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David Schaich 13 May 2005 Abkhazia: Nationalism, Conflict and History What is to be the future of this Earthly Paradise?

1 As the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) spiraled toward collapse in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were widespread fears that the breakup of the country would be accompanied by widespread violence, as proved the case in Yugoslavia. Unlike Yugoslavia, however, the USSR had thousands of nuclear warheads, huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and dozens of nuclear power stations. As a result, civil war or anarchy in the Soviet Union had far more terrifying implications than civil war in the Balkans.2 Although potential doomsday scenarios were fortunately avoided, the dissolution of the USSR was still marked by some violence, especially in the troubled region of Transcaucasia. Although only a small corner of the former Soviet Union, Transcaucasia is both densely populated and ethnically diverse, containing a full quarter of the ethnically-based territorial units that made up the former USSR.3 As in the Balkans, Transcaucasia's post-Communist development has been scarred by widespread conflict, instability, separatism, civil war and alleged ethnic cleansing that has affected all of the countries in the region. In the West, the best known Transcaucasian conflict is Chechenia's attempt to secede from the Russian Federation. Russia's destructive invasions of the region and the Chechens' use of terrorism has attracted widespread attention and concern. Although not as wellknown, a similar conflict in nearby Abkhazia is just as serious. In Soviet times, Abkhazia was an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR). Stretching from the eastern shore of the Black Sea up into the Caucasus
1 Douglas Freshfield quoted in George Hewitt (ed.), The Abkhazians: a handbook (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998), 6. 2 Edward W. Walker, Dissolution: Sovereignty and the Breakup of the Soviet Union (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003), 11-12. 3 See maps in Appendix A. In order of status, Transcaucasia contained 3 of 15 Union Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs), 8 of 21 Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics (ASSRs), 2 of 7 Autonomous Oblasts (AOs) and none of the USSR's ten Autonomous Okrugs (AOks).

Mountains, this Soviet Riviera4 was renowned for its beautiful mountain scenery, beaches and pleasant climate. After Georgia broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991, Abkhazia attempted to secede from the newly-independent country. In a bloody war in 1992-1993 that was allegedly accompanied by ethnic cleansing and caused the flight of around half of Abkhazia's population, separatists managed to drive Georgian forces out of the region. Although the Abkhazians have set up a government and maintained control of the region for more than a decade, their country has not been officially recognised by any government in the world. There are several features which make the Abkhazian conflict one of the most potentially explosive hotspots in the whole post-Soviet space.5 Abkhazia's success in

maintaining de facto independence from Georgia for so long has presented a major challenge to the latter country and has complicated negotiations seeking to reunify Abkhazia with Georgia. Tensions related to the continued plight of the refugees and alleged ethnic cleansing also obstruct negotiations and provide continued sources of conflict. Georgia's inability to maintain or regain control of its territory has led some to ask whether a state called 'Georgia' even exists today in any meaningful sense.6 Additionally, the role played by Russia in the conflict is controversial and potentially explosive. Many Georgians accuse Russia of

fomenting the Abkhaz rebellion in order to weaken independent Georgia and re-establish a sphere of influence in Transcaucasia. While it is true that many Abkhazians have obtained Russian citizenship and some Russian soldiers took part in fighting against the Georgians during the 1992-1993 war, conflict between Georgians and Abkhazians has a long history and cannot be blamed solely on
4 Bruno Coppieters, The Roots of the Conflict, in Jonathan Cohen (ed.), A Question of sovereignty: The GeorgiaAbkhazia peace process, (London: Conciliation Resources), 1999. http://www.c-r.org/accord/geor-ab/accord7/roots.shtml (Web site last accessed 12 May 2005) 5 Jurij Anchabadze, History: the modern period, in Hewitt, The Abkhazians, 146. 6 Charles King, Potemkin Democracy post-Soviet Georgia, The National Interest, Summer 2001. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2751/is_2001_Summer/ai_76560819/pg_3 (Web site last accessed 10 May 2005)

Russian machinations.

The primary causes of the conflict are Georgian and Abkhazian

nationalisms and the tensions between them, which date back to Tsarist times and for decades simmered under the surface of the Soviet Union's official ethnic harmony. Although Georgia, which was one of the countries most eager to break away from the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is relatively well-known in the West, Abkhazia and the Abkhazians have received much less attention. Accordingly, this paper will focus on the sources and historical development of Abkhazian nationalism and separatism ethnic and linguistic distinctiveness, the myth and legacy of independent Abkhazian states both before the Tsarist period and during the revolution, and the historical interactions between Georgians, Russians, Abkhazians and their respective states during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Georgian nationalism will also be considered, but not in such depth. Armed with a better understanding of the nature and sources of Abkhazian and Georgian nationalism, we will conclude by consider the development of the current conflict and assess some of the ways in which it may potentially be resolved. Ethnicity ...practically every modern war or interstate crisis is either the direct outcome of ethnic antagonisms, national sentiments, and the failure of ethnic congruence or of situations which... soon rouse latent ethnic sentiments and national fears.7 The Abkhazians' sense of themselves as an ethnic group distinct from Georgians is an important factor in their desire to separate from Georgia and create an ethnic homeland under their own control either an independent country or a sovereign and autonomous region within some federation. This sense of shared ethnicity springs from both cultural and historical sources. We shall follow A. D. Smith and consider an ethnic community a named
7 A. D. Smith. Ethnie and Nation in the Modenn World, Millenium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1985, 139.

