Geographical - - SPOT­LIGHT ON... -

Georgia has two main sep­a­ratist groups: the Abk­hazians and the Os­se­tians in the north. The ter­ri­to­ries of Abk­hazia and South Os­se­tia both es­tab­lished de facto in­de­pen­dence from Georgia with the help of Rus­sia in a 2008 war. South Os­se­tia is in­hab­ited mostly by Os­se­tians, who speak a lan­guage dis­tantly re­lated to Persian. Most eth­nic Ge­or­gians – who ac­counted for about a third of the pop­u­la­tion prior to the fall of the Soviet Union – have been dis­placed from the re­gion by the two con­flicts. Rus­sia has been grad­u­ally step­ping up con­trol in both re­gions. In April 2009, it signed a five-year agree­ment to take for­mal con­trol of both ter­ri­tory’s fron­tiers with Georgia. In 2015, it started to put more pres­sure on Georgia over South Os­se­tia. It signed an ‘al­liance and in­te­gra­tion agree­ment’ with the re­gion that abol­ished bor­der check­points. Rus­sian forces also pushed the bor­der fence 1.5 kilo­me­tres fur­ther into Georgia proper. It now oc­cu­pies a po­si­tion a short dis­tance from the coun­try’s main east– west high­way. Less con­tro­ver­sial is the re­gion of­fi­cially known as the Au­ton­o­mous Re­pub­lic of Ad­jara in the south of the coun­try – an im­por­tant tourist des­ti­na­tion.

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