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Abkhazia (; Apsny ; აფხაზეთი ' ; p=ɐˈpxazʲɪjə), officially the Republic of Abkhazia ',Olga Oliker, Thomas S. Szayna. Faultlines of Conflict in Central Asia and the South Caucasus: Implications for the U.S. Army. Rand Corporation, 2003, .Emmanuel Karagiannis. Energy and Security in the Caucasus. Routledge, 2002. .The Guardian''. Georgia up in arms over Olympic cash is a de facto and partially recognized on the eastern coast of the , south of the mountains, in northwestern Georgia. It covers and has a population of around 240,000. Its capital is and it is recognised as a state by , , , and . While Georgia lacks control over Abkhazia, the Georgian government and most member states consider Abkhazia legally part of Georgia, whose constitution designates the area as the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia.

The status of Abkhazia is a central issue of the Georgian–Abkhazian conflict and Georgia–Russia relations. The region had within at the time when the Soviet Union began to disintegrate in the late 1980s. Simmering ethnic tensions between the —the region's —and —the largest single ethnic group at that time—culminated in the 1992–1993 War in Abkhazia which resulted in Georgia's loss of control of most of Abkhazia, the de facto independence of Abkhazia, and the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from Abkhazia. Despite the 1994 ceasefire agreement and years of negotiations, the dispute remains unresolved. The long-term presence of a United Nations Observer Mission and a Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force failed to prevent the flare-up of violence on several occasions. In August 2008, Abkhaz forces fought against Georgian forces during the Russo-Georgian War, which led to the formal recognition of Abkhazia by Russia, the annulment of the 1994 ceasefire agreement, and the termination of the mission. On 28 August 2008, the Parliament of Georgia declared Abkhazia a Russian-occupied territory, a stance supported by the vast majority of the international community.


Name
The Abkhazians call their homeland Аҧсны ( , ), popularly etymologised as "a land/country of the soul", yet literally meaning "a country of mortals (mortal beings)".
(1998). 9788772887081, Aarhus University Press. .
It possibly first appeared in the seventh century in an Armenian text as Psin(oun), perhaps referring to the historical .
(2019). 9789004248939, BRILL. .
The state is formally designated as the "Republic of Abkhazia" or "Apsny".

The Russian Абхазия ( ) is adapted from the Georgian აფხაზეთი (). In Mingrelian, Abkhazia is known as აბჟუა ( )Otar Kajaia, 2001–2004, Megrelian–Georgian Dictionary (entry abzhua). or სააფხაზო ().Otar Kajaia, 2001–2004, Megrelian–Georgian Dictionary (entry saapxazo). Abkhazia's names in Western languages derived directly from the Russian form: Abkhazie in ; Abkhazien in Danish; Abchasien in German; Abcházie in ; Abchazië in ; Abcasia in ; Abjasia in ; and Abcázia in Portuguese.


History

Early history
Between the 9th and 6th centuries BC, the territory of modern Abkhazia was part of the ancient Georgian kingdom of .... This kingdom was subsequently absorbed in 63 BC into the ...

Between 1000 and 550 BC, the Greeks established trade colonies along the coast of present-day Abkhazia, in particular at and , which was to become the capital of modern-day Abkhazia. described various peoples living in the region and the great multitude of languages they spoke.Graham Smith, Edward A. Allworth, Vivien A. Law et al., pages 56-58; Abkhaz by W. Barthold V. Minorsky in the Encyclopaedia of Islam. , Pliny and have given accounts of the

9780313274978, Geenwood.
and MoschoiStrabo, in agreement with Stephan of Byzantium quoting Hellanicus peoples somewhere in modern Abkhazia on the eastern shore of the Black Sea.

The conquered Lazica in the 1st century AD and ruled it until the 4th century, following which it regained a measure of independence, but remained within the 's sphere of influence. Although the exact time when the population of the region of Abkhazia was converted to has not been determined, it is known that the Stratophilus, Metropolitan of participated in the First Ecumenical Council in 325 in Nicaea. Around the mid 6th century AD, the Byzantines and the neighbouring fought for supremacy over Abkhazia for 20 years, a conflict known as the .

Abkhazia, or Abasgia in classic sources, formerly part of Colchis and later of Lazica until the late 690s, was a under authority. was the princedom's capital. The country was mostly Christian, with the archbishop's seat in Pityus. Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013, ), p. 975 An Arab incursion into Abkhazia led by , was repelled by Leon I jointly with his Lazic and Iberian allies in 736. Leon I then married Mirian’s daughter, and a successor, Leon II exploited this dynastic union to acquire in the 770s.

(1998). 9780521599689, Cambridge University Press.
Presumably considered as a successor state of Lazica ( Egrisi, in Georgian sources), this new polity continued to be referred to as Egrisi in some contemporary Georgian (e.g., The Vitae of the Georgian Kings by ) and (e.g., The History of Armenia by Hovannes Draskhanakertsi) chronicles.

The successful defense against the Arabs, and new territorial gains, gave the Abkhazian princes enough power to claim more autonomy from the Byzantine Empire. Towards circa 778, Leon II won his full independence with the help of the ; he assumed the title of " King of the Abkhazians" and transferred his capital to the western Georgian city of . During this period the Georgian language replaced as the language of literacy and culture.Alexei Zverev, Ethnic Conflicts in the Caucasus; Graham Smith, Edward A Allworth, Vivien A Law et al., pages 56–58; Abkhaz by W. Barthold V. in the Encyclopaedia of Islam; The Georgian-Abkhaz State (summary), by George Anchabadze, in: Paul Garb, Arda Inal-Ipa, Paata Zakareishvili, editors, Aspects of the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict: Cultural Continuity in the Context of Statebuilding, Volume 5, 26–28 August 2000. The western Georgian kingdom flourished between 850 and 950 when it annexed significant parts of central Georgia. A period of unrest ensued, which ended as Abkhazia and eastern Georgian states were unified under a single Georgian monarchy, ruled by King Bagrat III (who was buried in the in eastern Abkhazia) at the end of the 10th century and the beginning of the 11th century. In 12th century, king David the Builder appointed the son of Otago as an of Abkhazia, who later became the founder of House of Shervashidze (also known as Sharvashidze, or Chachba). In the 1240s, divided Georgia into eight military-administrative sectors (dumans), the territory of contemporary Abkhazia formed part of the duman administered by .