collectivity sharing a common myth of origins and descent, a common history, one or more elements of distinctive culture [e.g., language], a common territorial association and sense of group solidarity.8 The Abkhazians' distinct language and long history of compact territorial settlement are the main ingredients in their sense of shared ethnicity. Abkhazian solidarity in opposition to a perceived Georgian threat is also important and will be considered later, in the general setting of Georgian-Abkhaz relations and the modern development of Abkhazian nationalism in the twentieth century. Less important are other cultural elements such as religion, dress, diet, music and folklore. Language and Culture In the ethnic and linguistic patchwork of the Caucasus, language is by far the most important cultural element in the formation of a sense of ethnicity. In the mountains,

languages are often confined to relatively small and distinct regions. The speakers of a particular language possess a strong sense of togetherness while at the same time feeling distinct from neighbours with different dialects. The Abkhazian language is a part of the Northwest Caucasus language group, which also includes Circassian languages such as Kabardian and Adyghe and the now-extinct Ubykh. Not coincidentally, these peoples are also the Abkhazians' closest ethnic relations. Northwest Caucasian languages and ethnic groups are commonly (though controversially9) merged with Daghestani languages and tribes to form a blanket North Caucasian group. Although in the past it was traditional combined North Caucasian languages and Georgian languages to form an even broader Caucasian language group, the general consensus today is that Abkhaz and the other North Caucasian languages have no genetic link with the Kartvelian (or South Caucasian) languages.10
8 Ibid., 128. 9 Cf. North Caucasian languages and Northwest Caucasian languages, Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Caucasian_languages (Web site last accessed 12 May 2005) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Caucasian_languages (Web site last accessed 12 May 2005) A hypothetical relationship between these languages and the Indo-European family is also a subject of debate. 10 George Hewitt, Introduction, in Hewitt, The Abkhazians, 13. See also Northwest Caucasian languages, Wikipedia, and related articles.

The Abkhazians also have other characteristic cultural traditions, traits and habits, but these are generally less important to their ethnic identity than is their distinct language. This is due in part to to the fact that many elements of their culture are shared by many of their neighbours. The basic characteristics of the Abkhazians' ethno-cultural makeup bring them close to the mountain-peoples of the North Caucasus... At the same time long proximity to, and contacts with, the Transcaucasian peoples have led to some intermingling of Abkhazian and Kartvelian cultures.11 These cultural characteristics are therefore less effective creating a sense of Abkhazian distinctiveness than are factors such as language and history. Since the focus in the recent past has been on the unique features of Abkhazians and their apartness from their neighbours, these cultural traditions have relatively little symbolic significance at present. Religion The Abkhaz are 80 per cent Christian, twenty per cent (Sunni) Muslim, and 100 per cent pagan!12 Another factor that has not played a major role in the development of an Abkhazian identity is religion. Although [d]uring the war between Georgia and Abkhazia in 1992-93, both members of the Georgian leadership, and much of the international press, initially at least, portrayed events as the struggle between Orthodox Christianity in Georgia and the secessionist Muslim Abkhaz ... in actual fact, religion played no part in the war.13 For one thing, it would be inaccurate to describe Abkhazians (even Abkhazian separatists) as predominantly Muslim. Although many Abkhazians converted to Islam in the 15th-17th

centuries when the region was under the control of the Ottoman Turks, Christianity (which had been officially adopted while the country was a part of the Byzantine Empire) by no
'Kartvelian' is the Georgian name for their ethnic group and is commonly used even by non-Georgian authors; in this paper it will be used interchangeably with 'Georgian'. 11 Jurij Anchabadze, Ethnic culture, in Hewitt, The Abkhazians, 241. 12 Stanislav Lak'oba paraphrased in Rachel Clogg, Religion, in Hewitt, The Abkhazians, 205. Between 20% and 40% of Abkhazians are officially Muslim, the remainder officially Christian. 13 Clogg, Religion, 214.

means disappeared. After Russia took control of the Caucasus during the nineteenth century, a large number of Muslims, including most of the Abkhaz population, were forced to emigrate to the Ottoman Empire and Christianity again became the most prominent religion.14

Figure 1: The current flag of Abkhazia, adopted 23 July 199215

However, throughout Abkhazia's history, the population's actual religious practices have been some mix of Christianity, Islam, and traditional customs and practices that predate the adoption of monotheism. The Abkhazians take pride in their religious pluralism, as can be seen from their current flag (above), in which the prominent green and white stripes represent harmony between Islam and Christianity. Despite well-known tensions between Islam and Christianity throughout the world, it seems true that the Abkhaz lack any sense of exclusive dogma or fundamentalism; individual religious difference is respected, and belonging to different denominations is seldom a reason for antagonism.16 There is a chance this situation may change if the large numbers of Abkhazians descended from those who fled to the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century immigrate into the country. This community, which lives primarily in Turkey (with smaller groups in Syria, Germany and the United States), consists mainly of practising Muslims and is four to
14 Cf. timeline in Appendix B. Anahide Ter Minassian (Nationalisme et Socialisme dans le Mouvement Revolutionnaire Armenien (1887-1912), in Transcaucasia: Nationalism and Social Change, edited by Ronald Grigor Suny (Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications, 1983), 145) estimates that half a million North Caucasian Muslims fled to the Ottoman Empire after 1864. 15 Image from Abkhazia (Georgia), Flagspot, http://flagspot.net/flags/ge-abkha.html (Web site last accessed 12 May 2005). The flag has several other layers of symbolic meaning that will be considered in later sections. 16 Clogg, Religion, 205-206.

five times the size of the Abkhazian population in Abkhazia itself.17 Common origins and history Abkhazia in ancient times Abkhazian statehood has existed for over 1,200 years, and Abkhazians have had to defend themselves against invaders on more than one occasion.18 The eastern shore of the Black Sea has long been a centre of human settlement. Archaeological records give evidence of human civilisation around the shores of the Black Sea dating back more than 5000 years.19 During the first millennium BCE, Abkhazia was a part of Colchis, famous from Greek mythology. Although little if anything is firmly known about the ethnic composition of these ancient residents of the area currently comprising Abkhazia and Western Georgia, both Abkhazians and Georgians are quick to claim them as their own. Abkhazians, for their part, sometimes refer to these ancient tribes as proto-Abkhazians20 and claim that since the second millennium BC the Western Caucasus had not witnessed any significant population-changes.21 The earliest real evidence of actual Abkhazians living in north-west Transcaucasia comes from the first millennium of the common era, especially the eighth century CE and later. Starting in the first century CE, the region was a part of first the Roman and then the Byzantine Empires, and there are references in Roman writings to 'Abazgians', 'Apsilians', and 'Abazas' living in the area.22 Although the region was technically a part of the

