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The aim of the majority of Ossetians is a united Ossetia22.10.2008 | 13:26
From the very first days of the war Liza Valieva, the chief editor of the site Ossetia.ru, followed the events which were unfolding in South Ossetia. She kept in contact with the inhabitants of Tskhinvali, who were sitting in their cellars during the shelling and bombings, as well as with fighters who were defending the city. She helped Russian and foreign journalists to get in touch with them. She spoke to the Italian magazine Eurasia about the situation in South Ossetia.
I was very surprised by the statement made by the mayor of Khasavyurt who supported the volunteers who wanted to defend the people of South Ossetia. Dagestanis, Adyghes and Chechens took part in defending South Ossetia. Can we view this as a positive sign of brotherhood between the peoples of the Caucasus?
During the first conflict in South Ossetia in 1991 there were hardly any volunteers, unlike in Abkhazia where there lots of volunteers, mainly Dagestanis, Adyghes, Chechens and Ossetians. Since then Georgia has started to be considered a common enemy for Ossetians, Abkhazians and the Caucasian people who have come to help them. Furthermore, North Ossetia is linked by bonds of friendship with all the North Caucasian republics apart from Ingushetia, with which it is in conflict over the Prigorodniy region.
Chechnya and Dagestan demonstrated their friendship with Ossetia during this war. What was the behaviour of Ingushetia and the Ingush people in Alania? How did it react to the war? Did this war eliminate the tension between Ossetia and Ingushetia?
The official leadership of Ingushetia is loyal to the Kremlin and so in their rhetoric they supported the Ossetians. However, in these words of support, Senator Kostoev made parallels between what has happened in South Ossetia and the events in the Prigorodniy region in the 1940s, blaming it all on Stalin. Yet the opposition media of Ingushetia openly supported Georgia, reprinting the Georgian version of the conflict, including blatantly misinformed news. I don't think that this conflict either softened or heightened the tension between Ossetia and Ingushetia.
Do you have any recollections, accounts or important phrases told by some of the Tskhinvali refugees?
The story of an 86-year old Tskhinvali resident Il'ya Tuaev, who was on holiday in a guest house in the mountains of South Ossetia during the war, has stuck in my memory. He found out about the outbreak of war through the television. He thought that the city had been totally wiped off the face of the earth. When a few days after the end of the fighting he arrived in Tskhinvali, he was scared to get out of the car. "I was terrified. I thought that my children were no longer alive. I was afraid of looking at my house, I thought that there would be nothing left of it," he said.
I've also remembered the account of his daughter Irina Tuaeva, who throughout the whole conflict was in Tskhinvali and during the shelling by the ‘Grad' machines and air-bombardments she hid in a cellar with her neighbours. "When a lull in the shelling came, we emerged from our cellars filthy, with dishevelled hair and maddened eyes. We saw the first Russian tanks which had entered the city. The soldiers were looking at us as if we were creatures from another world. I think they were surprised that anyone had survived in the city after that intensity of shelling. We ourselves were surprised. One soldier got a chocolate bar out of his pocket, opened it and held it out to me. This moved me to tears," recalled Irina.
You have visited Tskhinvali several times following the retreat by the Georgian army. What is the damage and what are the most urgent and essential things that need to be done?
A colossal amount of damage has been inflicted on the city. Historical monuments and buildings have been destroyed. Houses sometimes caught fire because of the shells and were burnt to the ground, the university and several schools have been destroyed, the hospital and the parliament building have been partly destroyed. For the first two weeks after the war in South Ossetia there was no electricity, water or gas. But workers from the Ministry for Emergency Situations have carried out energetic work to restore these. Now in Tskhinvali there is electricity and water. Many residents of Tskhinvali have lost their homes and now live with relatives or neighbours.
The Leningorsk and Znaursk regions consist of Ossetian and Georgian villages. How has the war changed the make-up of the villages? Are there still Georgian villages in Ossetia or are they occupied by Ossetians?
In the Leningorsk and Znaursk regions Georgian villages are undoubtedly still there. But what does "occupied" mean? It's South Ossetian territory. Now all the territory is under the control of the Ossetian authorities. The Georgian enclave of four villages between Dzhava and Tskhinvali has been totally destroyed. It was here in the village of Kurta that the residence of the puppet leader Dmitrii Sanakoev was located, who still hasn't received any formal status in Georgia.
Has the war changed South Ossetia's borders in any way, or has everything returned to how it was before 7th August 2008?