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Abkhazians - Who are they? By Yuri N. Voronov

Yuri Nikolayevich Voronov, politician and archaeologist: born Tsabal, Abkhazia 8 May 1941; died Sukhum, Abkhazia 11 September 1995 [See: Obituary: Yuri Voronov, by George Hewitt - The Independent (London) , Sep 15, 1995)]

Abkhazians - Who are they?

Abkhazia, Apsny – this is a mini-republic on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus. Its native inhabitants are the Abkhazians – Apsua, representing, although not a numerous but yet a very ancient, active, mountain nation whose history is a mystery in many ways. Who are they? Where did they come from? Whom do the resemble most? What role did they play and are called upon to play today in the world community of people? Science is now already giving fully synonymous and sufficiently instructive answers to these and to many other questions.

Abkhazian – a Lingorelic of the West Caucasia

The problems of the origin of the Abkhazians and their place in the system of the nations of the world over two centuries draw the attention of investigators – travellers, ethnographers, historians, linguists, archaeologists, anthropologists and representatives of other humanitarian disciplines. Written pieces of information, from which historians draw their conclusions, are scanty, and the times they embrace do not go beyond the 2000-years boundary from our days on. Archaeology has a firm basis in ethnogenetic questions only when there are suitable written sources. Ethnography and anthropology have still narrower possibilities. And here the language plays its decisive role, in whose structure and vocabulary ancient pages of the history of the Abkhazian nation are preserved, the most important information about its sources, the environment of the primary life of its people, ties and contacts with other nations, and other interesting information.

Fame about the many languages of the Caucasian Mountains has long since spread throughout the world. The ancient Greek geographer Timosfen in his days determined the number of nations gathered in Dioscuriada (today Sukhum, the capital of the Republic of Abkhazia) to be 300, while the Roman historian Pliniy Sekund left evidence according to which Romans conducted their affairs in this city with the aid of 130 translators. Masud an Arab author of the 9th century, wrote: “ Only Allah will be able to count the different nations living in the mountains of Caucasia. The mountains of Caucasia are mountains of languages.” There are few places in the world able to compete with the Caucasus in the number of languages; and, as a rule, these are usually mountain regions- the Himalaya and Hindu-Kush in Asia, the Andes and Cordillera in America. It is beyond question that the contact of multilingual people with the mountainous conditions that maintain many relics of the living world, is quickly obliterated in any conditions of flat lands.

The Abkhazian language, together with other closely related languages (Abazin, Ubykh, Adygei and Kabardin) form the West-Caucasian (Abkhaz-Adygei) language group, today numbering over 700 000 people and connected with each other according to the following diagram:

parent – Abkhaz-Adygei language
Ubykh
Abazin Abkhazian Adygei Kabardin

West-Caucasian languages are characterised by their distinctive structure, and their phonetics system reveals great divergence. Combined vowels predominate, while there are very few independent vowels – there are 2 in the Abkhazian language, 2 with stress in the Abazin and 1 in the unstressed syllable, and 3 in the Ubykh. The number of consonants varies much more: in the Ubykh language there are 82 consonants, in the Bzyb dialect of the Abkhazian language – 67, in the Adygei – 55, in the Kabardin – 48. P.K. Uslar – the founder of the first Abkhazian alphabet – wrote the following about the complications of pronunciation of Abkhazian words: “Not only Europeans but even a native of Caucasia considers Abkhazian pronunciation the most difficult and least accessible for the non-Abkhazian. This language makes a strange impression on the one who hears it for the first time. You can say about the Abkhazian language that it reminds you of the buzzing of insects”. Up till recent times West-Caucasian languages also preserved a special fund of lexicographic elements that functioned in the hunting environment (the “forest language” of the Abkhazians, the “hunting” language in the Adygeis). Linguists succeeded in revealing over 250 of them, inherited from the parent language state of stems and affixes that were from time immemorial common for these languages and including appellations of cosmic phenomena, terms of relationship the name of parts of the body, a number of animals and plants, personal pronouns, numbers and several verb.

Linguists consider the time of the existence of the Abkhaz-Adygei parent-language to be the 3rd century B.C., i.e., its break-up into three main branches (Abkhazian-Ubykh-Adygei) began approximately 4000 years ago. The well-known Russian linguist N.S. Trubetskoy formed an hypothesis over half a century ago according to which the West-Caucasian languages in their origin were related to the East-Caucasian languages (Chechen, Ingush, Batsbi, Avar, Lezgin, Dargin, Tabassari, etc.), forming with them a single “North-Caucasian” language family. As it is becoming ever more obvious, representatives of this family occupied a much wider territory in ancient times than today. On the one hand, the hypothesis on the relationship of the Abkhaz-Adygei languages with the Khat, whose bearers lived 4-5 thousand years ago in Asia Minor, has received wide acknowledgement in modern science. On the other hand, proof has been established about the common roots of the proximity of the modern Nakh-Dagestan languages to the extinct languages of the Khurr and the Urart, living 5-3 thousand years ago on the territories of the present Armenian uplands and contiguous regions of East Transcaucasia and Near East. Therefore, the North Caucasian languages today represent a special relic of the one time extensive language community that existed, according to specialists, about 7 centuries ago, enveloping the whole Caucasus and wide regions southwards. In the thirties-sixties of the 20th century an hypothesis was energetically propagated in Soviet science according to which the Abkhaz-Adygei, Chechen-Ingush and Dagestan languages were related to the Kartvel (Georgian) and form a single “Iberi-Caucasian family” of languages with them; however, this hypothesis has been acknowledged as scientifically groundless today.

The people speaking in the parent-Abkhaz-Adygei language, were occupied, as the data of linguists affirms, with agriculture, animal husbandry, the production of various handicrafts and the processing of metal. In favour of the idea that the bearers of the parent-language lived approximately in the same natural conditions in which the present Abkhaz-Adygeis live and shaped within the West-Caucasian region is proved by their common lexicon (“sea”, “coast”, “fish”, “mountain (wooded)”, “ice”, “hoarfrost”, “cold”, “frost”, “forest (leaf-hearing)”, “forest (coniferous)”, “silver fox”, “fir”, “beech”, “cornel”, “chestnut”, “wolf”, “bear”, etc.). Toponymical data given by N.Y. Marr, I.A. Javakhisvili, S.N. Janashia, S.D. Inal-ipa, etc., were used for confirmation of this idea.