Roman/Byzantine Empire until the ninth century, it was effectively independent after the fourth century. Following an unsuccessful Arab invasion of the Caucasus that further

17 Cf. Ibid., 215. Abkhazians in Germany tend to be immigrants from Turkey. Abkhazians in the United States tend to be refugees from the Golan Heights, the center of the Syrian community prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. 18 Liana Kvarchelia, Georgia-Abkhazia Conflict: View from Abkhazia in Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of PostSoviet Democratization, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Winter 1998), 18. 19 Cf. Giorgij Shamba, On the track of Abkhazia's antiquity, in Hewitt, The Abkhazians, 49 and Abkhazia, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abkhazia (Web site last accessed 12 May 2005) 20 Abkhazia, Wikipedia (Web site last accessed 12 May 2005) 21 Vjacheslav Chirikba, The origin of the Abkhazian People, in Hewitt, The Abkhazians, 44. 22 Hewitt, Introduction, 14. Note that the Abkhazians refer to themselves as 'Apswa' and their country as 'Apsny'.

weakened Byzantine control, a relatively powerful Abkhazian Kingdom was established near the end of the eighth century. This Kingdom existed for some two centuries before merging with the Georgian Kingdom to the east. The Georgian Kingdom later began slowly

disintegrating following repeated Mongol and Timurid invasions, allowing the re-emergence of some independent Abkhazian principalities. The whole region was eventually incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. The existence of the independent Abkhazian Kingdom in the 8th-10th centuries is a critical component of the Abkhazians' 'common myth of origins and descent'. It is repeatedly invoked to establish the existence of an ancestral Abkhazia homeland and justify the Abkhazians' demand for autonomy or independence. The Act of State Independence of the Republic of Abkhazia, for instance, opens with the statement Abkhazian Statehood stretches over 12 centuries of history. For centuries the people of Abkhazia have had to struggle to preserve their independence.23 Similar statements can be found in many other writings by Abkhazians, who use it as a historical, objective justification for their struggle for secession from Georgia.24 Symbols from these independent Abkhazian states are also prominent on the Abkhazian flag. The seven stars in the upper-left corner represent the seven historical regions of the Abkhazian Kingdom, which cover roughly the same territory as the modern state. The white hand of friendship on a red background was the symbol of Sebastopol (now Sukhumi,
23 Act of State Independence of the Republic of Abkhazia, 12 October 1999. English translation available online at the Web site of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, of which Abkhazia is a member. http://www.unpo.org/news_detail.php?arg=03&par=705 (Web site last accessed 12 May 2005) 24 Levan Gigineishvili, Conflicting Narratives in Abkhazia and Georgia: Different Views of the Same History and the Quest for Objectivity, April 2003. http://gseweb.harvard.edu/~t656_web/peace/Articles_Spring_2003/ Gigineishvili_Levan_ConflictingNarrativesAbkhaziaGeorgia.htm (Web site last accessed 12 May 2005) See also: --Viacheslav Chirikba, Georgia and Abkhazia: Proposals for a Constitutional Model, in Bruno Coppieters, David Darchiashvili and Natella Akaba (eds.), Federal Practice: Exploring Alternatives for Georgia and Abkhazia (Brussels: VUB University Press, 2000), 247; --Svetlana Chervonnaya, Conflict in the Caucasus: Georgia, Abkhazia and the Russian Shadow (Glastonbury: Gothic Image, 1994), 75; --Kvarchelia, Georgia-Abkhazia Conflict, 18.

the capital of Abkhazia) in the Middle Ages and represented Abkhazia on Italian maps in the 13th and 14th centuries.25 Many Georgians contest this tale of ancient Abkhazian statehood and ethnic continuity. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, a theory was developed to the effect that the residents of these ancient states were really ethnic Georgians, who were later displaced by Abkhazians. The Abkhazians, it was claimed, migrated into the area from regions to the north during the period of Ottoman rule. Abkhazians (and all other minority groups) were

considered to be guests on territory that was organically Georgian and had been since time immemorial.26 Although this theory is most likely incorrect, it was endorsed by the

Communist Party in the 1940s and became especially popular in Georgia in the late 1980s and early 1990s, due in part to its embrace and espousal by Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a leader in the Georgian nationalist movement and the first President of independent post-Soviet Georgia.27 Abkhazia, Georgia, Russia and the Soviet Union Although the existence of a distinct Abkhazian language, homeland, historical story and resulting sense of ethnicity provided the sources of and fertile ground for Abkhazian nationalism, the actual development of Abkhazian nationalism and separatism during the last century and a half was highly dependent on Abkhazians' interactions and relations with their Russian and Georgian neighbours. Although Abkhazia was a centre of resistance to Russian rule in the Caucasus throughout much of the nineteenth century, by the early twentieth century Abkhazians seem to have concluded that Georgia posed a greater threat to their nation than did Russia. In the 1905 Revolution, Abkhazians generally supported the Tsarist regime, at least in part because Georgians tended to oppose it.28 To reward them for their
25 Hewitt, Introduction, 21. See also The Historical Symbolism of the Abkhazian National Flag, Abkhazia.org, http://www.abkhazia.org/flag.html (Web site last accessed 12 May 2005) 26 Kvarchelia, Georgia-Abkhazia Conflict, 20; Ronald Grigor Suny, The Making of the Georgian Nation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 325. 27 Hewitt, Introduction, 17-19 and Stanislav Lak'oba, History: 1917-1989, in Hewitt, The Abkhazians, 96. 28 See Stanislav Lak'oba, History: 18th century-1917, in Hewitt, The Abkhazians, 85-86.

