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Two Machine Guns | Vladimer Dzutsovi, Tskhinvali

Vladimer Dzutsovi, 55 Years old, Tskhinvali 

War started for me when Zviad came to power. Many here swore that war was out of the question, Soviet Union would never allow that. 

At the end, they decided to get weapons. We got two large caliber machine guns. We bought them off the military. They removed them from a helicopter. They were supposed to repurpose them for hand use. On the 7th of January in 1991, I already had an AK-74. It was unimaginable at the time. 

I could see the entrance to the city from my house. In the morning we saw Icarus’s entire colony approaching. I ran to my friends’ house, we were hiding our weapons with him. He gave me his trench coat so I could hide my automatic in there. I was able to make it just in time to miss the Georgian cordons. They had already occupied my neighborhood. They were speaking about someone who was killed. 

I went to see what was happening in the city. Georgians occupied the markets and the library. I ran into my friends, we greeted each other. I told them to stand on the corner of Soviet and Ruskvi streets and at 12:00 start shooting in the air.

All of a sudden, two boys ran up, looking frazzled. They saw my automatic under my coat and started fighting with me. Take that weapon out, how long are you going to hide it? They are killing us and you’re hiding your weapon? They said. Their eyes sparkled when they saw the weapon. I loaded it. There were a lot of people in the yard, everyone was looking at us. Someone called out to me. There is a sniper on top of the library. I changed places. Then those boys started shooting. Then I slashed the tires of buses. Everyone became energized. I made them feel that it was ok to open fire now.

They came to me to help me, they brought bullets. The bullets were for different guns, but people didn’t have weapons, so people did what they could. Whatever I needed, they would bring quickly and accurately - if it was making Molotov cocktails or keeping a lookout, they did everything without uttering a word. Whenever I would shoot, people would clap in the yard. Then my friends dragged the machine gun to the fifth floor, on the intersection of Heroes and Kharebov Street, from there they fired several short bursts. But that machine gun didn’t work either. Immediately after that, Russian soldiers drove along Heroes Street from the station side in an armored reconnaissance vehicle, and called or ordered to cease fire through a loudspeaker

One day passed, the second day passed.  In the early days, it did not come to open clashes. We finally got our machine guns in order. We began to collect weapons. Before the invasion, the Georgians had taken out all the weapons, the Interior Ministry was in their hands back then. Therefore, we used everything we could get our hands on. For example, they bought guns from the military training academy and schools. We would redesign them so we could shoot a few times from them. This is how this war began. 

From the series “Rebuilding Memories for future- South Ossetia 1991/2008
Photo: Vladimir Svartsevich / Anastasia Svartsevich from the archives

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