At the same time, successes in lingual reconstruction lately has allowed us to glance even more deeply into the history of the Abkhaz-Adygeis. Today the fact of the distant relationship (in pronunciation) has been established (S.A. Starostin and others) between the North-Caucasian, Sino-Tibetan (Chinese, Tibet, East-Himalayan, etc.) and the Enisei (Kat, etc.) languages, on whose basis the Sino-Caucasian macrofamily was reconstructed, including the majority of the non-stratum languages of the Old World, bringing out the depths of relationship with the Indian (Californian, etc.) languages of the sub-American continent. At the same time, language ties have been discovered (through West-Chad languages) between the Nakh-Dagestan languages and the Afro-Eurasian macrofamily that brings up to the epoch of racial formations and the moment of the origin of Homo Sapiens, with the African ancestral-homeland in the Middle East (about 30 centuries ago), from where their settlement in Europe, in the Caucasus and in East Asia began.

In absolute figures, the division of the North-Caucasian languages according to the suppositions of linguists, took place somewhere in the 4th century B.C. From that time on the Abkhaz-Adygeis could confidently be localised in the East Black Sea area. The disintegration of the Sino-Caucasian macrofamily, whose cradle was located to the south of Caucasia, is dated from one single hypothetical parent –language, out of which all the presently known live and dead languages had sprung, is considered beyond the boundaries of the 13th-14th centuries B.C., i.e., to the higher paleolithic times. In that epoch, as anthropological material proves, discovered in Kholodny Grot (Central Abkhazia), the local population was still characterised by mark Negroid features. The constant infiltration of Indo-Europeans from the south and north during the following centuries changed in a relevant manner of anthropological image of the local population; however, the languages maintained their amazing archaic and original pure structure and sound, presenting a boundless source of information on the ancient history of the nations of the Caucasus.

Ecological Recesses in the Ethnogenesis of the Abkhazians

Since man and all his creations are part of the biosphere and landscape of our Mother Earth an account of appropriate natural peculiarities (reliefs), hydrography, etc. could be of great help in the decision of complex questions on the lineage of nations. In the given case, it is necessary to turn the attention of the reader to the conserving and differentiating role of the West-Caucasian ravines and mountain passes in the history of the Abkhaz-Adygeis.

In discussing the question of the lineage of the Abkhazians, investigators have named two directions that the ancestors of this nation took to their present place of abode: from the North Caucasia, where the Abazins, Adygeis and Kabardins, akin to the Abkhazians, live today, and from the south, from Asia Minor, by way of Colchis. It is known that language disintegrations are realised through the intermingling of parts of the bearers of a parent-language into the other, geographically isolated regions – ecological recesses (mountains, rivers, etc.). The structure (besides later subdivisions of the Abazins) of the West-Caucasian language community is 3-dimensional. That is why it surmises no less than three stages of emigration, connected with full or partial departure from the recesses – parent-homeland that had existed in the 3rd century B.C. Let us glance briefly into the more possible variants of such emigrations, taking the geographical peculiarities of West Caucasia into account.

In conformance with the first variant, the cradle of the Abkhaz-Adygeis should have been localised on the northern slopes of West Caucasia, in the Transkuban recess (G.A. Melikishvili, M.D. Lordkipanidze, esc.), from where in the span up to the 1st century A.D. (and in the opinion of such enthusiastic authors as P. Ingorokva, also after 16th century A.D.) part of the population there intermingled with that of the Black Sea coast area, filling three ecological recesses – the north-west Bzyb mountain range (Zikhs, later Ubykhs) between the Gagra and Aj-Amgra ranges (Abazgs, later bearers of the Bzyb dialect of the Abkhazian language), and the south-eastern of the last range up to the river Ingur (Apsils and Misimians, later bearers of the Tsebeldian and the Abjui dialects of the Abkhazian language). Not having any other real proof, some investigators strive to find confirmation of this hypothesis in archaeological materials that would prove penetration of elements of the Maikop and dolmen cultures in the 3rd –first half of the 2nd centuries B.C. on the territory of the present Great Sochi and north-western Abkhazia (up to the Kodor), of bearers who hypothetically made room for and assimilated ancient population (the conjectural parent-Kartvel) of the region. However, seeing as from the second half of the 2nd century B.C. the southern cultural sources predominated absolutely in West Caucasia, then the hypothesis about the migration of the forebears of the Abkhazians from the north at the turn of our era and, the more so, in the 17th century, is deprived of any kind of archaeological grounds.

The result of the second, southern variant, is that the parent-homeland of the Abkhaz-Adygeis was the Colchis ecological recess and the north-eastern regions of Asia Minor adjoining it, where already at the turn of the 2nd –1st centuries B.C. supposedly related Adygei-Apsils Kashki-Abeshls lived (O.M: Japaridze, G.A: Melikishvili, V.G. Ardzinba, etc.). In this case it is necessary to allow for the intermingling (along the coastline through the east Black Sea area corridor and through the passes) of direct language forebears of the Adygeis during the 2nd-early 1st century B.C. on the northern slopes of West-Caucasia. The ancestors of the Zikhs-Ubykhs then occupied the recess between the Gagra range and Tuapse, connecting the neighbouring territories with quite difficult seasonal paths. The parent-Abkhazian tribes as the initial part of the community, continued to live in Colchis, where they were found by authors of ancient times, as Apsils, Abazgs and Sanigs. The wide cultural “expansion” from Colchis along the Black Sea coast (up to the modern Gelenjik to East Transcaucasia and to the northern slopes of the Central and West Caucasus reached its apogee in the 9th-7th centuries B.C. (“Colchis-Koban metallurgical province”). The last important migrations on review were already made through the written sources of a 2000-anniversary range of some of the Adygeis migrating to the east (Kabardins) and some of the Abkhazians to North Caucasia (Abazins), while a return migration on serious scale was not observed. On the other hand, what was quite indicative was the migration of the names: the name of Abkhazians – “Abaza” removed from the territory of the present Gudauta region (historical Abazgia) onto an extensive region of North-West Caucasia, while the ancient name of Ubykhs (“Zikhs”) in the developed and late Middle Ages detoned also the Adygei population of the Kuban area.

