Viacheslav Chirikba: "I repeatedly urged the authorities, but nothing was done"

Professor Viacheslav Chirikba, a distinguished linguist and former Foreign Minister of Abkhazia.

Professor Viacheslav Chirikba, a distinguished linguist and former Foreign Minister of Abkhazia.

SUKHUM / AQW'A — More than 200 works were saved from the fire in the Central Exhibition Hall of the Union of Artists of Abkhazia, where the entire collection of the National Art Gallery is stored. However, artists and experts say that the most valuable pieces were lost. Among the significant losses is the entire collection of paintings by the first professional Abkhazian artist Alexander Shervashidze-Chachba, a grievous blow to the nation's artistic legacy.

In a poignant interview with Abaza-TV, Viacheslav Chirikba, the head of the Center for Strategic Research at the President of the Republic of Abkhazia, expressed his profound dismay over the incident. 

"Last year, I repeatedly urged the republic's authorities to move Alexander Shervashidze-Chachba's works from the "storage" to a safer place, suggesting the creation of a separate museum for the artist. There was a fire in the "storage" in 2014, but it was contained. I warned that next time we might not be so lucky, and we could lose our treasure, as a fire in the storage was only a matter of time. But nothing was done. A few months ago, sensing something might happen, I approached the authorities in Sukhum, urgently requesting to find a location for the safe storage of the works of the world-famous artist. Again, nothing came of it! Thus, we lost the chance to save our treasure."

+ Black Sunday: 21 January 2024, by Viacheslav Chirikba
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+ Irresponsibility and Neglect: The Tragedy of Abkhazia’s National Art Gallery

"We need to understand this and talk honestly about our problems. The problem with the Abkhaz language is not getting better, it's getting worse. The issues with Abkhazian demography and drug addiction are overwhelming the youth. The situation with the gallery reflects similar issues with language and demography, as well as with culture and its funding. The Abkhazian state was established to preserve the entire Abkhaz ethnicity, including our culture and language."
Viacheslav Chirikba

Chirikba, who has dedicated over three decades to collecting materials for a biography of Shervashidze-Chachba's life and work abroad, shared his vision of donating these resources, along with his personal collection of the artist's graphics and paintings, to a house-museum dedicated to Shervashidze-Chachba.  

"The same desire to contribute to the artist's museum, if it were to open, was expressed by his great-granddaughter Tatiana, the custodian of her great-grandfather's archive, and by the widow of Bochi Adzhindzhal, a researcher of the artist's work who had amassed a rich archive related to his life and art. But now it's clear that the Alexander Shervashidze-Chachba house-museum will never be created. All of his works stored in the in the Central Exhibition Hall in Sukhum – about 300 priceless pieces desired by many world museums – were destroyed on that black Sunday, January 21, 2024," said Viacheslav Chirikba.

This incident underscores the importance of safeguarding cultural and historical treasures and serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of our shared artistic heritage.




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