Post-war Developments in the Georgian-Abkhazian Dispute, By George Hewitt - Parliamentary Human Rights Group, June 1996
The Parliamentary Human Rights Group
Aftermath of the war
4.Western bias towards Georgia
Appendix 1: Summary of important historical events
Appendix 2: Short chronicle of events during the 1992-93 war
Appendix 3: Translation of the Agreement signed in Moscow on 4th April 1994
Annex II: Quadripartite agreement on voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons signed on 4 April 1994
The Parliamentary Human Rights Group
The Parliamentary Human Rights Group was founded in 1976 as an independent forum in the British Parliament concerned with the defence of international human rights. Since 1976, its members have increased to a current level of 130 Parliamentarians from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. With the increase in numbers has come an increase in the range and extent of its activities. Members of the group represent all political parties, making the group broadly representative. The group undertakes human rights missions, publishes discussion papers, receives visitors and engages in dialogue with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
President The Rt Hon The Lord Braine of Wheatley PC (Conservative) Chairman Lord Avebury (Liberal) Vice Chairman Ann Clywd MP (Labour) Vice Chairman Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour) Vice Chairman Anthony Coombs MP (Conservative) Secretary Dr. Robert Spink (Conservative) Treasurer Lord St. John of Bletso
To increase awareness in Parliament, Britain and abroad generally of human rights abuses whenever they occur
To communicate to governments, their representatives in the United Kingdom and visiting delegations, the group's concern about violations of basic human rights
To work for the implementation by all governments of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of the UN Covenants on civil and political, and on economic social and cultural rights
For more information, contact Lord Avebury, Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group:
0171 274 4617
0171 738 7864
House of Lords
London SW1A OAA
George Hewitt is lecturer in Caucasian Languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and has travelled extensively in Georgia and Abkhazia since 1975. His publications include grammars of both languages and since 1985 he has published a number of articles on the politics of the region.
One of the new states to emerge from the break-up of the USSR in 1991 was the republic of Georgia in Transcaucasia, with a coast-line along the eastern littoral of the Black Sea. The north-western section of the republic had since 1931 consisted of the Abkhazian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Abkhazians are a North West Caucasian people (like the Circassians, Abazinians and Ubykh) and are totally unrelated to the Georgians, who are one of the four Kartvelian peoples (the others being Mingrelians, Svans and Laz). For a variety of reasons, which are extremely pertinent to the recent tragedy of the region, the Abkhazians had been reduced to just over 17% of the population of their ancestral homeland by the time of the last Soviet census in 1989. One consequence of the virulent chauvinism which characterised the unofficial, anti-communist leadership that became ever more vocal and powerful in the Georgian independence-movement from 1988 were the ethnic clashes which occurred in Abkhazia (specifically the capital Sukhum and the southern town of Ochamchira) on 15-16th July 1989. With independence for Georgia and one of the leading demagogues, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, as president, tensions between Sukhum and the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, continued to worsen. Gamsakhurdia was ousted as a result of intra-Kartvelian feuding in January 1992, and the former General Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party (1972-85), Eduard Shevardnadze, who had come to world-prominence as Soviet Foreign Minister (1985-90), returned to his former fiefdom in March. The result for Abkhazia, when Shevardnadze sent in his forces on 14th August, was a devastating war.
That war ended in total Georgian defeat and humiliation on 30th September 1993. It is with events since that defeat that the following paper is concerned. Those interested in a detailed discussion of the background to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict should consult my 1993 article, which takes the conflict upto the end of 1992 and includes among its appendices the English translations of both the Constitution of the Confederation of (Mountain) Peoples of the Caucasus and the draft-treaty proposed before the war by the Abkhazians for confederal union with Georgia - a variant bringing the conflict upto the start of 1994 but minus its forerunner's appendices came out in Wright et al. (1996). Another discussion, but with differing emphasis, is available in my first 1995 article. Rachel Clogg (1995) translated some highly revealing old KGB materials relating to Georgian activity in Abkhazia in the 1940s, and my own further translations of relevant materials are available this year (1996). Those wishing to find out more about Mingrelians and their language can consult my second 1995 publication.
A brief list of important events relating to the history of Abkhazia is given in Appendix 1. In Appendix 2 there is the English translation of a shortened version of a piece 'Chronicle of the Patriotic War' which appeared in the Abkhazian newspaper 'Abkhazia' on 30th September 1994 - this translation, together with the original Abkhaz and a vocabulary, will appear in George Hewitt and Zaira Khiba's 'An Abkhaz Newspaper Reader' (to appear in December 1996). Appendix 3 is the English version of the important agreement between the Abkhazians and the Georgians, signed in Moscow on 4th April 1994. Read more...