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Abkhazia

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Abkhazia

Capital Sukhumi
Currency Russian ruble (RUB)
Population 242,862 (2012 est.)
Electricity 220V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code +7(840)/+7(940)
Time zone UTC +3
Travel Warning WARNING: Canada and the U.S. continue to advise their citizens against travel to Abkhazia, though the British Foreign Ministry warns only that it is illegal under Georgian law to enter Georgia via Abkhazia or South Ossetia. If you plan to travel to Abkhazia, check on current conditions and use your own judgment, keeping in mind that if you do get in trouble, embassies in Tbilisi are very unlikely to be able to assist you in any way.

Abkhazia (


  • Svaneti close by
  • Russia — The border with Russia is now open for all visitors.

Go next

It is common for telephone numbers not to be recognised, and therefore it is worth redialing many times.

There are 2 local mobile operators A-Mobile and Aquafon, the latest one being the largest and having bigger coverage. Their mobile numbers follow the next format +7 940 XXX-XX-XX. A SIM card costs about 200 rubles, incl. 150 ruble credit, and there are special rates for travelers, no ID is required for card purchase and almost all available tariff plans are prepaid ones. Both operators offer 4G which is available almost in all towns. Foreign SIM cards usually do not work with the exception of Russian branded operators MTS, Beeline, Megafon.

Landline phone numbers have the format of +7 840 XXX-XX-XX.

Telephones

It is NOT possible to send letters and packages abroad from post office in Abkhazia (2015). The nearest post office for international mail is in Adler. Post offices however usually allow making international telephone calls at costs of about 10-16 rubles per minute.

There are some Internet cafes in all major resort cities: Sukhumi, Gagra, Gudauta.

Connect

Abkhazia is a traditional and conservative country, so dress modestly. Clothing which exposes too much skin will give you a bad image from the local people, and you will thereby get unwelcome attention and less respect.

Respect

  • Don't hesitate to report crimes to the local police. If you report a theft, people are generally helpful.
  • If your mobile phone is stolen, the local cell phone company may help you to track it and in most cases telephones could be found if resold anywhere in Abkhazia.
  • Watch your bag or purse in public e.g. buses, trains and meetings. Keep your car locked with valuables out of view and do not leave your valuables like cameras, jewellery or mobile phones on the beach when you go for a swim.

The basic precautions for travellers are those recommended in all tourist destinations:

Finding directions might be challenging as all signs are mainly in Cyrillic only.

If you are not from the few countries that recognize Abkhazia, being in a conflict zone means that you are left stranded with absolutely no consular support should you lose your passport for some reason. In such a case, a traveller reportedly could make it back to Georgia only after the involvement of the Red Cross delegation (48 Inal-Ipa St, Sukhumi) and some high-ranking Abkhaz officials, which may not be available next time. Thus it is recommended to make a copy of the passport and any appropriate visas before entering Abkhazia.

While many travellers cross the border with Georgia proper back and forth with no problems, keep in mind that the southeastern areas of Abkhazia on the way, around Gali and Ochamchira more specifically, are the most impoverished parts of a country already not doing so well, so the time spent there should be kept no longer than is necessary. The Abkhaz side of the actual border zone at Enguri/Ingur seems safe as long as the militia is there—but note that they leave the place as soon as the crossing gets shut by 19:00, and there is at least one report of a traveller being a victim of a violent mugging which took place there after the militia left.

In the past, Abkhazia has witnessed military confrontations between Georgian armed forces and the Russian-supported local independence groups. For the common traveller the country is relatively safe, but you should make sure to avoid any place near the border to Georgia. Some minor unregistered minefields are reported near the border, an additional reason to steer well clear of it. Keep in mind that Abkhazia is, in the view of international law, still a part of Georgia. Further military confrontations are unlikely but you should closely follow the international and independent news in case the situation changes. Travellers who have visited Abkhazia and intend to visit Georgia can be questioned, refused entry to Georgia or in the worst case be imprisoned by Georgian immigration officers, as entry to Abkhazia is seen as illegal immigration.

Stay safe

Local spirits distilled from a dry wine and fruit mash are very diverse and cause stormy enthusiasm among tourists.

Abkhazia is also a wine region. Local wines are a must try; Apsny, Ashta, Buque, Dioskuria (ancient Greek name of Sukhumi), Gumsta, Lykhni, Psou, Chegem and Radeda.

Wines of Abkhazia

Drink

You should try Abkhazian local dishes including Akud (bean sauce) and Abista (corn porridge with cheese) and a variety of meat and fresh greens. Most dishes are usually spicy.

Dominant in Abkhazia are the Mediterranean influenced Caucasian and Russian cuisine. It has Mediterranean characteristics due to the abundance of subtropical fruits, vegetables and seafood. Kebabs are offered almost everywhere.

Eat

There are some 24-hour shops in the villages. Sukhumi has a new shopping center on the outskirts of the city. Otherwise goods can be found in small shops, mini markets and numerous kiosks. The largest grocers in Gagra is called "Continent".

Dollars and Euros are accepted in official exchange offices which can be found at most tourist areas—normal banking hours apply. Sometimes, visitors may pay with Dollars and Euros directly, though at a lower rate.

ATMs in Abkhazia accept Visa and Mastercard cards (2015), they are usually installed near bank branches in all major cities. However, it's still rare for the shops/restaurants to accept cards.

Buy

  • Visit the Abkhaz Drama Theatre, Botanic garden and Monkey Park in Sukhumi.
  • Dine at the famous "Gagripsh" restaurant in Gagra.
  • Take a boat trip from Gagra to Sukhumi.
  • Visit the small cave of St. Simon the Zealot and the cave in the village Abrskila Otap.
  • Visit the village of Kaman near Sukhumi.
  • Village of Lykhny with its historic churches and dome of Abkhaz Kings.

These are some things a traveller should try before leaving Abkhazia:

Abkhazia offers a wide variety of activities such as eco-tourism, gastro-tourism, rafting and extreme sports, mountain jogging and snowboarding, diving and sky gliding, hunting, and cultural and religious tourism. Beach season in Abkhazia lasts from May to November.

Do

Dens of a medieval monastery can be found here.

Otkhara village

Christian legend states that the holy martyr Basiliscus (308 year) and St. John Chrysostom (407 year) died and were buried in this village. Here you can find the ruins of early medieval Christian church, the tomb of the holy martyr Basiliscus, Orthodox Monastery (operating since 2002). Kaman village located 15 km (9 mi) from the city of Sukhumi.

Kaman village

  • Church of the Assumption of Our Ladyvillage Lykhny (Next to the glade). Acting church. Built in XIV century. You can see there fragments of frescoes of XIV century, tomb of the last ruler of Abkhazia - Prince George Chachba-Shervashidze (died 1818) before it became part of the Russian Empire in 1810.
  • Glade Lyhnashtavillage Lykhny (In the center of the village). Abkhazians performed nationwide gatherings, annual equestrian events, national celebration here from the old times. There is also a picturesque ruins of the palace of the ruling princes of Abkhazia Chachba-Shervashidze. Palace was founded in XI century and then destroyed in 1866.

It's the largest and the oldest (more than a thousand years old) village of Abkhazia which can boast of ruins of a VI-VII centuries Christian temple (located on ​​the outskirts of the village), princes palace and Church of the Assumption of Our Lady. Lykhny village is located 5 km (3 mi) north of the city Gudaut.

Lykhny village

Abkhazia is one of the oldest Christian countries (Andrew and Simon the Zealot preached here in the I century). Therefore a number of medieval churches exist. Most notable of them are the temples in the villages Lykhny, Kaman, Otkhara.

The city of Gagra and Pitsunda is the most popular tourist destination, offering a wide range of activities for a vacation.

