Continuation. The first part is HERE
The rows of identical one story houses at Gori's exit in the direction of Tskhinvali – are a new housing for the displaced persons from the region of South Ossetia, who have been forced to leave their villages in 2008. We drive to Ergneti village where you can see the red roofs of high-rise buildings of Tskhinvali where was the market till 2004, known in the whole Caucasus, which was one of the first to feel one of the strongest blows of the "August war" between Georgia and Russia.
Nona, a local resident, says that she left Ergneti one of the last – on August 10. People ran, remembering the horrors of the slaughter of the early 1990s. Ossetians killed Nona's relative. "I think that Ossetians have decided to get their own back in 2008, – the correspondent of Svoboda Radio from Gori Goga Aptsyauri says having in mind the quarter-century-old Georgian persecution of the Ossetians. – But the blood is not washed off by the blood. The Georgians had already become a civil society – none of the Ossetians living there was touched in 2008".
The result of the "August war" was actual "restoration" of the former South Ossetian autonomy within its Soviet borders. Georgian enclaves-villages remained under Georgian control, as well as a few Ossetian villages, still controlled by Tbilisi, became under the power of Tskhinvali in 2008. But there are no more Georgian villages: the population is expelled, the houses are destroyed. Goga says that Russian and South Ossetian military burned about 80 percent of houses in Ergneti, some lands of which were also cut off from Georgia. The first floor of Nona's house was burned, the roof was flogged by shell splinters.
The house of tinsmith Otar on the outskirts of the village was completely destroyed too. The territory of the former Georgian autonomy is just behind the house. Until 2008, Otar spent more time in Tskhinvali than in Ergneti until 2008: he roofed. It is so close, that Otar saw his house burning, caught by the war in the capital of the unrecognized republic. Ossetians, on whom Georgian tinsmith from Ergneti worked, took him to the relatively safe territory controlled by Georgia on August 10.
There is much evidence that the Russian-South Ossetian administration of the unrecognized republic organized departure of civilians from the city in the beginning of August 2008. It was made clear to Otar who observed what was happening inside, that de facto South Ossetia prepares for war. "Children and old people were massively taken out from Tskhinvali in 2008, a week before the beginning of the war, – he tells. – I have never seen that before. I called the family and told them to leave. My family left Ergneti on August 6".
Dimitry Sanakoyev, the head of the provisional administration of South Ossetia in Tbilisi, states that Tskhinvali was preparing for war ever since Eduard Kokoity came to power for the first time – since 2002. The previous leader of South Ossetia, Lyudvig Chibirov, had friendly relationship with Eduard Shevardnadze and did not resist the peace process. Everything was different with Kokoity, Sanakoyev says who was the de facto prime minister of the unrecognized republic during the year to the end of 2001, and led the South Ossetian Ministry of Defence since the mid-1990s:
"Tanks were driven into South Ossetia as well as KAMAZ trucks with weapons and form. It was 2002, before Saakashvili's rise to power. Military enlistment offices were involved. 2500 people were called to arms within two months. People who received USD 9, were offered to receive USD 50 – who would not agree? Then these people were started to be sent to the checkpoint. And when a person goes there, he drinks. And then shows his bravado, starts shooting. There is a response from the place he was shooting at. And primitive provocations start. When the state reorganizes its armed forces, it has to experience it somewhere. Georgia wanted to show itself. Russian and Ossetians wanted to show themselves. I said to Kokoity at that time: "If Russia and Georgia have some problems, they have a 800-kilometer border and sea – let them fight wherever they want. There is no need to interfere with it, because our people will suffer first of all". He answered me that "we will also let their blood"".
"Eventually, our blood was let: the local population of South Ossetia – both Ossetians and Georgians, suffered as a result of a great geopolitical game", – Sanakoyev concludes.
The war began on August 8, but really emerged in 2004, when the newly elected President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili has closed Ergneti market, gave orders to blow up the key roads leading to the territory of the former Georgian autonomy and put police checkpoints in and around the region.
Triumph of Mikheil Saakashvili
Saakashvili who had easily achieved the leaving of Eduard Shevardnadze, was inspired by the first great victories and full of determination to bring, finally, the order in Georgia in 2004. There is no doubt that new president had a clear vision of the future of his country, and he began to realize this vision with all his inherent energy.
