From a Frozen Conflict

In the wake of the Cold War many Eastern European countries commenced a vigorous reconstruction of their national identity. For numerous countries, formally allied with the Soviet Union, it was expressed through at times dramatic ruptures with their past and renewed aspirations for self-determination or integration in a greater European project as well as NATO. Western powers quickly proclaimed themselves “victors” and approached the changing global landscape as a zero-sum game - arguably giving rise to a number of conflicts in the Caucasus.

By early 1991, Georgia declared independence from a disintegrating Soviet Union. Shortly after, the western province of Abkhazia followed suit. While aspirations for Abkhaz independence from the Soviet Union had been growing for nearly a decade, it was only in 1992 it developed into an armed struggle which came to challenge the territorial integrity of the newly founded country of Georgia.

Oddly enough, Abkhaz independence came to be strongly supported by the Russian Federation. As a result, many ethnic Georgians were forced to leave their homes. While the hostilities ended in 1993, to date only a handful of families have been able to return. Movement to and from the breakaway province is increasingly restricted and a vast majority have since lived in a perpetual state of displacement with little prospect of return to what once was their home in Abkhazia.

In 2008, Georgia became engulfed in yet another short but intensive armed conflict with Russia. This time, over the northern province of South Ossetia. The hostilities were triggered by Georgia’s ever closer relations to the EU and NATO.

While the war only lasted for a couple of days, the effects are felt to this day. The impact is especially stark for the people living along the disputed boundary lines and those displaced or isolated from their land. In some cases, the new “borders” cuts across houses and farmland and people can easily become detained on grounds of alleged illegal crossings. More significant yet, protracted displacement has in many cases resulted in chronic poverty due to lack of adequate livelihood and often precarious living conditions. For numerous conflict-affected communities, it is hope that keeps people from permanently settling or fully endorsing a life in a “new reality”.

Georgia is a land of unearthly beauty. It is said that God had initially reserved it for himself and gave it to the Georgians only after being invited to feast with them. Indeed, people in Georgia often portray themselves as a nation of God fearing, hospitable warriors with a rich almost mythical history, but seemingly with a much younger national identity. An identity challenged by Persia, consecutive alliances with Russia, a communist past, and more recently, two armed conflicts which have tarnished the national ethos. An identity at times resonating fierce nationalist rhetoric carving deep rifts between peoples. These are moments from their stories…

Lomisoba - A feast of many meanings

Documenting the ultimate expression of tradition and a spectacle of the inherent need to marry belief with identity in the midst of conflict.

chiatura - on the manganese trail

Photo essay about the destructive symbiosis between the people and the ore along the manganese trail.

A life displaced

A series of portraits of people and their life following the the two waves of displacement.

Resilience comes in many shapes

The personal account of a local cardiologist in Tserovani, where hope is found in the void between now and tomorrow.

Women reconstructing a country

Snapshots of women at the forefront of a slow economic, social and political reconstruction.

The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) was deployed in September 2008 following the EU-mediated Six Point Agreement which ended the August war. Read more about the EUMM on their website

for the series

was conducted during deployment to the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM). Fallckolm was based in Mtskheta as a Human Security Monitor between 2017-2018.

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