loyalty, Tsar Nicholas II forgave the Abkhazians for their nineteenth-century opposition to Russian rule and removed their status as a 'guilty nation' (which had been imposed following an Abkhaz rebellion during the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War). Following the 1905 Revolution, Abkhazians gained a reputation in Georgia as being pro-Russian fifth columnists. This sentiment was reinforced by Abkhazia's attempts to break away from Georgia during the 1917-1921 Revolution and throughout the latter half of the century. Abkhazians for their part came to view Russia as the lesser of two evils, due in large part to the influx of Georgians into the region. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, large numbers of Georgians moved in to Abkhazia, filling the vacuum left by the departure of the Abkhazian exiles to Turkey. At the same time, as mentioned above, Georgians proposed that Abkhazia was an historically Georgian territory, which raised fears that the Georgians would attempt to wipe out the Abkhazian nation, assimilating or expelling those who had not been forced to the Ottoman Empire. Abkhazians nationalists feel that [t]hree times in this [20th] century Georgia has presented a major threat to the existence of Abkhazia first during the 1917 Revolution when Abkhazia was invaded by Georgian forces and incorporated into the short-lived Democratic Republic of Georgia; then during a period of 'Georgianisation' from 1937-1953; and finally during the conflict of the early 1990s, which has not yet been resolved. 29 All three of these events heightened tensions between Georgians and Abkhazians, as did the steady increase in the Georgian population of Abkhazia and the explosion of Georgian nationalism in the 1980s. At the same time, Abkhazia's curious status within the Soviet Union aided Abkhaz separatism. These modern events that shaped and guided the development of the current Georgian-Abkhaz conflict during the Soviet period will be surveyed in roughly chronological order in the following sections.
29 Chirikba, Georgia and Abkhazia, 247.

Abkhazia and Georgia during the Revolution In a year or two Georgia had traversed the long road from a colony of Russian to a small empire of her own. The difference between the Georgian attitude toward Akbhazia, or Ajaristan, and the attitude of Russian toward Georgia, or Armenia, was not one of principle but of scale. In their own backyard the Georgians proved to be as imperialistic as the Russians. The beautiful phrases of socialist solidarity of nations, self-determinations, etc., were forgotten and buried.30 Although it can be difficult to piece together all the events in the Caucasus during the 1917-1921 Revolution and Civil War, there appear to be several similarities between the situation in those years and that which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. In

particular, Abkhazians and Georgians experienced dramatic national awakenings, attempted to form independent states, and came into conflict over the status of Abkhazia. In May 1917, Abkhazia joined the Union of United Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, which declared independence from Russia as the Mountain Republic a year later. 31 Only a few months later, however, Georgia annexed Abkhazia and placed it under military occupation. The Abkhazians responded with rebellions and uprisings, boycotted elections, and assisted Russian invasions of the country. The first of these was by Denikin's Volunteer Army in February 1919. Two years later the residents of Abkhazia assisted the Bolshevik invasion of Georgia in March 1921: The aggressive politics of the government of Georgia towards Abkhazia occasioned extreme displeasure among the local Abkhazian, Armenian, Russian, Greek and a significant proportion of the Kartvelian peoples, which actually helped to facilitate the establishment of Soviet power in the region on March 4, 1921. Confirmation of the new authority, which coincided with the 'New Economic Policy' (NEP), was welcomed by the peoples of Abkhazia as a deliverance from the repression and meddling of the Georgian Republic.32 I have argued elsewhere33 that Georgia's short-lived independence was a critical factor
30 Firuz Kazemzadeh, The Struggle for Transcaucasia, 1917-1921 (New York: Philosophical Library, 1951), 203. 31 The Mountain Republic (officially the 'North Caucasian Republic') was composed of Daghestan, ChechenoIngushetia, Ossetia, Karachay-Balkaria, Abkhazia, Kabardia and Adyghea. Although its borders were never recognised and it was quickly invaded by Reds, Whites and Georgians, it basically covered the entirety of the northern Caucasus. 32 Lak'oba, 1917-1989, 92-93. 33 See David Schaich, The Awakening of Georgia, http://daschaich.homelinux.net/writings/serious/georgia.pdf

in the modern development of Georgian nationalism; much the same is true in the case of Abkhazia. Even more than the existence of the Abkhazian Kingdom in ancient times, the recent existence of an independent Abkhazian country has both encouraged and served as a model for Abkhazia's current attempt to become an independent state. The Confederation of the Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, formed in 1989, is clearly inspired by the 1917 Union of United Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus. This Confederation gave significant aid to Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 War, though it does not seem to have been very active since the mid-1990s. Abkhazia's current flag is actually based on the flag of the Mountain Republic of which it was briefly a part the only new feature that has been added is the white hand in the upper-left corner.34 Abkhazia's experience during the Revolution and Civil War also reinforced the impression that Georgia was the greatest threat to the Abkhazian nation and that Russia was a potential protector, counterweight, or at least the lesser of two evils. The Abkhazian SSR After the Bolsheviks took over Georgia (the last of the Transcaucasia countries to be conquered by the Red Army), they rewarded the Abkhazians' support with an ostensibly independent Abkhazian SSR, formally established 31 March 1921. Although Abkhazia was technically an independent country again, the Abkhazian SSR was controlled by the Communist Party, and therefore in reality totally subordinate to Moscow. This period of independence was also short-lived, since in December 1921 under strong pressure from Stalin, Sergo Orjonik'idze and others, Abkhazia... was obliged to conclude with Georgia a special uniontreaty... ratified in February 1922, which established in essence the equality of status of the two Republics.35 Later that year, Abkhazia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were incorporated into the
34 The Historical Symbolism of the Abkhazian National Flag. On the Mountain Republic's flag, the seven stars and seven stripes represented the seven members of the Republic, listed above in note 31. The stripes still symbolised harmony between Islam and Christianity specifically, between the four Islamic members (Daghestan, Checheno-Ingushetia, Karachay-Balkaria and Adyghea.) and the three Christian members (Ossetia, Abkhazia and Kabardia). 35 Lak'oba, 1917-1989, 93.

