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David Verberckt

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Frozen Conflicts

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        A journey through the unrecognised frontiers of Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and Transnistria, countries and de-facto independent territories which are at a standstill since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
        Some people live their lives as many others but have a different status in their society. They are refugees, internally displaced persons or vulnerable people living in a prolonged limbo in places that very often lack international recognition and much needed aid and support.
And some of them are born with that social status, as well as their ancestors have been. They are labeled by a bygone or a long-lasting conflict that affects their existence for decades.
Conflicts that appear frozen in time and seem not to melt towards better days.
        This photography reportage has been captured during three longer stays in Transnistria, Abkhazia, Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh between October 2013 and August 2014.

        The territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of neighbouring Azerbaijan. Factually, it is independent, accessible only from Armenia where its life-links stream as well. Also known as Artsakh, scarcely populated by people of Armenian origins with long strips of abandoned towns that were erased by a violent war in the beginning of the nineties, Nagorno-Karabakh lives with its scars and its heritage. The population suffers greatly of a complete lack of international recognition, its de facto isolation and remoteness.

        Samegrelo is a region in Georgia bordering the disputed territory of Abkhazia. The region was affected by the war between Georgia and Abkhazia in the beginning of the nineties and has absorbed large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Twenty years after being displaced IDPs in general, and in particular those living in collective centres, still face serious socio-economic problems and live in dire conditions with inadequate employment opportunities and all but no prospect to return to Abkhazia.
        A seemingly independent state, recognised and supported by Russia, Abkhazia longs the shores of the Black Sea. Separated from Georgia by the war, only rare returnees have made it back to their homes, mainly to the area of Gali, bordering Samegrelo in Georgia. They face fierce and somber living conditions due to a complete absence of public services, lack of education in Georgian language and great insecurity. Though living in Abkhazia, they completely depend on services available in Georgia making access challenging and further putting a strain on the already stretched public services in Samegrelo.

        Transnistria is an enclave between Ukraine and Moldavia, on the eastern bank of the Dniester river. This self-proclaimed independent state is still part of Moldavia. Following a short war in the beginning of the nineties, the time has stood still, fostering the poverty that became a part of contemporary Transnistria and Moldavia.

David Verberckt