Georgia: a border in my backyard (POLITICO)

“In our free time, we would go for a swim in the Ksani river or take a walk in the mountains,” kindergarten teacher Mariam Javakhishvili said, recalling her childhood in the Georgian village of Odzisi.

Despite its peaceful rural setting, nestled in a bucolic valley 30 kilometers from Tbilisi’s northern suburbs, Odzisi has been deeply impacted by the conflict over the disputed territory of South Ossetia.

A former autonomous region of the Soviet Republic of Georgia, South Ossetia declared its independence in 1992, after a ceasefire ended the conflict between Ossetian separatists and Georgia. However, the situation remained unstable and the dispute flared once more in 2008, when Moscow crushed the Georgian army and unilaterally recognized both South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s sovereignty as breakaway territories.

Observers now like to describe the state of this conflict as “frozen,” but for the villagers there, it is anything but. Russian forces have been actively demarcating the “international borders” of their client states, which roughly encompasses about 18 percent of Georgia’s land mass. And this process, known as “borderization,” has cost Odzisi, as well as other impacted villages, a large part of its population and economic activity.

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Pictures by Julien Pebrel.