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. Since the 1570s, when the occupied the fort of , Abkhazia came under the influence of the and Islam. Under rule, the majority of Abkhaz elite converted to . The principality retained a degree of autonomy. Georgia signed a treaty with Russia for protection against the Ottoman Empire in 1773 and was seemingly absorbed, while Abkhazia sought protection from in 1801, but was declared as "an autonomous principality" by the Russians in 1810. Russia then annexed Abkhazia in 1864, and Abkhaz resistance was quashed as the Russians deported Muslim Abkhaz to Ottoman territories.


Within the Russian Empire
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 Keilash Bey in 1803, shortly after the incorporation of eastern Georgia into the expanding Tsarist empire (1801). However, the pro- orientation prevailed for a short time after his assassination by his son Aslan-Bey on 2 May 1808.Mikaberidze, Alexander, "Historical Dictionary of Georgia", Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, p.84 On 2 July 1810, the stormed Sukhum-Kale and had Aslan-Bey replaced with his rival brother, Sefer-Bey (1810–1821), who had converted to Christianity and assumed the name of George. Abkhazia joined the Russian Empire as an autonomous principality, in 1810. However, George's rule, as well as that of his successors, was limited to the neighbourhood of Sukhum-Kale and the Bzyb area. The next Russo-Turkish war strongly enhanced the Russian positions, leading to a further split in the Abkhaz elite, mainly along religious divisions. During the (1853–1856), Russian forces had to evacuate Abkhazia and Prince Michael (1822–1864) seemingly switched to the Ottomans.

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 . Later that same year, Abkhazia was incorporated into the as a special military province of Sukhum-Kale which was transformed, in 1883, into an as part of the . Large numbers of Muslim Abkhazians, said to have constituted as much as 40% of the Abkhazian population, emigrated to the between 1864 and 1878 with other Muslim population of Caucasus, a process known as Muhajirism.

Large areas of the region were left uninhabited and many , Georgians, Russians and others subsequently migrated to Abkhazia, resettling much of the vacated territory.

(1993). 9789004097964, BRILL. .
Some Georgian historians assert that Georgian tribes ( and ) had populated Abkhazia since the time of the Colchis kingdom.Lortkipanidze M., The Abkhazians and Abkhazia, Tbilisi 1990.

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 were left in the minority, officially branded "guilty people", and had no leader capable of mounting serious opposition to Russification. On 17 March 1898 the synodal department of the Russian Orthodox Church of Georgia-Imereti, by order 2771, again prohibited teaching and the conduct of religious services in church schools and churches of the Sukhumi district in Georgian. Mass protests by the Georgian population of Abkhazia and Samurzakano followed, news of which reached the Russian emperor. On 3 September 1898 the Holy Synod issued order 4880 which decreed that those parishes where the congregation was Mingrelians i.e. Georgians, conduct both church services and church education in Georgian, while Abkhazian parishes use old Slavic. In the Sukhumi district, this order was carried out in only three of 42 parishes. Tedo Sakhokia demanded the Russian authorities introduce Abkhazian and Georgian languages in church services and education. The official response was a criminal case brought against Tedo Sakhokia and leaders of his "Georgian Party" active in Abkhazia.


Within the Soviet Union
The Russian Revolution of 1917 led to the creation of an independent Georgia which included Abkhazia, in 1918. German support enabled the Georgians to repel the Bolshevik threat from Abkhazia in 1918. The 1921 constitution granted Abkhazia autonomy.

In 1921, the Red Army invaded Georgia and ended its short-lived independence. Abkhazia was made a Socialist Soviet Republic () with the ambiguous status of a treaty republic associated with the .. In 1931, made it an autonomous republic (Abkhaz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic or in short Abkhaz ASSR) within the Georgian SSR. Despite its nominal autonomy, it was subjected to strong direct rule from central Soviet authorities. Under the rule of Stalin and Abkhaz schools were closed, requiring Abkhaz children to study in the Georgian language.

(1999). 9781857430585, Europa Publications Limited.
(1999). 9780312219758, Palgrave Macmillan.
The publishing of materials in Abkhazian dwindled and was eventually stopped altogether; Abkhazian schools were closed in 1945/46.. In the , the ruling elite was purged of Abkhaz and by 1952 over 80% of the 228 top party and government officials and enterprise managers were ethnic Georgians; there remained 34 Abkhaz, 7 Russians and 3 Armenians in these positions. The Stalin-Beria Terror in Abkhazia, 1936-1953, by Stephen D. Shenfield Abkhaz World, 30 June 2010, retrieved 11 September 2015. Georgian Communist Party leader Candide Charkviani supported the Georgianization of Abkhazia.Bernard A. Cook (2014). " Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia". Routledge. p.2.

The policy of repression was eased after Stalin's death and Beria's execution, and the Abkhaz were given a greater role in the governance of the republic. As in most of the smaller autonomous republics, the Soviet government encouraged the development of culture and particularly of literature. The Abkhazian ASSR was the only autonomous republic in the USSR in which the language of the titular nation (in that case Abkhazian) was confirmed in its constitution as one of its official languages.


Post-Soviet Georgia
As the began to disintegrate at the end of the 1980s, ethnic tensions grew between the Abkhaz and Georgians over Georgia's moves towards independence. Many Abkhaz opposed this, fearing that an independent Georgia would lead to the elimination of their autonomy, and argued instead for the establishment of Abkhazia as a separate Soviet republic in its own right. With the onset of perestroika, the agenda of Abkhaz nationalists became more radical and exclusive.
(2019). 9789054878995, ASP. .
In 1988 they began to ask for the reinstatement of Abkhazia's former status of Union republic, as the submission of Abkhazia to another Union republic was not considered to give enough guarantees of their development.
(2019). 9789054878995, ASP. .
They justified their request by referring to the Leninist tradition of the right of nations to self-determination, which, they asserted, was violated when Abkhazia's sovereignty was curtailed in 1931.
(2019). 9789054878995, ASP. .
In June 1988, a manifesto defending Abkhaz distinctiveness (known as the ) was sent to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Georgian–Abkhaz dispute turned violent on 16 July 1989 in Sukhumi. Sixteen Georgians are said to have been killed and another 137 injured when they tried to enroll in a Georgian university instead of an Abkhaz one. After several days of violence, Soviet troops restored order in the city and blamed rival nationalist paramilitaries for provoking confrontations.

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 all-Union referendum on the renewal of the Soviet Union called by Gorbachev; however, 52.3% of Abkhazia's population (almost all of the ethnic non-Georgian population) took part in the referendum and voted by an overwhelming majority (98.6%) to preserve the Union.Conciliation Resources. Georgia-Abkhazia, Chronology Парламентская газета ( Parlamentskaya Gazeta). Референдум о сохранении СССР. Грузия строит демократию на беззаконии. Георгий Николаев, 17 March 2006 Most ethnic non-Georgians in Abkhazia later boycotted a 31 March referendum on Georgia's independence, which was supported by a huge majority of Georgia's population. Within weeks, Georgia declared independence on 9 April 1991, under former Soviet dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Under Gamsakhurdia, the situation was relatively calm in Abkhazia and a power-sharing agreement was soon reached between the Abkhaz and Georgian factions, granting to the Abkhaz a certain over-representation in the local legislature.Coppieters, Bruno et al.(2005), Statehood and security: Georgia after the Rose Revolution, p. 384. American Academy of Arts and Sciences,

Gamsakhurdia's rule was soon challenged by armed opposition groups, under the command of , that forced him to flee the country in a military coup in January 1992. Former Soviet foreign minister and architect of the disintegration of the USSR Eduard Shevardnadze became the country's head of state, inheriting a government dominated by hard-line Georgian nationalists. He was not an ethnic nationalist but did little to avoid being seen as supporting his administration's dominant figures and the leaders of the coup that swept him to power.

On 21 February 1992, Georgia's ruling Military Council announced that it was abolishing the Soviet-era constitution and restoring the 1921 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Many Abkhaz interpreted this as an abolition of their autonomous status, although the 1921 constitution contained a provision for the region's autonomy. 1921 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia: Chapter XI, Articles 107–108 (adopted by the Constituent Assembly of Georgia 21 February 1921): "Abkhasie (district of Soukhoum), ..., which are integral parts of the Georgian Republic, enjoy autonomy in the administration of their affairs. The statute concerning the autonomy of these districts ... will be the object of special legislation". Regional Research Centre. Retrieved on 25 November 2008. On 23 July 1992, the Abkhaz faction in the republic's Supreme Council declared effective independence from Georgia, although the session was boycotted by ethnic Georgian deputies and the gesture went unrecognised by any other country. The Abkhaz leadership launched a campaign of ousting Georgian officials from their offices, a process which was accompanied by violence. In the meantime, the Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba intensified his ties with hard-line Russian politicians and military elite and declared he was ready for a war with Georgia. (2001), Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus, pp. 345–9. Routledge, .


Abkhazian War
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 the time and the Georgian troops were able to march into Sukhumi with relatively little resistance and subsequently engaged in ethnically based pillage, looting, assault, and murder. Full Report by Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch. Georgia/Abkhazia. Violations of the laws of war and Russia's role in the conflict Helsinki, March 1995. p. 22 The Abkhaz units were forced to retreat to and .

The Abkhaz military defeat was met with a hostile response by the self-styled Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, an uniting a number of movements in the , including elements of , , , , and hundreds of volunteer paramilitaries and mercenaries from Russia, including the then-little-known , later a leader of the anti-Moscow Chechen secessionists. They sided with the Abkhaz separatists to fight against the Georgian government. In the case of Basayev, it has been suggested that when he and the members of his battalion came to Abkhazia, they received training by the Russian Army (though others dispute this), presenting another possible motive. In September, the Abkhaz and Russian paramilitaries mounted a major offensive against Gagra after breaking a cease-fire, which drove the Georgian forces out of large swathes of the republic. Shevardnadze's government accused Russia of giving covert military support to the rebels with the aim of "detaching from Georgia its native territory and the Georgia-Russian frontier land". 1992 ended with the rebels in control of much of Abkhazia northwest of Sukhumi.

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 at the end of July. But the ceasefire broke down again on 16 September 1993. Abkhaz forces, with armed support from outside Abkhazia, launched attacks on Sukhumi and Ochamchira. Notwithstanding UN Security Council's call for the immediate cessation of hostilities and its condemnation of the violation of the ceasefire by the Abkhaz side, fighting continued. After ten days of heavy fighting, Sukhumi was taken by Abkhazian forces on 27 September 1993. Shevardnadze narrowly escaped death, after vowing to stay in the city no matter what. He was forced to flee when separatist fired on the hotel where he was staying. Abkhaz, North Caucasian militants, and their allies committed numerous atrocities against the city's remaining ethnic Georgians, in what has been dubbed the . The mass killings and destruction continued for two weeks, leaving thousands dead and missing.

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 , remained under Georgian control (until 2008).

During the war, gross human rights violations were reported on both sides (see Human Rights Watch report). Georgian troops have been accused of having committed lootingOn Ruins of Empire: Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Former Soviet Union, pg 72, by Georgiy I. Mirsky, published by Greenwood Publishing Group, sponsored by the London School of Economics and murders "for the purpose of terrorising, robbing and driving the Abkhaz population out of their homes" in the first phase of the war (according to Human Rights Watch), while Georgia blames the Abkhaz forces and their allies for the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia, which has also been recognised by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Summits in (1994), (1996) Lisbon OSCE Summit Declaration and (1999). OSCE.org


Ethnic cleansing of Georgians
Before the 1992 War, Georgians made up nearly half of Abkhazia's population, while less than one-fifth of the population was . As the war progressed, confronted with hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians who were unwilling to leave their homes, the Abkhaz separatists implemented the process of in order to expel and eliminate the Georgian ethnic population in Abkhazia.The Guns of August 2008, Russia's War in Georgia, Svante Cornell & Frederick Starr, p 27US State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993, February 1994, pp. 120 The exact number of those killed during the ethnic cleansing is disputed, however, it ranges from 8,000 to 10,000 people, not including the civilians who were killed in 1998 during the separatist onslaught on Gali region.Chervonnaia, Svetlana Mikhailovna. Conflict in the Caucasus: Georgia, Abkhazia, and the Russian Shadow., p 10 Roughly up to 250,000 ethnic Georgians were expelled from their homes. Abkhazia - the disputed land of the soul, Radio Netherlands Archives, August 20, 1997 Slightly over 200,000 Georgians remain displaced in Georgia proper.

