Dividing Lines Multiply in 2008

2008 was a year when the convoluted frontlines of the South Caucasus shifted yet again. The war in Georgia in August has had depressing consequences for ordinary people’s freedom of movement, and for the possibilities for the various nations and ethnic groups to communicate directly with each other across the political lines which divide them.

A couple of months ago, I was asked to speak at a seminar on war reporting for Caucasus journalists. Such cross-Caucasus events typically used to be held in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, because it’s hard for people from Azerbaijan to travel to Armenia (and vice versa) as the two countries are still effectively in a state of war over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, but they could all get together and exchange views in Georgia.

After the August war, however, it has become increasingly difficult for people from Abkhazia and South Ossetia to cross over into Georgian-controlled territory, and it’s virtually impossible for Georgians to get into the rebel republics after Russia recognised them as indepndent states.

The solution? It was eventually decided that the seminar would be held in Trabzon in Turkey, so journalists from all regions could attend – highlighting the fact that there is no longer any place within the South Caucasus where all the peoples of the South Caucasus can sit down and talk with each other.