In August 2018 the Russo-Georgian War will come to its tenth anniversary. The war itself between Russia, the protecting power for the breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and Georgia lasted only five days. Since then the conflict remained frozen: Besides Russia only a few states recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent countries while Georgia has no executive power over theoccupied territories. Despite the military conflict lasting onlyfor a short time, there are massive continuous impacts on the civil society of Georgia. Our project will tell the stories of various individuals affected by the conflicted upon today.
In April 2018 we travelled to Georgia for a two week research trip. We planned a round trip to speak with different people to learn about their perspective on the war in 2008 and how their lives have been influenced by it. During this time we conducted 24 interviews in Tbilisi, Gori, Kutaisi, Zugdidi and various smaller villages. Our interview partners had a wide range of backgrounds; we met Internally Displaced People (IDPs), former soldiers, journalists and others that could compare the situation with their experience in Abchasia in the 1990s. We spoke with 12 men and 12 women, from 17 to 70 years old. The sample does not claim to be representative. But together with the pictures we took during the journey they give an image of a forgotten conflict in Europe.
The further aim of our project is to publish a book with the stories we have collected. For each person interviewed we plan a double page with text and colour photos. For the publication the interviews are further rewritten in short stories in third person perspective, also using direct citations. All in all, the book (soft or hard cover) will consist of about 60-70 pages.
With Georgia being the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair we intend to present our publication to a larger German audience. Germany and other EU and NATO countries have supported Georgia with financial and material means for IDPs but the German public is less aware of the current situation in Georgia. The Book Fair with its focus on the guest country offers an opportunity to discuss our project in accompanying events. We also would like to present the Georgian translation in cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation back in Georgia.
The project is realized by a group of six students, who are enrolled at the Free University Berlin and major in Eastern European Studies. The interdisciplinary master’s degree Eastern European studies and also the Eastern European institute at the Free University in Berlin are well known for their research focus and their high degree of cross-linking.
However, the master’s degree also contains practice-oriented elements such as the module called “Lernwerkstatt” where students get the chance to realize a non-profit project with focus on the civil society. Due to this module, the group teamed up, as their joint interest is the Caucasus region and the so called frozen conflicts.