Review of Tom Trier, Hedgiv Lohm, David Szakonyi, 'Under Siege: Inter-Ethnic Relations in Abkhazia'
Hewitt, George (2011) Review of Tom Trier, Hedgiv Lohm, David Szakonyi, 'Under Siege: Inter-Ethnic Relations in Abkhazia'.
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 74 (1). pp. 150-152.
The more information provided to Western audiences about Abkhazia and its dispute with Georgia, the better, so that attitudes and policies can be predicated on facts rather than ignorance, as has regularly been the case. But not all works are necessarily (wholly) accurate in what they present to their readers. The present volume is a mixture of wheat and chaff, and the latter could easily have been winnowed out prior to publication.
Abkhazia achieved de facto independence from Georgia at the end of September 1993 after a 14-month war. Though official recognition was granted by Russia on 26 August 2008, and since then by three other states, most of the international community is not (yet) prepared to acknowledge Abkhazia’s de iure status. This needed to be stated once in the Introduction;
but inserting the words ‘de facto’ each time the country or one of its governmental posts is mentioned soon irritates the reader.
The authors’ fieldwork was conducted in 2007, and, unfortunately, some of their statements are out of date. Though I would advise those unfamiliar with the region to look elsewhere for background to the current situation, what the authors have to say about their central concern of inter-ethnic relations is perceptive and pertinent. Recognising the achievements made by Abkhazia, despite years of international sanctions and blockade, the authors address a wide range of issues that the authorities will eventually have to tackle. And, given the multi-ethnic makeup of Abkhazia’s population, the problems facing the Abkhazians do not solely concern relations with those remaining from the pre-war Kartvelian population, who are mostly Mingrelians largely confined to the southernmost province of Gal and whom, in line with norms in Georgia, the authors style Georgians.
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