Tbilisi. Photo: flickr/fatboyke
Tbilisi. Photo: flickr/fatboyke

Georgian ships sunk off its Black Sea port of Poti. Russian soldiers cutting off the country's main East- West road linking Poti to the capital Tbilisi. Railway connections destroyed or blocked by Russian soldiers. Air traffic suspended because of bombs dropped close to airports. And waves of displaced persons seeking shelter, uncertain whether they will ever be able to return to their destroyed villages.

These were some of August 2008's dramatic images from the Southern Caucasus, when Russia's military actions constituted a turning-point in its relations with the West – a "return to the 19th century" as Sofiabased analyst Ivan Krastev has put it. But this short war is also a turning point for Georgia itself. Much will depend on the lessons policymakers and Georgian society as a whole draw from this crisis once the dust settles.

ESI has been doing research in Georgia for the past three years trying to better understand both social change in the country and the possible role the EU can play to help reforms and development. We are convinced that the fate of Georgian democracy is of huge significance, not only for the Caucasus but for Europe as a whole.

April 2010

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