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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs