“Borderization refers to the construction of physical barriers to transform a territorial ceasefire line into an international border.”
While there are various ways to implement so called borderization, this page focuses on the construction by South Ossetian and Russian forces of physical barriers along the ABL of South Ossetia. Such as fences, barbed wire, border signs and other markings in the landscape outside of the crossing points.
This is the archived 2019 page, click here for the current running year, or jump to 2020, 2018 or 2017. Note: the Chorchana – Tsnelisi territorial conflict and borderization at that location can be found in its own page. The borderization at Gugutiantkari also has its own page.
Borderization also means upholding a border regime (and arrest and detention of so called “tresspassers”) and formalizing and limiting the passage through the “border checkpoints”. All these measures have an impact on human rights such as freedom of movement. An introduction in borderization of South Ossetia can be found by opening the green bar below.
South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast The current administrative boundary line (ABL) and de-facto "border" of South Ossetia finds its origins in the creation of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast (province) within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922. The autonomy was a reward for Ossetian Bolshevik loyalty against the Georgian Mensheviks in the Soviet conquest of the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1921. When the administrative boundary was drawn in the early 1920's the area included many (ethnic) Georgian villages and lands within the region, despite protests at the time. In December 1990 the Georgian SSR abolished the regional autonomy. The following civil war of 1991-92 and Russian-Georgian war of 2008 rid the region of most Georgians. But pockets still remain, mostly in Akhalgori district and along the fringes of the ABL. Borderization After the devastating 2008 war Russia started to "borderize" the region. It recognized the self-declared independence of the region, and thus assisted with creating a "state border". First it set up a string of FSB "border guard" compounds close to the ABL, and from 2011 physical barriers were gradually installed. This included the construction of fences and barbed wires cutting through farmland, villages and yards of residents, separating communities from each other. Apart from the creation of a "state border", every move in this direction touches a nerve in Georgian society. Which is easily exploited as a push factor. But also not in the least by the Georgian government as well to by raising awareness to the international community. Most recently, in the summer of 2019, this led to a major crisis around the village of Gugutiantkari. In intimidating moves, the green border signs and fences frequently inch farther into the Tbilisi controlled and administered land, sometimes just 100 meter, sometimes a kilometer. This expansion, and territorial annexation was seen most recently during the Chorchana - Tsnelisi crisis in the summer of 2019, which continues unresolved well into 2020. This spat, just like other incidents, is essentially a dispute the exact line of the ABL, while both sides use different (often Soviet) maps as reference. The South Ossetian and Russian side use the incidents to force Georgia into negotiations on formalizing the boundary (or "state border").
Below in descending chronological order developments of the borderization of the Administrative Boundary Line of South Ossetia in 2019.
Georgian media reported on 19 October 2019 borderization works were resumed near Atotsi village. According an EUMM statement on 30 October it “did carry out a regular, scheduled patrol near the village of Atotsi in the early hours of 30 October” noting new fences were installed. It also stipulated the general security posture from the Russian controlled side remained relatively stable:
“The EUMM is closely monitoring and reporting on incremental ‘borderisation’ activities in the vicinity of Atotsi. During the past days the Mission has observed new fencing being installed, creating additional barriers to the freedom of movement for the conflict affected population. The EUMM has not observed any notable difference in posture or patrolling patterns of security actors from South Ossetia on the ground compared to the recent past.”
7 – 21 August
On the 7th of August South Ossetian and Russian security forces resumed borderization works in the village of Gugutiantkari located at the ABL with South Ossetia. A separate page is dedicated to this location which developments had a prolonged course during August with renewed activity in January 2020.
At the 94th EUMM brokered IPRM meeting the South Ossetian side said they “will continue the erection of barbed-wire-fences. We will continue the process as it is important for making the state border”.
With hindsight this seemed to have been a warning of what was to come in the second half of 2019, starting in August: the Gugutiantkari and Tsnelisi disputes.
21 January – 8 February
From 21 January renewed borderization works by South Ossetian and Russian (“occupying”) forces took place in the area of the villages of Khurvaleti and Dzukata (Dzukaantkari). It is a well known location where Georgian communities have been separated for quite a few years. The militias installed new barbed wires and a watchtower next to the orchard of local residents, splitting various private yards, as video’s showed. This was needed “to better control the border”, South Ossetian representatives said at the IPRM meeting in Ergneti in February.
Georgian Reconciliation Minister Ketevan Tsikhelashvili cited Russian media outlet Sputnik which reported more than 40 individuals have been detained this year for “illegally crossing the border”. She snapped: “It is natural that more than 90 per cent of the individuals were trying to cross the so-called border from Tskhinvali to the rest of Georgia”.