Another attraction is Lake Ritsa, high in the mountains and about 1 hour drive from the main road (M-27). On the other side of the Lake Stalin's Dacha (summer cottage) can be found. The shortest way is by boat, but access is also possible by road (5 km). The cottage is open for tourists in the peak season. Even further up in the mountains is Lake Msui, a bit more off the beaten track; some tour operators offer trips. Weekly local flights from Sukhumi airport can take you to the remote village of Pskhu, where tourists may enjoy fantastic views of mountains and enjoy local produce such as honey and meat.

One interesting destination for travellers is to visit Novi Afon (Новый Афон) or New Athos; a Christian Orthodox Cathedral, which is 20 min drive from Sukhumi. It is famous not only as a cathedral and living legacy of Christianity but also as a cave; where there are 7-8 enormously large halls with thousands of wonderful of stalagmites and stalactites. A special train takes you to the depths. There are also historical places like the village of Moqua with its beautiful cathedral, and Ilor Church near Ochamchira.

Gunda department store in Gudauta
Lykhny temple
Lake Ritsa
Ridge view from Pitsunda Cape
New Athos Monastery

See

Visitors may also use taxis for travel within the country. Many taxi companies provide special rates for sightseeing. There are a number of travel agencies providing excursions to the mountains using jeeps / four wheel drive cars.

By taxi

There are frequent buses and marshrutka along the coastal road between Psou and Sukhumi. You will find a bus timetable at the Sukhumi Bus Station (in front of the train station).

By bus

The road leading to the Lake Ritsa

Get around

Abkhazia is partially under a naval blockade by the Georgian Coast Guard, and its waters are patrolled by Russian Border Guards' Coast Guard. If you are caught by the Georgians, the Georgian authorities will probably investigate whether you are involved in any economic activity, and if they find that you are, you might be prosecuted for unauthorized economic activity with Abkhazia. You may be penalized with a prison term and a heavy fine.

A high-speed, seasonal daily boat service (running between 10 June and 1 October) links Sochi with Gagra, where it is possible to enter Abkhazia being in possession of a Clearance (see above) indicating the Psou border crossing. The boat leaves at 10 am from Sochi's Morskiy vokzal (sea port) (boarding time: 08:30) and arrives at 11:30. In the other direction, it leaves from Gagra at 19:00 (boarding at 18:30), a one-way ticket costs 500 rubles, in Sochi it has to be bought at least one day before leaving, for the way back though, it can be bought on board. From the Gagra port, just walk 100 m ahead to the main road to catch a bus for traveling onwards.

By boat

While Sukhumi has an airport (Sukhumi Dranda Airport (IATA: SUI)), unsolved politics prevents its use for anything but UN flights.

By air

If crossing the border on foot from Russia, prepare for long waits in summer (2–3 hours are not uncommon) and bring enough water. Frequent (ancient Ikarus) busses and marshrutka leave from the parking lot once you have cleared customs. Entering from Georgia will involve at least 15 min walking between the two military checkpoints but, apart from the paperwork which can be somewhat lengthy, this is a straightforward process.

By foot

Buses to

By bus

There is a year-round daily train from Moscow's Kursky Rail Station to Sukhumi. Every second day the train extends to St. Petersburg. From Moscow, it takes a little short of two days and passes through Adler at about 08:00 and arrives in Sukhumi about two hours later. It starts the return journey at about 14:00. In addition there are some local services per day between Sukhumi and Adler stopping at Novy Afon and Gagra. Alternatively, marshrutka run from Adler railway station, which is much better connected, to the border.

By train

Getting from Russia.
Trips to Abkhazia from Russia will require you to re-enter Russia when you leave Abkhazia. Therefore your Russian visa must be double or multiple entry. However, it may be possible to be issues a Russian transit visa in Sukhumi, but not having the correct Russian visa may prevent you from entering Abkhazia in the first place. The Russian guards do not stamp your passport at this border and they may question you about having already used up your double-entry visa - it shouldn't cause you any problems, and don't give into any demands for bribes.
If a visa is required, then the visa fee may be paid at the Sberbank (Сбербанк) branch nearby on Lakoba Ave. (opposite no. 37, 09:00-17:00). Staff are helpful, even if you don't speak Russian a friendly smile and saying "visa" is sufficient. The fee is payable in Russian roubles calculated at the daily US dollar exchange rate, plus a nominal transaction fee.
Applying.
Visa applications are submitted and processed via email. Visas are issued by the Consular Service department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (21 Ulitsa Lakoba, not the Foreign Ministry on ul. Sacharova (normal office hour with lunch break from noon to 13:00). Some nationalities (including UK) may no longer require a formal visa: the letter of invitation is sufficient. Therefore, it is recommended to visit the Ministry before Sberbank to clarify the situation to avoid having to return to Sberbank for a refund.

There are three types of Abkhaz visa: Single-entry (10 days, USD10; 30 days USD20; 1 year USD30), Multi-entry (from USD40) and Transit. Official information is available online.

Visas

You should leave Abkhazia to the state you came from: it is not allowed to transit through Abkhazia from Georgia after visiting Abkhazia through Russia may be subject to a punishment and fines by Georgian Customs officials since they consider it a violation of the Georgian border regime.

A water border crossing point to Russia in Gagra was also opened in 2011 (see below). This was suspended due to mechanical reasons in 2015, but is scheduled to operate again in the summer season for 2016.

There are no exchange or any other facilities at the border. Get sufficient rubles in Zugdidi, otherwise it may be difficult or overly expensive to obtain transport to the capital.

From Gal and Sokhumi.

Entering from Russia is more "user-friendly". This border is crossed by hundreds of people every day. However, you will need a double-entry Russian visa (see details below).

There are two viable land crossings into Abkhazia: one is from Georgia.

Get in

The Georgian language is not particularly widespread in the country. The Government of the de facto independent Abkhazia has not approved Georgian as an official language, and many Abkhazians find it offensive to be accessed in Georgian because of the war generally. But there are many ethnic Georgians who live in the south of the country who speak their language.

Abkhaz, in the Northwest Caucasian linguistic family, is related to the Abkhaz-Adyghe language group in the same family. There are two official languages: Abkhaz and Russian. Russian is convenient for inter-cultural communication since Abkhazia is a multi-ethnic state. Russian is universally understood and the most convenient language for the traveller. In the cities one also can use English for basic communication.

Talk

Georgians living in Abkhazia are mainly concentrated in the south of the country, in Gal district they constitute 98.2% of the population, in Tkuartschal district - 62.4% and in Rajon Otschamtschyra district - about 9.5%. In all other parts of the country the percentage of Georgians is well below 5%.

A large part of the population has passports of the Russian Federation received since Abkhaz passport being recognized by only a few other states. Many Georgian-born residents of Abkhazia are Georgian citizens.

During the Civil War, there was ethnic cleansing and forced displacement. Approximately 250,000 inhabitants (including approximately 200,000 Georgians) left the country. Some other citizens emigrated later on due to the difficult economic situation. In 2003 the population was only of about 215,000 people. However, since 2008 the situation in Abkhazia continuously improves and the population increases again. According to 2011 census, the country had about 241,000 inhabitants: 50.8% Abkhazians, 19.3% Georgians, 17.3% Armenian, 9.2% Russians, 0.7% Ukrainians, 0.6% Greeks and about 0.8% of other minorities.

The last Soviet census of 1989 identified a population of approximately 525,000, of which almost 46% were Georgians and 18% Abkhazians . The rest of the population consisted of Armenians (14.6%), Russians (14.3%), Greece (2.8%) and some smaller minorities.

Abkhazia has long been inhabited mainly by the eponymous people of Abkhazia, which represented in 1886 about 85% of the residents of Abkhazia. Besides there was of a small Greek minority as well as several thousands of Georgians. However, the number of Georgians increased dramatically in the 20th century for two major reasons; first was the grand migration that took place in the late 1864 during the Ottoman-Russian war, when a major number of the Abkhaz population followed their fellow Circassian tribes migrating mainly to the lands of the Ottoman empire, this caused a massive loss of the native Abkhaz population on Abkhaz soil, years after that and under the Soviet Union, many Georgians were relocated in Abkhaz empty lands and were given lands and properties while executing a policy of "Georginizations" through banning the Abkhaz language and attempting at reshaping the Abkhaz culture and history. Abkhazia was included into the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1931, which led to a further influx of Georgians. In addition many Russians, Ukrainians and Armenians were settling in the region since the end of the 19th century. The Abkhazians therefore were already a minority in their country at the beginning of the 20th century.

