It is internationally recognised as part of Georgia, but most people here have Russian passports and draw Russian pensions. For them, the border formalities are frustrating and time-consuming bureaucracy.
In August 2008, Georgia attempted to recapture South Ossetia, which had fought a separatist war against Georgia in the 1990s.
Russia poured troops in, ousting Georgian forces from South Ossetia and breakaway Abkhazia, and now Moscow recognises both as “independent” states.
Today Russia not only has troops based in South Ossetia and Abkhazia; it has also annexed Crimea, supported separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine and deployed troops to Syria.
Scarred by war
It’s an hour’s drive from the border to South Ossetia’s capital Tskhinvali – there is no regular bus service or railway line.
Russian military vehicles are a common sight, driving between the various Russian military bases here. But there is little sign of…