The basic conclusion of the primary biologically conditioned direction of ethnic migrations to West Caucasia from the south-east to the north-west is stressed by the process of historical differentiations of the Kartvel (Georgian) language groups, which is also 3-dimensional. The Kartvel languages belong, together with Indo-European, as well as the Ural, Altai and other Eurasian languages in the stratum macrofamily, whose disintegration began approximately 12-13 centuries ago. In its turn, the disintegration of the parent-Kartvel language community, existing from the 3rd century B.C., began (according to Morris Svodesh) about the 19th century B.C. through the division of the Kartvel-Zan parent language. In spite of this linguists surmise that the Svan language, longer than other Kartvel languages, remained on a level of basic language. A new segmentation from approximately the 8th century B.C. brought about the divisions of the youngest language in this system, the Zan (Megrelo-Chan). The historical differentiation of the Kartvel languages can be expressed in the following diagram:

parent-Kartvel language

Svan Kartvel Zan Megrel
(Chan)

As in the case of the Abkhaz-Adygeis, investigators reconstructed two variants of migration, which brought about the disintegration of the parent-Kartvel community. The first variant orientates us again to the Colchis ecological recess and offers an examination of its place in the adjoining north eastern region of Asia Minor as a universal Kartvel parent-homeland. For an explanation of the present existing situation, we have to acknowledge that the Svans remained on the territory which was once occupied by bearers of the common parent-Kartvel language, and its Kartvel-Zan part on the boundary of the 3rd –2nd centuries B.C., and migrated, let’s say, to the eastern Transcaucasian recess through the present Likh mountain range; there, after a thousand years one more disintegration took place, resulting in the ancestors of the Megrel-Chans returning to the Colchis recess again and driving the Svans away into the mountains. This sufficiently illogical and so far not provable variant is faced by another, a more grounded one, as it seems, and concludes that the parent-homeland of the Kartvels was not within the limits of West Transcaucasia in the north-eastern regions of Asia Minor, from where the region under examination the Svans had migrated to in the beginning (either directly through the ravine of Chorokh and along the seacoast to present-day Colchis, or, which is more logical, along the Kura gorge and the region of East Transcaucasia adjoining it, and further to the west). At the start of the 1st century B.C. a disintegration took place of the parent-Kart-Zan community and their intermingling to the north along two roads – the Karts drove the Svans into the mountains north-east of Colchis, and the Zan tribes advanced to the Colchis ecological recess, having driven the parent-Abkhazians away to the north. Both the common situation (the primary “parent North-Caucasian” Khurrito-Urart element in Transcaucasia up to the early 1st century B.C., the localisation of the ancient Kartvel tribes of Kardu - Kartys, Kulkha-Kolkhovs, Lusha-Lazovs, etc., to the north-eastern regions of Asia Minor point to the historical reality of such a variant; significant traces of Kartvel-Indo-European ties, which come only from a non-stratum macrofamily, but which can also explain the locality of the Kartvel parent-homeland in the sphere of action of the Khettsk-Luvi language world, and so on), as well as the direction of major natural migrations, experiences by the population of the region during the last two centuries. It is indicative in relation with this that the Svans, between 6th and 11th centuries migrated from the upper reaches of the river Rion to the west to the upper reaches of the Ingur, and today have reached (in separate groups) the region of Gagra and Sochi. An important linguistic indication on the difficulties of connecting the Svans with the ancient population of the Colchis lowlands, whose economy from time immemorial was characterised by an expressive agricultural-animal husbandry mode of life and a developed metallurgy, is the absence of terms in the Svan language, common with other Kartvel languages, connected with a settled agricultural culture, and also those denoting “copper-bronze”, “flax”, “iron”, “horse”, etc. It was namely the Karts-Kartvels who, in the 8th-11th centuries of our era, having forced the Likh mountain range, split the Megrel-Chan (Lazs) community, forming on its territory the Kart-language Imeretia, Guria and Ajaria. A return migration of human masses to Colchis on such a scale and with such results was not noted. What was particularly indicative was that the mentioned migrations of Kartvels to the Colchis recess conceded with the Abkhazian Kingdom of the 8th-10th centuries in time, when most favourable conditions had taken shape for a return migration of the Abkhazians – to the south-east. However, that did not happen.

All that has been said stresses the validity for the supposition of an advantageous north-western direction of the natural migratory streams of population in this region during the ancient era and the Middle Ages. From the moment man had settled in West Caucasia, the southern influence predominated – from the side of Asia Minor and the Middle East. It was from there that in the old, old days, bearers of the parent-Abkhaz-Adygei language had moved to the West Transcaucasian valleys, descendants who like many other relics of live nature up to this day (thanks, I repeat, to the conservation traits of the mountains) quite firmly maintain their population here. The Apsils, who had given the Abkhazians their name (Apsua), and their direct descendants – bearers of the Abjui dialect in this chain – comprise one of the most important protective links, taking upon itself for over many centuries the main burden of opposing assimilatory-migratory influences from the south east.

The History of the Abkhazians Narrow Territorially and General

Just as the biography of every person is formed as a result of his interrelations with people and objects surrounding him, the history of every nation is shaped from facts of its interrelations with neighbouring nations. The history of the Abkhazians is no exception here. The territory they had settled on always served as a sort of bridge for them between North Caucasia and the coast of the Black Sea. The second direction of contact was determined by the sea – from time immemorial ships sailed towards Asia Minor and the Crimea. No small role was also played by the fact that the founding of the triangle, occupied by the Abkhazians, was open to influence from the south-east, from where a lowland road led (“Abkhazian Road”), used by the conquerors and merchants. The economy, politics, culture of the population of the area took shape in this quite intricate system of contact, reacting sensitively to all outside changes, and restructuring in accordance with them.

It is characteristic for every territory to have its own set of archaeological and architectural monuments. An idea of the national culture is formed through their originality. The linking of natural ancient regional traits with concrete modern ethnology received dissemination in a domestic national-administrative state system, resulting in a situation when articles and equipment began to be used for the founding of the rights of representatives of one or another nationality to power over a given territory, i.e., items began to be allotted a concrete language (!). In the meanwhile, most of the works made by man are the fruit of diverse attempts and interactions of multilingual individuals and collectives. Ethnographers (on the example of the North American Indians) have not accidentally noted regularity, according to which accumulation of characteristic substantial sings were observed not in the centre of the settlement of one or another tribe, but in the region of intertribal ties. The Abkhazians were never an exception in this.

From the moment of the settlement of this territory by man during the whole of the Stone Age, roads were of chief importance along which an infiltration of groups of people came here from the south-east, pertinent to experience in working on stone, on an ancient import – the volcanic glass, obsidian. In the Bronze Age West Caucasia represented a remote periphery of the Asia Minor variant of a Middle East cultural community. The Transcaucasian pass roads were conductive to the spreading of the monumental tomb-dolmens on both sides of the Main Ridge. The idea of the dolmen creations, in the opinion of a number of authoritative investigators, was brought into West Caucasia by sea through the Mediterranean already at the end of the 3rd century B.C. In the early Iron Age, besides the influence from Asia Minor, the state of Urarta played a decisive part in the formation of the local material culture. From the 8th century B.C. onwards the influence of the Aegean world (through the Hellens) increased. Thanks to the Greeks, cities and state structures connected with them began to appear on the Caucasian shores. By the 3rd century B.C. the entire lives of the local population, including the mountain valleys, were imbued with the elements of Greek culture. The marketplace in Dioscuriada (Sebastopol, now the capital of the Abkhazian Republic, Sukhum) won world fame. Sources inform us that during the Hellenic epoch (3rd –1st centuries B.C.) representatives of up to 300 tribes and nations concluded business deals here. Industrial winemaking progressed, amphoras with the Dioscuriada trade mark were manufactured, and they even minted their own coins. Ancient Abkhazia on the Black Sea preserved its decisive role in the economy, politics and culture up to the epoch of the Iran and the Arab conquests in Colchis (6th-8th centuries B.C.), periodically returning to that role also in subsequent times (up to the beginning of the 20th century).