Transcaucasian Federated SSR (TFSSR), which became a founding republic of the Soviet Union at the end of 1922. The actual status of Abkhazia at this point is slightly confusing. Although it was just a part of a joint Abkhaz-Georgian member state of the TFSSR, the literature (Abkhazian, Georgian and otherwise) is universal in agreeing that during this period the Abkhazian SSR... was not an autonomous but a union republic with the status of a sovereign state and official (though meaningless) right of secession.36 This is significant since upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, all of its Union republics but none of its autonomous republics were internationally recognised as independent states even if, like Abkhazia, they were able to gain de facto independence by force of arms. The key ingredient that allowed the Union republics to become independent countries was the supposed 'status of a sovereign state' and right to secession that they alone possessed within the Soviet federal structure.37 In 1931 Abkhazia was converted into an autonomous republic within the Georgian SSR. Nest'or Lak'oba, who headed the Abkhazian government from 1922 through 1936 and ran the country as a virtual fiefdom,38 opposed Stalin's collectivisation policies and attempted to protect his Republic from the ravages of collectivisation. Stalin, who had strong personal ties with Lak'oba, apparently offered a deal: Abkhazia would be spared collectivisation if its status were reduced to an autonomous republic. Lak'oba accepted.39 Abkhazia's 'demotion' to an autonomous republic was followed by a full week of protest rallies by Abkhazians, which somehow barely managed to avoid being forcibly suppressed. There were further rallies and demonstrations throughout the post-Stalin period calling for the restoration of Abkhazia's Union republic status (or, as a compromise, its removal from
36 Ibid., 93. 37 See Walker, Dissolution. 38 Georgi Derluguian, The Forgotten Abkhazia, Working Papers of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Program on New Approaches to Russian Security, Vol. 18, No. 1 (January 2001), 11. 39 Ibid., 11. Derluguian adds that Stalin probably considered Abkhazia too backwards and peripheral to care very strongly about its level of collectivisation. See also Lak'oba, 1917-1989, 95.

Georgia and incorporation into the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR)). Eventually, the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia simply declared the restoration of Abkhazia's status as a sovereign state in a Declaration on the State Sovereignty of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia in 1990. (This Declaration was ignored by all countries and Soviet republics except Georgia, which promptly denounced it and declared it illegal, null and void.) Moreover, even though Abkhazia had been reduced in status to an autonomous republic, it still maintained a full governmental structure. After the region declared its independence, that structure could immediately be put to use as the government of an independent Abkhazia. The Period of Georgianisation In December 1936 Lak'oba died after dining with Lavrenty Beria, then head of the Communist Party in Transcaucasia, and was quickly declared an enemy of the people. Although the official cause of his death was a heart attack, there is general agreement that he was poisoned. Abkhazia was fully collectivised by the end of 1937, and large numbers of Georgians were resettled in the region by Beria and his subordinates while the Abkhazian intelligentsia and political elite was thoroughly purged. This was most likely a reaction against the amount of autonomy and independence that Lak'oba had managed to exercise in his 'virtual fiefdom'. He was probably considered to have possessed an unacceptable amount of power and influence in Abkhazia, so his organisation and bases of support were destroyed from bottom to top. At the same time additional steps were taken to Georgianise Abkhazia. Abkhazian geographic names were changed to Georgian ones and written Abkhazia was shifted to a Georgian script.40 Later the Abkhazian language was banned from all official use

40 Prior to the Russian annexation of the region, Arabic letters had been used, though there was little Abkhazlanguage writing at all. In 1862 a modified form of Cyrillic was developed. During the 1920s and early 1930s Abkhazians experimented with a Latin-based alphabet. They returned to a Cyrillic script in 1954. See Abkhaz language, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abkhaz_language (last accessed 13 May 2005).

Abkhazian-language schools were shut down and Abkhazian-language broadcasts and publications were banned. The theory that Abkhazians had only recently migrated into what was a historically Georgian territory received official backing. Although [t]he attempted forced Georgianization of Abkhazia (and the parallel campaign in Southern Ossetia) falls into the late 1930s Stalinist trend to reduce the roster of national autonomies to a more manageable number and to eliminate along the way virtual fiefdoms like the one carved up by Lakoba in Abkhazia[,] the fact that both Stalin and Beria were ethnic Georgians was not missed in either Abkhazia or in Georgia.41 The Georgianisation of Abkhazia from 1937 to 1953 was viewed by many Abkhazians as a vicious attempt by the Georgians to exterminate their nation and eradicate their culture. Abkhazian nationalism, which, based on Abkhazians' shared history and common language, had been blossoming under the protection of Lak'oba and his quasi-autonomous state, now felt mortally threatened by its Georgian neighbour. Demographics Following the deaths of Stalin and Beria in 1953, the Georgianisation of Abkhazia was partially reversed by the new leadership under Khrushchev. Some Abkhazian-language

schools were reopened and a few Abkhazian-language publications and broadcasts were restarted. However, high levels of Georgian immigration into Abkhazia continued, leading some Abkhazians to claim that Georgianisation continued in a more covert manner or in a veiled form even in the post-Stalin period.42 Although it seems unlikely Georgian

immigration into Abkhazia after Stalin's death was encouraged primarily to undermine the position of Abkhazians in their own autonomous republic, it is true that the Georgian population of Abkhazia continued growing prodigiously (mainly by immigration, as Georgian birthrates were very low), as shown below. By the end of the 1980s, Abkhazians made up only 17-18% of Abkhazia's population.
41 Derluguian, The Forgotten Abkhazia, 11. Beria himself was originally from Abkhazia. 42 Kvarchelia, Georgia-Abkhazia Conflict, 19. Lak'oba, 1917-1989, 97.

