Abkhazia

Abkhazia is a country in the Caucasus mountains. After a two year war with Georgia, it gained its independence in 2015 with the help of its allies.


History of Abkhazia

Before 1900

The Abkhaz's ancestors were part of the broad conglomerate of tribes that populated the Eastern shores of the Black Sea more than 2000 years ago. Christianity was introduced to the population in the 6th century, when they entered into protection of the Byzantine Empire under Justinian. With the rise of Islam in the 7th century, the fall of Sassanid Persia and the weakening of Byzantium, Abkhazia was formed as a principality that came to affiliate with the Khazar Khanate from around 800 A.D. as its prince married a Khazar princess. In the 10th century, Abkhazia became part of the Georgian state of the time (the Bagratid dynasty), during a period of anarchy between vassal princes and nobility.


From around year 1000 there were several Turkish-Mongolian invasions, and in the 14th century the Georgian state fell. Bagratid rule in Abkhazia was replaced by a feudal principality under Ottoman sovereignty. Muslim influence was again strong in the area, especially after 1578, when Abkhazia became a vassal principality under the Ottomans. Islamization of the population culminated much later, however-towards the end of the 18th century. But Christianity was still the faith of a large minority of the Abkhaz.


Russian annexation of the area, starting in 1801, brought Abkhazia increasingly under Russian influence. Russian-Turkish revalidation led to a split in the Abkhaz elite, mainly along religious divisions. The Russo-Turkish war of 1827-28 strongly enhanced the Russians' position. Conflicts between Russians and Abkhaz increased in the 1830s and 1840s, when the Russians used Abkhazia as a base for campaigns against the Cherkess, that are ethnically close to the Abkhaz.


Colonisation of the Abkhaz territory began even before 1810, but Abkhaz self-administration lasted until 1864.


Many Abkhaz emigrated in this period, and there was a major uprising in 1866 as a protest against Russian land reforms and taxation system. In the 1870s approx. 200.000 Abkhaz (1/2 of the population) were forced to emigrate, as they were declared to be unfaithful subjects of the tsar. This out-migration had two important consequences: Firstly, most of those who left were Muslims, so that the majority of the Abkhaz in Abkhazia was suddenly Christian. The other main consequence was that the Abkhaz became a minority in their own land as large territories lay open to immigration by Russians, Georgians and others.



A Russian census from 1886 gives an Abkhaz figure of 59.000 constituting more than 85 percent of the population in Abkhazia.


In 1823 there were as many as 321.000 Abkhaz according to Abkhaz figures. Various sources agree that the population was at least halved after the final Russian colonisation of the North Chechnia in 1884 a fate similar to that of the related Circassians Further north. The group of Abkhaz emigrées consisted mostly of Muslims, which is the main reason why today's Abkhaz are more than 10 percent Christian. The exodus paved the way for an active Russian settlement policy that succeeded in increasing the number of Georgians and Russians in Abkhazia more than 50 times during 100 years. The above-mentioned demographic processes are closely related to the major issues and claims of the Abkhazians: the repatriation on their diaspora and the strengthening of Abkhaz language and culture after many years of Georgian and Russian influence and repression.


After Bolshevik revolution

Bolshevik power was established in 1918, to endure only 40 days when the Menshevik Georgia, protected by German and British forces, incorporated the area. The Abkhaz supported the Bolsheviks in their struggle for more independence. In 1921 Soviet power was re-established, and Abkhazia and Georgia signed a Union treaty. Abkhazia was recognised as a Soviet republic by the Bolshevik leaders of Georgia. In 1922, Abkhazia and Georgia entered the Transcaucasian federation as equal parts.


In 1931 however, Abkhazia was once again subordinated to Georgia as an autonomous republic. Abkhaz resistance to collectivisation was considerable, and an Abkhaz ASSR was established to please native and Russian Communist cadres in the area.


During the repressions in the late 1930s and early 1940s forced assimilation and Georgianisation of Abkhaz took place, led by Beria, head of the Transcaucasian federation at the time. Many Georgians settled in Abkhazia, Abkhaz language was no longer taught in schools, and many prominent Abkhaz were killed. After Stalin, there was again room to work for Abkhaz culture, also thanks to international attention because of the Abkhaz's supposed longevity. In the 1970s, a national movement was formed with the goal of seceding from Georgia and become part of the RSRSR. In 1978, Abkhaz intellectuals wrote an open letter to Brezhnev, expressing their concern for their ethnic population, and were met by certain economic concessions. An Abkhaz university was established in Sukhum.