Special significance was acquired by the Transcaucasian pass roads in the 6th-8th centuries B.C., thanks to which a branch of the Great Silk Route went through the territory of Abkhazia, connecting the Mediterranean Sea with India and China. The burial vaults of representatives of the ancient Abkhazian tribes of Apsils and Abazgs contain wide assortments of crockery, arms, items of clothing, adornments, coins, etc., connected by provenance with dozens of centres of Europe, Asia and Africa and with particular obviousness stressing the predominance of the innovative possibilities of Her Highness Dame Fashion before all manifestations of traditionalism. The pass roads played an important role in the establishment of early-feudal Abkhazian Kingdom, when at the end of the 8th century with Byzantine weakening, the Khazar Kingdom took a hand in the matter, including by that time North Caucasia within its limits. The subsequent history of the Abkhazian Kingdom was again connected with Byzantine, stimulating its flowering in the 10th century and bearing influence on the life in the area up to its very decline in the 15th century. From the end of the 11th and up to the mid-13th centuries, the Abkhazian provincial government, on autonomous grounds, entered the composition of the “Kingdom of the Abkhazians and Kartvels”, and later partially (“Upper Abkhazia”) was annexed to Megrelia, its neighbour of the east.

The 14th-17th centuries are characterised in the area’s history by a revival and deepening of the Mediterranean Sea ties. Trading stations of Genoa on the coastline of Abkhazia played a special part in this, leaving a deep trace in the local economy, political history and culture. In this period the pass roads became enlivened once again, connecting the maritime centres with North Caucasia and Povolzhje (the Golden Horde), and in multilingual Sebastopol (modern Sukhum) the mint began to function again. Imported clay and glass (including the Venetian), crockery, arms sets of belts, adornments and other overseas articles began to widespread in local life. It became customary among soldiers in the mountain valleys to wear earrings in one or in both ears (like the European sailors).

The increasing Turkish presence weakened towards the end of the 15th century, and then, in general, traditional ties broke off with Europe. The 18th century passed under the sign of advantageous influences in the Osman (Ottoman) Empire area, using Abkhazia as their main launching pad in the conquest of West Caucasia. In this period firearms, the characteristic Caucasian daggers, a certain cut of dress (Cherkess, Bashlyk, etc.), pipes for smoking, became widespread in the region, and an original Abkhazian style of cooking was created, inimitably uniting the fruits of overseas countries – corn, beans, pepper, etc. Since 1810 a process of Europeanization began intensively in Abkhazia, in the main through Russia. The Caucasian war turned into a horrendous misfortune for the Abkhazians and particularly the mahadzhir period directly after it (1866-1877), when thousands of Abkhazians were forced to migrate to Turkey, from where they scattered all over the world. On their hearths, in the second half of the 19th century, appeared the farmsteads of Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians, Russians, Ukrainians, Megrels, Germans, Estonians and other emigrants, imparting to the rural area and urban cultures, features of compound and variety.

Abkhazia is a country of a vivid language culture, whose sources go back to the upper paleolithic epoch. Characteristic traits of this culture are the ritual hues of the body in multicoloured tattoos, traces to the early Iron Age; idolisation of groves, trees, animals, the natural elements, that drew the attention of the travellers also in those olden times and later in the Middle Ages; the rite of the second burial in dolmens and jugs; known from monuments of the Bronze and early Iron Age, and again receiving prevalence in the late Middle Ages in the form of the hanging of the dead from trees; the custom of cremation of the dead and burying them on special public squares or in jugs was noted from the early Iron Age and the late epoch of antiquity; the variety of signs (over 80) of heathen burial customs of the Apsils from the 3rd century B.C. to the 7th century A.D.; the place for idolisation of mountain spirits on the passes and on mountain paths, where varied offerings accumulated (the tips of arrows and other items) in the 11th-15th centuries and later; facts of the revival of heathenish in the 18th century and its original and diverse survival in the everyday life of Abkhazians today.

At the same time, Abkhazia is also a country of the oldest Orthodox Christianity in thCaucasus. Here, already at the end of the 3rd century A.D., communities of exiled Christians formed, and in the year 325 the Pitiunt Bishop Stratofil placed his signature under protocols of the Vselensky Nikeisk Cathedral. Officially, Abkhazians (Apsils, Abazgs, etc.) adopted Christianity in the 6th century during Emperor Justian’s time, when in the littoral and mountain zone many early-Christian churches were built. From the 4th up to the 10th centuries the Abkhazian church was administratively subject to Byzantine (Constantinople, Antioch, etc.), while the territory of Abkhazia itself was within the bounds of the Abkhazian kingdom autonomous – the main temples of the 10th century were constructed not in the capital of the kingdom, Kutaisi, but in the zone nearest to the sea and Byzantine, between Pitsunda and Bedia. This status was maintained also in the Byzantine occupation period in the 11th century, after which, supposedly, for some time the local church was dependent on the East Caucasian (Mtskhet) Catholicity and the Alany Metropolitanate. From the mid-13th to the 17th centuries Abkhazian Catholicity preserved its independence, sustaining close ecclesiastical ties with Kartlia, Byzantine, Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine. It is not by chance that it was namely the Antioch Patriarch who arrived in Abkhazia to displace the bishops-slave-traders in the 17th century, and the Greek written language that predominated undivided up to the 10th century on the territory of Abkhazia and was used one parallel with the Georgian language from the end of the 10th up to the 16th century. In the 19th – early 20th centuries, Christian religion again put forth sufficiently deep roots in this area.

Besides the Orthodox religion, Catholicism in its time also played a definite role. At the beginning of the 14th century, for example, there was a Catholic episcopal faculty in Sebastopol, and there was also a Catholic cemetery functioning there. The local population became acquainted in the 6th century with particulars of the religion of the Iran fire-worshippers. The stone icons in the second half of the 6th-7th centuries have to mitre symbol from Tsebelda on them. Abkhazians came into contact very early with other world religions – Judaism and Islam. Jewish people had settled in local cities already in the period of antiquity. Their communities existed in the period of the Middle Ages in Gagra (11th century) and in Sebastopol-Sukhum (14th century). Abkhazians first came into close contact with their Islamic ancestors in the first half of the 8th century. A Muslim community existed in Sebastopol-Sukhum at the beginning of the 14th century. The Islam influence in the area grew stronger from the end of the 16th century (tombs with inscriptions, names of princes, etc.). In the 18th – beginning of the 19th centuries several wooden mosques functioned in Abkhazia, but pigs were still bred in every village. Survivals of Islam are preserved even today in the everyday life of the Abkhazians.

