Russia’s Georgia Conflict

A Photo Essay


John R. Guthrie


“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war”

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar





Georgia is a place of the imposing and ancient mountains of the Caucuses range and the dramatic, fast flowing rivers that thrash their way through the gorges and valleys. The Danube flows through this place, cerulean in tint. As it reaches the Black Sea, it is as stately and graceful as Johann Strauss’s namesake waltz. Genovese forts and Greek ruins abound. This is the place that where Jason of Golden Fleece fame and his crew of Argonauts once dwelt.


Google Images, I


Georgia Black Sea Resort


In part, I see this country through the eyes of my Russian–born spouse, Natasha.


As a child, her father, Colonel Slavi Kalinichev, Soviet Army Medical Corps, took Natasha, her younger brother and mother, to a resort on the Black Sea for their summer vacations. The travel, in her earlier years, was by train. Later they rode in the Colonel’s jeep-like SUV, a new acquisition as  he ascemded in rankk. For her, Georgia and its the Black Sea resorts are a repository of rich deep memory.






(Ia) From: http://www.natashaguthrie.com/


Natasha V. K. Guthrie,

now a Southern California Realtor




Google Images, II


Russian family at Black Sea Beach


Google Images, III

St. George and the Dragon. C. 1456 -- Paulo Uccello


Georgia is an Eurasian country. It is a storied land, rich in myth and history. Accoring to some, this country was originally named for St. George, who slew the putative dragon. Thiough this is disputed by some, it is appealing, for we all, if we but know it, have our own  dragons’ to slay.


The area that would become Georgia became Christianized in considerable degree in the 4th Century CE. The monasteries and ruins of early Christian cultists dating from that time and forward are scattered across the land; a nation of 4.6 million people.

Georgians are the third largest contributors to the Coalition Forces in Iraq. 




Google Images, IV


Ruins of an ancient Georgian church


What long-ago traveler once found solace here? What community drew sustenance from being a part of their early congregation?


On 8 August, ‘08, Russian Troops invaded Georgia.


Google images V


MOSCOW: Russian Special Forces.



Google Images, VI

The Road South: Russian solders at rout step arriving in Georgia.


To see young soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines marching to battle, especially ours, but others also, evoke for this writer great sympathy, nostalgia and even some bit of jealousy. If dress parades with their spit-shined footwear were often a pain, other journeys were exhilarating.


I vividly recall, some 50 years after the fact, the dank waterfront of a troubled Beirut, or sailing southward on the light cruiser USS Little Rock, the glow of a million sea creatures in the wake as we steamed southward to a revolution in the Dominican Republic.


Landing from the historic carrier USS Boxer at Guantanamo in Cuba’s Orienté province during that October in 1962, stands as a landmark in my memory. Though the world trembled on the brink of nuclear war, we Marines, so very young, went ashore with vigor and élan. Adolescents, after all, tend to think themselves immortal.


Such occurrences give a young man (or woman) with a longing for adventure a great sense of purpose, a certainty that one is a part of something larger than oneself. One hopes in some way to contribute to whatever “great cause” and to distinguish one’s self while so doing. 







Google Images, VII


A guided missile frigate from Russia’s formidable Black Sea Fleet





Google Images, IIX


MiG 29’s


It is a great irony that the dreadful machinery of war can be as graceful as sharks, as lovely as raptors.


Google Images, IX




My spouse was a student at the Moscow Military Language Institute, a sort of Russian West Point for linguists and intelligence officers during Russia’s long dark night in Afghanistan. Cadets in her classes who spoke crucial languages such as Uzbek and Farsi were loaned to the regular army and shipped to Afghanistan as interpreters. Often, they returned in a coffin.


“They received splendid military funerals” she said.


The number of Georgian — or Russian — soldiers dead in Georgia is uncertain.


Google Images X


Collateral Damage.



This former U. S. Marine values his military service, both as an enlisted  Marine infantryman and later as a naval medical officer. I also value the service of others, for we live in a world of great strife, one that is on occasion as threatening as tigers.


Yet I hold dear that wars, no matter how necessary, and on rare occasions they are, are the methods of last resort.

If a war is important enough to undertake, it should be important enough that the terrible burden is shared by all who benefit from membership in this privileged society. This is particularly true for those leaders who beat the drums of war and for the captains of industry who profit greatly from armed conflict.


Great issues that justify a war, where they actually exist, always conceal a million bitter tragedies. The casus belli should be compelling enough that the leaders’ children go with even greater certainty than the children of the truck driver, the pipe fitter, the house painter—just as president Roosevelt’s four sons were among the first to volunteer for military duty in World War II -- and not for cushy administrative positions or some peaceful D.C. sinecure. As a Marine, FDR’s eldest son James, won the Navy Cross and Silver Star for gallantry. Elliott Roosevelt served as an Army Air Force officer, a bombardier. John Aspinwall Roosevelt served honorably in the US Navy. Franklin Delano (“Jr.”) serve with distinction in the US Navy in the battle of Casablanca and was decorated for bravery.


Early this morning, the 13th of August, Russian President Medvedev, under great international pressure, announced that the “Aggressor” has now been adequately punished(!)” He indicated a sort of maybe-so cease fire.  A Georgian spokesperson said some 2 dozen civilians had been killed since the announcement.  Perhaps as word filters down, the shooting and bombing will stop. The five–day war will be remembered by some as small and insignificant.  Yet for the solemn assemblies of the dead, there is no respite.


One hopes for the healing of a fractured and damaged Georgian society that is so eloquently expressed in the following excerpt from a poem by the Russian poet, Ivan Elegin: 


The last foot soldier has fallen,

The last pilot chuted into the sea

On tangled railroad tracks the crossties smoke;

wire fences hang in rusting disarray.


The tank protruding from the water,

the bridge now broken, fallen on its knees.

Those who were there, the witnesses to horror,

will they forget the fight and war’s disease?


But now the earth is waking, the day is filled with labor

The cranes in the harbor are working once more.

The buildings begin to rise.

That’s how the city heals its wounds.


From: “Homecoming” by Ivan Elagin

(Ivan Venediktovich Matveyev)

                                                Tran. From the Russian by John R. Guthrie




August 18, 2008


Return to the Table of Contents