Abkhazian procession

Demography

The average temperature in January is between +2 to +4 ° C. The average temperature in August varies from +22 to +24. The average annual temperature is +15 ° C.

Very hot and humid summer. It can stay quite warm up until the end of October.

Climate

Thanks to the protection of the mountain ranges, the coastal strip belong to a subtropical climate, which made Abkhazia a popular resort in the Soviet era. The mild climate promotes the cultivation of tobacco, tea, wine and fruit and agriculture, food and beverage industries are among the most important economic sectors of Abkhazia.

There is also the Voronya Cave located in the Arabica Massif. At 2,190m deep, its the deepest known cave in the world.

Abkhazia is located south of the Caucasus on the north coast of the Black Sea west of the river Enguri in Georgia. With the exception of a narrow agricultural coastal strip it is a highly mountainous country reaching heights of over 4,000m.

Geography

Pitsunda

Its status as an independent state is internationally recognized only by South Ossetia.

After the war all of Abkhazia, except a few villages, was out of Georgian control. As a minor operation in the 2008 South Ossetian war Abkhaz forces overtook these few remaining villages.

Under the Soviet Union Abkhazia was an autonomous area of its Georgian republic. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the Soviet Union was undermined by strong nationalist feelings among its various peoples. The Abkhaz people feared domination by the emerging independent Georgia and so sought their own independence. Violent clashes culminated in full-scale war in 1992: 3,000 Georgian troops overtook Abkhazia and dismantled the separatist government. In response the Abkhaz and Russian paramilitaries mounted a major offensive and by 1993 they had driven the Georgians out and had massacred thousands that remained.

History

Despite suffering a similar history to South Ossetia, Abkhazia is much more accessible and open to travel. While not many westerners make it, it has always been a popular destination for Soviet, and now Russian, tourists.

Understand

  • Auadhare (or Avadhara) - Abkhazian resort, 18 km (11 mi) from Lake Ritsa, located at an altitude of 1,600 m, famous for its mineral springs and sulfide waterfall with sparkling water.
  • Lake Ritsa

Other destinations

Cities

  • Cities 1
  • Other destinations 2
  • Understand 3
    • History 3.1
    • Geography 3.2
    • Climate 3.3
    • Demography 3.4
  • Talk 4
  • Get in 5
    • Visas 5.1
    • By train 5.2
    • By bus 5.3
    • By foot 5.4
    • By air 5.5
    • By boat 5.6
  • Get around 6
    • By bus 6.1
    • By taxi 6.2
  • See 7
    • Lykhny village 7.1
    • Kaman village 7.2
    • Otkhara village 7.3
  • Do 8
  • Buy 9
  • Eat 10
  • Drink 11
  • Stay safe 12
  • Respect 13
  • Connect 14
    • Telephones 14.1
  • Go next 15

Contents

Abkhazia

Republic of Abkhazia

  • Аҧсны Аҳәынҭқарра (Abkhaz)
    Aphsny Axwynthkharra

  • აფხაზეთი (Georgian)
    Apkhazeti

  • Республика Абхазия (Russian)
    Respublika Abkhaziya
Flag Emblem
Anthem: Аиааира (Abkhaz)
Aiaaira
Victory
Map centred on the Caucasus indicating Abkhazia (orange)
and Georgia proper with South Ossetia (grey).
Capital
and largest city
Sukhumi
Official languages
Spoken languages
Demonym
  • Abkhaz
  • Abkhazian
Government Unitary semi-presidential republic
 -  President Raul Khajimba
 -  Prime Minister Beslan Butba
Legislature People's Assembly
Partially recognised independence from [3][2][1]
 -  Georgian annulment of all Soviet-era laws and treaties 20 June 1990 
 -  Declaration of sovereigntyb 25 August 1990 
 -  Georgian declaration of independence 9 April 1991 
 -  Dissolution of Soviet Union 26 December 1991 
 -  Declaration of Independence 23 July 1992 
 -  Constitution 26 November 1994 
 -  Constitutional referendum 3 October 1999 
 -  Act of state independencec 12 October 1999 
 -  First
international recognitiond

26 August 2008 
Area
 -  Total 8,660[4] km2
3,344 sq mi
Population
 -  2012 estimate 242,862[5]
 -  2011 census 240,705 [6]
 -  Density 28/km2
72/sq mi
GDP (nominal) estimate
 -  Total $500 million[7]
Currency (RUB)
Time zone MSK (UTC+3)
Drives on the right
Calling code +7 840 / 940 and +995 44[8][9]
ISO 3166 code GE-AB
a. The Russian language is recognised as a language of state and other institutions (Article 6 of the Constitution) and is widely used.
b. Annulled by Georgia immediately thereafter.
c. To establish, retroactively, de jure independence since the 1992–1993 war.
d. By Russia. Since then, a further 5 UN member states have also recognised Abkhazia's independence.
e. De facto currency. Several Abkhazian apsar commemorative coins have been issued. The apsar is on a fixed exchange rate, pegged to the Russian ruble (1 ruble = 0.10 apsar).

Abkhazia (

  • Crisis profile, Georgia, Abkhazia, S. Ossetia, from Reuters Alertnet.
  • (English) (Russian) (Georgian) Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (official webpage).
  • (English) (Russian) (Turkish) (Abkhaz) President of the Republic of Abkhazia (official site).
  • (English) (Russian) (Abkhaz) Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia (official Site).
  • BBC Regions and territories: Abkhazia
  • (Russian) State Information Agency of the Abkhaz Republic
  • Abkhazia Provisional Paper Money
  • (Russian) Orthodox Churches of Abkhazia
  • (Russian) Rest in Abkhazia
  • (Russian) Archaeology and ethnography of Abkhazia, Abkhaz Institute of Social Studies, Abkhaz State Museum.
  • Articles about Abkhazia in the Caucasus Analytical Digest No. 7

