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Mass media / News

The village, cut to the quick. A report from the Georgian-South Ossetian border

Radio Liberty 23.08.2019 at 15:02

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a private, non-profit information service funded by the U.S. Congress, broadcasting to the countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and Middle East and Russia.

The Correspondent of Radio Liberty visited the Georgian village Gugutiantkari, which was the center of attention after employees of power structures of South Ossetia and Russian border guards have resumed for this portion of the work on border demarcation, which is considered public. (Russia, in contrast to virtually the entire world community, recognized the independence of the breakaway Republic of South Ossetia.) Barbed wire and metal fence cut the village, leaving a number of houses, farmland and water sources "abroad", where the citizens of Georgia the path is closed. On the road of Gori – Tskhinvali length of about 30 kilometers is quite busy traffic. Both sides are racing trucks, cars, taxis and buses. At first glance this is surprising, because the road abuts the reinforced concrete barrier near the village of Ergneti, near the city of Tskhinvali, where once raged a huge "frontier market", and now forms the border between Georgia and its former autonomy of South Ossetia. This boundary in Tbilisi and in most countries of the world are called administrative, in Moscow, and Tskhinvali – "state." Taxi driver named Nugzar explains that heavy traffic on the highway is not surprising, since along the line of separation there are dozens of Georgian villages. Residents go daily to Gori or Tbilisi, driven by the sale of cheese and milk, and in the fall apples are the primary asset of these places. Gugutiantkari village, Gori district of Shida Kartli region is located on the border of the former South Ossetian Autonomous region. "Shida Kartli" means "Inner Georgia". Gugutiantkari and other villages of the region is geographically located almost in the heart of Georgia, and that is where the border with South Ossetia. In some areas the dividing line is very close to the strategic highway of Tbilisi – Poti. KGB of South Ossetia have set up a banner with the warning: "Here is the border of South Ossetia". The banner can be seen from the Windows of cars, rushing from East to West to the black sea coast. But this sign stands in a field, away from populated areas. Particularly dangerous situations can arise when employees of power structures of South Ossetia together with Russian frontier guards not only set a warning banner, but the barbed wire and metal fences directly in the villages, where, according to the maps of the Soviet era, took place administrative border between Georgia and South Ossetia. One of these villages, split into two parts, – Gugutiantkari. The name derives from the name of Gugutishvili – this family lived in the village for many centuries. Now Gugutiantkari there are only 144 residents. The rest went either before or after the "five day war" in 2008. A few days ago from the North where there are Ossetian villages, drove big cars. They brought a special metal construction, and people dressed in military uniforms, arrived in cars and started to dig holes and install the supports for the metal grids. "Build a fence", – said a police officer from a small detachment of the interior Ministry of Georgia, protecting the village from the South. He explained that the armed men erected a metal barricade separating Gugutiantkari into two parts. Some houses, for example, the family home Razmadze remain behind the fence. The gunmen in camouflage uniforms Razmadze explained that he and his family have to leave because the border of South Ossetia is their home. The head of the family remained nothing how to parse extensions of the house, to carry out all that is possible and to leave the accommodation. They speak Ossetian. We know the language and can't be wrong the same fate awaits even some houses in Gugutiantkari. A significant portion of farmland, pastures and, most importantly, sources of drinking and irrigation water can also be "abroad". A resident of the village Gocha Marghishvili said that work on the construction of the barrier are employees of power structures of South Ossetia. "They speak Ossetian. We know the language and can't be wrong," says Marghishvili. Georgian police confirm this. Some of them often like to the place of work and speak with armed men in Ossetian. Excesses in there, but the tension is felt. Especially when the confrontations approaching the Russian border guards. They can be distinguished from the staff of the border Department of the KGB of South Ossetia in a darker form. All the villagers know that Ossetians, erecting fences, using old maps administrative boundaries. At the time, back in the 1920s, the years spent abroad, so that in some areas it was deeply wedged into Gori and Kareli districts of Georgia, and others retreating to the North. The reason for this intricate contour that Georgian and Ossetian villages located mosaic. But this mosaic today often turns to tragedy: it is not only cutting a single rural, "the matrix", but the fact that residents are very difficult to determine on whose territory they are leaving the house to get a drink of water, going in search of the missing cattle or pig. They can instantly stumble upon the KGB of South Ossetia or the Russian border guards, guarding the border of the Republic under the agreement between Moscow and Tskhinvali. Then they would be arrested and escorted to Tskhinvali, where he held court. Most often, the "offenders" are released after payment of large (by local standards) fine. It may seem strange, but the locals do not hold a grudge against Russian troops. For example, the same Gocha Marghishvili said that, when during the August 2008 war in the village, Russian troops entered, they saved his house from burning. But not everyone was lucky: the marauders coming after troops ransacked many homes in Gugutiantkari and neighboring of Disevi, where he expelled the Georgian population, and then burned the village to the ground, so residents had nowhere to return. The burnt ruins of these houses remained in Gugutiantkari and Disevi they can be seen for the already constructed parts of the border fence. There is now no life. Most people Gugutiantkari concerned about the water issue. It is unclear whether there will be sources for the construction of a barrage or not. The inhabitants of the village say that without water they can not live, and then their village will be as dead as a neighboring of Disevi. The residents there are no guarantees that their house will not rush the armed men and will not require to leave the shelter, as it often happened before. Putin hates Georgia resident of the village Dmitry Gogotishvili said that provocation "is possible in any moment." In his opinion, the main reason one: "Putin hates Georgia." House Dmitry burned by looters after the fighting in September 2008. Left only the walls, but it often comes at the ruins, working in the garden, hoping that someday his father's house, where he spent his childhood, still be able to recover. Length of administrative border between South Ossetia and Georgia is about 350 kilometers. Of them work on the demarcation yet conducted on plots with a total length of 50 kilometers. The South Ossetian authorities claim that the measures on arrangement of the border will continue unilaterally, despite protests from Tbilisi. And then sat down, cut to the quick, as Gugutiantkari, will be many more.