Report No: 8, December 2009
The break-up of the Soviet Union had far-reaching consequences on Turkey’s close neighborhood. The business minded population of the Turkish Back Sea cities, helped by the geographical and cultural proximity, started penetrating into their rediscovered neighborhood. In the 90’s, Abkhazia rose as a major destination for people and commodities originating from the Turkish Black Sea coast. A bus connection was established between Trabzon and Sukhum. Some 3000 Turkish businessmen, most of them of ethnic Abkhazian origin, left in the early 90’s for Sukhum. The establishment of a direct maritime connection between Sukhum and Trabzon in 1994 sustained a continuous flow of passengers. A ferry called Ritza operates twice a week between Trabzon and Sukhum till 1996. The ferry was usually fully booked.
Turkish businessmen of the Black Sea coast and members of the Diaspora recall that the journeys were comfortable and enjoyable. Chains of forced and sometimes semi-voluntary mass migrations formed the present day North Caucasian Diaspora in Turkey. Today, there are more Abkhazians in Turkey than in Abkhazia and more North West Caucasians than in the North West Caucasus. The Georgian-Abkhaz war helped to transform the Diaspora into a political factor in the context of relations between Turkey and Abkhazia. A modern, post-Cold War wave of cultural and political awareness has been developing among the Diaspora sustained by the increased cultural, political and economic relations with Abkhazia.
TEPAV - The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey
ORSAM - Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies