Vestiges of war still present in S. Ossetia two years after conflict

South Ossetia is remembering the victims of the 2008 war with Georgia. On Saturday night, thousands gathered in the center of South Ossetian capital Tskhinval to remember the victims.

Candles were lit to mark the tragic events.

Despite the war, Georgians and Ossetians still live side by side.

Yasha Dekanoidze is a Georgian, who lives in South Ossetia. He was born there and did not leave his home, even during the war. He has a small farm and keeps a reasonably-sized garden for his own needs.

“It’s safe here. Ossetians were telling us, ‘Do not leave, stay here’. Even during the war nobody came and said, ‘You are Georgian, do leave now’,” he said.

The overwhelming majority of the population in the Ossetian village, where Yasha lives, are Georgian. Most are farmers or small-scale traders. Some regularly travel to Georgia, as that is where their nearest hospital is.

They go through a checkpoint controlled by Russian border guards; their task is not only to secure the republic but also to guarantee free movement of the locals who live in this segment to Georgia and back. This is essential, as many people have relatives on both sides of the frontier.

The roads are bad in the postwar republic, and it can take several hours to reach the capital, so many go to Georgia to shop.

Sergey Gabiev, an Ossetian from the same village, with his Georgian friend Otari Gviniashvili said, “We ordinary people do not have problems, we have nothing to partition, as the people in power, the government.”

Otari agrees, “All we need is peace; we are all brothers and sisters.”

However, Tbilisi steadfastly refuses to recognize the sovereignty of its former territory. Yet these two old friends, Georgian Otari and Ossetian Sergey, say the time has come to restore relations between Georgia and South Ossetia – as two separate independent countries.