Abkhazians – Blood-Relatives of All Nations on Earth

The history of man offers a whimsical twining of territorial, economic, language, cultural and psychological reality on which one more important nation-forming layer is built, connected with the genetics of the human factor, on which politicians and the historians hired by them, for some reason prefer not to linger. At the same time, fixation of Negroids in the upper paleolithical strata of Kholodny Grot and a language proximity to the Mongoloids directly indicate true genetic ties with representatives of these ancient human races. Today, however, Abkhazians are a clearly expressed European type. This is explained by the constant penetration of bearers of a relevant anthropological type into their territory.

Without touching on the compulsory, but badly documented, ties up to the period of the written language, I will stop at proof of those epochs which are already sufficiently elucidated through written and archaeological sources. In Gienos (modern Ochamchira), founded over 2500 years ago on the Abkhazian seacoast by the Miletsys, local household utensils were found in houses of the first settlers, brought in the homes of Greeks by their wives, who willingly welcomed the colonisers into the native environment. Greek-Abkhazian marriage ties increased in the Hellenic epoch (end of the 4th - 1st centuries B.C.). In the 1st-3rd centuries A.D., in the course of wide political and cultural contacts with Rome, the foundation of an Abkhaz-Italian blood relationship was laid. In the 4th-5th centuries A.D., during the Roman-Byzantine rule (Sebastopol, Pitiunt, etc.), suburbs were erected – the kanabas – in which the demobilised-soldiers lived with their families. Undoubtedly, quite a few men and women of the local population made up hose families. In the 6th century A.D., Prokopi Kesariisky, in relations with the Abazgs – forebears of the Bzyb Abkhazians – stressed forthwith that “the Roman soldiers… long ago” had settled “among them in many ways”. Evidently such settlements were accompanied also by similar marriage ties. The interrelations between the garrison and the people of Greek-Roman cities servicing them and then settling among the inhabitants of the foothills and mountain valleys, often turned into punitive expeditions and pogroms (such an episode, vividly written by Ksenofont, took place in the outskirts of Trapezunta at the end of the 5th century B.C.). The result was always violence and the birth of “war children”. The kidnapping of women by mountain dwellers was common, too. Living jointly for 1200 years on one territory with the Greeks could not but leave a serious imprint in the genetics of the Abkhazians (like their neighbours – Ubykhs, Adygeis, Megrels, etc.), making practically all of them blood relatives with the Hellens.

Abkhazian contacts with the North-Caucasian tribes were long and varied, in the first place (1st-12th centuries A.D.) with the Alanys, the forebears of present-day Ossets. The presence of the Alany element in Abkhazia is documented through sources from the 1st to the 2nd century A.D., and in the archaeological – from the 4th to the 6th century. The result of the Abkhaz-Alany ties was not only the spread of conformable elements of material culture (ceramics, arms, etc.) and the transference of Narty legends, but also in the appearance of many half-breeds who later infused (depending on the situation) into the father’s or the mother’s environment. A definite contribution to the genetics of the Abkhazians was made in the 6th century by the Persians, through whose actions, pertaining to the Apsil women of the gently, turned into catastrophe for the Iranian garrison of Tsibilium in the year 550 A.D.

In the 6th century A.D., for the first time in the internal regions of Abkhazia, the Lazys were formalised in written sources – forebears of the contemporary Megrels, with whom (marrimonial) relations were particularly intensive in the contact zone along the Ingur. Infiltration of the Megrels into the south-eastern regions of Abkhazia was to have increased from the end of the 19th century, when the Bedia’s episcopacy was founded there, whose rule spread also along the left bank of the Ingur. At the turn of the 13th-14th centuries Megrelia annexed the eastern regions of the Abkhazian (Tskhumsk) provincial government up to Anakopia. This battle lasted up to the 17th century, when Italian and Georgian sources placed the western political boundary of Megrelia at first of Kelasur, then up to the Kodor and, finally, to the Ingur river. In the late Middle Ages, as a result of the assimilationary processes in the territories conquered by the Megrels (“Upper Abkhazia”), an intermingling of the peasants, as a result of church gifts and the endless wars between the Abkhazians and the Megrels, drew them quite closely together in the genetic sense. Not so intensive but also resultative were sporadic contacts between the Kartvels-Georgians (the battle at Anakopia in the 8th century, contacts in the 11th-13th centuries, etc.), and the Svans. This process continues to this day.

Apart from the indicated nations representatives of many other languages and cultures have lived and worked on the territory of Abkhazia during the last two thousand years. Here we should mention Jews, Germans, Armenians, Arabs, Khazars, Turks, Mongols, Italian and even Chinese among them. The first mention in sources of information, for example, of representatives of Slav tribes, arriving on the territory of Abkhazia, goes back to the middle of the 6th century. The roads and blood of Russians and Abkhazians intertwined closely also during the period of the neighbouring Tmutarakan and Abkhazian states, and on the Middle Ages slave-trade roads of the Mediterranean, the Black Sea area and Povolzhje, during the Cossak forays along the eastern Black Sea shore area. Not only the cultural but also the kinship of the Abkhaz-Russian contacts that took shape in the 19th-20th centuries are sufficiently deep. One expressive example – 27 years after the annexing of Abkhazia to Russia there were 120 fugitive Russian soldiers who had married Abkhazian women and coped with the Abkhazian language in only the one mountain village of Abkhazia – Tsebelda. In that same 19th century the Abkhazian Negroes aroused great interest among those who happened to arrive here…

Class-dynastic marriages were of particular significance in the local history of the feudal epoch. A Kartvel woman – the wife of Leon I and a Khazar woman – the mother of Leon II were at the cradle of the Abkhazian kingdom in the 8th century A.D. In the following period, up to the beginning of the 19th century, as a rule, the wives and mothers of local tsars and princes were Greeks, Ossets, Armenians, Polovchanins, Kartvels, Megrels, etc… but very rarely representatives of the nationality their husbands ruled. The bride arrived at her new place of residence with a multiple retinue, comprising relatives, girl friends, soldiers, handicraftsmen, and other kinsmen, who then scattered among the local population and countryside.