At that time, Georgia did not control its three provinces for more than 10 years. Except the former autonomies of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Adjara that borders with Turkey was actually a feudal patrimony of the descendant of the ancient princely family of Aslan Abashidze. Abashidze did not recognize the overthrow of his friend Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Eduard Shevardnadze's rising to power in 1992. He gave Ajarians weapons and simply blocked the administrative border of the region in response to the change of power in Tbilisi. Having managed to come to agreement on nonaggression with Shevardnadze, he had not made the second Abkhazia from Adjara, but acquired his own army and border guard, and then completely stopped to make allocations to the state budget.
Adjara was really resembled Abkhazia in many ways. By the value of its location: the boundary with a powerful state, a major port – Batumi, – famous resorts. And… by the presence of the Russian military base, with the command of which Aslan Abashidze had rather warm relationship. The region, as well as Abkhazia, was also inhabited by the minority, not a national, but religious – Muslim Georgians. All this supported the clan of Abashidze for a long time, and the clan leader did not like Mikheil Saakashvili. The standoff began immediately after the departure of Shevardnadze and repeated for Abashidze as a farce. As well as the leaders of the separatist autonomies of the early 1990s, he stated that he would not allow to hold the presidential election in Ajaria, threatened Saakashvili with the armed confrontation, stopped the movement of all interregional transport and ordered to blow up the bridges connecting Adjara with the rest of Georgia.
Adjara has no common border with Russia as opposed to the autonomies of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The fact that Ajarians are Georgians changed the situation, because Abashidze, naturally, historian according to his first education, could not manipulate the real or imagined ethnic antagonisms. Demonstration in support of Saakashvili started in Batumi in response to the actions of Abashidze. Saakashvili himself was still trying to be friends with Moscow at that moment. Moscow, in its turn, saw that new president is adjusted resolutely and not going to give up, and stuck to neutrality.
The existing situation offered the host of Adjara nothing good. So he used the only way that he could: Batumi-Moscow flight. Aslan Abashidze flew away with the Russian envoy on the night between 5th and 6th May without many words after negotiations with the then Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Igor Ivanov. Saakashvili announced in his televised address on May 6, 2004 that Abashidze had fled, and he himself went to the administrative border of Adjara to bulldoze the checkpoint.
…and defeat near Tskhinvali
New president of Georgia took in hand South Ossetia after Ajara.
The last has a little of the territorial advantages of Batumi: just the international border. Tskhinvali lived due to it, having smuggling as one of the main sources of income, and the legendary Ergneti was due in no small part to it. The plan of Mikheil Saakashvili was to show the separatist territories their own future on the example of the future of "economic miracle" of Adjara, whether they would make up their minds to go back under the control of Tbilisi. At the same time new president took up a serious fight against smuggling that caused huge damage to the economy of Georgia. This meant that the fate of Ergneti market was foregone.
The situation in South Ossetia actually bored little resemblance to the situation in Abkhazia, according to the stories of the residents of these territories. Ergneti market gave a considerable amount of workspaces to the region. Residents of a vast territory, Ossetians and Georgians, freely moved between Gori, Ergneti and Tskhinvali, worked side-by-side and traded with each other for eight years of the market's work. All this disappeared in the twinkling of an eye, and Saakashvili has already become an object of hatred of thousands Ossetians that lost their jobs at once, before the building of his mini-model of Georgia's future in Batumi and near Tskhinvali.
Russia and the de facto authorities of the unrecognized South Ossetia did not like the actions of Mikheil Saakashvili. Skirmishes between Georgian military and Russian "peacekeepers" started. Georgia began to gather its forces near the border with the self-proclaimed republic. Although the efforts of the international mediators could extinguish the growing conflict in 2004, the president of Georgia did not stop.
Eduard Kokoity became the de facto president of the former Georgian autonomy for the second time in 2006 on the back of the confrontation that has not cooled down yet. Another "referendum" on accession to Russia was held at the election in the unrecognized South Ossetia. Tbilisi held similar election unacknowledged by the international community on that territory of the old South Ossetian autonomy, which has remained under Georgian control, in response. And a "referendum" – on the reunification of South Ossetia with Georgia as an autonomy. Dmitry Sanakoyev became the president of South Ossetia according to the Georgian version; six months later Saakashvili appointed him the head of the newly established "temporary administrative-territorial unit on the territory of the former South Ossetian autonomous region".
