmer’s market, I splurged on grass-fed porterhouse steak from Maple Wind Farm in Huntington (www.maplewindfarm.com) that was so good it made my eyes roll back in my head. The meat is lean and juicy and herbal tasting. It requires less time on the grill and a 20-minute resting period in foil. I gave it a slather of Laudemio olive oil and a big pinch of sea salt. Paired with a Columbia Valley pinot noir, Helix 2004, (spied at Fresh Market on Pine Street) it was simple perfection.
For side dishes, I lightly mashed some baby potatoes called “cranberry” that are bright purple inside. They looked stunning with snipped chives and a glistening knob of butter. A lightly steamed rainbow of fresh green, yellow and purple beans made for a quick salad.
Who needs an airport? In the summer, among Vermont’s gorgeous green pastures, vacation simply doesn’t get any better than this.
Farmers’ market salad
2 pounds of mixed fresh garden beans
8 cherry tomatoes; sliced in half
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 bunches of fresh baby greens
4 ounces Vermont goat cheese, crumbled
Trim beans and cut into thirds. Rinse. Place in a glass bowl with a film of plastic wrap. Zap in microwave for 2 minutes. Remove wrap, pour beans into a colander and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Place greens on a serving plate. Add beans and top with tomatoes, nuts and cheese. If you have any stray fresh herbs, toss those in, too. Using a zigzag motion, pour desired amount of dressing over the salad. Serves 4.
Sunny maple mustard dressing
The turmeric is what gives this dressing a sunny color. If you don’t have any, don’t sweat it, but it is a fun spice to play with in small amounts.
In a small food processor chop 2 garlic cloves. Add a pinch of turmeric, 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and a large pinch of kosher salt. Blend for 30 seconds. With motor running, add 1/3 cup of olive oil in a stream; blend about 2 minutes, until the mixture emulsifies slightly. Yields 3/4 of a cup.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.
Aug. 21, 2008
By Mal Boright
The foot first touched the gas pedal at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2. Destination: Ames, Iowa. Purpose: to take a carload of computer and other electronic gear to the student who two weeks ago had made the same trip to Iowa State University, his new residence.
(Note: One would prefer to be loyal to Vermont colleges and universities. But the cost of a decent education and other incidentals such as food and housing are dramatically less expensive outside Vermont and the Great Northeast.)
The route of preference was through Canada by way of northern New York to Cornwall, Ontario. Then it was onto the Canadian super slab called the 401, through Toronto and Kitchener, Ontario, and onto the 402 to Sarnia, Ontario. Next up was by Port Huron, Mich., taking Interstate 69 to I-80, through Des Moines, Iowa and finally, Ames.
6:45 a.m. It is, to borrow an old Laugh-In line, sock-it-to-’em time in northern New York. Regular gas at a station in Champlain, N.Y. is (gulp) $4.39 a gallon. At Alburgh, just before the bridge into the Empire State, regular was $3.98. And this part of New York, to put it kindly, is not exactly an enclave for the well-to-do.
7:14 a.m. Just on the western side of Ellenburg Depot, N.Y. is the first look at the big, white wind towers sitting on a hill to the west. A few miles closer, on U.S. Route 11, there are dozens of the big towers, some of the blades turning slowly in the slight breezes of this early morning. The clusters of towers give hope to this traveler that at long last there is some serious effort to reduce our addiction to fossil fuels, particularly oil. But, unfortunately, where one sees hope others see a spoiled view.
7:35 a.m. A stop at a convenience store in Chateaugay, N.Y., where one of the food servers says folks in the town and around are supporters of the wind farm that has appeared in their midst. However, one chap from Plattsburgh, some 40 miles distant, said his parents think the wind towers pose a blight on the area. Apparently, the occasional visitor is more offended than the residents who see them every day.
8:14 a.m. Indian reservation in northern New York.
“This is Mohawk land, not NYS (New York State) land,” announces one fascinating sign. Another building just beyond the sign on Route 37 has a sign reading, “Mohawk Tribe Administration. Administration, Health Care, Senior Citizens.” Wow, one stop for all those services. What a great idea for our town offices, huh?
8:25 a.m. Welcomed (key word) into Canada by a friendly Canadian customs officer.
8:40 a.m. On the 401, where the speed limit is 100 kilometers per hour (about 62 mph). On a Saturday morning, traffic is light but most are wheeling along at about 70 mph.
