The New York Times reports: As Crimeans danced in the streets this week, giddy at the prospect of being gathered into Russia, few were watching as closely as the residents of the tiny mountainous enclave of South Ossetia, who, five and a half years ago, were similarly ecstatic.
On the day in 2008 when Russia formally recognized the enclave as independent of Georgia, young men hung out of their car windows, waving Russian flags and spraying pedestrians with champagne. Officials daydreamed about building an economy based on tourism, like those of Monaco or Andorra.
That has not happened. These days South Ossetia’s economy is entirely dependent on budgetary funds from Russia. Unemployment is high, and so are prices, since goods must now be shuttled in through the tunnel, as long and thin as a drinking straw, that cuts through the Caucasus ridge from Russia.
Its political system is controlled by elites loyal to Moscow, suddenly wealthy enough to drive glossy black cars, though the roads are pitted or unpaved. Dozens of homes damaged in the 2008 war with Georgia have never been repaired. Dina Alborova, who heads a nonprofit organization in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, said her early hopes “all got corrected, step by step.” [Continue reading…]