External links

  1. ^ Site programming: Denis Merkushev. "Акт о государственной независимости Республики Абхазия". Abkhaziagov.org. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 
  2. ^ "Апсныпресс – государственное информационное агенство Республики Абхазия". Apsnypress.info. Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "Abkhazia: Review of Events for the Year 1996". UNPO. 31 January 1997. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2,010). "Abkhazia". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. p. 33.  
  5. ^ "Georgia". Citypopulation. 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  6. ^ "Численность населения Абхазии составляет 240 705 человек". apsnypress.info. 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  7. ^ "Abkhazia calculated GDP – News". GeorgiaTimes.info. 7 July 2010. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "Abkhazia remains available by Georgian phone codes". today.az. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2010. 
  9. ^ 2011 - national renumbering for Georgia
  10. ^ Art. 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia
  11. ^ Olga Oliker, Thomas S. Szayna. Faultlines of Conflict in Central Asia and the South Caucasus: Implications for the U.S. Army. Rand Corporation, 2003, ISBN 978-0-8330-3260-7.
  12. ^ Abkhazia: ten years on. By Rachel Clogg, Conciliation Resources, 2001.
  13. ^ Emmanuel Karagiannis. Energy and Security in the Caucasus. Routledge, 2002. ISBN 978-0-7007-1481-0.
  14. ^ The Guardian. Georgia up in arms over Olympic cash
  15. ^ Barry, Ellen (15 December 2009). "Abkhazia Is Recognised – by Nauru". New York Times. Archived from the original on 19 December 2009. Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  16. ^ a b c d Абхазия, Южная Осетия и Приднестровье признали независимость друг друга и призвали всех к этому же (in Russian).  
  17. ^ "Cтраны , признавшие независимость Республики Абхазия" (in Russian). Embassy of the Republic of Abkhazia in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Retrieved 2012-08-09. 
  18. ^ "Russia recognises Georgia's breakaway republics -2". Moscow:  
  19. ^ Jean-Christophe Peuch (June 29, 2009). "Georgia: OSCE Terminates Its 17-Year Georgian Mission". Eurasianet. 
  20. ^ Resolution of the Parliament of Georgia declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia occupied territories, 28 August 2008.
  21. ^ Abkhazia, S.Ossetia Formally Declared Occupied Territory. Civil Georgia. 2008-08-28. Archived 23 July at WebCite
  22. ^ Luke Coffey (2010-06-01). "Georgia and Russia: The occupation too many have forgotten". 
  23. ^ OSCE: De Gucht Discusses Montenegro Referendum, Frozen Conflicts, GlobalSecurity.org, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 2006
  24. ^ Vladimir Socor, Frozen Conflicts in the Black Sea-South Caucasus Region at the Wayback Machine (archived June 5, 2013), IASPS Policy Briefings, 1 March 2004
  25. ^ "Head of Foreign Ministry of the Republic of South Ossetia congratulated Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PMR with Sixth Anniversary of Creation of Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations". The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PMR. 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2014-03-26. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Ethnic Conflicts in the Caucasus 1988-1994
  28. ^ Otar Kajaia, 2001–2004, Megrelian–Georgian Dictionary (entry abzhua).
  29. ^ Otar Kajaia, 2001–2004, Megrelian–Georgian Dictionary (entry saapxazo).
  30. ^ Braund, David (1994), Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia, 550 BC – AD 562, Oxford: Clarendon, p. 359 .
  31. ^ Grigor, Ronald, The Making of the Georgian Nation, SUNY, p. 13 .
  32. ^ Kaufman, Stuart J, Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War, p. 91 .
  33. ^ a b c d e "BBC News – Regions and territories: Abkhazia". BBC News (London:  
  34. ^ Braund, David (8 September 1994), Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia, 550 BC – AD 562, USA: Oxford University Press, p. 27 .
  35. ^ Gregory, Timothy E (2005), A History of Byzantium, p. 78,  .
  36. ^ Graham Smith, Edward A. Allworth, Vivien A. Law et al., pages 56-58; Abkhaz by W. Barthold V. Minorsky in the Encyclopaedia of Islam.
  37. ^ Olson, James S; Pappas, Lee Brigance; Pappas, Nicholas C. J. An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires. Geenwood. p. 6.  
  38. ^ Strabo, in agreement with Stephan of Byzantium quoting Hellanicus
  39. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013, ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 975
  40. ^ Smith, Graham; Vivien Law (1998). Nation-building in the post-Soviet borderlands. Cambridge University Press. p. 56.  
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References

See also

Gallery

Abkhazia has its own amateur Abkhazian football league since 1994. The league is not a part of any international football union.

Football remains the most popular sport in Abkhazia. Other popular sports include basketball, boxing and wrestling.

Arguably the most famous Abkhaz writers are Fazil Iskander, who wrote mostly in Russian and Bagrat Shinkuba, a poet.

The written Abkhaz literature appeared relatively recently, in the beginning of the 20th century. However, Abkhaz share the Nart sagas, series of tales about mythical heroes with other Caucasian peoples. The Abkhaz alphabet was created in the 19th century. The first newspaper in Abkhaz, called Abkhazia and edited by Dmitry Gulia, appeared in 1917.

Culture

In October 2013 Alexander Ankvab signed a document ordering the firing Stanislav Lakoba. The document about firing Lakoba did not state any reasons for the decision, but Lakoba saw it as related to his political position on granting citizenship to Georgians living in Gali. Lakoba claimed that according to data from the Abkhaz Security Council, 129 local people in Gali fought against Abkhazia. Local political parties and the coordination council of civil organizations expressed concern about Lakoba’s dismissal. They claimed that by dismissing him, the president "made an illegal process legal" – giving Abkhazian passports to Georgian citizens.[198]

On September 18 of 2013 the Parliament of Republic of Abkhazia adopted a resolution instructing the prosecutor’s office to carry out a “sweeping” probe into passport offices of the interior ministry and in case of revealing wrongdoings in distribution of passports to refer these violations to the ministry of internal affairs for the purpose of “annulment of illegally issued passports.” Abkhaz officials announced that a significant number of residents of Gali, Ochamchire and Tkvarcheli districts received Abkhaz passports while at the same time retaining their Georgian citizenship, which constituted a "violation of the law on Abkhaz citizenship". According to the Abkhaz officials, more than 26,000 passports were distributed in Gali, Tkvarcheli and Ochamchire districts, including about 23,000 of which were given out since Russian recognition of Abkhazia's independence in August, 2008. These political debates have caused concerns in the ethnic Georgian population of Abkhazia who reside mainly in Gali district that they would be stripped of Abkhazian citizenship and thus be forced to leave Abkhazia again.[194]

According to some reports emerged in mid-2013, the directors of Georgian schools in Gali were ordered by Sukhumi authorities to transfer their schools to Russian-language education.[197]

In early 2013 the process of passportization of ethnic Georgians came under the scrutiny of Abkhaz opposition groups who turned this issue into one of the central topics of the breakaway region’s internal politics, and issuing of passports was suspended in May. Opposition claimed that “massive” passportization involving granting citizenship to ethnic Georgians in eastern districts was fraught with risk of “losing sovereignty and territorial integrity.” According to Apsnipress, Stanislav Lakoba, secretary of Abkhaz security council, said that “We are facing the process of the total Georgianization of Abkhazia.”[195]

Ethnic Georgians who have returned to the Gali district and want to obtain Abkhaz passports, according to Abkhazian law, should undergo lengthy procedures which also include a requirement to submit documented proof that they renounced their Georgian citizenship.[195] President Bagapsh was inclined to regard Georgians in Gali as "Georgianized Abkhazians." According to Bagapsh, these were actually ethnic Abkhaz people who were "Georgianized" during the long process of the Georgianization of Abkhazia that culminated during the rule of Joseph Stalin and Lavrenti Beria. So in his official speeches, Bagapsh often added the Gali Georgians to population estimates of the Abkhaz, disregarding the fact that they still thought of themselves as ethnic Georgians rather than Abkhaz.[196]

According to the Abkhazian law on citizenship, ethnic Abkhazians, regardless of place of residence, can become Abkhaz citizens. Those who are not ethnic Abkhazians are eligible for citizenship if they lived in Abkhazia for at least five years prior to adoption of act of independence in October, 1999. This provision aimed at creating a legal hurdle in obtaining Abkhaz passports for those ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia as a result of 1992-1993 armed conflict and who then returned to the Gali district. Abkhazian legislation forbids citizens of Abkhazia from holding dual citizenship with any other state apart from Russia.[195]

In 2005, citing the need to integrate ethnic Georgian residents of eastern districts of Abkhazia, the then leadership of Abkhazia showed signs of a softening stance towards granting of citizenship to the residents of Gali, Ochamchire and Tkvarcheli districts.[194]

Issue of ethnic Georgians

February 1, 2011 was the last day in the post-Soviet era when a passport of USSR was valid for crossing the Russian-Abkhaz border. According to the staff of Abkhazia's passport and visa service, there are about 2-3 thousand mostly elderly people left with Soviet passports who had no chance of acquiring new documents. These people were not able to get Russian citizenship. But they can first get an internal Abkhaz passport and then a travelling passport to visit Russia.[193]

The Eduard Shevardnadze said that he would be asking his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for an explanation. The speaker of parliament Nino Burjanadze said that she would raise the matter at the forthcoming OSCE parliamentary assembly.[191]

Abkhazians began mass acquisition of Russian passports in 2002. It is reported that the public organisation the Congress of Russian Communities of Abkhazia started collecting Abkhazians’ Soviet-era travel documents. It then sent them to a consular department specially set up by Russian Foreign Ministry officials in the city of Sochi. After they were checked, Abkhazian applicants were granted Russian citizenship. By June 25 of 2002, an estimated 150,000 people in Abkhazia had acquired the new passports, joining 50,000 who already possessed Russian citizenship. The Sukhum authorities, although officially not involved in the registration for Russian nationality process, openly encouraged it. Government officials said privately that President Putin’s administration agreed with the passport acquisition during Abkhazia’s prime minister Djergenia’s visit to Moscow in May 2002.[191]