10:51 a.m. Gas up at a 401 rest area, where petrol regular is $1.23 per liter — about $4.65 per gallon. Gas in Canada has been higher than in the United States for years, which accounts for why there are few Canadian-registered SUVs on the 401.
Another observation: Even when very busy, the service areas for food and other necessities are much more civilized and friendly in Canada than, say, those group gropes on the New York Thruway or the New Jersey turnpike.
6 a.m. After an overnight in Sarnia, Ontario, get on the adjoining bridge to the United States, where the U.S. Customs officer is friendly, without an attitude that some display. However, there is a Check Point Charlie feel to the process, in which you stop your car some 40 feet before the booth so a picture can be taken, and then hand proof of citizenship to the officer who enters information into a computer.
9 a.m. Regular gas in Michigan is $3.85 a gallon (those poor blokes in northern New York).
11:30 a.m. Get through “Chicagoland” (what they call the metropolitan area here) in good time, which is not always the case due to perpetual road construction and traffic. But this is Sunday morning and there are few truckers on the road.
3:30 p.m. Central Standard Time Arrive in Ames after the long haul across Illinois and the corn belt of Iowa. Gas here is $3.81 for regular and $3.64 for ethanol.
5 p.m. Entrance to Iowa State is dominated by Jack Trice Stadium, home of the Iowa State football Cyclones. Yup, big time college football rules the roost, even though State teams have not been very good the past couple of seasons.
On local television this night, a reporter at University of Iowa’s press day asks an Iowa lineman how he likes doing two workouts a day in 96 degree heat. The answer: “It’s better than the last two months in the weight room.” Yes sir. Student athletes (hah!) now working practically year ’round at no pay — a smattering of education — while their coaches and universities roll in dough and lure the sports-crazed alums into forking over the big bucks for new buildings or support for the football program.
7 p.m. After a meal at a good restaurant where prices on the average are $2 to $4 per item below Chittenden County, the manager of the local Holiday Inn allows as to how business in the hotel has been a bit off for the past few months, probably due to the rising gasoline prices.
“It would be nice if we had football year around,” she said wistfully.
Williston resident Mal Boright has been an editor, columnist and reporter for several Vermont newspapers. He has since returned from the land of “big time college football” to continue covering local sports as a correspondent for The Charlotte Citizen and the Williston Observer.
Aug. 21, 2008
By Kayla Purvis
The last day of school is perhaps the highlight of every student’s year. It signals that the nine months of homework, teachers and stress are finally over. The question is no longer, “When will summer get here?” but rather, “What will I do with my summer?”
My brother, Kirk Purvis, 12, of Williston likes to “hang out with friends, play video games and bike ride,” when his summer begins. Jake Allard, 11, of South Burlington plays the drums, attends camp and hangs out with friends. But summer isn’t always filled with free time, as swimmer Anna Shelley, 15, of Williston knows. Shelley spends many hours a week in the pool and doesn’t get a lot of free time.
For college students like Robert Frisch, 21, of Hinesburg, summer is a time to have fun.
“I avoid being home as much as possible; spend time in New York, Boston, go hiking and go to as many concerts as possible,” Frisch said.
Some students attend classes held at Champlain Valley Union High School. Some train for and play their favorite sports. Others study for upcoming classes and review notes from previous units of study. And then there are some who just relax and have fun.
In 1970, a famous classic rock band called The Who released its version of a song that was appropriately titled “Summertime Blues.” The song was about teenage life in America at the time: Kids working and trying to make money, trying to get dates and trying to live their own lives. Perhaps today’s definition of the summertime blues would be knowing that in a few short months, the summer’s warm freedom will be ending and school will be starting. The feeling of knowing it’s almost time to head back to the classroom has been described as annoying, disappointing, exciting and sweet.
“By the time school rolls around again, I’m usually running out of things to do,” Frisch said.
The question as to what should students do during the summer, as opposed to what do they do, still remains. Should we work? Should we study? Should we play sports? Should we travel?
I think it’s a personal choice. Each one of us works hard the entire school year, and when summer comes around it’s finally our turn to choose how we spend our time. Whether we want to read, travel, study or hang out should be a personal decision. Summer is the time for us to do what we want to do. It’s a time for us to enjoy a break from the stress of math problems, project deadlines and long days. Summer is when we get a chance to revamp, recharge and gain the needed energy to survive our days in the classroom.
As for me, I enjoy the summer, but I get excited for my return to CVU. High school has been great; a wonderful learning experience and I’ve met a ton of great people. Summertime is fun and I always look forward to it. Going back to school certainly doesn’t give me the summertime blues.
