"It is easier to destroy the world than to create it. But in creating the world, one is sowing life and creating the future."
Irina Yanovskaya was born in 1962 in Ossetia, where she graduated from the faculty of computer technologies. She also acquired a passion for music and is a gifted singer. She began working in journalism after the beginning of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict in 1990. Since 1995 she has been working as a correspondent for various publications, clarifying and updating the public on Georgian-Ossetian relations, problems of inter-ethnic relations, and the peace-making process. In 1997 she participated in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference on Civil Society’s Role in the Prevention and Settlement of Conflicts.
Aware that she could not resolve this inter-ethnic conflict alone, Irina established the organization, Journalists for Human Rights, which unites concerned journalists of different national origins in South Ossetia for a common goal: preservation of peace in the region. In their focus on protecting the rights of a peaceful population, Irina and her organization are
part of a peace-making network in the Caucasus. Irina has also made many broadcasts and films about peace. She has organized art competitions for children, calling for pictures for peace, and has conducted seminars with soldiers, military officers, local authorities, and farmers, offering training in peace-making strategies. Irina also participated in the Internews Project and developed the programs devoted to peace, mutual understanding, and the Georgian-Ossetian conflict.
Irina is mother of four children, which is one reason she considers the work with children to be so important. Peace making must be taught during childhood. Children must learn how to find a common language with their contemporaries of different national origin. She teaches children to be tolerant and patient.
Irina is a part of the Caucasus Network on Conflict Resolution. She is a correspondent for the South Ossetian newspaper Red Star, an author, and a public activist. She also directs the following projects: Future Without Weapons (printing information bulletins), Zhinvaly Human Rights Center (creation of a human rights library, dissemination of leaflets), Assistance to Children (creation of a children’s department in the library), Documenting Women’s Rights in South Ossetia (training on the documentation of women’s rights), Human Rights Training, Children’s house in Zhinvaly(special meetings for children traumatized by war), Journalists for Peace Conference, and Ways of Resolution of the Georgian-Ossetia Ethnic Conflict, a joint project with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (Great Britain).
She also worked as a trainer for the Unifem project, Ossetia Women for Peace.
After the beginning of the interethnic war between Georgia and South Ossetia, Irina organized efforts to exchange prisoners of war between the two regions. She also coordinated a process of rapprochement between Georgian and Ossetian children.
During the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, part of the territory was mined, and until the present the mines have presented a serious problem for the region. Irina served as an organizer of the Peaceful Caucasus without Mines Conference.
“Another consequence of war is the problem of refugees,” Irina says. People fled from their homes in search of safety. Now people wish to go back home, but they fear that conflict will break out again. Irina organized a meeting of refugees – both Georgians and Ossetians. They realized that they have common problems and fears. Refugees of the two nations then united their efforts in their fight for peace in the region, calling on their compatriots to solve problems by peaceful methods. “The war did not bring any benefit to either. There are no winners in this war. Both parties lost.” This is the slogan that Irina uses in her training lessons. Gradually people have started to understand the absurd futility of the war and clashes.
Now Irina is well-known throughout the region. An independent journalist since 1995, she has published a number of articles and reports about peace building. After many conversations with the military command of Georgia and the leaders of its administration, she has been invited to lead seminars on the peace-making process. Irina also draws the community together for solving the conflict. She knows it is impossible to solve the problem unless the people are willing to help. But, she also believes that it is possible not just to solve, but to prevent conflict in civil society, by expanding peace-making activities and helping everybody to raise their voices for peace.
Irina believes that journalists bear a great part of the responsibility for inflaming conflicts, when they condemn the opposite side and sow discord on the pages of publications. For this reason, Irina has organized seminars and training courses for journalists – Ossetian and Georgian. These seminars are devoted to peace, mutual understanding, and the responsibility of journalists for the fate of their peoples and for the information they submit.
Within the framework of the program, the Georgian and Ossetian Dialogue, Irina participates in and leads different training courses, meetings, seminars, and celebrations directed towards reconciliation between the Georgians and Ossetians. Irina understands that ultimate reconciliation is still far off and that more hard work is needed to achieve this noble goal.
Irina is a valiant person and a good organizer. Her work is valued not just by her colleagues but by the people of South Ossetia with whom she looks for a peaceful solution to the interethnic conflicts
Irina Yanovskaya is a very modest person and a valiant activist. She has worked in peacemaking and conflict resolution since 1998, when ethnic clashes between Georgian and Ossetian villages began. "[The] absurd death of innocent people who killed each other only because of their different national origin, astonished me completely," Irina says. She could not let go of this idea. In 1998, she started working towards the reconciliation of hostile parties. She has worked with soldiers and military officers, taught children, and hosted different seminars to bring together people of different national origin and help them find points of convergence. Irina explains that a child does not understand that people of different national origin exist, and so the child sees no need to hate. A culture of peace should therefore be cultivated from early childhood, and in fact, Irina works often with children.
As a journalist she works for a program that is devoted to resolving the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. Irina published a special calendar with photographs of children and war. "These are children and women, who suffer from wars most of all," she says. "Children and women who [have] experienced the horror of violence, murder, need to be helped to overcome their trauma." She initiated a special program to help women and children injured by war. Irina also organizes seminars for Ossetian and Georgian women and children, in which they learn to understand one another and to live together in peace. "The most difficult thing for people who have experienced a war is to forgive the death of close people," Irina says, "to stop looking at the people of other national origin as enemies and murderers and to see in them only neighbors." Irina’s efforts for peace are helping improve the world around her.
Interethnic conflict between Georgians and Ossetians began in the early 1990s in South Ossetia, resulting in many deaths. Although peacemakers managed to bring hostile parties to an armistice, hatred remains. Peacemaking efforts are now directed to surmounting hostility and developing trust.
Journalists for Human Rights
Caucasus Network on Conflict Resolution
Central Asia and the Middle East | Georgia