Abkhazia: a problem of identity and ownership
History and Documents
Central Asian Survey, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 267–323, 1993
by George B. Hewitt
The Abkhazians living in Turkey have preserved very well the customs, language and dances carried there from Abkhazia by their ancestors. The etiquette of the Abkhazians (apswara) is strictly observed. Of late they have been asking us to send them copies of the alphabet, books, teaching manuals, films on Abkhazia, recordings of songs, language-primers. In hundreds of letters sent to the homeland there resounds a passionate longing to become acquainted with the life and culture of the Abkhazians residing in the motherland, and we believe that the time will soon come when many of them, setting foot on the soil of their forebears, will say: ‘Greetings, our father Caucasus, greetings, our mother Apsny!’...
The collective History of Abkhazia (in Russian), Sukhum, 1991, page 281.
The first variant of this paper was composed for The Nationalities’ Journal (New York) in the summer of 1991, when the ex-dissident and rabid demagogue Zviad Gamsakhurdia still headed the government in Tbilisi and before the Soviet regime had collapsed in the wake of the failed August coup. The second variant was an up-date to the middle of June 1992, taking account of events following the overthrow of Gamsakhurdia and the return to Georgia of former Party Boss Eduard Shevardnadze to head the (then still illegitimate) State Council. This variant was delivered at SOAS’ Conference on Transcaucasian Boundary Disputes (15 June) and will appear in the volume arising out of that conference. A further adaptation and up-date to 11 October 1992 (the day of Georgia’s ‘democratic’ elections in which Shevardnadze, being the only candidate for head of state, duly received his ‘personal triumph’) was prepared for submission to the Parliamentary Human Rights’ Group at the invitation of its chairman Lord Avebury. This variant took account of the open war that had broken out between Abkhazia and Georgia on 14 August and was without some of the academic notes and bibliography of its predecessors. The present version restoressome of those notes plus the bibliography, incorporates the English translation of certain relevant documents, expands the history (particularly for the years 1917-1921) and up-dates current events to the end of 1992.
B.G. Hewitt (Reader in Caucasian Languages),
SOAS, London University.
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