The campaign of 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.Conflict in the Caucasus: Georgia, Abkhazia, and the Russian Shadow by S. A. Chervonnaia and Svetlana Mikhailovna Chervonnaia, pp 12–13 Following the process of ethnic cleansing and mass expulsion, the population of Abkhazia has been reduced to 216,000, from 525,000 in 1989.

Of about 250,000 Georgian refugees, some 60,000 Georgian refugees subsequently returned to Abkhazia's Gali District between 1994 and 1998, but tens of thousands were displaced again when fighting resumed in the Gali District in 1998. Nevertheless, between 40,000 and 60,000 refugees have returned to the Gali District since 1998, including persons commuting daily across the ceasefire line and those migrating seasonally in accordance with agricultural cycles. UN High Commissioner for refugees. Background note on the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Georgia remaining outside Georgia, The human rights situation remained precarious for a while in the Georgian-populated areas of the Gali District. The United Nations and other international organisations have been fruitlessly urging the Abkhaz de facto authorities "to refrain from adopting measures incompatible with the right to return and with international human rights standards, such as discriminatory legislation... and to cooperate in the establishment of a permanent international human rights office in Gali and to admit United Nations civilian police without further delay." Key officials of the Gali District are virtually all ethnic Abkhaz, though their support staff are ethnic Georgian. Abkhazia Today. The International Crisis Group Europe Report N°176, 15 September 2006, page 10. Retrieved on 30 May 2007. Free registration needed to view full report


Post-war
Presidential elections were held in Abkhazia on 3 October 2004. Russia supported , the prime minister backed by the ailing outgoing separatist President Vladislav Ardzinba. Abkhazia Report, , 2013 Posters of Russia's President together with Khadjimba, who, like Putin, had worked as a official, were everywhere in Sukhumi. Deputies of Russia's parliament and Russian singers, led by , a State Duma deputy and a popular singer, came to Abkhazia, campaigning for Khadjimba. Profile of Raul Khadjimba, Lenta.ru

However lost the elections to . 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.

In July 2006, Georgian forces launched a successful police operation against the rebelled administrator of the Georgian-populated , . Kvitsiani had been appointed by the previous president of Georgia Edvard Shevardnadze and refused to recognise the authority of president Mikheil Saakashvili, who succeeded Shevardnadze after the . Although Kvitsiani escaped capture by Georgian police, the Kodori Gorge was brought back under the control of the central government in .

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 became the de facto currency and Russia began issuing passports to the population of Abkhazia. Georgia has also accused Russia of violating its airspace by sending helicopters to attack Georgian-controlled towns in the Kodori Gorge. In April 2008, a Russian MiG – prohibited from Georgian airspace, including Abkhazia – shot down a Georgian UAV.

On 9 August 2008, Abkhazian forces fired on Georgian forces in . This coincided with the 2008 South Ossetia war where Russia decided to support the Ossetian separatists who had been attacked by Georgia. The conflict escalated into a full-scale war between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Georgia. On 10 August 2008, an estimated 9,000 Russian soldiers entered Abkhazia ostensibly to reinforce the Russian peacekeepers in the republic. About 1,000 Abkhazian soldiers moved to expel the residual Georgian forces within Abkhazia in the Upper Kodori Gorge. By 12 August the Georgian forces and civilians had evacuated the last part of Abkhazia under Georgian government control. Russia recognised the independence of Abkhazia on 26 August 2008.. This was followed by the annulment of the 1994 ceasefire agreement and the termination of and monitoring missions. On 28 August 2008, the Parliament of Georgia passed a resolution declaring Abkhazia a Russian-occupied territory.

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). The Vice President, , resigned on 28 May saying he agreed with the criticism the opposition had made. Subsequently, a conference of opposition parties nominated Raul Khadjimba as their candidate in the December 2009 Abkhazian presidential election won by .


Political unrest in 2014
In the spring of 2014, the opposition submitted an ultimatum to President to dismiss the government and make radical reforms. On 27 May 2014, in the centre of , 10,000 supporters of the Abkhaz opposition gathered for a mass demonstration. On the same day, Ankvab's headquarters in was stormed by opposition groups led by , forcing him into flight to . The opposition claimed that the protests were sparked by poverty, but the main point of contention was President Ankvab's liberal policy towards ethnic Georgians in the Gali region. The opposition said these policies could endanger Abkhazia's ethnic Abkhazian identity.

After Ankvab fled the capital, on 31 May, the People's Assembly of Abkhazia appointed parliamentary speaker as acting president, declaring Ankvab unable to serve. It also decided to hold an early presidential election on 24 August 2014. Ankvab soon declared his formal resignation, although he accused his opponents of acting immorally and violating the constitution. Khajimba was later elected president, taking office in September 2014.

In November 2014, Vladimir Putin moved to formalise the Abkhazian military's relationship as part of the Russian armed forces, signing a treaty with Khajimba. The Georgian government denounced the agreement as "a step towards annexation".


Status
Abkhazia, Artsakh, , and are post-Soviet "" zones. OSCE: De Gucht Discusses Montenegro Referendum, Frozen Conflicts, GlobalSecurity.org, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 2006 These four states maintain friendly relations with each other and form the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations. Russia and Nicaragua officially recognised Abkhazia after the Russo-Georgian War. Venezuela recognised Abkhazia in September 2009. Chavez Backs Russian Recognition of Georgian Regions Reuters. Retrieved 29 August 2008. In December 2009, Nauru recognised Abkhazia, reportedly in return for $50 million in humanitarian aid from Russia. The unrecognised republic of Transnistria and the partially recognised republic of South Ossetia have recognised Abkhazia since 2006. Abkhazia is also a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).