Table 1: Population and ethnic composition of Abkhazia, 1922-198943

1922-23 Total Population Abkhazians Georgians Armenians Russians Greeks 174,126 83,794 (48.1%) 32,039 (18.4%) 17,761 (10.2%) 10,273 (5.9%) 22,288 (12.8%)

1926 201,016 55,922 (27.8%) 68,003 (33.8%) 28,000 (13.9%) 12,554 (6.2%) 24,847 (12.4%)

1939 311,885 56,197 (18.0%) 91,967 (29.5%) 49,705 (15.9%) 60,201 (19.3%) 34,621 (11.1%)




1989 525,061 93,267 (17.8%) 239,872 (45.7%) 76,541 (14.6%) 74,914 (14.3%) 14,664 (2.8%)

404,738 486,959 486,082 61,193 (15.1%) 158,221 (39.1%) 64,425 (15.9%) 86,715 (21.4%) 9,101 (2.3%) 77,276 (15.9%) 199,595 (41.0%) 74,850 (15.4%) 92,889 (19.1%) 13,114 (2.7%) 83,097 (17.1%) 213,322 (43.9%) 73,350 (15.1%) 79,730 (16.4%) 13,642 (2.8%)

Under Khrushchev, with the urging of Abkhazian leaders, Moscow's policies toward Abkhazia reverted to the 'truly Leninist nationality policies,' namely state sponsorship of Abkhazian culture and affirmative action in university admissions and administrative promotions favoring the titular nationality. Naturally, these policies provoked apprehension and resentment among Georgians in Abkhazia.44 This situation was maintained by Khrushchev's successors as well. In the 1980s, however, as Georgian nationalism re-emerged from relative dormancy, conflicts between Georgian and Abkhazian nationalists, involving these issues among others, began to drive the course of events leading to the 1992-1993 war and the current impasse.
43 All data come from Soviet All-Union Censuses, with the exception of figures for 1922/1923, which were collected in an All-Georgian Census (the only one conducted during the Soviet period). The data were compiled in Daniel Mller, Demography: ethno-demographic history, 1886-1989, in Hewitt, The Abkhazians, 231-237. There are two points that deserve brief explanation: In the 1922/1923 All-Georgian Census, Samurzaq'oans, a group of Georgianised Abkhazians then numbering around 30,000, were counted as Abkhazians. In all later census data the Samurzaq'oans were counted as Georgians. Most of the Greek population was collectively deported during WWII because Stalin doubted their loyalty. 44 Kvarchelia, Georgia-Abkhazia Conflict, 19.

Figure 2: Population and ethnic composition of Abkhazia, 1897-198945

The Impact of Georgian nationalism As for the period of the rise of the national independence movement, there was one thing for which Georgia was notable more than any other Soviet republic. Georgia was the only place among these republics where the proindependence movement was dominated by its radical factions... It was this confrontational character of political discourse and activities that was primarily responsible for the different kinds of conflicts that eventually developed in Georgia.46 As Georgian nationalism re-emerged in the 1980s, Georgian and Abkhazian nationalists each took steps that seemed to confirm the worst fears of the other, leading to

45 This graph is taken from Bruno Coppieters, The Roots of the Conflict, in Cohen, A Question of Sovereignty. http://www.c-r.org/accord/geor-ab/accord7/roots.shtml (Web site last accessed 12 May 2005). The author cites his sources only as Russian, Soviet and Georgian population censuses. Although these data differ in some details from those in the table on the preceding page, the general trends illustrated are clearly the same. 46 Ghia Nodia, Dynamics of State-Building in Georgia, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Winter 1998), 8.

cycles of escalating distrust and extremism. While the Abkhazians, as mentioned above, were afraid of the Georgianisation of their territory and national oppression at the hands of the Georgians, the Georgians themselves also feared for the survival of their nation. Specifically, they feared that Russia would try to destroy Georgia to punish the country for its attempts to secede from the Soviet Union. The ethnic minorities, which made up 30% of the country's population and already had a reputation as being pro-Russian, appeared to be trying to break up Georgia in collusion with Moscow. The notion was widespread that the fears and

aspirations of the non-Georgians were artificial, illegitimate, and influenced by sinister forces from Moscow.47 The Georgians therefore placed the highest value on national unity. In particular, many Georgian nationalists urged the government to abolish all of the autonomous republics and regions within Georgia and establish a unitary Georgian state (even while the country was still part of the USSR).48 The most extreme Georgian nationalists hoped to drive the

minorities (especially the Russians) out of the country in order to increase the ethnic homogeneity and loyalty of the country.49 Needless to say, these tendencies made the

Abkhazians (as well as other minorities in Georgia) extremely nervous and increased their desperation to separate from Georgia, or at least secure extensive, permanent autonomy within it. As the Soviet Union spiraled toward collapse, tensions between Georgians and Abkhazians spiraled out of control. On 9 April 1989, a massive Georgian demonstration in Tbilisi opposing Abkhaz separatism was famously broken up by Soviet troops, killing around 20. In July, 17 died in Sukhumi during Abkhaz-Georgian riots over university enrollment

47 Suny, Georgian Nation, 325. 48 See, for example, Reuven Enoch, Two Mirrors: Georgian events of 1988-89, as reflected in the Georgian and central Soviet mass media (Jerusalem: The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1998), 19. 49 Suny, Georgian Nation, 329.

policies in the autonomous republic.

