New name for the vitally important Transcaucasian tunnel
Choosing a new name for the vitally important Transcaucasian tunnel is causing discord in South Ossetia.
It is now called the Ruk Tunnel (the Ossetian version, formerly the Rok Tunnel) and connects South and North Ossetia at the 93rd kilometer of the Transcaucasian Highway.
After the Georgian-Ossetian conflict in the early 1990s and especially after the August 2008 war, the highway remains the only connection between South Ossetia and the outside world.
The tunnel was named after a nearby pass. Changing the name has long been discussed by the local community, who refers to it locally as the Ruten Tunnel.
Ruten Gagloev, an engineer, is a well-known name in South Ossetia. Presumably, he had developed the project in the 20s by which the tunnel was built in the 70s.
The discord started after the idea had been proposed to name the tunnel after Bilar Kabaloev, a local communist leader between 1961-1982 – to mark his 100th anniversary in November 2017.
Social media users protested, insisting on calling it the Ruten Tunnel.
The deputies of the first parliament of independent South Ossetia have made a statement saying they were surprised by the organizing committee`s initiative.
“Back in the early 1990s some deputies appealed to name the tunnel after Ruten Gagloev, a legendary engineer. Nobody is allowed to cross the red line when issues of national importance are concerned,” the statement said.
The authors of the statement also proposed to install two monuments to Ruten Gagloev at both ends of the tunnel. One of the authors, Kazbeg Tchelekhsaty, told the press that signatures are being collected in favour of naming the tunnel after Ruten Gagloev.
The tunnel is 3 730 meters long and is 2 000 meters above sea level. It was the longest tunnel in the Soviet Union when it was opened.
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