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Abkhazia ~ Paradise Lost

 

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Much of the tourism industry consists of Russian soldiers and low-income retirees

 

If there is a place on earth that inspires more melancholy, reminiscence and regret than Abkhazia, I have yet to find it. A republic of sighs, home to 250.000 people who still mourn their dead as much as they plan their future.

This year marks the 23rd anniversary of Abkhazia’s first declaration of independence from Georgia. That initial gesture of July 23, 1992, was boycotted by the ethnic Georgians in government and ignored by the outside world. But soon enough, it began a cycle of attacks and reprisals, fueled by alcohol, old grudges, and the chaos of the Soviet collapse.

In the chaos that followed, up to 15.000. civilians were killed, most of them Georgians. The O.S.C.E. (Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe) recognized the massacre of Georgian civilians – the Sukhumi massacre becoming the most notorious. Abkhazia denies such events and avoids talks on this matter. Also, the presence of over 3.000 Russian peace-maintaining troops in the region makes it a sensitive issue for the international community.

Over 250.000 Georgians, Abkhazians and other ethnicities living in Abkhazia became refugees, reducing the population to half (the 1992 Census counted a population of over 500.000 ).

Georgia has blockaded all southern routes by sea and land, and so Abkhazia has to rely on the kindness of its neighbor and patron Russia, with whom it shares a land border.

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The Russian involvement in the conflict has supposedly been neutral all along, however in recent years Russia  started to claim territory from the state of Abkhazia.

A territorial dispute has recently worsened the relationship between Moscow and its committed ally in the South Caucasus, Georgia’s separatist republic of Abkhazia. Read more here Russia and Abkhazia dispute border delimitation (2011)

“We had a poor understanding of what was going on that day, August 26, when Russia recognized us,” Khashig says. 

“It was an emotional wave. Only later did we figure out that we were not getting what we wanted. Earlier, even though nobody recognized us, we were truly independent. Now, after recognizing Abkhazia, Russia is swallowing us.”

Read more here Abkhazia And The Perils Of ‘Independence’

During the Sochi Olympics, Russia expanded its borders into Abkhazia. A so-called “temporary border”, it is unsure if this measure will be reverted. NATO raps Russia for expanding border into Georgia

 

 Photography by Yuri Kozyrev – 2011

 

And finally, a reminder of Abkhazia’s beauties…

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