When Georgia reinstated the Constitution of the

1918-1921 Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1992, it implicitly stripped Abkhazia of its autonomous status (and reminded Abkhazians how they had been invaded and annexed by Georgia during that period). Abkhazian leaders responded by reinstating Abkhazia's 1925 Constitution, effectively declaring Abkhazia an independent state (though possibly one which could join Georgia in a federation). Abkhazia and the 1992-1993 war began. What is to be the future? Nearly a dozen years after the conclusion of that war, Abkhazia and Georgia are still attempting to negotiate some sort of settlement and determine their mutual relationship. There are several contentious issues that prevent the sides from making much progress. Chief among these is the problem of Georgian refugees from Abkhazia. During the 1992-1993 war, some 200,000 to 250,000 Georgians fled Abkhazia for Georgia proper. Georgians demand their resettlement as a precondition to any negotiations about Abkhazia's status, and the inability of such a large proportion of the population to vote has led the international community to deny the validity of all elections that have taken place in Abkhazia since the start of the conflict. The Abkhazians claim probably correctly that a badly prepared repatriation procedure will provoke large-scale clashes between the Kartvelians and the Abkhazians... which could [be used by the Georgian government] as an excuse for a new attempt at armed invasion.50 Although tens of thousands of refugees have returned to their homes in areas patrolled by Russians troops, the Abkhazian government itself is basically not able (nor particularly willing) to guarantee their safety in the rest of the country. The problem of the refugees are related to another contentious issue, namely alleged ethnic cleansing during the conflict. Each side accuses the other of attempted genocide, and
50 Anchabadze, The Modern Period, 145.

Less than a month later, Georgian troops entered

each side is able to point to atrocities committed against it by the other to substantiate their claims. The initial Georgian invasion of Abkhazia was accompanied by many war crimes committed against the non-Georgian population in general.51 These crimes, though they have largely gone unpunished, were not actually sanctioned by the Georgian government. Most of the Georgians who entered Abkhazia in August 1992 belonged to the paramilitary bands of warlords effectively out of Tbilisi's control.52 As the Abkhazians gained control of the region, they in turn committed atrocities especially the volunteers from Chechenia and other Caucasian regions who joined the Abkhazian fighters during the conflict. Because of these atrocities, neither side is particularly eager to negotiate with the other. Each side demands the other acknowledge its genocidal actions and agree to reparations. The role of Russia is also controversial. As mentioned above, many Georgians

suspected Abkhaz nationalism and separatism was simply a Russian ploy to undermine a newly-independent Georgia. The majority of the Georgian population believed that, as a matter of fact, it was Russia who waged war against Georgia [in Abkhazia], making use of local separatist forces.53 Indeed, Russian troops did take some steps to help the Abkhazians. However, this appears to have been both unofficial and of relatively small scale. The most infamous incident involving Russian troops during the conflict is the bombing of Sukhumi by Russian airplanes, which apparently was in retaliation for Georgians shooting down a Russian helicopter evacuating refugees from the region.54 More recently, Russia has made it relatively
51 Most sources agree that all of the various minorities in Abkhazia united in opposition to the Georgians in what Rachel Clogg calls a 'rainbow coalition'. See Clogg, Religion, 215; Suny, Georgian Nation, 329; and Kvarchelia, Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict, 18. The only source that disagrees is Chervonnaya, Conflict in the Caucasus, 84. 52 See Ibid., 141-142; Bessarion Gugushvili, Report on the condition of subethnical groups of Megrels and Svans as a result of the 1992 criminal coup d'etat in Georgia and the war in Abkhazia in Antero Leitzinger (ed.), Caucasus and an unholy alliance (Helsinki: Leitzinger Books, 1997), 100-101; and Derluguian, The Forgotten Abkhazia, 11. 53 Nodia, State-Building in Georgia, 11. See also Zaza Gachechiladze, The Conflict in Abkhazia: A Georgian Perspective, (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University, Institute for National Strategic Studies.), 1, who claims that The civil war in Georgia was inspired, plotted, and provoked by forces from outside Georgia, particularly in Russia. 54 Chervonnaya, Conflict in the Caucasus, 162-164. Russian troops were generally out of Moscow's control during the conflict, and were ordered by their quasi-independent commanders to return fire if attacked.

easy for Abkhazians and South Ossetians to obtain Russian citizenship and passports. Between 60% and 80% of Abkhazians are estimated to have done so. Although the Russian Duma has refused to grant Abkhazia membership in the Russian Federation, the RussianAbkhaz border is notoriously porous. All of this causes Georgians to fear that Russia is manoeuvring into a position from which it would be easy to absorb Abkhazia should the opportunity arise. Many Georgians view Abkhazian leaders as Russian puppets and Georgian negotiators sometimes attempt to organise negotiations involving only Russia and Georgia.55 Ultimately, the main stumbling block in Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations is the almost complete lack of trust between the two sides, which gradually developed over the course of the twentieth century, exploded in the 1980s and during the 1992-1993 war, and which has been maintained by the conflicts and disagreements just mentioned. The negotiations thus seem to be caught in a Catch-22. Although they will most likely not progress until there is an increase in the trust of the two sides in each other and their willingness to work together, such an increase in trust and cooperation most likely will not come about unless some progress is made in negotiations and the peaceful resettlement of a significant proportion of the Georgian refugees. In a further complication, the vast majority (74%) of Georgian refugees view the reunification of Georgia and Abkhazia as a precondition for their return to the region.56 At the same time, many Georgian negotiators view their return as a precondition for negotiations on the status of Abkhazia. However, the recent resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze as President of Georgia and the election of Mikhail Saakashvili has led to renewed activity and hope of progress in Georgian-Abkhazian relations. Saakashvili has made the reunification of Georgia one of the main goals of his Presidency. Although he initially threatened to reincorporate Abkhazia and
55 See, for example, Camden Pierce, Georgia and Russia Move Towards Accord, The Moscow News, 2004, No. 9, http://english.mn.ru/english/issue.php?2004-9-10 (Web site last accessed 13 May 2005) 56 Kvarchelia, Georgia-Abkhazia Conflict, 26. This figure comes from surveys conducted by the Norwegian Refugee Council in the mid-1990s.