A majority of sovereign states recognise Abkhazia as an integral part of Georgia and support its territorial integrity according to the principles of international law, although Belarus has expressed sympathy toward the recognition of Abkhazia. Some have officially noted Abkhazia as under occupation by the Russian military. The United Nations has been urging both sides to settle the dispute through diplomatic dialogue and ratifying the final status of Abkhazia in the Georgian constitution. Full Report by Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch. Georgia/Abkhazia. Violations of the laws of war and Russia's role in the conflict Helsinki, March 1995Chervonnaia, Svetlana Mikhailovna. Conflict in the Caucasus: Georgia, Abkhazia, and the Russian Shadow. Gothic Image Publications, 1994. However, the Abkhaz de facto government considers Abkhazia a sovereign country even if it is recognised by few other countries. In early 2000, then-UN Special Representative of the Secretary General Dieter Boden and the Group of Friends of Georgia, consisting of the representatives of Russia, the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, drafted and informally presented a document to the parties outlining a possible distribution of competencies between the Abkhaz and Georgian authorities, based on core respect for Georgian territorial integrity. The Abkhaz side, however, has never accepted the paper as a basis for negotiations. The Abkhazia Conflict. U.S. Department of State Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. 28 July 2005. Eventually, Russia also withdrew its approval of the document. (7 February 2006), Moscow kills Boden paper, threatens to terminate UNOMIG in Georgia. Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 3, Number 26. In 2005 and 2008, the Georgian government offered Abkhazia a high degree of and possible within the borders and of Georgia.

On 18 October 2006, the People's Assembly of Abkhazia passed a resolution, calling upon Russia, international organisations and the rest of the international community to recognise Abkhaz independence on the basis that Abkhazia possesses all the properties of an independent state. The United Nations has reaffirmed "the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders" and outlined the basic principles of conflict resolution which call for immediate return of all displaced persons and for non-resumption of hostilities. UN Security Council Resolution 1808. 15 April 2008.

Georgia accuses the Abkhaz secessionists of having conducted a deliberate campaign of of up to 250,000 Georgians, a claim supported by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE; Budapest, Lisbon and Istanbul declaration). Resolution of the OSCE Budapest Summit, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, 6 December 1994 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". Georgia-Abkhazia: Profiles. Accord: an international review of peace initiatives. Reconciliation Resources. Retrieved 2 April 2007. On 15 May 2008, the United Nations General Assembly 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."

On 28 March 2008, the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili unveiled his government's new proposals to Abkhazia: the broadest possible autonomy within the framework of a Georgian state, a joint free economic zone, representation in the central authorities including the post of vice-president with the right to veto Abkhaz-related decisions. Saakashvili Outlines Tbilisi’s Abkhaz Initiatives. Civil Georgia. 28 March 2008. The Abkhaz leader rejected these new initiatives as "propaganda", leading to Georgia's complaints that this scepticism was "triggered by Russia, rather than by real mood of the Abkhaz people." Burjanadze: Russia Behind Sokhumi’s No to New Proposals. Civil Georgia. 29 March 2008.

On 3 July 2008, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution at its annual session in , expressing concern over Russia's recent moves in breakaway Abkhazia. The resolution calls on the Russian authorities to refrain from maintaining ties with the breakaway regions "in any manner that would constitute a challenge to the sovereignty of Georgia" and also urges Russia "to abide by OSCE standards and generally accepted international norms with respect to the threat or use of force to resolve conflicts in relations with other participating States." OSCE PA Concerned over Russian Moves Civil Georgia. 3 July 2008.

On 9 July 2012, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution at its annual session in , underlining Georgia's territorial integrity and referring to breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia as "occupied territories". The resolution "urges the Government and the Parliament of the Russian Federation, as well as the de facto authorities of Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia, Georgia, to allow the European Union Monitoring Mission unimpeded access to the occupied territories." It also says that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is "concerned about the humanitarian situation of the displaced persons both in Georgia and in the occupied territories of Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia, Georgia, as well as the denial of the right of return to their places of living." The Assembly is the parliamentary dimension of the OSCE with 320 lawmakers from the organisation's 57 participating states, including Russia.


Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia
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). 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 and into South Ossetia from the . The major road leading to South Ossetia from the rest of Georgia passes through the Gori District.

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.

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.


Status-neutral passports
Currently Georgia considers all residents of Abkhazia its citizens, while they see themselves as Abkhaz citizens.

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".

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.

Abkhazia's Foreign Ministry expressed concerns about some countries recognising the "neutral passports." The ministry also said an increasing number of Abkhazian residents with Russian passports were being denied .

As of May 2013, neutral documents have been recognised by Japan, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, the United States, Bulgaria, Poland, Israel, Estonia and Romania.

According to Russian media, the President of Republic of Abkhazia, threatened international organisations that accepted neutral passports, saying during a meeting with the leadership of the foreign ministry that "international organizations that suggest the so-called neutral passports, will leave Abkhazia."


Russian involvement
During the Georgian–Abkhaz conflict, the Russian authorities and supplied logistical and military aid to the separatist side. 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. Abkhazia Today. The International Crisis Group Europe Report N°176, 15 September 2006, page 10. Retrieved on 30 May 2007. Free registration needed to view full report About 53,000 Abkhazian passports have been issued as of May 2007.

Moscow, at certain times, hinted that it might recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia when Western countries recognised the independence of , suggesting that they had created a precedent. Following Kosovo's declaration of independence, the Russian parliament released a joint statement reading: "Now that the situation in Kosovo has become an international precedent, Russia should take into account the Kosovo scenario... when considering ongoing territorial conflicts." Initially Russia continued to delay recognition of both of these republics. However, on 16 April 2008, the outgoing Russian president instructed his government to establish official ties with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, leading to Georgia's condemnation of what it described as an attempt at "de facto annexation" Georgia angered by Russian move. BBC News. 16 April 2008. and criticism from the , , and several Western governments. In Quotes: International Reaction to Russia’s Abkhaz, S.Ossetian Move. Civil Georgia. 19 April 2008.