Before 2002, Russian law allowed residents of former Soviet Union to apply for citizenship if they had not become citizens of their newly independent states. The procedure was extremely complex. The new Citizenship Law of Russia adopted on 31 May 2002 introduced a simplified procedure of citizenship acquisition for former citizens of the Soviet Union regardless of their place of residence. In Abkhazia and South Ossetia the application process was simplified even further, and people could apply even without leaving their homes. Russian nationalist non-governmental organizations with close ties to Russian officialdom simply took their papers to a nearby Russian city for processing.[192]

After the breakup of Soviet Union, Abkhazians continued to be the citizens of Soviet Union and kept Soviet passports even after a decade.[191]

Adoption of Russian nationality

Nationality issues

According to a survey held in 2003, 60% of respondents identified themselves as Christian, 16% as Muslim, 8% as atheist or irreligious, 8% as adhering to the traditional Abkhazian religion or as Pagan, 2% as follower of other religions and 6% as undecided.[186]

According to the constitutions of both Abkhazia and Georgia, the adherents of all religions (as well as atheists) have equal rights before the law.[190]

[189] Most inhabitants of Abkhazia are Christian (

Religion in Abkhazia (2003)[186]
religion percent
Christianity
  
60%
Islam
  
16%
Abkhaz Native Religion
  
8%
Other religions
  
2%
Irreligious or atheist
  
8%
Undetermined
  
6%

Religion

Thousands of Abkhaz, known as muhajirun, fled Abkhazia for the Ottoman Empire in the mid-19th century after resisting the Russian conquest of the Caucasus. Today, Turkey is home to the world's largest Abkhaz diaspora community. Size estimates vary – Diaspora leaders say 1 million people; Abkhaz estimates range from 150,000 to 500,000.[184][185] The Abkhazians in Turkey are almost exclusively Sunni Muslims.

Diaspora

Currently, Armenians are the second largest minority group in Abkhazia (closely matching the Georgians), although their numbers decreased dramatically from 77,000 in the 1989 census to 45,000 in the 2003 census.

During the Soviet Union, the Russian, Armenian and Georgian population grew faster than the Abkhaz, due to the large-scale migration enforced especially under the rule of Joseph Stalin and Lavrenty Beria.[49] Russians moved into Abkhazia in great numbers. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, Vazgen I and the Armenian church encouraged and funded the migration of Armenians to Abkhazia.

The population of Abkhazia remains ethnically very diverse, even after the 1992–1993 War. At present the population of Abkhazia is mainly made up of ethnic ethnically cleansed.[181]

[179] The ethnic composition of Abkhazia has played a central role in the

Abkhazians carrying republic flags in a parade.

Ethnicity

The exact size of Abkhazia's population was unclear. According to the census carried out in 2003 it measured 215,972 people,[179] but this is contested by Georgian authorities. The Department of Statistics of Georgia estimated Abkhazia's population to be approximately 179,000 in 2003, and 178,000 in 2005 (the last year when such estimates were published in Georgia).[180] Encyclopædia Britannica estimates the population in 2007 at 180,000[181] and the International Crisis Group estimates Abkhazia's total population in 2006 to be between 157,000 and 190,000 (or between 180,000 and 220,000 as estimated by UNDP in 1998).[182]

According to the last census in 2011 Abkhazia has 240,705 inhabitants.[178]

Demographics

In the first half of 2012, the principal trading partners of Abkhazia were Russia (64%) and Turkey (18%).[175] The CIS economic sanctions imposed on Abkhazia in 1996 are still formally in force, but Russia announced on 6 March 2008 that it would no longer participate in them, declaring them "outdated, impeding the socio-economic development of the region, and causing unjustified hardship for the people of Abkhazia". Russia also called on other CIS members to undertake similar steps,[176] but met with protests from Tbilisi and lack of support from the other CIS countries.[177]

Tourism is a key industry and, according to Abkhazia's authorities, almost a million tourists (mainly from Russia) came to Abkhazia in 2007.[174] Abkhazia also enjoys fertile lands and an abundance of agricultural products, including tea, tobacco, wine and fruits (especially tangerines and hazelnuts). Electricity is largely supplied by the Inguri hydroelectric power station located on the Inguri River between Abkhazia and Georgia (proper) and operated jointly by both parties.

The economy of Abkhazia is heavily integrated with Russia and uses the Russian ruble as its currency. Abkhazia has experienced a modest economic upswing since the 2008 South Ossetia war and Russia's subsequent recognition of Abkhazia's independence. About half of Abkhazia's state budget is financed with aid money from Russia.[173]

Economy

  • The Abkhazian Land Forces with a permanent force of around 5,000, but with reservists and paramilitary personnel this may increase to up to 50,000 in times of military conflict. The exact numbers and the type of equipment used remain unverifiable.
  • The Abkhazian Navy that consists of three divisions based in Sukhumi, Ochamchire and Pitsunda, but the Russian navy patrols their waters.[172]
  • The Abkhazian Air Force, a small unit consisting of a few fighter aircraft and helicopters.

The Abkhazian Armed Forces are composed of:

The Abkhazian Armed Forces are the military of the "Republic of Abkhazia". The basis of the Abkhazian armed forces was formed by the ethnically Abkhaz National Guard formed early in 1992. Most of the weapons come from the former Russian airborne division base in Gudauta. The Abkhazian military is primarily a ground force but includes small sea and air units. Russia has at present around 1,600 troops stationed in Abkhazia.[171]

Military

[170] According to a 2010 study published by the

Support for independence

The Administrative subdivision of Abkhazia used by Georgia is identical to the one outlined above, except for the new Tkvarcheli district.

The President of the Republic appoints districts' heads from those elected to the districts' assemblies. There are elected village assemblies whose heads are appointed by the districts' heads.[73]

The Republic of Abkhazia is divided into seven raions named after their centres: Gagra, Gudauta, Sukhumi, Ochamchira, Gulripshi, Tkvarcheli and Gali. These districts are the same as under the Soviet Union, except that the Tkvarcheli district was created only in 1995 from parts of the Ochamchira and Gali districts.

Administrative divisions of Abkhazia

During the Mikheil Saakashvili, his envoy in the peace talks over Abkhazia.

The Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia is the ethnic cleansing that followed.[167][168] The current Head of the Government is Vakhtang Kolbaia.

The project of the flag of Abkhazia AR developed by the state council of heraldry of the Parliament of Georgia.

Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (in exile)

Abkhazian officials have stated that they have given the Russian Federation the responsibility of representing their interests abroad.[166]

Most refugees from the 1992–1993 war (mainly ethnic Georgians) have not been able to return and have thus been excluded from the political process.[165]

[73] Legislative powers are vested in the

Abkhazia is a presidential republic, and the second elected President of Abkhazia was Sergei Bagapsh. Bagapsh came to power following the deeply divisive October 2004 presidential election. The next election was held on 12 December 2009. Bagapsh was re-elected as President with 59.4% of the total vote.[163] Alexander Ankvab, his vice president, was appointed acting president after the former president's death on 29 May 2011[164] until winning election in his own right later on 26 August 2011.