Observers noted Mikheil Saakashvili's one mistake after another. He stubbornly refused to recognize the conflict of 1991-1992 as ethnic, calling it the Russian-Georgian while striving for the return of the breakaway South Ossetia under the control of Georgia, and even making an appeal in the Ossetian language. Anti-Russian moods were in the self-proclaimed South Ossetia too – but there were hardly pro-Georgian, and the national identity was very strong in the unrecognized republic, as well as in Abkhazia. Even for those who did not support Kokoity, the choice was mainly between Russia and independence. The very creation of the alternative administration was regarded as an unfriendly step on the part of Tbilisi. But Georgia hoped that Dmitry Sanakoyev will be able to win his compatriots with the strong financial support of Tbilisi in course of time.
However, not all in South Ossetia were ready for such an impassioned display of affection on the part of Saakashvili who have been organized a television show of each of his actions on support of the residents of the self-proclaimed republic. Saakashvili urged events and wanted the result of his efforts "here and now", when it was needed not a raid, but a long and systematic work on trust building. There was no civil society and freedom of speech in the unrecognized republic on the north of Georgia. Officials feared the punishment for any sort of peaceful interaction with the envoys of Tbilisi. However, the territory entrusted to Dimitry Sanakoyev has actually become a place of attraction for some ordinary people of the de facto South Ossetia.
"They had the money. The government of Georgia gave a lot of money, – Goga Aptsiauri tells. – They wanted to rake recruits in Tskhinvali society somehow. You cannot even imagine what kind of projects they have made in the villages where he sat: a swimming pool of the international standard, cinema, banks, big electronics stores, hotels. They wanted to make paradise near Tskhinvali, in those Georgian enclaves, so the Ossetians who live in Tskhinvali could see this wealth and believe that Dima can do more than Kokoity. A lot of people from Tskhinvali began to pass into the administration of Dima. Of course, Kokoity was very scared and angry. In view of this, when the Russian and Ossetian forces entered the village, they immediately destroyed everything".
Local artists drew a bomber and Georgia's outlines on the wall of a house in Gori with traces of bullets, left after the "August war" in 2008. It is written on the "map" in Georgian and English: "The Price of Independence"
"August war" left the paradise near Tskhinvali in ruins and made people's lives in Georgian villages a hell, that became "near-border" within days when the bounds of the unrecognized South Ossetian extended to the administrative boundary of the former Soviet autonomy. The Russian border guards and Russian-South Ossetian administration of Tskhinvali deal with unauthorized "demarcation" of this boundary ever since, carrying or moving it through the lands of the local villagers. Some of them regularly disappear and show up in a jail in Tskhinvali after a few days, accused of "crossing the border illegally," which was suddenly drawn across their field, vegetable garden or pasture. Generally speaking, Georgia can do nothing with it.
"We do not want to leave our land, we do not want it to be as it was in South Ossetia. But we live in fear. We do not know what will happen next", – Nona from Ergneti says.
"We live there unprotected"
Khurcha village near the Georgian-Abkhaz de facto border also lives in fear. It is a buffer zone in fact: we enter Khurcha from the direction of Zugdidi, passing the Georgian checkpoint by and stop at the site near a small market and cafe, behind which the Abkhaz checkpoint stands, hidden by the dense May greenery. Flowers and a mourning wreath lay on the roadside of the narrow dirt road that leads to the checkpoint. The Abkhaz border guard has shot Georgian guy here after a quarrel a few days ago. Abkhazia refused to extradite the murderer. Georgia was powerless in this situation too.
A scene of the event in Khurcha in May 2016. A narrow road behind the guy in a dark jacket leads to the Abkhaz de facto border. Photo by Zviad Mikeladze
The road to the Abkhazian checkpoint from Khurcha. Photo by Zviad Mikeladze
I go from one person to another, trying to get the story of what has happened here, but I hear only "I do not know" in reply. "I cannot say anything", – one woman says even without hearing the question. I explain that the conversation is not recorded – no one will know that she was saying to me. "I understand everything, but I cannot. I am already sick of all this. All are already tired", – she answers.
Heorhiy (the name is changed) came to Khurcha to play cards with other men. Some of them are locals, others – from the Gali district entering Abkhazia. "Just do not shoot", – Heorhiy asks seeing a man with a camera. – We live there unprotected".
The Gali district was the largest area of the then Georgian autonomy before the war, and only Georgians actually lived there. It would be possible to say that the war steered clear of Gali, but those who left after the escape of its population – no one could tell who exactly they were – have burned the abandoned houses. "Probably it was because they did not want people to come back, – Heorhiy says. – And what do you want – this is a war. Sometimes they used to burn people right in their houses". His own house was just in the number of burned. But Heorhiy came back.