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 said Georgia will treat any additional troops in Abkhazia as "aggressors". Georgia-Russia tensions ramped up.. The BBC News. 30 April 2008.

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. 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, Russian president, , officially recognised both on 26 August 2008. BBC News: "Russia recognises Georgian rebels", 26 August 2008. Russia recognizes independence of Georgia's rebel regions, Earth Times, 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-08-26. Russian recognition was condemned by nations, OSCE and nations Tensions build as U.S. ship arrives in Georgia, CNN, 29 August 2008 due to "violation of territorial integrity and international law".Civil.ge, CoE, PACE Chairs Condemn Russia’s Move, 26 August 2008 UN Secretary-General stated that sovereign states have to decide themselves whether they want to recognise the independence of disputed regions. Resolving Georgian crisis may be harder after Russian recognition move, UN News Centre.

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. As a response to the Georgian sea blockade of Abkhazia, in which the Georgian coast guard had been detaining ships heading to and from Abkhazia, Russia began patrolling the Black Sea to protect Abkhazia-transiting ships and detaining Georgian ships navigating Abkhazian waters.

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.


International involvement
The UN has played various roles during the conflict and peace process: a military role through its observer mission (); 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 ( and ); a development role (); a human rights role (); 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.Resolutions 849, 854, 858, 876, 881 and 892 adopted by the UN Security Council 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.

The OSCE has increasingly engaged in dialogue with officials and civil society representatives in Abkhazia, especially from non-governmental organisations (NGO)s and the media, regarding human dimension standards in the region and is considering a presence in Gali. The OSCE expressed concern and condemnation over ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia during the 1994 Summit DecisionFrom the Resolution of the OSCE Budapest Summit, 6 December 1994 Lisbon OSCE Summit Declaration and later at the Lisbon Summit Declaration in 1996.Lisbon Summit Declaration of the OSCE, 2–3 December 1996

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. 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.

On 22 August 2006, Senator , then visiting Georgia's capital Tbilisi, joined Georgian politicians in criticism of the Russian peacekeeping mission, stating that "the U.S. administration supports the Georgian government’s insistence on the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the conflict zones in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali district".

On 5 October 2006, , the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the , ruled out the possibility of replacing the Russian peacekeepers with the EU force. Solana fears Kosovo 'precedent' for Abkhazia, South Ossetia. (International Relations and Security Network). On 10 October 2006, EU South Caucasus envoy noted that "Russia's actions in the Georgia spy row have damaged its credibility as a neutral peacekeeper in the EU's Black Sea neighbourhood." Russia 'not neutral' in Black Sea conflict, EU says, EUobserver, 10 October 2006.

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 mission until 15 April 2007. Acknowledging that the "new and tense situation" resulted, at least in part, from the Georgian special forces' operation in the upper Kodori Valley, the resolution urged the country to ensure that no troops unauthorised by the Moscow ceasefire agreement were present in that area. It urged the leadership of the Abkhaz side to address seriously the need for a dignified, secure return of refugees and internally displaced persons and to reassure the local population in the Gali district that their residency rights and identity will be respected. The Georgian side is "once again urged to address seriously legitimate Abkhaz security concerns, to avoid steps that could be seen as threatening and to refrain from militant rhetoric and provocative actions, especially in upper Kodori Valley."

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." Security Council extends Georgia Mission until 15 April 2007, The UN Department of Public Information, 13 October 2006.

The , an international non-profit organisation that specialises in the removal of the debris of war, has been active in Abkhazia since 1999 and has completed the removal of landmines in Sukhumi and Gali districts. It declared Abkhazia "mine free" in 2011.

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

Russia does not allow the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) to enter Abkhazia.


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

UN member states

Partially recognised and unrecognised territories

  • recognised Abkhazia on 17 November 2006.
  • recognised Abkhazia on 17 November 2006.
  • Republic of Artsakh recognised Abkhazia on 17 November 2006.

Former recognition

  • recognised Abkhazia on 23 May 2011, but withdrew recognition on 20 May 2013.
  • recognised Abkhazia on 18 September 2011 but withdrew recognition on 31 March 2014.


Geography and climate
Abkhazia covers an area of about at the western end of Georgia. The Caucasus Mountains to the north and the northeast divide Abkhazia and the Russian Federation. To the east and southeast, Abkhazia is bounded by the Georgian region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti; and on the south and southwest by the Black Sea.

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 spursthe Gagra, and Kodori rangesdividing the area into a number of deep, well-watered valleys. The highest peaks of Abkhazia are in the northeast and east and several exceed above sea level. Abkhazia's landscape ranges from coastal forests and citrus plantations to permanent snows and 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 is richly irrigated by small rivers originating in the Caucasus Mountains. Chief of these are: , , , and . The separates the region from Russia, and the serves as a boundary between Abkhazia and Georgia proper. There are several and lakes in mountainous Abkhazia. is the most important of them.

The world's deepest known cave, , is located in Abkhazia's western Caucasus mountains. The latest survey (as of March 2018) has measured the vertical extent of this cave system as between its highest and lowest explored points. 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 , and the average January temperature remains above freezing. 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 , though humidity decreases further inland. The annual precipitation vacillates from along the coast in the higher mountainous areas. The mountains of Abkhazia receive significant amounts of snow.

The lowland regions used to be covered by swaths of , , and , which have since been cleared.

There are two main entrances into Abkhazia. The southern entrance is at the bridge, a short distance from the city of . The northern entrance ("Psou") is in the town of Leselidze. Owing to the situation with a recognition controversy, many foreign governments advise their citizens against travelling to Abkhazia.



According to President Raul Khajimba, over the summer of 2015, thousands of tourists visited Abkhazia.


Politics and government
Abkhazia is a semi-presidential , and the second elected President of Abkhazia was . 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. , his vice president, was appointed acting president after the former president's death on 29 May 2011 until winning election in his own right later on 26 August 2011.

Legislative powers are vested in the People's Assembly, which consists of 35 elected members. The last parliamentary elections were held on 10/24 March 2012. Ethnicities other than Abkhaz (Armenians, Russians and Georgians) are claimed to be under-represented in the Assembly.

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.