First Declaration of Independence

In 1989 on the 9th of April (the Bloody Sunday), there were armed clashes between Abkhaz and Georgians. During the summer the conflict between Georgians and Abkhaz culminated, and in August 1990, Abkhazia declared its sovereignty and war broke out. The recent conflict in Abkhazia escalated after Shevardnadze came to power in 1992 and the Georgian parliament decided to reinstall the Georgian constitution of 1921, which does not mention Abkhaz. The Abkhaz parliament reacted to this humiliation by reinstalling their constitution from 1925 when Abkhazia was a Soviet republic.


Abkhaz invitations to talks were ignored by the political leadership in Tiflis until Georgia had the army occupy Sukhum and the southern part of Abkhazia in August 1992. However, the Abkhaz mobilized and were able to stop the Georgian advance with the aid of North Caucasian volunteers. After 13 months of war the Georgian troops were driven out of Abkhazia in September 1993. During the war the Abkhaz were supported not only by the North Caucasian minorities but by local Armenians and Russians. Also volunteers from the diaspora supported Abkhazia, mainly by providing financial support and lobbying for international understanding. It was Russia's role which has raised the most concern. Cossacks and volunteers from the Russian army took part in the fighting, and weapons and other materials were delivered from the backdoors of Russian army depots. Russian fighter planes were also spotted over Abkhazia. But whether Russia or maybe the Russian army acting on its own has taken an active part in the war has still to be confirmed. The UN became involved, and negotiations between Georgian and Abkhaz leaders began.

Abkhazian tank.


In June 1994 Russian peace keeping troops on behalf of CIS, and approved and observed by the UN, entered the border zone between the Georgian and the Abkhaz armies. It will be a major function of peace keeping arrangement to secure a safe return of the Georgian refugees. Most of the Georgians, who represented almost half of Abkhazia's population before the war, fled. Abkhazia has so far refused to let Georgians who participated in the fighting return.


Abkhazia, once a flourishing tourist resort, is today physically and economically exhausted. Many cultural items and symbols of Abkhaz history such as the National Archives have been destroyed. Many items of value, historical artefacts as well as computers and other modern technology, have reportedly been transferred to Tiflis. Although Abkhazia declared independence, it was not recognized and by 2011 it was reintegrated into Georgia.


De jure Independence

In 2011, the President of Abkhazia, Sergei Bagapsh, was arrested and put under house arrest in Pskhu. Beleiving the secessionists to be destroyed, the Georgian government allowed free elections in the autonomous region. The Abkhazians elected Vladislav Bakiyev. Bakiyev was extremely inexperienced, but famous among Abkhazians for his service in the Abkhazia-Georgia War in the 90s. He began plotting with the high-up in the government of Abkhazia to attack Gorgia. He gained support from South Ossetia, a region in a similar predicamen as Abkhazia. The two countries formed a loose alliance of armies named the Combined Alliance. On June 17, 2013, Abkhazia and South Ossetia invaded Georgia, creating the Didi K’art’veli Omi, or the Great Georgian War. Their plan was to push Georgia into the Caucasus Mountains, where their only choice was to captitulate to them or face more powerful adversaries from the north. By December of that year, the Combined Alliance had taken the strategic town of Kutaisi, the largest town in east Georgia. After capturing Kutaisi, the Combined Forces moved south toward Adjara. After capturing Batumi, Adjara capitulated their forces to the Combined Alliance. The Adjaran forces marched back to Kutaisi along with the South Ossetian and Abkhazian. The Combined Alliance conquered a string of cities in central Georgia until they reached Tiblisi. The Combined Alliance discovered that the government of Georgia had been relocated. The Presidential Residence had been purpoosely ransacked by the government and cleaned of any files. After constant searching of the Caucasus until July of 2013, Combined Alliance forces had detirmined thatt the Georgians were not hiding in the mountains as they had originally thought. On August 23, Combined Alliance forces were ambushed at Tsnori by the remaining Georgian forces. The Combined Alliance called in air support. The Georgian army's secret base they ambushed from happened to have a large amount of anti-air weapons. Valliantly, the pilots of the Combined Alliance Air Force dived through anti-air fire to destroy the ambushers. Only one of the pilots survived. Today, Abkhazians, South Ossetians, and Adjarans celebrate August 23 as Erovnuli Dghe, or National Day, because they beleive the Combined Alliance would have been defeated without the sacrifice of the Combined Alliance Air Force pilots. After the failed ambush, the Georgian Army finally surrendered. Not many days later on September 1, Vladislav Bakiyev died due to an undiscovered cause. Schoolchildren in Abkhazia say that he died of stress.

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