Government of the Republic of Abkhazia

Politics and government

There are two border crossings into Abkhazia. The southern border crossing is at the Zugdidi. The northern crossing ("Psou") is in the town of Gyachrypsh. Owing to the ongoing security situation, many foreign governments advise their citizens against travelling to Abkhazia.[162]

The lowland regions used to be covered by swaths of oak, beech, and hornbeam, which have since been cleared.[4]

Because of Abkhazia's proximity to the Black Sea and the shield of the Caucasus Mountains, the region's climate is very mild. The coastal areas of the republic have a subtropical climate, where the average annual temperature in most regions is around 15 °C (59 °F), and the average January temperature remains above freezing.[4] The climate at higher elevations varies from maritime mountainous to cold and summerless. Also, due to its position on the windward slopes of the Caucasus, Abkhazia receives high amounts of precipitation,[4] though humidity decreases further inland. The annual precipitation vacillates from 1,200–1,400 mm (47.2–55.1 in)[4] along the coast 1,700–3,500 mm (66.9–137.8 in) in the higher mountainous areas. The mountains of Abkhazia receive significant amounts of snow.

The world's deepest known cave, Krubera (Voronja) Cave ("The Crows' Cave"), is located in Abkhazia's western Caucasus mountains. The latest survey (as of September 2006) has measured the vertical extent of this cave system as 2,158 meters (7,080 ft) between its highest and lowest explored points.[161]

Abkhazia is richly irrigated by small rivers originating in the Caucasus Mountains. Chief of these are: periglacial and crater lakes in mountainous Abkhazia. Lake Ritsa is the most important of them.

Russia-Abkhazia border checkpoint
View from Pitsunda cape.

Abkhazia is diverse geographically with lowlands stretching to the extremely mountainous north. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range runs along the region's northern border, with its spurs – the Gagra, Bzyb and Kodori ranges – dividing the area into a number of deep, well-watered valleys. The highest peaks of Abkhazia are in the northeast and east and several exceed 4,000 meters (13,123 ft) above sea level. Abkhazia's landscape ranges from coastal forests and citrus plantations to permanent snows and glaciers in the north of the region. Although Abkhazia's complex topographic setting has spared most of the territory from significant human development, its cultivated fertile lands produce tea, tobacco, wine and fruits, a mainstay of the local agricultural sector.

Abkhazia covers an area of about 8,660 km2 (3,344 sq mi) at the western end of Georgia.[4][159][160] The Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti; and on the south and southwest by the Black Sea.

Geography and climate

  • Vanuatu recognised Abkhazia on 23 May 2011,[155] but withdrew recognition on 20 May 2013.[156]
  • Tuvalu recognised Abkhazia on 18 September 2011 [157] but withdrew recognition on 31 March 2014.[158]

Former recognition

Partially recognised and unrecognised territories

  • Russia recognised Abkhazia on 26 August 2008 after the 2008 South Ossetia war.[150]
  • Nicaragua recognised Abkhazia on 5 September 2008.[151]
  • Venezuela recognised Abkhazia on 10 September 2009.[152]
  • Nauru recognised Abkhazia on 15 December 2009.[153]

UN member states

Abkhazia was an unrecognised state for most of its history. The following is a list of political entities that formally recognise Abkhazia.

International recognition

The main NGO working in Abkhazia is the France-based international NGO Première-Urgence (PU):[149] PU has been implementing rehabilitation and economical revival programmes to support the vulnerable populations affected by the frozen conflict for almost 10 years.

The [148]

Calling on both parties to follow up on dialogue initiatives, it further urged them to comply fully with all previous agreements regarding non-violence and confidence-building, in particular those concerning the separation of forces. Regarding the disputed role of the peacekeepers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Council stressed the importance of close, effective cooperation between UNOMIG and that force and looked to all sides to continue to extend the necessary cooperation to them. At the same time, the document reaffirmed the "commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders."[147]

On 13 October 2006, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution, based on a Group of Friends of the Secretary-General draft, extending the

On 5 October 2006, [146]

On 22 August 2006, Senator [144]

The USA rejects the unilateral secession of Abkhazia and urges its integration into Georgia as an autonomous unit. In 1998 the USA announced its readiness to allocate up to $15 million for rehabilitation of infrastructure in the Gali region if substantial progress is made in the peace process. USAID has already funded some humanitarian initiatives for Abkhazia. The USA has in recent years significantly increased its military support to the Georgian armed forces but has stated that it would not condone any moves towards peace enforcement in Abkhazia.

The OSCE has increasingly engaged in dialogue with officials and civil society representatives in Abkhazia, especially from NGOs and the Budapest Summit Decision[142] and later at the Lisbon Summit Declaration in 1996.[143]

The UN has played various roles during the conflict and peace process: a military role through its observer mission (UNOMIG); dual diplomatic roles through the Security Council and the appointment of a Special Envoy, succeeded by a Special Representative to the Secretary-General; a humanitarian role (UNHCR and UNOCHA); a development role (UNDP); a human rights role (UNHCHR); and a low-key capacity and confidence-building role (UNV). The UN’s position has been that there will be no forcible change in international borders. Any settlement must be freely negotiated and based on autonomy for Abkhazia legitimised by referendum under international observation once the multiethnic population has returned.[141] According to Western interpretations the intervention did not contravene international law since Georgia, as a sovereign state, had the right to secure order on its territory and protect its territorial integrity.

International involvement

The extent of Russian influence in Abkhazia has caused some locals to say Abkhazia is under full Russian control, but they still prefer Russian influence over Georgian.[137][138][139][140]

[136] As a response to the [135] Russia has started work on the establishment of a naval base in Ochamchire by dredging the coast to allow the passage of their larger naval vessels.

In response to the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia, the Federal Assembly of Russia called an extraordinary session for 25 August 2008 to discuss recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.[123] Following a unanimous resolution that was passed by both houses of the parliament calling on the Russian president to recognise independence of the breakaway republics,[124] Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, officially recognised both on 26 August 2008.[125][126] Russian recognition[127] was condemned by NATO nations, OSCE and European Council nations[128][129][130][131][132] due to "violation of territorial integrity and international law".[131][133] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that sovereign states have to decide themselves whether they want to recognize the independence of disputed regions.[134]

Later in April 2008, Russia accused Georgia of trying to exploit NATO support in order to control Abkhazia by force and announced it would increase its military presence in the region, pledging to retaliate militarily against Georgia’s efforts. The Georgian Prime Minister [122]

Moscow, at certain times, hinted that it might recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia when Western countries recognised the independence of Kosovo, suggesting that they had created a [120] and criticism from the European Union, NATO, and several Western governments.[121]

During the military supplied logistical and military aid to the separatist side.[60] Today, Russia still maintains a strong political and military influence over separatist rule in Abkhazia. Russia has also issued passports to the citizens of Abkhazia since 2000 (as Abkhazian passports cannot be used for international travel) and subsequently paid them retirement pensions and other monetary benefits. More than 80% of the Abkhazian population had received Russian passports by 2006. As Russian citizens living abroad, Abkhazians do not pay Russian taxes or serve in the Russian Army.[116][117] About 53,000 Abkhazian passports have been issued as of May 2007.[118]

Leaders of Abkhazia, Russia and South Ossetia, shortly after the 2008 war. Left to right: South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity; Russian President Dmitry Medvedev; Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh.

Russian involvement

[115] According to Russian media, President of Republic of Abkhazia,

As of May 2013, Neutral documents has been recognized by Japan, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, USA, Bulgaria, Poland, Israel, Estonia and Romania.[113]

Abkhazia’s Foreign Ministry expressed concerns about some countries recognizing the “neutral passports.” The ministry also said an increasing number of Abkhazian residents with Russian passports were being denied Schengen visas.[114]

According to Georgian officials, the “neutral passports” lacked any symbols of Georgia and only bore a registration number and an individual number. Moscow argued it was Georgia’s "cunning ploy" because the passports contained Georgia’s code and the Georgian Interior Ministry as the issuing body.

In the summer of 2011 the Parliament of Georgia adopted a package of legislative amendments providing for the issuance of neutral identification and travel documents to residents of Abkhazia and the former South Ossetian autonomous province of Georgia. The document allows travelling abroad as well as enjoying social benefits existing in Georgia. The new neutral identification and travel documents were called "neutral passports".[113]

Currently Georgia considers all residents of Abkhazia its citizens, while they see themselves as Abkhaz citizens.[68]

Status-neutral passports

The law says that the Russian Federation – the state which has carried out military occupation – is fully responsible for the violation of human rights in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Russian Federation, according to the document, is also responsible for compensation of material and moral damage inflicted on Georgian citizens, stateless persons and foreign citizens, who are in Georgia and enter the occupied territories with appropriate permits. The law also says that de facto state agencies and officials operating in the occupied territories are regarded by Georgia as illegal. The law will remain in force until "the full restoration of Georgian jurisdiction" over the breakaway regions is realised.