(1997). 9780714647326

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

According to a 2010 study published by the University of Colorado Boulder, the vast majority of Abkhazia's population supports independence, while a smaller number is in favour of joining the Russian Federation. Support for a reunification with Georgia is very low. Even among ethnic Georgians, nearly 50% prefer Abkhazia to remain an independent state and less than 20% of them believe returning to Georgia is necessary, as most of them have adjusted to the current situation. Among ethnic Abkhaz, explicit support for reunification with Georgia is around 1%; a similar figure can be found among ethnic Russians and Armenians as well.University of Colorado-Boulder, Inside Abkhazia: A Survey of Attitudes in a De Facto State, p. 38


Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia
The Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia is the government in exile that Georgia recognises as the legal government of Abkhazia. This pro-Georgian government maintained a foothold on Abkhazian territory, in the upper from July 2006 until it was forced out by fighting in August 2008. This government is also partly responsible for the affairs of some 250,000 IDPs, forced to leave Abkhazia following the War in Abkhazia and ethnic cleansing that followed.Birgitte Refslund Sørensen, Marc Vincent (2001), Caught Between Borders: Response Strategies of the Internally Displaced, pp. 234–5. Pluto Press, .On Ruins of Empire: Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Former Soviet Union Georgiy I. Mirsky, p. 72. The current Head of the Government is .

During the War in Abkhazia, the Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (at the time the Georgian faction of the "Council of Ministers of Abkhazia") left Abkhazia after the Abkhaz separatist forces took control of the region's capital and relocated to Georgia's capital where it operated as the Government of Abkhazia in exile for almost 13 years. During this period, the Government of Abkhazia in exile, led by Tamaz Nadareishvili, was known for a hard-line stance towards the Abkhaz problem and frequently voiced their opinion that the solution to the conflict can be attained only through Georgia's military response to secessionism. Later, Nadareishvili's administration was implicated in some internal controversies and had not taken an active part in the politics of Abkhazia until a new chairman, , was appointed by President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, his envoy in the peace talks over Abkhazia.


Administrative divisions
2) 3) 4) Gulripshi 5) Ochamchira 6) Tkvarcheli 7) Gali ]] The Republic of Abkhazia is divided into seven named after their primary cities: , , , Ochamchira, Gulripshi, Tkvarcheli and Gali. These districts remain mostly unchanged since the breakup of the Soviet Union, with the exception of the Tkvarcheli district, created in 1995 from parts of the Ochamchira and Gali districts.

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.

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


Military
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, which was established in early 1992. Most of their weapons come from the former Russian airborne division base in Gudauta.Chervonnaia, Svetlana Mikhailovna. Conflict in the Caucasus: Georgia, Abkhazia and the Russian Shadow. Gothic Image Publications, 1994 White Book of Abkhazia. 1992–1993 Documents, Materials, Evidences. Moscow, 1993. 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.

The Abkhazian Armed Forces are composed of:

  • The Abkhazian Land Forces with a permanent force of around 5,000, but with 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 , and , but the Russian coast guard patrols their waters.
  • The Abkhazian Air Force, a small unit consisting of a few and .


Economy
The economy of Abkhazia is heavily integrated with Russia and uses the 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.

Tourism is a key industry and, according to Abkhazia's authorities, almost a million tourists (mainly from Russia) came to Abkhazia in 2007.-Dengi, Тяжелая экономическая независимость ( Hard Economical Independence), 08.09.2008 Abkhazia also enjoys fertile lands and an abundance of agricultural products, including tea, tobacco, wine and fruits (especially and ). Electricity is largely supplied by the located on the Inguri River between Abkhazia and Georgia (proper) and operated jointly by both parties.

In the first half of 2012, the principal trading partners of Abkhazia were Russia (64%) and Turkey (18%). 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, but met with protests from Tbilisi and lack of support from the other CIS countries.

Despite the controversial status of the territory and its damaged infrastructure, tourism in Abkhazia grew following the Russian recognition of Abkhazian independence in 2008 due to the arrival of Russian tourists. In 2009 the number of Russian tourists in Abkhazia increased by 20% and the total number of Russian tourists reached 1 million. Low prices and an absence of any visa requirements attracts Russian tourists especially those who cannot afford vacations in , , and other popular Russian tourist destinations. After the tourist boom many Russian businesses began to invest money in Abkhazian tourist infrastructure. With the main highway of the country being rebuilt in 2014 many damaged hotels in Gagra are either being restored or demolished. In 2014, 1.16 million Russian tourists visited Abkhazia.


Demographics
According to the last census in 2011 Abkhazia has 240,705 inhabitants.

The exact size of Abkhazia's population was unclear. According to the census carried out in 2003 it measured 215,972 people, Population censuses in Abkhazia: 1886, 1926, 1939, 1959, 1970, 1979, 1989, 2003 Georgian and Mingrelian figures have been conflated, as most of the "Georgians" were ethnically Mingrelian. 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). Statistical Yearbook of Georgia 2005: Population, Table 2.1, p. 33, Department for Statistics, Tbilisi (2005) Encyclopædia Britannica estimates the population in 2007 at 180,000 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 in 1998). Abkhazia Today. The International Crisis Group Europe Report N°176, 15 September 2006, page 9. Free registration needed to view full report


Ethnicity
The ethnic composition of Abkhazia has played a central role in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and is equally contested. The demographics of Abkhazia were very strongly affected by the 1992–1993 War with Georgia, which saw the expulsion and flight of over half of the republic's population, measuring 525,061 in the 1989 census. 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 (50.8% according to the 2011 census), (mostly ), Hemshin Armenians, and . Other ethnicities include , , , , , , and .
(2019). 9781564327901, Human Rights Watch. .

Greeks constituted a significant minority in the area in the early 1920s (50,000), and remained a major ethnic component until 1945 when they were deported to Central Asia. Under the Soviet Union, the Russian, Armenian, and Georgian populations grew faster than the Abkhaz population, due to large-scale enforced migration, especially under the rule of and . Russians moved into Abkhazia in great numbers.

