News / Europe

'Rural Berlin Walls' Divide Communities After Russia-Georgia War

Five Years After Russia-Georgia War, New 'Rural Berlin Walls' Cut Communitiesi
X
August 12, 2013 8:19 PM
Five years ago this week, Russia and Georgia fought a short war over two separatist regions of Georgia - Abkhazia and South Ossetia. James Brooke returns to the cease-fire line with South Ossetia and discovers new divides separating the regions' residents.
James Brooke
Two-meter-high rolls of razor wire now course through Georgia's countryside, dividing farms, families and villages.
 
Five years ago this week, Russia and Georgia fought a short war over two separatist regions of Georgia-Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  When the cease-fires were signed on August 16, 2008, the cease-fire lines were to be temporary lines drawn on maps of Georgia.
 
But five years later, Russian soldiers are putting up kilometers of fencing and earthen berms, creating what some call “rural Berlin Walls.”
 
Mariam, an Ossetian, and her husband, David Vanishvili, a Georgian, woke up one day in this border village to find their lives cut in half.
 
“My Georgian friends miss me, and sometimes they come close to the fence and we talk," said Mariam, talking to VOA through the fresh rolls of razor wire. "They ask how I am and if I need something. The day before we didn’t have matches and they brought some to us.”
 
David said Russian soldiers patrol the border daily, walking down a border footpath with dogs.
 
“The fence used to not be this long, it used to be shorter, but they made it longer," said David, a spry 79-year-old farmer. "So sometimes we could go on the Georgian side when it was short, but now it is almost impossible.”

Cease-fire monitors concerned
 
The European Union Monitoring Mission monitors the cease-fire. On Saturday, the Mission said,  a shot was fired from the South Ossetian side as a Georgian police truck approached a South Ossetian border berm.

Russian troops are using earthen berms, irrigation ditches, fencing and razor wire to demarcate temporary cease-fire lines as international borders.
 
There have been more and more fences being built, and this is a big concern," European Union Monitoring Mission Spokesman Gergely Fulop said in Tbilisi.  Estimating that 27 kilometers of barriers have been built in recent months, he added: "This stops everyday lives of people there. It restricts very badly the freedom of movement there.
 
Georgian parliamentarian Giorgi Vashadze says the new government of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili is not standing up to Russia. He says the old UNM party government of President Mikhail Saakashvili would have led an international protest campaign over the fences.
 
“They are doing that because current government is weak," he said of the Ivanishvili government that took power after parliamentary elections last October. "Believe me, if there was UNM government in this case, there would be huge campaign, international campaign that horrible disaster on Georgian territory.”

Good fences make good neighbors
 
But Prime Minister Ivanishvili says relations with Russia are improving. Russia has recently re-opened its market to Georgian wines and mineral waters. There is a surge of Russian tourists visiting Georgia, with half a million expected this year. On the new border barriers, he is cautiously optimistic:
 
“When it comes to the situation in occupied territories, putting barbed wire on so-called border lines, this creates tension with Russia," he told VOA. "But it will be eventually solved, most likely after the Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.”
 
Alexander Rondeli, president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, says Russia is building the border fences to show Georgia who is in charge.
 
“They are just doing it to show Georgia that all relations will be according to Russian rules," Rondeli said in Tbilisi. "Russia recognizes South Ossetia. South Ossetia is an independent state. Georgia has to accept it.”

On the Ossetian side of Khurvaleti village, one resident likes the fence.

“This fence is a good thing," Aslan Ivanovich Huvullova, an Ossetian resident, said in Russian. "This is our border. This is our land. I was born on this land, and my father was also born here.”

Five years after the war, a temporary cease-fire line dividing two regions of Georgia increasingly looks like a border between two nations.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid