The Wall Street Journal has a report today about how the Russian military incursion into Georgia in August set out to do more than just annex territories, but also damage the Georgian sense of national identity and pride. For a country which seems to always be talking about its “humiliation” at the hands of the West with the fall of the Soviet Union, it seems that these kinds of attacks on symbols of national patrimony were entirely avoidable, and in the end undermine Russia’s claim for the moral high ground in the conflict.
Thus far the destruction includes severe bomb damage to the Museum of Prince Matchabelli, which housed the personal effects of the Georgian royal family’s famed anti-Russian rebel, who was native to the region; destruction by arson of the church of St. George in Sveri, a rare 19th-century wooden structure; shelling damage to the 12th-century Ikorta church with its graves of revered Georgians; and extensive bomb damage to the monastery complex of Nikozi Church — dating from the 11th century, it is perhaps the most important site of all. This is an extremely selective list, but it gives the reader an idea of why the area matters deeply to Georgians, and in a perverse way to Russian-backed militias allowed to plunder as they drove out residents at gunpoint and, according to eyewitness accounts, began looting buildings. Satellite imagery shows that specifically Georgian villages were extensively torched and in some places are being bulldozed flat.