The legislation, however, also lists "special" cases in which entry into the breakaway regions will not be regarded as illegal. It stipulates that a special permit on entry into the breakaway regions can be issued if the trip there "serves Georgia’s state interests; peaceful resolution of the conflict; de-occupation or humanitarian purposes." The law also bans any type of economic activity – entrepreneurial or non-entrepreneurial, if such activities require permits, licenses or registration in accordance with Georgian legislation. It also bans air, sea and railway communications and international transit via the regions, mineral exploration and money transfers. The provision covering economic activities is retroactive, going back to 1990.

In late October 2008 President Saakashvili signed into law legislation on the occupied territories passed by the Georgian Parliament. The law covers the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (territories of former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast).[110][111][112] The law spells out restrictions on free movement and economic activity in the territories. In particular, according to the law, foreign citizens should enter the two breakaway regions only through Georgia proper. Entry into Abkhazia should be carried out from the Zugdidi District and into South Ossetia from the Gori District. The major road leading to South Ossetia from the rest of Georgia passes through the Gori District.

Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia

[109] On 9 July 2012, the

[108] On 3 July 2008, the

Embassy of Russia in Sukhumi

On 28 March 2008, the [107]

[105] adopted a non-binding resolution recognising the right of all refugees (including victims of reported “ethnic cleansing”) to return to Abkhazia and to retain or regain their property rights there. It "regretted" the attempts to alter pre-war demographic composition and called for the "rapid development of a timetable to ensure the prompt voluntary return of all refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes."United Nations General Assembly On 15 May 2008, the [104] The UN Security Council has avoided the use of the term "ethnic cleansing" but has affirmed "the unacceptability of the demographic changes resulting from the conflict".[103] Georgia accuses the Abkhaz secessionists of having conducted a deliberate campaign of

On 18 October 2006, the [102]

The Russian Federation and Nicaragua officially recognised Abkhazia after the autonomy and possible federal structure within the borders and jurisdiction of Georgia.

Map of Georgia highlighting Abkhazia (green) and South Ossetia (purple).

International status

In November 2014 Putin moved to formalize the Abkhazian military's relationship as part of the Russian armed forces.[92]

On 31 May, the Abkhaz parliament appointed speaker of the parliament Valery Bganba as an acting President. It also decided to hold an early presidential election on August 24. The resolution said that the document was adopted "in connection with Alexander Ankvab's inability to exercise the powers and responsibilities of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia..." President Ankvab slammed parliament for urging him to step down and for a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet.[90] The vote in the 35-member Abkhaz Parliament to remove the president was 24 to 0, with one abstention. Although Parliament had the two-thirds majority required by law to strip the president of power, the vote apparently violated numerous other provisions of the Constitution. On the evening of the same day, Ankvab resigned after issuing a statement in which he accused his opponents of violating the Abkhaz Constitution as well as moral standards.[91]

On the night of May 28, Russia's Deputy Security Council Secretary Rashid Nurgaliyev met with Ankvab, who described the events as an “armed coup attempt.” It was also reported that Ankvab met with Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov, who had traveled to Sukhumi with Nurgaliyev. On May 28 Surkov also met with opposition leaders Raul Khajimba, Sergei Shamba, Akhra Bzhaniya, and Vitaly Gabniy, as well as with the lawmakers of Abkhazia’s parliament.[88] On May 30 media reported that Ankvab moved to Russian Federation military base in Gudauta due to security concerns.[89]

In late April 2014, the opposition submitted a 5 May ultimatum to President Ankvab to dismiss the government and make radical reforms.[84] On May 27, 2014, in the centre of Issue of ethnic Georgians)

Political unrest in 2014

Since independence was recognised by Russia a series of controversial agreements were made between the Abkhazian government and the Russian Federation that leased or sold a number of key state assets and relinquished control over the borders. In May 2009 several opposition parties and war veteran groups protested against these deals complaining that they undermined state sovereignty and risked exchanging one colonial power (Georgia) for another (Russia).[82] The Vice President, Raul Khadjimba, resigned on 28 May saying he agreed with the criticism the opposition had made.[83] Subsequently, a conference of opposition parties nominated Raul Khadjimba as their candidate in the December 2009 Abkhazian presidential election won by Sergei Bagapsh.

On 9 August 2008, Abkhazian forces fired on Georgian forces in independence of Abkhazia on 26 August 2008.[80][81] Moreover, on 17 November 2008, the Abkhaz parliament ratified a bill that authorised the construction of a Russian military base in Abkhazia in 2009.

Sporadic acts of violence continued throughout the postwar years. Despite the peacekeeping status of the Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia, Georgian officials routinely claimed that Russian peacekeepers were inciting violence by supplying Abkhaz rebels with arms and financial support. Russian support of Abkhazia became pronounced when the UAV.[75][76]

In July 2006, Georgian forces launched a successful police operation against the rebelled administrator of the Georgian populated Tbilisi.

However Raul Khadjimba lost the elections to Sergei Bagapsh. The tense situation in the republic led to the cancellation of the election results by the Supreme Court. After that, a deal was struck between former rivals to run jointly, with Bagapsh as a presidential candidate and Khadjimba as a vice presidential candidate. They received more than 90% of the votes in the new election.

Presidential elections were held in Abkhazia on 3 October 2004. Russia evidently supported Raul Khadjimba, the prime minister backed by the ailing outgoing separatist President Vladislav Ardzinba. Posters of Russia's President Vladimir Putin together with Khadjimba, who, like Putin, had worked as a KGB official, were everywhere in Sukhumi. Deputies of Russia's parliament and Russian singers, led by Joseph Cobsohn, a State Duma deputy and a popular singer, came to Abkhazia, campaigning for Khadjimba.

Post-war Abkhazia

[73] Of about 250,000 Georgian refugees, some 60,000 Georgian refugees subsequently returned to Abkhazia's

The campaign ethnic cleansing also included Russians, Armenians, Greeks, moderate Abkhaz and other minor ethnic groups living in Abkhazia. More than 20,000 houses owned by ethnic Georgians were destroyed. Hundreds of Schools, kindergartens, churches, hospitals, historical monuments were pillaged and destroyed.[69] Following a process of ethnic cleansing and mass expulsion, population of Abkhazia has been reduced to 216,000, from 525,000 in 1989.[70]

[68] Prior to the

Ethnic cleansing of Georgians

During the war, gross human rights violations were reported on both sides (see Budapest (1994),[61] Lisbon (1996)[62] and Istanbul (1999).[63]

The Abkhaz forces quickly overran the rest of Abkhazia as the Georgian government faced a second threat: an uprising by the supporters of the deposed Zviad Gamsakhurdia in the region of Mingrelia (Samegrelo). Only a small region of eastern Abkhazia, the upper Kodori gorge, remained under Georgian control (until 2008).

The conflict was in stalemate until July 1993, when Abkhaz separatist militias launched an abortive attack on Georgian-held Sukhumi. They surrounded and heavily shelled the capital, where Shevardnadze was trapped. The warring sides Sukhumi Massacre. The mass killings and destruction continued for two weeks, leaving thousands dead and missing.

The Abkhaz military defeat was met with a hostile response by the self-styled

In August 1992, the Georgian government accused Gamsakhurdia's supporters of kidnapping Georgia's Interior Minister and holding him captive in Abkhazia. The Georgian government dispatched 3,000 soldiers to the region, ostensibly to restore order. The Abkhaz were relatively unarmed at this time and the Georgian troops were able to march into Sukhumi with relatively little resistance[56] and subsequently engaged in ethnically based pillage, looting, assault, and murder.[57] The Abkhaz units were forced to retreat to Gudauta and Tkvarcheli.