At the time of the 1989 census, Abkhazia's Georgian population numbered 239,872 forming around 45.7% of the population, and the Armenian population numbered 77,000. Due to ethnic cleansing and displacement due to people fleeing the 1992–1993 war, much of the Georgian population and to a lesser extent the Russian and Armenian populations had greatly diminished."Abkhazia." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online 9 September 2008. In 2003 Armenians formed the second-largest minority group in Abkhazia (closely matching the Georgians), numbering 44,869. By the time of the 2011 census, formed the second-largest minority group with a number of 46,455. Despite the official numbers, unofficial estimates believe that the Abkhaz and Armenian communities are roughly equal in number

In the wake of the Syrian Civil War Abkhazia granted refugee status to a few hundred Syrians with Abkhaz, and ancestry. Facing a growing Armenian community, this move has been linked with the wish of the ruling Abkhaz —who have often been in the minority on their territory— to tilt the demographic balance in favour of the titular nation.


Diaspora
Thousands of Abkhaz, known as muhajirun, fled Abkhazia for the in the mid-19th century after resisting the 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. Abkhazia's Diaspora: Dreaming of Home . Eurasianet.org (2009-03-08). Retrieved on 30 May 2011. Circassians in Turkey rally for their rights. Hurriyetdailynews.com. Retrieved on 30 May 2011.


Religion
Most inhabitants of Abkhazia are Christian (Eastern Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic) or .
(1998). 9780312219758, Palgrave Macmillan.
The Abkhaz Native Religion has undergone a strong revival in recent decades. There is a very small number of adherents of Judaism, Jehovah's Witnesses and new religious movements. Александр Крылов. ЕДИНАЯ ВЕРА АБХАЗСКИХ "ХРИСТИАН" И "МУСУЛЬМАН". Особенности религиозного сознания в современной Абхазии. Portal-credo.ru (2004-03-17). Retrieved on 30 May 2011. The Jehovah's Witnesses organisation has officially been banned since 1995, though the decree is not currently enforced. Georgia: International Religious Freedom Report 2005. The United States Department of State. Retrieved 24 May 2007.

According to the constitutions of both Abkhazia and Georgia, the adherents of all religions have equal rights before the law.

According to a survey held in 2003, 63% of respondents identified themselves as Christian, 26% as Muslim, 8% as adhering to the traditional Abkhazian religion or as Pagan, 1% as follower of other religions and 2% as undecided.


Language
Article 6 of the Constitution of Abkhazia states:
The official language of the Republic of Abkhazia shall be the Abkhazian language. The Russian language, equally with the Abkhazian language, shall be recognized as a language of State and other institutions. The State shall guarantee the right to freely use the mother language for all the ethnic groups residing in Abkhazia.

The languages spoken in Abkhazia are , , Mingrelian, , Armenian, and Greek. The Autonomous Republic passed a law in 2007 defining the Abkhaz language as the only state language of Abkhazia. As such, Abkhaz is the required language for legislative and executive council debates (with translation from and to Russian) and at least half of the text of all magazines and newspapers must be in Abkhaz.

Despite the official status of Abkhaz, the dominance of other languages within Abkhazia, especially Russian, is so great that experts as recently as 2004 called it an "endangered language". During the Soviet era, language instruction would begin in schools in Abkhaz, only to switch to Russian for the majority of required schooling. The government of the Republic is attempting to institute Abkhaz-only primary education but there has been limited success due to a lack of facilities and educational materials. Even in Georgian-speaking areas of the Republic, ending schooling in that language has resulted in teachers switching to Russian-language materials instead of Abkhaz-language teaching.


Nationality issues

Adoption of Russian nationality
After the breakup of Soviet Union, many Abkhazians kept their , even after a decade, and used them to eventually apply for Russian citizenship.

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 organisations with close ties to Russian officialdom simply took their papers to a nearby Russian city for processing.

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 . After they were checked, Abkhazian applicants were granted Russian citizenship. By 25 June 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 's visit to Moscow in May 2002.

The "passportisation" caused outrage in Tbilisi, worsening its already shaky relations with Russia. The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement insisting that Abkhazians were citizens of Georgia and calling the passport allocation an "unprecedented illegal campaign". President Eduard Shevardnadze said that he would be asking his Russian counterpart, , for an explanation. The speaker of parliament said that she would raise the matter at the forthcoming OSCE parliamentary assembly.

1 February 2011 was the last day in the post-Soviet era when a passport of was valid for crossing the Russian-Abkhaz border. According to the staff of Abkhazia's passport and visa service, there were about two to three 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.


Issue of ethnic Georgians
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.

According to the Abkhazian law on citizenship, , 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 with any other state apart from Russia.

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. President Bagapsh was inclined to regard Georgians in Gali as "Georgianised Abkhazians." According to Bagapsh, these were actually ethnic Abkhaz people who were "Georgianised" during the long process of the Georgianisation 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.

In early 2013 the process of passportisation 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" passportisation involving granting citizenship to ethnic Georgians in eastern districts was fraught with risk of "losing sovereignty and territorial integrity." According to Apsnipress, , secretary of Abkhaz security council, said that "We are facing the process of the total Georgianization of Abkhazia."

Pressures have been placed upon teachers in areas of Abkhazia which retain large Georgian populations to abandon the use of the Georgian language in education and adopt Russian textbooks.

On 18 September 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 where wrongdoings were found in the distribution of passports to refer those violations to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for "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 forced to leave Abkhazia again.

In October 2013 Alexander Ankvab signed a document ordering the firing of Stanislav Lakoba. The document did not state any reason 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 organisations 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.


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

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

Football remains the most popular sport in Abkhazia. Other popular sports include basketball, boxing and wrestling. The National Basketball Team of Abkhazia played its first game with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Basketball team on 27 May 2015, which Abkhaz team won by 76-59. Abkhaz basketball team "Apsny" also plays in the Russian Basketball League's Third-Tier in Krasnodar Krai.

Abkhazia has had its own amateur Abkhazian football league since 1994 though it has no international football union membership. In 2016 it hosted and won the ConIFA World Football Cup.


See also
  • Outline of Abkhazia
  • Bibliography of Abkhazia
  • Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations
  • Land of Darkness
  • Law enforcement in Abkhazia
  • Media in Abkhazia
  • , another region of Georgia which is also a disputed territory


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