Ekho Kavkaza — For several months, the Abkhaz Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Minister Inal Ardzinba have been levelling accusations of anti-state activities against Abkhaz NGOs. The minister's subordinates have taken to social networks, posting financial documents of these organisations without further explanation. In similar fashion, Abkhazian ambassadors in various countries, like Zaur Gvadzhava in Venezuela, are disseminating statements that blame NGOs for local issues such as ruin, poverty, and corruption, urging action against them. NGO representatives claim that the Ministry's staff are intentionally misleading the public by falsely associating them with the goals of international organisations unrelated to their actual projects. Tatyana Gulia, with nearly thirty years at the Abkhazian Embassy in Moscow and a deep understanding of the Ministry and embassy operations, shared her insights on this campaign with Echo of the Caucasus.
Elena Zavodskaya: Tatyana, we are witnessing a concerted effort by the Abkhazian authorities, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Minister Inal Ardzinba, to discredit Abkhaz NGOs. What are your thoughts on this campaign?
Tatyana Gulia: Regrettably, Abkhazia's current rulers are misusing their power, not for the nation's benefit or constructive endeavours, but rather for dismantling our economy and political fabric. We're observing a deliberate effort to erode the internal cohesion between the government and society. They're resorting to tactics reminiscent of the Inquisition and Stalin's era. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has turned into a tool for sowing division within society, falsely accusing citizens and the Abkhaz community of Russophobia, thereby fuelling the very issue they denounce.
Having spent many years at the Abkhazian Embassy in Russia, you are intimately familiar with the operations of both the Ministry and its representations. How do these actions align with the Ministry's intended role?
- In my view, Foreign Minister Inal Ardzinba and the Ministry under his guidance have strayed from their essential duties. Government and presidential directives that should guide the Ministry's actions are being ignored. Engaging in witch hunts is certainly not within their remit. The minister is not acting alone but through his subordinates, like Milana Khashba, who, under the guise of combating NGOs, levies baseless accusations against well-respected figures in Abkhaz society.
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Recently, we have seen statements from various Abkhazian embassies, such as in South Ossetia, Syria, and Venezuela, accusing NGOs. What does this signify?
- The minister has now enlisted ambassadors, his subordinates, to issue eerily similar and odd statements. Such actions are not typical functions of any embassy, just as witch hunts are not tasks for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This ineffective witch hunt should be halted, as it could lead to severe societal repercussions. We must avoid a repeat of the tragedies of the 1930s.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is targeting specific individuals, including NGO representatives and independent journalists, who hold significant societal esteem. Why do you think this is happening?
- It seems that Foreign Minister Inal Ardzinba is either unaware of or chooses to ignore the achievements of those he slanders. Take Liana Kvarchelia, for example, who contributed significantly during and post-war, including her work at the Republic of Abkhazia's mission in the Russian Federation. I personally know of her role as personal interpreter for Vladislav Ardzinba in meetings with foreigners. Izida Chania, a dedicated patriot of Abkhazia, is another such individual. Inal Ardzinba’s reluctance to recognise and respect not just the Abkhaz people but the entire societal fabric is troubling. Who will be next? Another NGO member, a journalist, perhaps even myself? It's uncertain.
Left to right: the late Yuri Kalmykov, Natella Akaba, Prof. John Colarusso, President Jimmy Carter, Galina Kalimova, Prof. George Hewitt, Liana Kvarchelia, the late Yahya Kazan(ba). Carter Center, Atlanta U.S.A., February 1993.
Tatyana, is there a solution to this current crisis?
- Abkhaz society, particularly the intelligentsia, must unite and engage in a serious dialogue, not only with the Foreign Minister, who is neglecting his duties, but also with the broader authorities. It's vital to remind these figures, who seem to have forgotten their roots, of Abkhazia's distant past and the events of the 1990s. Sadly, the current government is exploiting societal divisions, intent on further fragmenting and eroding not only Abkhaz traditions but those of our diverse, multi-ethnic society.
This article was published by Ekho Kavkaza and is translated from Russian.