Separatism and the City
Plans for new urban settlements in Georgian-controlled territory and the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia increasingly make this neck of the woods look like the setting for a SimCity-style strategy game, where players race to move populations around and build cities.
Two Russian-built towns in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia will house Russian troops that guard the territories’ de-facto independence from Tbilisi and dependence on Moscow. The third proposed city, in the Georgian-controlled region of Samegrelo in western Georgia, will be situated not far from the administrative border of Abkhazia. In theory, its projected 500,00-strong population will be made up of a combination of villagers (including Internally Displaced Persons from Abkhazia) and, supposedly, expatriate Georgians eager to live near the Black Sea.
The Russian plans for the two new breakaway troop towns are very much real, while the Georgian project is seen as surreal so far.
Russia’s federal construction agency, Spetsstroy, said that construction of the military towns is 90 percent complete, and that they will be ready for use next year. The towns will house a total of 4,000 troops and their families. Spetsstroy claims that the Russian soldiers, not known for being spoilt by an abundance of good living, will have all the basic comforts of modern life in these settlements.
The Georgian idea for a new city, Lazika, was pitched by President Mikheil Saakashvili, ever the country's architect-in-chief. Its official purpose is manifold -- bring in more foreign investment (outside investors will be targeted to bring in the bulk of the city's estimated $600 million - $900 million price tag), show breakaway Abkhazia the good time it's missing in Georgian-controlled territory, and, once again, to do something new and exciting to put Georgia on the world tourism map.
Skeptics argue that the plans for the city may not materialize as it has had lots of PR (among Georgian media), but given little sign as yet of its economic foundation.
Here's holding out for FarmVille . . . .
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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