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 On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid