Sunniva Davies-Rommetveit (UK, AC07-09) interviewing a Russian Student at Atlantic College about the Russian-Georgian Conflict.
Why do you think this conflict started?
The conflict started in the 1990s during the collapse of the USSR. Countries were breaking away from the USSR and there was some uncertainty about some territories. Tension has been ongoing for a long time but it flared up once again recently because Georgia attacked South Ossetia. The Georgians attacked Chinvali and bombed it to the ground with no warning at night; this is unacceptable.
When the Russians announced South Ossetia to be an independent country, are some people’s worries that the Russians just want spheres of control in those areas justified in your opinion?
Georgia and Russia are not in good relations, it is true and I find it sad. However, the Russians do not want this territory; they announced it independent, not under Russian control.
Saakashvili has grown up in the USA and has, many feel, become very close with the USA. Do you believe that the American-like policies he seems to hold close have had an adverse affect on Russian/Georgian relations? If so, why?
Yes, I believe so. Saakashvili is a bit strange in that he does not seem like a leader, he is too nervous: in one television interview he quickly looked up and ran away from the cameras believing that someone was out to bomb him down. I believe he is too dependent on the West and therefore will only lean on America when times come down on him hard; this in the long run is not a positive trait to hold as leader. But I hope this tense situation between Russia and Georgia, Russia and USA will be over one day, and we will develop, supporting and helping each other, living in peace. This is certainly the only way.
What about your Prime Minister, Vladmir Putin, what are your opinions on him? Some would say that he is a fan of the communist regime upheld during the times of the USSR – what do you think of this?
I personally don’t support him much and can’t see what people think is so good about him, but then again he is a strong leader who has gained respect even from the opposition parties. You don’t see Putin hiding from imaginary air attacks and embarrassing the nation whilst doing so.
In regards to responding about whether Putin is pro-USSR, I will quote Putin: “We should never forget the USSR regime but we should never go back to it.” Anyway, people would not allow there to be another communist regime even if he (Putin) wanted it to happen. In Russia, there is no censorship of the press and people are free to travel as they wish (I’m here right now, aren’t I?!) However, there are problems with the low wages in Russia for doctors and teachers, problems within the army, the roads need reparation, and many more, and Putin still hasn’t done much about it. As I said before, I don’t see why people like him so much, but look back and anyone can see that he is the best one in a long, long time probably since Lenin. It could be better, but the way things are in the country right now is ok. And we can’t blame Putin for everything; we (Russian people) should probably do more ourselves. If each of us did a tiny bit more good things, we could live in a better country.
Before Georgia attacked South Ossetia, was there ever any apparent tension that Putin or any other politicians expressed caution about?
There were some tensions between Russia and Georgia, but, not about South Ossetia – if there were any worried politicians, they kept it quiet.
Have you noticed anything that differs in the Georgian and Russian media?
Yes. Shortly before the Georgians stopped the Russians from entering the country (this happened around 5 days ago), a Russian journalist went to visit Georgian friends and what he saw on the television was quite shocking. The Georgian news was showing pictures of Russian soldiers sifting through dead bodies (all Georgian) and making them out to be monsters. However, there have never been such scandals as this, it is untrue. This extreme propaganda is of course not very good for Georgian/Russian relations.
In Russian news, there have been white lies told to try and exaggerate the size of the Russian army and how fast it has moved, but this is just to show hoe “strong” the Russian army is. But nothing like the Georgian media, who are really putting Russians in a terrible light.
In conclusion to this interview, I would like to thank you for being so willing to talk and for sharing your views with us. One last question, are you personally ashamed of Russia in this situation and do you think what the West have accused Russia of being is right?
If Russia had attacked South Ossetia, I would be ashamed. If Russia attacked Georgia for no reason, I would be ashamed. However, it was Georgia who attacked South Ossetia, not us and so I am not ashamed of Russia helping to stop the South Ossetians from being killed without warning, like what the Georgians did in Chinvali. As well as this, after accusing Russia of acting in a dangerous manner and thus threatening us, the West including America, have now accepted that Russia’s actions were justified.
Also, having read Tamara’s article (which was published on United Words on 16 September 2007), I feel that for the most part we have very similar views on this conflict. However, reading her article I find it strange that nothing has been mentioned about South Ossetia in all of the havoc, and I can just see the Russians on a Georgian’s family TV set saying that the Russians are monsters, but coincidently nothing about what Georgia has done to South Ossetia. I do feel very sad and upset about this war, and in my soul and in my heart I sympathize with the families who lost their dears on both sides, Russians, Georgians, Ossetians; it does not matter which nationality they are. I hope and pray that the situation will get better and that Georgian and Russian people will stay friends in spite of what our governments will do.
-United World College Student Magazine-