Part Three: Disgust, Distrust, and Death Threats

Pipeline Project Splits Georgian Village Into Winners and Losers


A villager steps aside on the road to the Baku-Supsa pipeline, an earlier project that has left locals suspicious of the new one.
(photo: Raffi Khatchadourian)
She says she’s not sure who is responsible. Others here say it may well be landowners who worry her activism will scare the company away. Aptsiauri would like to see BTC install a line for bringing water to the village, and she suspects games are being played with the registry. During one visit to the local authorities, she says, she saw a map dividing state land, including roads intersecting the pipeline route, into private parcels. Meanwhile, villagers who expect to sell property argue these accusations are merely a case of sour grapes. The trouble with a country like Georgia, experts say, is that it is nearly impossible to know who’s right.
No road to riches: Big oil came to a remote Georgian village and left this rutted way.
photo: Raffi Khatchadourian
No road to riches: Big oil came to a remote Georgian village and left this rutted way.

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Editor's Note:
As it unspools from Azerbaijan to Turkey, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline will cross endless acres of private and state-owned land. The project's backers say they'd like to compensate everyone involved—but as Raffi Khatchadourian reports, in post-Soviet Georgia, that's no easy intention to fulfill.


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All Jemali Tsiklauri knows is that he wants his land back. Standing in his dim, two-room house, the former "expert in goods" holds a photocopy of his deed. "With this copy I told the authorities, ‘This property is mine.’ They said, ‘No it isn’t.’ So I said, ‘OK, show me where my land is.’ They didn’t say anything. Then they said it needed to be investigated, and the secretary of the local town council was supposed to get back to me by February 23 with a report. Well, I’m still waiting." Outsiders might not understand, he added. "This village is split. And if people don’t get justice, war will be waged."

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