Williston resident Kayla Purvis will begin her sophomore year at Champlain Valley Union High School on Aug. 27.
Aug. 21, 2008
By Katherine Bielawa Stamper
The line-up was impressive. The presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia stood beside Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi. As members of a unique fraternity, each represented a nation which, at one time, fell within the Soviet sphere of influence. Each understood the imposing weight of political and economic encroachment by Moscow. Identification as a Soviet satellite or republic dictated who your allies were, who your enemies were, and even which holidays you celebrated.
It didn’t matter that the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989. Political memory remains crystal clear among these developing democracies. Forging commercial relations with the West, joining alliances such as NATO and throwing off the wearying cloak of stepchild status in Europe are viewed as tantamount to preserving political autonomy.
Russia’s flexing of its military muscle in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia encouraged the show of support. The carefully choreographed photo opportunity sent a clear, distinct message: Georgia is not alone. The world, especially former Warsaw Pact nations, is watching.
I am not an expert on Georgia. I decided it was time to learn a little about the history and geography of this country whose long-simmering ethnic conflict recently reached a flashpoint, spilling across print and electronic media.
Georgia, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, is a small country in Eurasia bordering the Caucasus Mountains. The former Soviet republic encompasses approximately 26,911 square miles, making it comparable in size to Illinois. Of its 5.4 million inhabitants, 70 percent are ethnic Georgians. Minority groups sprinkled across the mountainous landscape include Armenians (8 percent), Russians (6 percent) and Ossetians (3 percent). Georgia’s president, fluent in English, earned his Juris Doctor law degree at Columbia University. He’s been actively courting Washington while aggressively pursuing NATO membership.
The break-up of the U.S.S.R. in the early 1990s severed Ossetia in two along the Russo-Georgian border. North Ossetia remained part of Russia; South Ossetia became part of the newly-independent nation of Georgia. This unnatural land split ignored ethnic realities, fueling tensions on both sides.
South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia on November 28, 1991. No one seemed to notice much. Prominent western European nations did not rush to acknowledge the South Ossetians’ claim to independence. NATO recognized the area as a legitimate region of Georgia.
Simmering dissension burst into flames when the Georgian military rolled into South Ossetia on Aug. 7 in response to Russian troop movements near the border. The Russian army crossed into the region the next day. President Dmitry Medvedev challenged Georgia’s sovereignty by sending troops onto foreign, though familiar, soil. The Russians maintain their presence is to preserve Ossetian autonomy. Vigorous land and air assaults, coupled with encroachment further south beyond South Ossetia’s border, imply more complex political motives.
Ethnic Ossetians comprise roughly 67 percent of South Ossetia’s population. If the region pursues and achieves independence, this may lead to considerable shuffling and displacement of people.
Estimates of numbers killed, including civilians, seem too unreliable to commit to print. Villages are smoldering, cities have been bombed and desperate refugees dot the landscape. As I write this, negotiations have started but bullets continue to fly.
It somehow seemed a simpler, cleaner break when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia this past February. The Serbian province was overwhelmingly Albanian with a mere 4 percent of its population identified as Serbs. Displacements, if they became necessary, would be minimal. Germany and Sweden quickly recognized Kosovo. They were soon followed by the United States, United Kingdom, France and most of the other European Union nations. Russia vehemently opposed Kosovo’s independence, standing solidly beside Serbia. Belgrade officials head to the United Nations General Assembly in September to argue their case. The matter remains far from resolved.
There are no easy answers to this conundrum. Localized ethnic tensions are sometimes co-opted by powerful political entities to further hegemonic goals. Hitler’s 1938 invasion of Czechoslovakia, allegedly to protect ethnic Germans in Sudetenland suffering deprivations, revealed far darker intentions.
Czechoslovakia’s strategic geopolitical position played a far more important role in Hitler’s insatiable appetite for liebensraum (living space) for Germans.
As events unfold in Eurasia, I wonder what Russia’s true intentions are. Coincidentally, I wonder what America’s true intentions are in oil-rich Iraq.
Poland recently entered into an agreement with the United States to allow an American missile base on its soil. The Interfax news agency quoted Russian Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn warning that Poland, by doing so, “is exposing itself to a strike — 100 percent.” Last I checked, Poland was a sovereign nation.
I’m planning a trip to Cracow next summer to visit my family. In the meantime, I’ll keep Georgia … on my mind.