Abkhazian War

Gamsakhurdia's rule was soon challenged by armed opposition groups, under the command of [55]

[53] In March 1990, Georgia declared sovereignty, unilaterally nullifying treaties concluded by the Soviet government since 1921 and thereby moving closer to independence. The Republic of Georgia boycotted the 17 March 1991

As the Abkhaz Letter was sent to Gorbachev.

Abkhazia in post-Soviet Georgia

The policy of repression was eased after Stalin's death[33] and Beria's execution, and the Abkhaz were given a greater role in the governance of the republic.[33] As in most of the smaller autonomous republics, the Soviet government encouraged the development of culture and particularly of literature.

[50] The publishing of materials in Abkhazians dwindled and was eventually stopped altogether; Abkhazian schools were closed on 1945/46.[49][48][47] In 1921, the

German support enabled the Georgians to repel the Bolshevik threat from Abkhazia in 1918. The 1921 constitution granted Abkhazia autonomy. [4] The

Map of the Georgian SSR.

Abkhazia within the Soviet Union

By official decision of the Russian authorities the residents of Abkhazia and Samurzakano had to study and pray in Russian. After the mass deportation of 1878, Abkhazians who were left in minority and were officially branded as "guilty people", had no leaders in order to carry out serious opposition against Russification politics of the empire.[44] On March 17, 1898 when sinodal department of Georgia-Imereti of Russian Orthodox Church by order 2771 again prohibited teaching and conduction of religious services in church schools and churches of the Sukhumi district in Georgian language, it was followed by mass protests of Georgian population of Abkhazia and Samurzakano that reached the Russian emperor. On September 3, 1898 the Holy Synod issued order 4880 which determined: Those parishes where congregation were Mingrelians i.e. Georgians, both church services and church education should have been conducted in Georgian language, while in Abkhazian parishes in [44]

Large areas of the region were left uninhabited and many Svans and Mingrelians) had populated Abkhazia since the time of the Colchis kingdom.[43]

Later on, the Russian presence strengthened and the highlanders of Western Caucasia were finally subjugated by Russia in 1864. The autonomy of Abkhazia, which had functioned as a pro-Russian "buffer zone" in this troublesome region, was no longer needed by the Tsarist government and the rule of the Shervashidze came to an end; in November 1864, Prince Michael was forced to renounce his rights and resettle in Voronezh. Later that same year, Abkhazia was incorporated into the Russian Empire as a special military province[4] of Sukhum-Kale which was transformed, in 1883, into an okrug as part of the Kutais Guberniya. Large numbers of Muslim Abkhazians, said to have constituted as much as 40% of the Abkhazian population, emigrated to the Ottoman Empire between 1864 and 1878 with other Muslim population of Caucasus, a process known as Muhajirism.

In the beginning of the 19th century, while the Russians and Ottomans were vying for control of the region, the rulers of Abkhazia shifted back and forth across the religious divide. The first attempt to enter into relations with Russia was made by next Russo-Turkish war strongly enhanced the Russian positions, leading to a further split in the Abkhaz elite, mainly along religious divisions. During the Crimean War (1853–1856), Russian forces had to evacuate Abkhazia and Prince Michael (1822–1864) seemingly switched to the Ottomans.

Abkhazia in 1899. Abkhazia was administered as Sukhum District of Kutaisi Governorate when it was part of the Russian Empire.

Abkhazia within the Russian Empire

In the 16th century, after the break-up of the Georgian Kingdom into small kingdoms and principalities, Principality of Abkhazia (nominally a vassal of the Kingdom of Imereti) emerged, ruled by the Shervashidze dynasty (also known as Sharvashidze, or Chachba).[4] Since the 1570s, when the Ottoman navy occupied the fort of Tskhumi, Abkhazia came under the influence of the Ottoman Empire and Islam. Under Ottoman rule, the majority of Abkhaz elite were converted to Islam. The principality retained a degree of autonomy under Ottoman and then Russian rule, but it was eventually absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1864.[4][33]

After acquiring Egrisi via a dynastic union in the 780s[40] the King Bagrat III (who was buried in the Monastery of Bedia in eastern Abkhazia) at the end of the 10th century and the beginning of the 11th century.

Abkhazia, or Abasgia in classic sources, formerly part of Colchis and later of Egrisi (Lazica) until the late 690s, was a princedom under Byzantine authority. Anacopia was the princedom's capital. The country was mostly Christian with the archbishop's seat in Pityus.[39] An Arab incursion into Abkhazia was repelled by Leon I jointly with his Egrisian and Kartlian allies in 736.

Kingdom of Abkhazia was united through dynastic succession with the newly formed Bagrat III of Georgia.

The Roman Empire conquered Egrisi in the 1st century AD and ruled it until the 4th century, following which it regained a measure of independence, but remained within the Byzantine Empire's sphere of influence. Although the exact time when the population of the region of Abkhazia was converted to Christianity has not been determined, it is known that the Metropolitan of Pitius participated in the First Ecumenical Council in 325 in Nicaea.

Between 1000 and 550 BC, Greeks established trade colonies along the coast of the Meskhetians) peoples somewhere in modern Abkhazia on the eastern shore of the Black Sea.

Between the 9th and 6th centuries BC, the territory of modern Abkhazia was part of the ancient Georgian kingdom of Colchis ("Kolkha").[30][31][32][33] This kingdom was subsequently absorbed in 63 BC into the Kingdom of Egrisi, known to Byzantine Roman sources as "Lazica".[34][35]

Kingdom of Abkhazia at its greatest extent and Caucasus in 1000.

Early history

History

[29].სააფხაზო (saapkhazo) or [28]აბჟუა (Abzhua), Abkhazia is known as Mingrelian. In )Apkhazetiაფხაზეთი ( is adapted from the Абхазия (Abkhazia) The Russian [27], which means “a Country of Soul”.Аҧсны (Apsny) The Abkhazians call their state

Naming

Contents

  • Naming 1
  • History 2
    • Early history 2.1
    • Abkhazia within the Russian Empire 2.2
    • Abkhazia within the Soviet Union 2.3
    • Abkhazia in post-Soviet Georgia 2.4
    • Abkhazian War 2.5
    • Ethnic cleansing of Georgians 2.6
    • Post-war Abkhazia 2.7
    • Political unrest in 2014 2.8
  • International status 3
    • Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia 3.1
    • Status-neutral passports 3.2
    • Russian involvement 3.3
    • International involvement 3.4
    • International recognition 3.5
  • Geography and climate 4
  • Politics and government 5
    • Government of the Republic of Abkhazia 5.1
    • Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (in exile) 5.2
    • Administrative divisions of Abkhazia 5.3
    • Support for independence 5.4
  • Military 6
  • Economy 7
  • Demographics 8
    • Ethnicity 8.1
    • Diaspora 8.2
    • Religion 8.3
    • Nationality issues 8.4
      • Adoption of Russian nationality 8.4.1
      • Issue of ethnic Georgians 8.4.2
  • Culture 9
  • Gallery 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Abkhazia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia are post-Soviet "frozen conflict" zones.[23][24] These four states maintain friendly relations with each other and form the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations.[16][25][26]

The status of Abkhazia is a central issue of the occupied by Russian military. Russia does not allow the EUMM monitors to enter Abkhazia.[22]

The autonomous republic, called the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, whose government sits in exile in Tbilisi.

Abkhazia considers itself an independent state, called the Republic of Abkhazia or Apsny.[10][11][12][13][14] This status is recognised by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru,[15] and also by the partially recognised state of South Ossetia, and the unrecognised Transnistria[16] and Nagorno-Karabakh.[17]

. Caucasus and the south-western flank of the Black Sea controlled by a separatist government on the eastern coast of the partially recognised state) is a disputed territory and Abkhaziya Абхазия: Russian; Apkhazeti აფხაზეთი

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