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Georgia: the aftermath

They have been described as the frozen conflicts: those messy, unresolved territorial issues left over from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Early in August of 2008, two of these conflicts experienced a sudden melting.

South Ossetia is home to just 70,000 people, Abkhazia around 200,000. The enclaves, both of which are territorially and politically part of Georgia, have enjoyed de facto independence since the early 1990s. They would like to make this breakaway official, but their fates are tied into a larger struggle - one in which Georgia's westward-looking government has found itself on a collision course with an increasingly self-assured Russia. A Georgian strike on South Ossetia on August 7th prompted Russia to retaliate with force, hitting targets within Georgia proper and crushing the Georgian military. On August 26th, Russia formally recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Continuing his long term project on refugees and displaced people, Espen Rasmussen photographed the aftermath of the conflict, concentrating on the ethnic Georgians displaced from South Ossetia and the area around Gori.
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