Monday, August 16, 2010

Mukhatvgerdi: Memorial for fallen Georgian soldiers

Mukhatgverdi: Memorial for Fallen Heroes

I wanted to pay my respects for those two years after the 2008 Georgian Russian war, and as a result I find myself writing a story about the Military Cemetery at Mukhatgverdi -  and tears are in my eyes.  As on of the young soldiers visiting one of his fallen friends told me, "the officers ran away and the soldiers were left without orders. They fought and died on their own."

Not only are such stories told by the troops who were there but those involved in the upkeep of to the war memorial to the fallen Georgian soldiers who needlessly died back in Auguest 2008 over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

It is no doubt that these young men fought to the end and made the ultimate adifce for territorial integrity.  It it less clear, however, if they really knew what they were fighting for and how they were only pawns in a needless war.  They though they were in arms for what was right, as Georgian president Michael Saakashvili is quoted as saying on Independence Day Celebrations back in 2004.  He said, "if you ask any Georigan soldier why he is serving in the army than they would say that it is to restore Georgia's territorial integrity. "

He vowed to restore it before 20089 when the presidential term was to have ended. However, 2008 was not the first time there was wasted blood and lost of life over South Ossetia.  Back in September 2005, someone shelled the town of Tshkinvali, wounding 10 innocent civilians, including a two year old girl. There are other instances of the lost of life - evening an organized sniping campaign in the run up to the Auguest 2008 against the Ossetian population carried out by US defense contractors, or at least under their close supervision.

As one visitor at the cemetery shared as she cried. and who did not want to be identified, "war is not a game. I myself fought along side my husband in Abkahzia - willing to die for Georgia. Abkhazia was a totally different situation, we were ready for war, at least mentally, and we knew what we were faced with.  And here, now - what do you see, I don't know why. There was no need for this war. The start of the war was unexpected for us."

This graveyard has a a history that is only now starting to come to light, when the remains were identified, some two or three months after their deaths. The relatives wanted to take and bury their children back in their family plots in the regions. The government, specifically the Ministry of Defense would not allow it.  They did all they could to block the process, and even threats.  After a heated incident at the graveyard, some of the parents won and: they dug up their children and took them home to be reburied close.

A total of 61 had been identified, 21 left in the ground and not changing cemeteries, and continue to serve PR purposes for the Georgian leadership.  There too are some that nobody claimed for reburial. The fighting over the bodies  is the only war that the MOD can conduct, and this story was never covered by the Georgian media.  However, it is well-known to grave diggers and the grieved families.

It has also been learned that many of the workers who help construct the war memorial have never been paid. If true, this is a say commentary on the government and its power ministries.


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