As Ilya Bervashvili walks out onto to his corn fields, the blue circle on the map moves beyond the dotted line with him. But an app clearly shouldn’t be trusted when it comes to this border. Things are more complicated here than they appear on Google Maps.
The farmer points to the green sign just beyond his land. It says it marks a “state border” between Georgian-controlled territory and the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which is only recognized as a state by five countries worldwide — including Russia, which backs and defends it.
Georgia sees this as an “occupation line.” In many places, the boundary isn’t marked at all — and it has been known to move. Here in the Georgian village of Ditsi, there is a small section of green border fencing. On either side of the fence, there is nothing.
“They are behind my land,” says Ilya, referring to the Russian border guards he says patrol along his fields, just beyond the sign. “I work all the way up until the edge of my land. They don’t bother me and I don’t bother them. But they are behind my land, patrolling.” He adjusts his canvas hat. “If they say ‘hello’ and speak to me I answer them.”
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(Photo: Emily Sherwin/Deutsche Welle)