"Nobody would have stayed there, – he explains. – But where to go? Georgia cannot build houses for 300 thousands of refugees at once. They were built for someone. Not for me. I rebuilt my house by myself as far as practicable. It is uncomfortable, of course, but there is a roof over my head, this is something at least".
The Gali district is the only one where the Abkhaz de facto authorities allowed Georgians to come back. It is considered that there are about 46-48 thousand of them there now, but no one can name the proportion of the resident population. It is much closer to Zugdidi than to Sukhumi from there. A lot of people live there, on the territory controlled by the Georgian authorities, and arrive in Gali to care for their gardens or visit relatives.
Galians formally remain the IDPs, and Georgia does not recognize the fact of the return of Georgians in Gali. The Recognition would mean that the de facto Abkhazia fulfills the international humanitarian standards at least partly, while tens of thousands of people are still unable to return home in Sukhumi, Gagra and other places in the breakaway territory. The Gali district is not a resort area, there is nothing attractive for the thin Abkhazian population here, so no one else would come to live in these remote villages and cultivate the land. However, the loyalty of the Gali Georgians is equally doubtful both for Sukhumi and Tbilisi.
Georgians in Abkhazia have no right to be Georgians. The obtaining of passport of the unrecognized republic is possible only in case of refusal of the Georgian citizenship. Everyone understands that it is a formality. To obtain this document a Galian has to show, for example, his appeal to the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a request to deprive him of his Georgian citizenship because he wants to get the "nationality" of Abkhazia, because only Russians can have two passports in the self-proclaimed republic. Georgia cannot fulfill this request because it is generally impossible to deprive a person of his only citizenship according to the international standards, and Georgia, of course, does not recognize the citizenship of Abkhazia. In this way, even if the Abkhaz de facto officials will withdraw from Galian his Georgian passport, he can very quickly get a new one in Zugdidi.
Passportization of the Gali residents is an eternal subject of political disputes and speculations. There are fears of Abkhazians that if all the Georgians on "their" territory get Abkhaz passports, they will again be the national majority in Abkhazia. The ethnic Georgians will be able to go to the polls with passports influencing the political situation in the unrecognized republic. And without passports they have no rights. It is impossible to sell or buy a property or to claim an inheritance without passport. It is impossible to get a school certificate without passport; those parents who do not have the Abkhaz passport cannot send their children to school. It is difficult to go beyond the limits of the de facto Abkhaz or to come back without a passport. But Abkhaz passports are given and then taken away here, so only the certain "lucky ones" can generally use them.
"People who do not have the documents, go to the back door, – Heorhiy explains. – Sometimes they are caught. Written out a fine. If you run away, they will catch up and, of course, hurt you a little bit". "The guys went to Zugdidi, bought the clothes for themselves, and now they are waiting for the darkness, – he points at the guys staying on the sidelines. – What to do if the documents are not given?".
It is possible to enter the Georgian territory controlled by Tbilisi and return to Abkhazia with a special pass, but it is difficult and expensive to get it. Sometimes it is just impossible – when you need to go urgently, for example, in case of the illness. So people massively go around. Migrations of the Georgian population became a real business for the Abkhaz border guards. They could take people's money, for example, in order to lead them around the Russian border guards. The international monitoring groups have also observed the cases when the Abkhaz border guards were standing in front of the Russian on market days in order to collect tribute from merchants hurrying in Zugdidi.
Heorhiy goes through the Abkhazian checkpoint with a Soviet passport: the dubious privilege of those who had time to get the documents with a residence permit in Gali before the war of the 1990s. I ask whether the Gali Georgians raise the issue of passports to the de facto authorities of Abkhazia. "They raise it, – Heorhiy answers, – as in the Soviet kitchens: so that no one can hear."
Horse-drawn covered wagon with passengers and luggage leaves the Georgian checkpoint along the endless Enguri Bridge narrowing into the distance and disappearing among the exuberant green of the Caucasus Mountains. Russian and Abkhazian border guards stand somewhere at its opposite side.
Eka (the name is changed) stands near the bridge waiting for relatives who are delayed in Abkhazia. She cannot call them: the Abkhaz side had cut off the telephone communication with the rest of Georgia after the war of 2008.
Eka has Abkhaz passport, although she сonstantly lives in Zugdidi, and is not going to move back to Abkhazia. All of her male relatives and many friends fought on the Georgian side, some of them were killed, and this is a wound that is not healed.
