Saturday, October 25, 2008

Land disputes

I ran across this story in my study today:
25 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the twenty and fourth year of the reign of the judges, there would also have been peace among the people of Nephi had it not been for a contention which took place among them concerning the land of Lehi, and the land of Morianton, which joined upon the borders of Lehi; both of which were on the borders by the seashore.
26 For behold, the people who possessed the land of Morianton did claim a part of the land of Lehi; therefore there began to be a warm contention between them, insomuch that the people of Morianton took up arms against their brethren, and they were determined by the sword to slay them.
27 But behold, the people who possessed the land of Lehi fled to the camp of Moroni, and appealed unto him for assistance; for behold they were not in the wrong.
28 And it came to pass that when the people of Morianton, who were led by a man whose name was Morianton, found that the people of Lehi had fled to the camp of Moroni, they were exceedingly fearful lest the army of Moroni should come upon them and destroy them.
29 Therefore, Morianton put it into their hearts that they should flee to the land which was northward, which was covered with large bodies of water, and take possession of the land which was northward.
30 And behold, they would have carried this plan into effect, (which would have been a cause to have been lamented) but behold, Morianton being a man of much passion, therefore he was angry with one of his maid servants, and he fell upon her and beat her much.
31 And it came to pass that she fled, and came over to the camp of Moroni, and told Moroni all things concerning the matter, and also concerning their intentions to flee into the land northward.
32 Now behold, the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people, and thus he would obtain possession of those parts of the land, which would lay a foundation for serious consequences among the people of Nephi, yea, which consequences would lead to the overthrow of their liberty.
33 Therefore Moroni sent an army, with their camp, to head the people of Morianton, to stop their flight into the land northward.
34 And it came to pass that they did not ahead them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.
35 And it came to pass that the army which was sent by Moroni, which was led by a man whose name was Teancum, did meet the people of Morianton; and so stubborn were the people of Morianton, (being inspired by his wickedness and his flattering words) that a battle commenced between them, in the which Teancum did slay Morianton and defeat his army, and took them prisoners, and returned to the camp of Moroni. And thus ended the twenty and fourth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.
36 And thus were the people of Morianton brought back. And upon their covenanting to keep the peace they were restored to the land of Morianton, and a union took place between them and the people of Lehi; and they were also restored to their lands. (Alma 50:25-36)
I read it with a lot more interest than I usually have in the past, because I am taking a World Politics class this semester and I just finished a short paper examining Russia’s reasons for invading Georgia (not the Georgia in the United States, the country that is south of Russia). Though the events only half coincide, there are enough similarities to render the comparison interesting. I reproduce my paper below:
In August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia, completing their humanitarian intervention on behalf of South Ossetia.

Examining their justification for this requires some historical background.

Russia’s military action came at the end of a series of events in which tensions between South Ossetia and Georgia were heightened, and tensions between Russia and Georgia were heightened.

In the 1990s, South Ossetia, located between Georgia and Russia, fought to separate itself from Georgia and since then, South Ossetia has had very close ties to Russia. Russia has issued South Ossetians Russian passports to facilitate relations (Abdullaev, 2008; Nichol, 2008, 18) and many South Ossetians use Russian money (Godsadze 2008). This has not prevented Georgia from wanting to reunite South Ossetia back with Georgia.

In 2005, there were two elections in South Ossetia, one in which the South Ossetian separatists claimed 99% of the population was in favor of an independent South Ossetia, and an alternative election that was decided in favor of unification with Georgia. Russia recognized the separatist election, while the U.S. state department and most of the west accepted the alternative election (Nichol, 2008, 3). This has caused a mismatch in views over South Ossetia’s international status.

Tensions rose before the fighting started as Georgia conducted military maneuvers on its borders, and Russia conducted military maneuvers by its borders. Georgia protested Russia’s maneuvers, saying that it was demonstrating a military threat. (Nichol, 2008, 6)

In early August, smatterings of violence between South Ossetia and Georgia resulted in Georgia invading South Ossetia. The South Ossetian president claimed that during the invasion, Georgia perpetrated its third genocide against South Ossetia (Russia Today, 2008, Aug 9). South Ossetians claimed that Georgian soldiers made no distinction between military and civilian targets and that they behaved in a brutal manner toward fleeing civilians (Russia Today, 2008, Sept 7). There are stories of old women crushed by tanks and cars set on fire with occupants still inside. Although the death toll is unknown, South Ossetia claims it is in the thousands. (Russia Today, 2008, Aug 9)

In response to the crowds of distressed South Ossetians fleeing northward, Russia declared that it would repel the Georgian aggression. It invaded South Ossetia, stopped the Georgian forces, pushed them back into Georgia, and continued further into Georgia.