However, it was not only the many representatives of the newly come nations who left an imprint in the genetic of the Abkhazians. The latter played a transient role in the formation of the genetics of many nations of Eurasia, especially of the Mediterranean Sea region. And here slave-trade was of basic importance. The Black Sea littoral of the Caucasus from time immemorial was called the “mine of slavery”. This “mine” was intensively developed from the 6th century B.C. era up to the 19th century A.D. For 2500 years dozens, hundreds and at times thousands of people were annually taken away from here, mostly young people. During the Hellenic period slave-trade made up an important profitable part of the economy of the natives of the area – the Geniokhys. In the 6th century A.D. the rulers of Abazgs earned quite well on the markets of Byzantine by selling emasculated boys from among their kinsmen. During this period, as a result of only one raid of the Persians, 40 Abazg boys were collected as hostages and drove to Iran. Slave-trade reached a particularly high scale in the late Middle Ages. At he beginning of the 19th century Keleshbei Chachba (Shervashidze), in discussing points of an agreement with Russia, requested the preservation of his right to trade in people. Slave labour from Abkhazia and related territories played an important role in the economic and cultural blossoming of the Black Sea and Mediterranean areas. Everywhere – from Damascus to Paris – the labour of Caucasian emigrants was evident: cities were built with their participation, temples and castles erected, roads laid, ships built, and sown lands were widened… The fate of the slaves was not always tormenting and unfruitful, however. Having settled down all over the civilised world, they forgot their own language and became familiar with foreign ones, changed their religions, set up families and reared children and grandchildren. Some perished doing backbreaking work, many became military leaders, while the girls became the wives of magnates and sultans. Today, innumerable descendants of those who had once been forcibly taken away from the Black Sea coast, including, undoubtedly, Abkhazians, live among the Turks and Arabs. Jews and Greeks, Yugoslavs and Italians, French and Spanish, Iranians and Armenians, Russians and Tatars, without being aware of their origin. Mahadzhir period made its contribution to this process, too.

Abkhazia – a Country with a 2500-year Statehood

Early-class social relations in Abkhazia were formed already at the end of the 3rd-2nd centuries B.C., when an increase of additional products liberated social forces able to co-operate in the building of monumental stone tomb-dolmens. The community gentry of the following period were significantly represented in the burials of the 8th-6th centuries B.C., where many bronze and iron items were found, indicating the intensive contacts with that ancient state of Transcaucasia, Urart, and also with the early-class formations of Iran, Asia Minor and Balkan, the Kimmeriisk-Seythian world.

Statehood as a system of survival, based on a centralised concentration and distribution of products, was brought to Abkhazia by the Greeks-Miletsys, who founded here the city-states of Dioscuriada (modern Sukhum), Gienos (modern Ochamchira) already at the beginning of the 6th century B.C. These and a number of other maritime centres (Eshera, Pitiunt) were for the following 600 years decisive seats of political life in the area. The “Colchis Kingdom” in the 6th –1st centuries B.C., within whose boundaries the territory of modern Abkhazia supposedly was, relates to the number of historical myths, designed by scientists and politicians from the end of the thirties of the current century (“epoch of Lavrenty Beria”). At the turn of the 4th-3rd centuries B.C. (on the basis of the symbiosis of the Hellenisized military-agricultural native summit and “the new aristocracy” in the visage of the trade-handicraft elite of Dioscuriada) in the maritime area of central Abkhazia a Hellenic state (“kingdom”) sprang up with a tyrannical ruling system. At the end of the 2nd century B.C. the examined territory was included in the composition of the Pontiisk kingdom of Mitridat VI Eupator. He aided the organisation of the Dioscuriada mint, whose products where current all over the Black Sea area.

The oldest early-class states of Abkhazians were the “kingdoms” of Sanigia, Apsilia and Abazgia, noted in sources of information since the 1st century A.D. and enveloping the entire territory of the present Republic of Abkhazia. This state was politically dependent on the Roman Emperors, who affirmed the local tsars and controlled them through the maritime settlements of Sebastopolis (ancient Dioscuriada) and Pitiunt, where a garrison of Roman soldiers was quartered. After the transfer of the capital of the Empire to Constantinople, the political, economic and cultural Roman-Byzantine presence in the area was strengthened. In the first half of the 6th century A.D., on the eve of the invasion of the Persians and their North-Caucasian allies into Colchis, Byzantine attempted to unite the parent-Abkhazian nationalities (Apsils, Abazgs, Misimians, etc.) and the West Kartvels (Lazks, Svans) within the framework of a vassal buffer formation – the Lazsk kingdom. For two-three decades a situation took shape in Colchis similar to that of the mid-20th century – the Abkhazians, on autonomous principles, entered the state of the western Kartvels – Lazys, which in turn became practically part of Byzantine Empire. After the victory over the Persians, Byzantine sensibly rejected the “matriarchy” principle and administratively levelled the nationalities living here within the framework of their own imperial borders. During the following 200-odd years the territory of Abkhazia was included in the eastern Black Sea province of the Empire and was considered to be a part of the “Roman land”.

Victory over the Arabs at the walls of Anakopia (modern Novy Afon), the main fortress of the Abazgs, was conducive to a new unification forming of the whole of Colchis under the rule of the Byzantine protégé Leon I Abazg. The nephew of the latter, Leon II, at the end of the 8th century A.D. taking advantage of a weakening Empire and the strengthening of the Khazar rule, proclaimed his independence and transferred the capital of the Abkhazian kingdom to ancient Kutaisi. The next 200 years were an epoch of blossoming for the Christian Abkhazian kingdom, keeping allied relations of Byzantine, and gradually absorbing the majority of the east Georgian lands within its political limits. In the 10th century Abkhazia bordered with Armenia on the south-east.

From the end of the 10th century representatives of the South-Georgian Bagratid family were affirmed on the Abkhazian throne. They did not leave any telling imprints on the direction and quality of the state policy and its name. “The Kingdom of Abkhazians and Kartvles” acquired a final federal structure during the time of David IV Stroitel, when the capital of the kingdom was transferred to Semi-Muslim Tiflis. Strictly, Abkhazians, as before, presented a clearly expressed autonomous political structure. For a big part of the 11th century it was occupied by Byzantine, and in the 12th-13th centuries Tskhumi-Sukhum served as the residence of the ruling princes Chachba (Shervashidze).

The late Middle Ages history (14th-17th centuries) of the Abkhazian principality is a chronicle of the desperate struggle of its administration and people for the preservation of the independence from the Megrel and Imereti rulers who repeatedly endured defeat and had to turn to the Kartlian tsars (modern East Georgia) for help in suppressing the Abkhazians. The territory controlled by the Abkhazian princes now narrowed, now widened again, but not once were the demonstrative Georgians or others able to announce that Abkhazia had ended its autonomous existence. Even the building of the biggest defensive-delimitation construction of the Caucasus across the principality during the period of the 30-years Abkhaz-Megrel war – the 60-kilometre long Kelasuri (Grand Abkhazian) wall, undertaken during the second quarter of the 17th century by the rulers of Megrelia with the aim of fortifying “Upper Abkhazia” for themselves, could not subjugate the Abkhazians; they took this menacing obstacle by storm and restored their ancient political and ethnic borders up to the river Ingur.