Eka, like many others of my interlocutors, states the huge gap formed between the Georgians and Abkhazians, Georgians and Ossetians after the wars of the 1990s, which had deepened after the war of 2008. Nothing on the other side of the Enguri Bridge signals about the possibility of reunification of this territory with the rest of Georgia. "Some old residents, remembering the times before the war, say: "Oh, why we needed this war…", – Eka said – And the youth just repeat what they are told: that we are enemies. I have close friends, Abkhazians, who are afraid to go here thinking that as soon as they pass the border, they will be caught. They never even went to Gali believing that it is dangerous there".
Maya Pipia, the correspondent of a radio station in Zugdidi, have experienced the escape from Sukhumi being a student and the mass panic of the "August war", from which she was used to escape too, saving her own daughter being a grown-up woman. Maya said that the Georgian and Abkhaz youth held meetings on Enguri Bridge for some time. However, even such local events had gone to nought after the August war. Maya is working on journalistic project called to unite somehow two banks of Enguri River.
"The first Georgian-Abkhazian project appeared immediately after 2008, – she tells. – We recorded interviews with people who worked in government entities of the de facto Abkhazia, in non-governmental organizations as well. And it was very effective, because as soon as one official was interviewed, it was the argument for the other one to talk with us too. Then Russia has blocked the telephone communications of Georgia with Abkhazia. Then the rule have changed…".
But the project continues. Georgian and Abkhaz journalists who are working together on it try not to deal with politics. They inform about cultural events and various social initiatives at both sides.
However, more or less mass contacts between Georgians and Abkhazians and Georgians and Ossetian occur today only due to the special program introduced by Tbilisi in late 2010, according to which the citizens of the two unrecognized republics can receive free medical care in Georgia, including the expensive operations. The Georgian government has canceled a requirement for receiving Georgian passport to participate in this program for the residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2013. The most desperate, as a rule, come to Georgia, overcoming the fear, rejection and embarrassment – those who cannot be saved in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali.
A friend and colleague of Goga Aptsiauri from Tskhinvali, who fought against the Georgians in due time, also was forced to travel to Tbilisi for a heart surgery once. "And then we were in Istanbul, and drank a little, – Goga remembers. – And he says to me: "Goga, you know, Georgians were hunting for me after the 90s, they wanted to insert such a little iron thing into my heart. They could not do it. But I do not even think that a Georgian doctor will insert a little iron thing into my heart after all"".
Nino Kalandarishvili, the Chairman of the Executive Board of the Tbilisi Institute for the Study of Nationalism and Conflicts, also speaks of the regular point contacts between members of the different Georgian and Ossetian, Georgian and Abkhaz communities – teachers, journalists, members of non-governmental organizations.
However, as referred to in Tbilisi, the situation has changed fundamentally and paradoxically after 2012, when the power in Georgia came over from Mikheil Saakashvili to Bidzina Ivanishvili and the members of his "Georgian Dream". "New policy that was more focused on reconciliation became the challenge for which neither Abkhazians nor Ossetians had response. The aggressive rhetoric of Saakashvili created them a "comfort zone" and those necessary conditions under which they could effectively oppose the Georgian side. They were not ready to the change of policy. All their arguments have become irrelevant to the new situation", – Nino Kalandarishvili notes.
"I remember Saakashvili presented one refugee from Sukhumi a watch and said: note down the time how soon we will return to Sukhumi, – historian David Jishkariani says. – Such symbolic acts that were very popular at the previous governments, are now no longer take place. Politics become calmer and more balanced. This has resulted in a situation where if people called the restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity a priority in surveys before, then now social problems are on the first place, and the territorial integrity – on the fifth or sixth. Politics affects the society greatly. The government is not trying to create a certain myth of expectation today. It is more focused on the creation of some kind of an offer to Abkhazians, first of all, hoping that if we take the first steps, they will give us a break. The Georgian government has already made several of these steps, but did not meet active movement from the Abkhaz side".
A watch still continues ticking loudly for the people who are not able to go back to their home for a quarter of a century. The Abkhaz Supreme Council is in exile – it is 23 members of parliament meeting in Sukhumi in 1990. "All elections that were held in Abkhazia without the Georgian population are considered illegitimate. If we draw here the elections without the Abkhazian population, it also will be illegitimate. If we hold an election without the Abkhazian population here, it will also be illegitimate. In this way, any elections are eliminated till the return", – Gia Gvazava explains. "How many of your members of parliament will stay in another 25 years?", – I provoke Gvazava. "So what? – He replies, obviously, being ready for this question. – Tbilisi belonged to the Persians, Arabs and Turks for several centuries, but today it is Georgian".