Russia justified its actions by saying that Georgia was committing genocide on South Ossetia and that it was necessary to stop it immediately. Russia already had peacekeeping forces in South Ossetia, but they were overcome; “52 Russian peacekeepers were killed as a result of the Georgian army’s attack. Thirteen are missing and 229 are wounded” (Russia Today, 2008). “In justifying its invasion of Georgia, Russia said it had to defend Ossetians with Russian citizenship who were under siege when Georgia shelled their capital, Tskhinvali, in early August” (Rodriguez, 2008).

Russia’s push far into Georgia can also be seen as an intention to completely subdue the military aggression of Georgia. If Russia merely chased the Georgian army back into Georgia and stopped at the border, the opposing Georgian army would remain a significant threat for South Ossetia to face in the future. Russia proceeded to Georgian military bases and neutralized the threat itself in order to be quite sure that Georgia would no longer threaten South Ossetia. They took over Georgian military bases, replaced Georgian media broadcasts with pro-Russian content (possibly to try to reverse any pro-Georgia propaganda), and took Georgian soldiers prisoners (Rimple, 2008).

Russia’s invasion into Georgia is also an attempt to build a protective margin or buffer around South Ossetia. They put in eight military checkpoints in Georgia and wanted a no-fly zone too (Whalen & Chazen, 2008). Russia consistently sets up buffer zones to prevent outside invasion. Eastern Europe was turned into a Russian buffer zone against the threat they perceived in NATO and the west after World War II (Norton, 2008).

Once Russia occupied Georgia, it also took the unique step of extending diplomatic recognition to South Ossetia, citing humanitarian reasons (Abdullaev, 2008). This was done in order to try to solidify the territorial integrity of South Ossetia, even as many other nations decried this recognition as a violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia and called for Russia to leave Georgia.

The fact that Russia has since mostly pulled out of Georgia, following a cease-fire agreement (AFP, 2008) and has insisted on including a South Ossetian delegate in peace talks with Georgia (Williams & Wagstyl, 2008) indicates that it was not using “humanitarian intervention” as a cloak for ambitious national expansion.

The theory that best explains Russia’s reason for invading Georgia is that of “humanitarian intervention”.
Similarities between the Morianton-Lehi land dispute and the Georgia-South Ossetia dispute are that one party thought land of the other party belonged to them, there was escalating violence, fleeing refugees petitioned for outside military intervention, and the aggressors had to be completely subdued.

I think it is significant that in the Book of Mormon story, everyone was restored to their lands after they covenanted to keep the peace. It is even more interesting to me that a union took place between these two warring parties that previously fought over the land. It seems to show that unity is the solution to contention.

Works cited in paper
AFP. (2008, Oct 15). Georgia-Russia talks angrily break down. Retrieved Oct 15, 2008 from

Abdullaev N. (2008, October 7). Russia Adds 2 New Countries to Its Map. [Electronic version] The Moscow Times as shared by Retrieved on Oct 11, 2008 from

Gotsadze, E., Associated Press. (2008, August 8). Fighting with Russian spreads to cities across Georgia. Retrieved October 7, 2008 from

Norton E. (2008, Oct 11) Why Uneasy relation exist between Poles and Russians. Welcome to Polishsite. Retrieved on October 11, 2008 from

Nichol J. (2008, August 29). Russia-Georgia Conflict in South Ossetia: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests. [pdf document] Congressional Research Service. Retrieved on Oct 11, 2008 from

Russia Today. (2008, September 7) Witnesses reveal ‘Georgian atrocities’. [Electronic version] Retrieved Oct 2, 2008 from

Russia Today. (2008, August 9). NATO encouraged Georgia – Russian envoy. Retrieved October 11, 2008 from

Rodriguez, A (2008, October 2). Ukraine’s Russia Quandry. [Electronic version] The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 6, 2008 from,0,3220653.story.

Whalen J, Chazan G. (2008, August 21). Moscow is Likely to Recognize Breakaway Republics in Georgia. [Electronic version] Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on Oct 11, 2008 from

Williams, F. & Wagstyl, S. (2008, Oct 15). Georgia and Russia begin talks. [Electronic Version] Financial Times. Retrieved on Oct 15, 2008 from