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Ossetians solving border issues with spade29.11.2010 | 18:50
Bitter experience of the past years have taught Ossetians that in one's fight for independence, it's not enough just to put up a flag on top of the gloomy regional committee building; one has to stake a claim of the territory to be covered by the jurisdiction of the Ossetian tricoloured flag. South Ossetia is unilaterally performing the demarcation of the boundary with Georgia. Tbilisi cannot do anything to prevent it, thus keeping silent. It is only the residents of the near-by Georgian villages who are furious: they've got their vegetable gardens there. Still, it's not yet clear how the new state frontier will work.
Residents of the small and poor Georgian villages in Shida-Kartli have now got a topic for long-term talk: Ossetians are digging the frontier line.
Yesterday, things looked the following way: a group of fifteen or twenty people got out of UAZs somewhere in the field. They were armed not only with guns but with spades. The people of the Georgian village of Ditsi were puzzled: what can one dig out in the field a few days before the winter?
However, the Ossetians came not to dig the soil but to determine their state boundary. Better late than never: it has been twenty years since the declaration of independence and no one in Tskhinval knows where South Ossetia ends and Georgia begins.
This confusion has done a lot of harm to Ossetians. Independence proclaimed in 1991 turned out to be enclave-like: the territory occupied by Ossetians was an independent state, while the territory occupied by Georgians was Georgia.
The situation looked rather comic: the capital of the republic of Tskhinval was five minutes away from the Georgian border; in ten minutes, the city ended and you found yourself in Georgia again, in a large Georgian enclave, Tamarasheni. Having moved through this territory, you ran across the now joint Georgian-Ossetian checkpoint that collected fees from the bypassing cars. Ossetians bribed the cars with Ossetian and Russian registration numbers, while the Georgian bribed Georgian cars, respectively.
When you pass the checkpoint you run into a picturesque gorge with the restaurants that are best-liked by residents of Tskhinval. Before the events of August 2008, the frontier ran not along the fields as it does now but along the fences.
By the second half of the 2000s, things were no longer funny. Such enclavement of plots triggered conflicts: it turned out that the city was totally surrounded by Georgian territories and when the war started it was bombarded from all sides. The direct road through the Georgian enclave was blocked but Tskhinval remained unprotected in case of an attack from the nearby altitudes, which came in 2008.
The boundary demarcation campaign was started about a month ago and seemed to be unnoticed by Georgians. But it was very well noticed by Ditsi villagers. A group of local men came to the field, calling European observers to watch the Ossetians craftily digging the ground. Afterwards, the Georgians came up directly to the scene and started shouting that the whole territory belonged to their village and thus, to Georgia. Ossetians ignored the shouting and went on working.
In fact, what the SO KGB representatives did near Ditsi is called "demarcation" only by the media. Tskhinval prefers another terminology. Boris Chochiev, South-Ossetian Presidential Envoy on Post-Conflict Settlement uses such wording as "defining the state boundary line". "This is no demarcation. Demarcation is defining the frontier line by the neighbouring countries. In our case, it was unilateral work. We many times proposed working together in this direction with Georgians but, naturally, they refused", - Boris Chochiev stated in his interview to GeorgiaTimes.
Georgian peasants purposefully invited the Europeans to watch the Ossetians. Today, European Union monitoring mission in Georgia has already expressed concern about the boundary demarcation. The more so, as European observers have already realized that the appearance of the Ossetians near the village of Ditsi is "the demonstration of a wider policy of unilateral demarcation of the boundary".
Generally speaking, Ossetian government has been leading a well-judged policy in respect of the movement at the Georgian borders. There have been defined seven checkpoints with the facilitated crossing procedure for local residents. The frontier remains open both for the people and freights.
That's not liberal logics; that's just the right logics. Ossetians are realists; they understand that one cannot just shut a border even if it is a border with Georgia. The Abkhaz have not realized it so far and the frontier with Georgia, which is officially closed for any economic activity, has become a center of corruption and criminal.
On November 3, South Ossetia was visited by Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities. He also visited Leningorsky region that has recently become the subject of special concern of the international organizations fearing lest the local Georgians should be isolated from Georgia.