The 17th – beginning of the 19th centuries was a time of growing political contacts with the Osman (Ottoman) Empire, whose government, with the aim of spreading its influence in the Caucasus, placed its stake namely on Abkhazia, bearing its special position in the region in mind. The Turkish Garrison was quartered in Sukhum-Kale and Anakopia. At the end of 18th century the Abkhazian principality was headed by Keleshbei Chachba comprising 25000 soldiers out of whom 600 were on military galleys, cruising along the coastline, keeping the inhabitants from Batumi to Gelenjik in constant terror.

The far-seeing politician Keleshbei, at the cost of his own life, placed the Abkhazian principality within the bounds of the Russian state (the manifesto was signed by Alexander I in 1810) as an autonomy, which it preserved up to 1864. Later Abkhazia was renamed a Sukhum military department, with a direct Russian administrative rule. In 1883 the “department” now as a “province” entered the composition of the Kutaisi military region. Cities were built, roads laid, electric stations, schools, libraries, hospitals and theatres constructed, their own Abkhazian written language was compiled on the basis of Russian graphics, and their own gifted intelligentsia appeared – teachers, literary men, artists, military men, officials. The widowed Empress Maria Fyodorovna entered into morganatic marriage with Abkhazian Prince Georgi Chachba. In a special appeal, Emperor Nicholas II in 1907 lifted the “guilt” of the Abkhazians, levelling them in rights with all the citizens in the Empire.

The Abkhazian “hundred” accomplished many heroic exploits on the fronts of the First World War. That is how the premises of the national resurrection of the Abkhazians were formed.

In March 1917 a Provisional Government of their own was set up in the Sukhum district. Seven months later the districts entered the federal foundation in the south-east union of Cossack soldiers, the mountain dwellers of the Caucasus and the free people of the steppe. That is when the declaration on self-government and the constitution founded on this principle were adopted. In June 1918 the Sukhum district was occupied by the Georgian expeditionary detachments of General Mazniev (Mazniashvili). A year later the name “Abkhazia” was restored, however subsequent attempts for a legal registration of the Abkhazian “autonomy” within the framework of the Georgian Democratic Republic were unsuccessful.

In March 1921 the Abkhazian “Kiaraz” detachments, supported by units of 9th Red Army, liberated their own area, following which the independence of the Abkhazian SSR was proclaimed. A year later, under pressure of Josiph Stalin, the Abkhazian SSR and the Georgian SSR signed a federal agreement which, in 1931, was violated (Stalin was actively aided in this by a native of Abkhazia, Lavrenty Beria). The result was that Abkhazia, as an autonomous republic, was included in the composition of “unitary” Georgia. From the thirties a forced Georgianization of Abkhazia became one of the chief functions of the administrative system of Georgia: even during the heat of battle with the Nazis (World War II) for the Caucasus, providing for refugees arriving in Abkhazia from the east was a primary task. To the same aim was the eviction of the Greeks from there in 1949. About the unfavourable changes for the Abkhazians in the demographic sense in Abkhazia during the last 100 years can be ascertained from the following table:

Years:

1886

1897

1926

1939

1959

1970

1989

Abkhazians

58,963

58,697

55,918

56,197

61,193

83,097

93,267

Georgians

4,166

25,875

67,494

91,967

158,221

213,322

239,872

Russians

971

5,135

20,456

60,201

86,715

79,730

74,913

Armenians

1,049

6,552

30,048

49,705

64,400

73,000

76,541

Greeks

2,149

5,393

27,085

34,621

9,111

13,000

14,664

The colonial regime and systematic infringement on the national dignity aroused repeated mass protests and demands on the restoration of the status of the twenties and of the transfer of Abkhazia into the structure of the Russian Federation. On August 25, 1990 the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia adopted a Declaration on the state sovereignty of the Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic. In March 1991, at the referendum held on the future of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Abkhazia declared for an equal place in its structure, while Georgia voted for its disintegration.

* * *

And so, the question: “Abkhazians, who are they?” can be briefly replied to the following way: Abkhazians are not biologically or historically distinct from other people on Earth, comprising an equal part of human society. But the special feature of the Abkhazians is in that their language, not changed during thousand of years, does not recur anywhere else in the world, and especially in that they preserve the language that has long since died out on related territories of Eurasia … For millions of years nature has gathered diverse samples of her creations in this reverse spot. These are deposits of ancient oceans – limestone in whose compactness the deepest and widest caves in Eurasia are hidden, and the unique flora of over 60 varieties of plants that have not been preserved anywhere else, and containing the biggest beech and fir trees in the whole world, and the Abkhazian bee with the world’s longest proboscis. In line of these relics is the Abkhazian language, a lingo relic of West Caucasia. In a moment of the profound fragility of the socio-economic system of life on an enormous scale, enveloping the territory of the former USSR and its satellite, the multinational population of little Abkhazia courageously overcomes national bitterness “brewed” on historical forgetfulness and isolation, trusting in its prayers to God, its geographical position and its good sense, common to mankind, which so far successfully co-operates of our common survival in this grim and yet so beautiful world.

Be happy, Abkhazia!

Epilogue to the Second Edition

This work was written to the order of the editorial staff of the international annual “Science and Humanity” at the end of 1991. But it was published in Sukhum on the eve of the invasion of the Shevardnadze formations. The greater part of the edition was destroyed by the invaders and the text was subjected to the ignorant criticism in the newspaper “Democratic Abkhazia”.


Recognition of all the legislative acts of the former USSR and the Georgian SSR had became invalid, back with the realities of the civil war in Russia of 1918-1920, Abkhazia, willing to fill the legal vacuum abolished the corresponding Stalin’s and Berya’s document of 1931 on the Abkhazia’s enjoyment the rights of an autonomous republic within Georgia putting “The country of Apsuaa” (Apsny) beyond the borders of the later.

The highest spheres of the world community the disintegration of the USSR had generated from and the party administrations of Union Republics took no notice of the former of autonomous formations beyond the Russian Federation. Consequently, the Georgian authorities had faced the problem of “territorial integrity” with two possible ways: either to recognise the Republic of Georgia as a federal state or to conquer again the seceded territory.

Having come to power through the blood coup the General-Traitor Shevardnadze, instead of civilised procedures has chosen the second way – by force. With a support of the UNO and a number of the leading states (USA, Germany, Turkey, Russia) thankful to Shevardnadze for his accomplice of the chaos in the USSR, the later got his “portion” of the Soviet arms and moved his stormers to Abkhazia on 14th August of 1992 for forage and murder.

Autumn, winter, spring and summer of 1992-1993 had turned the recently flourishing health resort republic – the “All-Union pearl” into the zone of large scale ecological catastrophe, having divided the 70 year peaceful Abkhazia into three parts: Gudauta and Gagra regions, blockaded mountainous part of the Ochamchira region including Tkvarchal and the occupied seaside from Sukhum to Ochamchira.

