Pitsunda-Myussera Biosphere Reserve – located in Abkhazia (Georgia)
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.
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…
Abkhazia is known for its resort towns on the Black Sea coast and the sunny beaches. Less known is inland Abkhazia, full of of high peaks and mountain landscapes.
The highest peak measures over 4.000 meters (13.ooo feet) – Mount Dombai-Ulgen.
Abkhazian girl invites you to see her motherland beyond the common attractions
Russia supposedly has peace-maintaining troops in the region. Read more Russo-Abkhazian border dispute.
The port town of Anacopia (now located in New Athos city) was recorded by Greeks in the 3rd century. In the 5th century Georgians built a fortress on top of the Iverian mountain, alarmed by the Arab invasion of the Caucasus.
Anacopia served as capital within the Byzatine empire, and later on in the 8th century became the capital of the Abkhazian Kingdom. It was ceded to the Byzantines again for a short period until the Georgians took it back in 1072.
The Arabs never managed to conquer the fortress, instead they captured Derbent city from Dagestan in 654.
*Abkhazia is a breakway region of Georgia, under Russian defacto control. For more info click here
Sukhumi – capital of Abkhazia, sitting on the shores of the Black Sea (142 km from Sochi).
Sukhumi became popular for being an exotic subtropical resort city. However the collapse of the Soviet Union, the war that followed and the international isolation of the small republic in the last 20 years have lead to significant decay of the once flourishing resort, like the neighboring Gagra resort town.
Certain spots have been recently renovated with the purpose of turning it into a tourist attraction during (and after) the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.
* Abkhazia is a disputed region, officially part of Georgia but under Russian military control. More on Abkhazia conflict here Russia-Georgia war *
During the war, on september 27th 1993, opposition forces broke the ceasefire agreement initiated by the United Nations and rounded up Georgian civilians in Sukhumi, who were executed. Many civilians had remained in the capital due to the ceasefire agreement; the number of september 27th massacre victims was 1200.
Georgian civilians were massacred throughout Abkhazia in what has been officially classified as “ethnic cleansing” by OSCE. Georgian civilians evacuated towns in Abkhazia and left by foot to the Georgian border; many died on the way to the border due to the harsh conditions. More details here Russia – Georgia conflict.