SUKHUM / AQW'A — The day after the anniversary of the start of the Georgian-Abkhazian war, Abkhazia has been marking the Volunteer Day for over a decade, as the volunteer group from the North Caucasus arrived in Abkhazia on August 15.
This memorable day is dedicated to volunteers from the North Caucasus, and other countries who came to assist Abkhazia during the Patriotic War of the Abkhazian people in 1992-1993.
On August 15, 1992, on the second day of the Georgian-Abkhazian war, the very first group of volunteers from the North Caucasus, led by the Colonel of the Soviet Air Force, Sultan Sosnaliev, arrived in Gudauta. They had left on the "Ikarus" bus the previous night at 23:30 from Nalchik and managed to break through the Georgian paratroopers' cordon at Psou. Almost simultaneously, other volunteers began to arrive there, in the temporary capital of Abkhazia, in large groups on foot through the passes of the Main Caucasian Range. This became one of the turning points of the war, inspiring enormous strength and faith in victory among the Abkhazian warriors.
The President of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, addressed the volunteers, in which he stated:
"More than 2,000 volunteers participated in the Patriotic War of the Abkhazian people, of which over 259 heroically died on the battlefields... The heroism of the volunteers, forever adorning the glorious pages of Abkhazia's modern history, will serve as an example of bravery and selflessness for the younger generation."
During the war, representatives of various nationalities gave their lives: over 50 fighters from Chechnya, over 50 from Kabardino-Balkaria, 11 from Karachay-Cherkessia, eight from Ukraine, seven each from South Ossetia and Adygea, six each from North Ossetia and Turkey, four from Ingushetia, three from Syria, and also from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Estonia, Transnistria, and Poland. Moreover, 106 volunteers from different cities of Russia - from Moscow and St. Petersburg to Novosibirsk and Vladivostok - died defending Abkhazia. 51 volunteers were honoured with the title "Hero of Abkhazia", up to 300 people were awarded the Leon Order, and, 623 were honoured with the "For Courage" medal.
Circassian volunteer Arsen Efendiev and Polish volunteer Janusz Godawa and carrying the Abkhaz flag. September 1993.
On the eve, the Vladislav Ardzinba War Glory Museum in Abkhazia, in collaboration with the Centre for Strategic Studies under the President of Abkhazia, organised a round table dedicated to the role of volunteers in bringing Abkhazia closer to victory. Let's highlight excerpts from several speeches. The poet, one of the leaders of the Abkhazian national liberation movement, Gennady Alamia, emphasised that, in addition to the well-known names of North Caucasians who came to help Abkhazia, there were many people whom few remember:"We know Yusup Soslambekov, Musa Shanibov, Zaur Naloev I mentioned... But there are many people I knew, yet no one speaks of them. Take the head of the Nalchik airport. Instead of turning in Shamil (Basayev), who had to land in Nalchik on an AN-2 plane... with weapons, Nalchik being a peaceful city. But the airport chief made sure he was refuelled... the fuel had run out... refuelled and sent off. In any case, no matter what happens, however history might turn, without this fraternal shoulder, we will never achieve anything."
Alamia, being involved in the organisation of the volunteer movement, thanked the authoritative structures of Abkhazia that remember and support the volunteers and their families. Deputy of the parliament and former Prime Minister Leonid Lakerbaya continued on this topic:
"During the war, over 2,300 people came to fight as volunteers in Abkhazia. Of course, our state tried its best, despite the changes in the power structure and the country's leadership, to do what could be done. In the immediate post-war years, summer holidays in Abkhazia were organised for volunteers and their families. This continues to this day. On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the victory, many people are invited and are expected to come. The state did what it could. For example, since August 2008, the families of volunteers have been receiving our pension for the deceased. This took certain efforts, as it needed to be coordinated with the Russian side, and so on. But we found understanding there, and they started receiving this pension. Since 2009, living volunteers, such as pensioners, award recipients, and disabled, also began receiving pensions. The pensions aren't that large, unfortunately, but they exist in reality. We created a fund. We haven't achieved everything we aimed for, but I, for example, am happy that we were able to give Shanibov a worthy grave with the inscription 'From the grateful Abkhazian people'. I want to thank those who contributed funds. These were public funds. State funds were not used. We managed to do it... Now, when we visited families in the North Caucasus, the authorities helped us by allocating decent funds. The Abkhazian Maritime Shipping also assisted."
Doctor of Philological Sciences Lili Khagba, who has been researching the volunteer movement in Abkhazia since the beginning of the war, emphasised:
"The attitude towards the volunteer movement should not depend on the situation in Abkhazia, the system of power, and so on. We shouldn't show activity in one period and passivity in another... We should always pay attention to them, that's what I think."