Shevardnadze’s envoys – Ioseliani and Kitovany, like locusts had attacked Abkhazia with a licence to shoot suppress and rob the multiethnic population of Abkhazia, the place, where hundreds were killed, every fiftieth wounded, exiles and every fourth robbed within 8 months.

Thousands of civilians were tortured for their convictions, national belonging, weakness of will, being young or old age. The people were beaten up, raped, stabbed, burned out, ignored; gardens and crops destroyed, citizens were forced to loud their belongings into the plunderer’s vehicles; ransom was taken for preservation of the children’s lives and vanished ones. Many villages were wiped off, the city of Sukhum was destroyed and looted as well. Dozens of architectural monuments were destroyed and disfigured; the Abkhazian State Archives, the Abkhazian Institute of Language Literature and History, the Republican Library ruined; the Russian Drama Theatre burned out; museums, institutes, schools, libraries, private archives, factories, undertakings and trade institutions looted; pianos, tape recorders, pictures, mirrors, books and furniture shot through.

With the blessings of Shevardnadze the greatest tragedy had happened in the Dal Gorge, where on 14th December 1992 the Russian helicopter MI-8 with more than 60 people on board: 13 pregnant, 28 children and other ones perished. The burnt down bodies were rummaged in search for gold teeth, rings and other “trophies”. Politicians of Russia and other countries have forgiven their social ally Shevardnadze this very crime too.
All this wild rivalry to the Abkhazian land collapsed, because “Abkhazia is not Georgia”. Abkhazians, Russians, Georgians, Armenians, Greeks and other citizens of the republic demonstrated a rare tolerance and formed a community against the disintegration of the USSR. Shevardnadze’s intellect has given birth to monsters, subjecting the population of Abkhazia to torments.

But Abkhazia is alive. In these difficult conditions shortages the Abkhazians, Armenians, Kabardins, Adygs, Chechens and other representatives of ethnic groups side by side with the Abkhazians resisted the enemy demonstrating heroism and human solidarity to the country in misfortune. Collective of staple products is being organised everywhere. Moral support of the fighting people of Abkhazia for their freedom and justice is broadening. There will be a day on this blessed land of Apsny as soon as the alliance arose by there current redivision of the world will be settled down and all over the arc of instability and calamity will be restored from the Balkan to the Pamirs.

Epilogue to the English Edition

Late in April, 1993, the Parliamentary delegation of the Republic of Abkhazia (consisting of Mr. S. Lakoba, Mrs. L. Kvarchelia and author himself) visited the UK with the aim to inform the governmental organisations on the situation in Abkhazia and gave a file in the war communiqué. Meetings were held at the British Parliament, Foreign Ministry, the London, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, in the Edinburgh and Kilmarnockas well with the participation of intergovernmental and human rights organisation. Documents witnessing the Shevardnadze regime, that runs counter to the main principles of the Universal Human Rights Declaration were distributed among listeners.

During the talks, it was repeatedly pointed out that Abkhazia bear the same relation to the NATO countries as the UK does; that in the 1st century B.C. both Abkhazia and England were within the borders of the Roman Empire; that volunteers speaking diverse languages came into fight in Abkhazia; that they were on the same mission as the well-known poet Lord Byron, who died for the liberty of Greece; that even in 1862 the Abkhazian delegation held talks with the Prime-Minister of the UK Mr. Lord Palmerson in London; that in 1919 English General Briggs not only recognised, the right of Abkhazians to determine their fate independently, but set up the British Representation in Sukhum, the capital of Abkhazia as well.

People everywhere tried to get deep into the matter and offer something to help the people of Abkhazia – with kind words, money, medicine and i.e.
The year of hostilities made the small coastal republic known to the world and establish fraternal relationship beyond its bounds with scholars, politicians, scientists, artists, business people and ordinary ones.

As an equal member of the UNPO, Abkhazia de facto joined independent political unitys of the world community.

Joint efforts of the people of good will, who represent different countries and the ability to govern had been laid down in the grounds of the Abkhazian statehood promoted the liberation of Sukhum, capital of Abkhazia, on 27th September 1993 and later reach the river Ingur, that borders neighbouring Mingrelia and Georgia with Abkhazia.

However the victory did not bring peace to the long-suffering land. Having failed to suppress people of Abkhazia, Shevardnadze called his confederates from Russia and UNO for help, some of them ventured to accuse Abkhazia of the aggression and occupation of their own capital and territory. The government of Russia imposed the blockade having deprived the small Abkhazia with hundred thousands of old people, women and children of electricity, bread, water, medicine, fuel and other means of vital necessity. The Russian-Abkhazian border on the river Psou was turned into a dirty business to profit at the Abkhazians misfortunes; that is temporary closing of economic structure and preservation of the conditions of war, criminal and gang’s activity which is continuation of the acts of Shevardnadze’s guardsmen in Abkhazia as robbery, violence and killings.

The government of Abkhazia together with the citizens of Abkhazia, at the expense of losses managed to stabilise the situation preventing people from plunging them into new clashes, convincing the international missions (JEO, USA, Congress, CSCE and i.e.) of the necessity to recognise the Republic of Abkhazia as an equal party at war, able to join the round table talks. On the 30th of November the first round table talks were held in Geneva to find ways to establish peace in the region.

The negotiations continued in Moscow, Geneva, New York, Sochi. Vladislav Ardzinba, head of the Republic of Abkhazia visited Switzerland and USA held a briefing at the UN headquarters in Geneva, created a favourable impression with his European manners and ways of thinking. In May 1994 in Krasnodar an agreement was signed on Abkhazia’s entry into the association of the Republics, Krais and Regions of the North Caucasus and the South of Russia. At the end of June the CIS peace-keeping forces were deployed along the Abkhazian-Georgian border on the Ingur River.

The Abkhazian side proceed from the very fact of the existence of the independence from Georgia, the state that emerged after the collapse of the USSR – the Republic of Abkhazia gained the right to self-government as Georgia together with the world community declared all the legislative acts and the constitution of the soviet period invalid having done with the juridical document that included Abkhazia within the bounds of Georgia.

The main condition to provide cease fire, in the region is to recognise the right of Abkhazians to hold referendum to determine their own fate and the status and ensures the observation of the Universal Human Rights Declaration and other international acts that protect the rights of the states, communities and people. That might has been a position taken by the UNO under the influence of the doubtful charm of Shevardnadze appraising Abkhazia as illegitimate within the countries of terrestrial globe, but it does not mean that the country is to be eliminated. Abkhazia exists, this very fact is to be recognised in accordance with moral and cultural standards common to all mankind.

The English speaking countries today have their particular responsibility and abilities to get knowledge on the subject, the implementation of which serve God and the interest of people.

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