GEORGIA. The Pankisi Gorge region, a remote mountainous enclave in the far northeast corner of the Republic of Georgia.
Since December 1994, when war broke out between the Russian-backed central government in Grozny and a determined group of Chechen resistance fighters, Pankisi has witnessed an influx of refugees from Chechnya. Though not recognized or officially monitored by international agencies, Pankisi has become a refuge from state-sponsored terror for thousands of people who, ironically, are accused of waging terror at home. Chechens have a reputation for rugged individualism, even among the peoples of the Caucasus who – by any standards – are accustomed to rugged conditions and nurture a fierce sense of national pride and independence in light the imperialist tendencies of surrounding nations. By most estimates, approximately 5,000 Chechens escaped the deadly war in Chechnya by fleeing to Georgia's Pankisi Gorge.