Through the barbed wire
It is even more complicated to move between Tskhinvali and the rest of Georgia than in a situation with Abkhazia. The only checkpoint on the Georgian-Ossetian de facto border is in Akhalgori district divided into two parts by this border. Only residents of the district can use it. The Red Cross which intermediates between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali in such situations has to transport even seriously ill patients through the North Ossetian Vladikavkaz. Otar from Ergneti said that his relative in Tskhinvali has a land in the territory controlled by Georgia, but he can no longer use it: "People are not allowed to go to us from there. Those stayed who have stayed". The Ossetian de facto authorities sometimes began even to prevent the departure of Ossetians to the neutral countries on joint with the Georgians events after 2012.
Goga Aptsiauri also believes that the authorities of the unrecognized South Ossetia, "want us to be isolated from each other because the most kindred nations are Ossetians and Georgians". "Georgians and Ossetians would have made peace long ago if not this "border", – he is sure. – The contacts exist now too. I know that Ossetians and Georgians even trade through the wire. For example, a Georgian will bring tomatoes and put a bucket near the wire. He will return in the morning – the bucket is empty, the money is in it".
However, it seems that no one in Georgia either does not believe in the return of the breakaway autonomies at all, or does not make plans for the near future. "Not with the help of dialog, I suppose, – Eka from Zugdidi says. – And half of those who have settled here no longer want to return. What should they do there? There is no home, son, brother and father are dead. With the help of war? God Forbid. I would rather go like this and suffer".
Goga Aptsiauri still believes that the main thing today is to maintain the dialogue in order to leave at least some foundation for building new relationships to the next generation. David Jishkariani emphasizes that it is important to understand that, generally speaking, Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians have no experience of coexistence in the contemporary history: all that existed had left in the past along with the Soviet Union, and the world and Georgia itself have changed greatly ever since. "Ossetians often ask me: "Did you really defeat the corruption?", "Is it true that the police officers do not take money?", "Is it true that you do not have to pay for the exams?". It is true. If we continue this way, this country will be attractive for them", – Goga believes.
"If I did not believe that the progress in relationships is possible, I would, of course, do not work in this field, but reconciliation and reunification are two different things. Let us say this way: a possibility of living together within a single state is probable in a certain future, but this future is hardly happens within five-ten years", – Nino Kalandarishvili says.
At the same time, many of my interlocutors see the way for the return of Abkhazia to South Ossetia in the Georgia's federative arrangement which would give enough freedom to the territories with large proportion of the national minorities. "We have Armenian enclaves and Azerbaijani enclaves. If Georgia becomes a federal state – I think we will go on this way not tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but in the future, – then we will able to return not only these territories, but all these nations, first of all, – Goga Aptsiauri thinks. – We need to put some kind of guarantee that no one will prejudice the rights of minorities here in our Constitution. "Georgia for Georgians" – it was nonsense. We must not build a nation state, we must build a civil state, it is a way out".
Guram Khubua thinks about his return to his native Sukhumi in his second home in Tbilisi: "You know, Sukhumi, probably, is no longer the same… But there is nostalgia. I want to see it at least once. Perhaps, there are no Georgians who do not think not to come back. No way. This is out of the question". – "And would you be able to live there among the people who were at war with you?" – I ask. "It is said that time cures all things. We fought, they fought. It is necessary to exceed it and try to understand each other. And, perhaps, it will be possible to live". – "In other words, you do not feel the hostility to these people?" – "You know what? – Guram laughs. – I do not feel the affection too".
Yulia Abibok, OstroV
My friends and colleagues from Tbilisi Zviad Mikeladze and Edita Badasyan, and also Manana Khvingia and Khubua family, who have already become me a family, rendered an invaluable assistance in the work on this text. I also infinitely grateful to Levan Lazi for proofreading the text and valuable comments and editing.
The work in the South Caucasus was carried out for my personal funds and the funds of the editor's office. Kiev-Tbilisi and Tbilisi-Kiev flights were paid by the Institute for Democracy, Media and Cultural Exchange (IDEM; "Data security and protection of journalists" training, May 30 – June 4 and July 12-16, 2016, Kutaisi) and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD; "Old conflicts – new generations. Analysis of the societies and conflicts in the South Caucasus for the development of options for future solutions" conference, October 13-18, 2016, Tbilisi).