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On the Historical Symbolism of the State Flag of the Republic of Abkhazia

Flag of Abkhazia

The open white palm on the red background is a symbol of Abkhazian statehood, which was formed at the time of the Abkhazian Kingdom (VIII-X centuries) and encompasses twelve centuries. Such a representation is attested on the coloured Genoese “portalans” (sea-charts) of the XIII-XIV centuries. A dark-red flag with white palm flew in the Middle Ages above the town of Sebastopolis (otherwise San-Sebastian and the classical Dioskuria, which was founded by the ancient Greeks in the VI-V centuries BC), on which site stands today’s capital of Abkhazia, the city of Sukhum.

The seven 5-pointed stars above the palm are the seven main regions of historical Abkhazia: Sadzen (Dzhigetia), Bzyp, Gwmaa, Abzhwa, Samurzaq’an, Dal-Ts’abal, Pshwy-Aybga. These incorporated the ethnic territory of the Abkhazians from the River Xosta (frontier with the Ubykhs) down to the River Ingur (frontier with Mingrelia) and from the Black Sea to the Caucasus Mountains. Apart from this, the number ‘7’ for Abkhazians (as for many other peoples) is viewed as sacred and is widely attested in their religion, mythology and traditional culture. Also endowed with esteem is the constellation known commonly by the title “The Seven Brothers”.

The  5-pointed  star  is  widespread  among  the Abkhazians  as  an  ancient  astrological symbol. It is found, moreover, on the antique amphors of the Apsilians, the ancestors of the Abkhazians, mentioned by Graeco-Roman authors in the I-II centuries AD.
 
At  the same time the proportions of the flag, the number of stars and the sequence of green-white  stripes  reflect  the  fundamental  look  of  the  historical  flag  of  the independent  North  Caucasus  Republic  (known  in  the  literature  as  the  Mountain Republic), which was proclaimed on 11 May 1918 and which existed for one year. At that period seven states were included in  the composition of  the Mountain Republic: Daghestan,  Chechen-Ingushia,  Ossetia,  Abkhazia,  Kabarda,  Adygheia,  Karachay-Balkaria. However, already  in  the second half of June l918 Abkhazia,  though part of the Mountain Republic, was  occupied  (and  remained  occupied  until February  l921) by  the military  forces of  the Georgian Democratic Republic;  in February  l931, with the active participation of Stalin and Beria, Abkhazia was annexed by Soviet Georgia.  The green-white sequence of seven stripes (four green, three white) is an indication of the  religious  tolerance  of  the  Caucasian  peoples  in  the minds  of  whom  Islam  (the green)  peacefully  coexists  with  Christianity  (the  white).  Abkhazia,  as  an  ancient Christian land from  the IV century,  together with  two others (Ossetia and Kabarda), was represented on the flag of the Mountain Republic by a white stripe.
 
The modern flag of the Republic of Abkhazia, approved by its Parliament in Sukhum on  23  July  l992,  symbolises  the  fundamental  stages  in  the  development  of  the statehood of  the Abkhazian nation, one of  the oldest autochthonous ethnic groups of the  Caucasus,  whose  language,  culture  and  traditions  are  especially  close  to  and cognate with  those of  the North Caucasian peoples,  in particular  the Abazinians,  the Adyghes and the Ubykhs. 

 

 
Description of the National Coat-of-arms of the Republic of Abkhazia
 
The coat-of-arms  takes  the  form of a  shield, divided vertically  into equal  sectors of white and green. The outline and central design of the composition are golden.
 
At the base of the arms is set an 8-pointed star.
 
In the upper portion of both the white and green sectors are set symmetrically two 8-pointed golden stars.
 
At  the centre of  the arms  is  the  figure of a horseman,  flying on  the  fabulous  steed, Arash, and shooting an arrow  towards  the stars. This subject of  the arms is linked  to an episode in the heroic epic of the Abkhazians, the Narts.
 
The green symbolises youth and life, the white -- spirituality.
 
The  large  golden  8-pointed  star  is  a  sign  of  the  sun.  The  small  8-pointed  stars symbolise the union of the two cultural worlds  of East and West.

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