Georgia begins life without Russia

Russia has closed its embassy in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, and recalled its diplomats. It's the first time in post-Soviet history that Russia has cut ties with any nation.

When governments cut relations, it's part of a political game. But for ordinary people, such measures can often have serious consequences. Georgian residents have been queuing at the Russian embassy in Tbilisi. Each one has a personal connection to Russia.

For some it's relatives, for others it's business. But for every one of them the question is how to continue in this new reality.

“I was a Georgian citizen but today I decided I want to give back my Georgian passport. I came here to ask for a Russian passport. I want to live in Kaliningrad. My parents still live in Georgia, but after what happened I cannot stay here anymore and I decided I want to live in Russia,” said Anastasia Valozhaikina, an applicant for a Russian passport applicant.

Since Wednesday all diplomatic links between Russia and Georgia have been cut.

For years Georgia was part of the Russian empire. Then it was one of the wealthiest states of the Soviet Union. The ancient ties between the two peoples are deep and exist on many levels.

The Shana family mixes the blood of four different peoples – Georgian, Ossetian, Russian and Jewish. And like most Georgian families, President Mikhail Saakashvili's decision tears them apart.

“Because of my profession, I have always received lots of offers to work in the States. It would have meant a better financial situation. But I always refused because I believe family must be together. But today it's different, because a big part of my family lives in Russia and to see them is going to be much more difficult,” Viktor Shana said.

Until now, Saakashvilli could do what he wanted without criticism. The martial law he imposed at the beginning of the war gave him almost total power. But the parliament's decision to annul it means he has to deal with the local backlash.

“Now that martial law is lifted, there are a lot of questions that will be put on the table about Saakashvili's behaviour. We will speak loudly about him and I personally have some questions to ask him about the situation today. I am going to ask parliament to push for the resignation of Saakashvili's government. I think parliament has to act to create a new government,” said opposition MP Professor Paata Davitaya.

And when the smoke of the war clears, Georgians will have to learn how to live without diplomatic ties with their largest neighbour for the first time in hundreds of years.