Exploring national identity

She comes from Tskhinvali, South Ossetia, Georgia, which was occupied by Russia in 1990 as a result of the Georgian-Ossetian-Russian conflict. Her family has been displaced in the city of Gori, near the capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi. She started school in Gori, but because her family changed the residence location (within the city) she was transferred to another school for her second year. Soon after starting her second year in a “new” school she gained the reputation of a good student and made friends quickly. She had also heard a couple of times a teacher and the parents of the classmates talking about her and noticing her status as a refugee. One day, she noticed that her friends were talking to each other, somewhat privately from her. During the class break when she was out at the school buffet to buy a sweet roll, three of her friends approached her and asked in an affirmative tone whether she was Ossetian. She knew that she was Georgian, but because of the tone of her classmates she got suspicious about her ethnicity and got confused about it. At the same time, because she knew that her family had to leave a hometown because they were Georgian, she felt it was unfair that her friends “blamed” her to be Ossetian. At that time, because of the conflict, Georgians and Ossetians perceived each other as enemies, thus she felt that her classmates considered her an enemy, who did not belong to the community she was living and studying. Although she told them that she was Georgian, she did not think of strong arguments that would prove her Georgian ethnicity, especially with the doubts that she still had about her ethnic identity.

As soon as she got home that day, she asked her mom in a calm manner (trying to hide her anxiety) whether she was Georgian or Ossetian. Going to school the next day she felt confident to share with her classmates that she was definitely from Georgia, her last name was Georgian and moreover she was a “victim” of the Georgian-Ossetian-Russian conflict proudly reaffirming that she was on the Georgian side. She felt that this affirmation would support enhancement of her belonging to the “new” community.

Thinking about this, she realized that because of different interpretations or misinterpretations, from teachers, parents of her classmates and classmates still labeling her as a refugee, she did not feel she sufficiently belonged to the community and she had to find different ways to strengthen her belonging and ways to gain more affirmation from teachers, peers and their parents.