South Ossetia by force, he quickly backed down and has recently considered offering to Abkhazians some concessions such as autonomy and dual Russian-Georgian citizenship. 57 Saakashvili's efforts have made the eventual resolution of the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict seem a theoretical possibility; last year he was able to peacefully reunite Georgia and Ajaria, yet another separatist region that had been effectively independent throughout Shevardnadze's Presidency. Noting that there's a chance the Abkhazia-Georgia could be resolved raises the question of how it could be resolved. Barring a major upheaval, there are only four even remotely plausible outcomes: Abkhazia could finally manage to obtain de jure independence; it could be incorporated into the Russian Federation; or it could rejoin Georgia, either in a federation or as a constituent part of a unitary state. Of these four options, the last two are the most possible, though the least popular among Abkhazians, according to this survey data from 1994.
Table 2: The solution preferred polling data on the future of Abkhazia58

Abkhazians Russians Armenians Georgians Georgian Refugees Independence Union with Russia Union with Georgia Reincorporation into Georgia 67.3% 27.0% 3.8% 0% 21.3% 68.7% 8.6% 35.9% 58.1% 4.3% 13.5% 29.7% 37.8% 8.1% 21.0% 9.0% 32.0% 36.0%

The international community has been unanimous in its commitment to the territorial integrity of Georgia. This means that for Abkhazia to become an independent country, it
57 See Ibid.; C. J. Chivers, Georgia's New Leader Baffles Russia and U.S. Alike, The New York Times, 17 August 2004; and C. J. Chivers, Plan Offers Autonomy for Enclave in Georgia, The New York Times, 25 January 2005. The Georgian offer of dual Russian-Georgian citizenship for Abkhazians has only been made informally, to Russian negotiators. 58 Kvarchelia, Georgia-Abkhazia Conflict, 26. The survey (by a non-governmental group called 'Civic Initiative', asked 10,026 respondents of the main ethnic groups in Abkhazia (separating Georgians who had not fled from Georgian refugees who had returned) which of the four potential solutions they preferred. Since the survey was conducted before the Russian-Chechen war, Kvarchelia argues that the attitude of the population toward a union with Russia could have changed considerably (26). Kvarchelia herself was writing before Vladimir Putin took steps to limit the autonomy and powers of federal regions, which might also reduce Abkhazians' eagerness to unite with Russia.

would have to do so with the permission of Georgia, which is not forthcoming. Similarly, if Abkhazia were to join the Russian Federation, Russia would either need to get Georgian permission to absorb Abkhazia or be prepared to suffer strong international condemnation. Georgia would also encounter international (and especially Russian) criticism if it were to attempt to forcibly reconquer Abkhazia, so the most likely resolution is some sort of federation of Abkhazia and Georgia. The specific form this federation could take is

completely unknown; an entire book has been written exploring some of the possibilities.59 As we watch Georgians and Abkhazians attempt to negotiate a mutually satisfactory arrangement, we should remind ourselves that this conflict is not necessarily unsolvable. The conflict between the Abkhazians and the Georgians is not the result of some age-old ethnic hatred which has been festering for millennia. On the contrary, we have seen that the primary cause of the conflict is the unfortunate course of Abkhazia and Georgia during the twentieth and late nineteenth centuries. The situation and relation of Abkhazia and Georgia during that time was the main factor in the development of their respective nationalisms and tensions between them. Although the sources from which Abkhazian nationalism developed are

ancient, its actual development has been relatively recent, as has Georgian nationalism. The cultural similarities and long, shared history of peaceful coexistence between Georgians and Abkhazians serves to give hope that someday harmony may return to their relationship. From afar the ethnic and civil warfare in Georgia often looks to casual observers like the latest eruption of ancient tribal conflicts or irradicable primordial hatreds. But an attentive reading of the Georgian past can lead to a far less pessimistic understanding... The hostilities of the present may be linked to certain memories of the past, but only if other memories are repressed... The key to the future lies in what a people selects from its past, how it imagines itself as a community and continues to remake itself as a nation.60

59 Bruno Coppieters, David Darchiashvili and Natella Akaba (eds.), Federal Practice: Exploring Alternatives for Georgia and Abkhazia (Brussels: VUB University Press, 2000). 60 Suny, Georgian Nation, 334-335.

Appendix A: Maps and Geography Abkhazia is located in the north-west Transcaucasus, between the eastern shore of the Black Sea and the Greater Caucasus mountain range. Covering an area of approximately 8600-8700 square kilometers, it is almost entirely covered by mountains, the main exception being a low-lying coastal plain in the south of the region. It borders Georgia (specifically, the provinces of Megrelia and Svanetia) to the east and southeast, and Russia (KarachayCherkessia, Krasnodar and Stavropol) to the north. The following four maps gradually focus in on Abkhazia. The first (from Edward W. Walker, Dissolution: Sovereignty and the Breaukup of the Soviet Union (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003), xi) shows the entire former Soviet Union along with its entire ethno-federal structure. Note that Transcaucasia contains a full quarter of these ethnically-defined territorial units. The second map (from Graham Smith, ed., The Nationalities Question in the Post-Soviet States (London: Longman, 1996), 247) shows the whole of Transcaucasia. The third map (from MSN Encarta World Atlas, http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/mapcenter/map.aspx) focuses on Abkhazia and some of its closest neighbours. This map combines political and geographical features. The final map (from Svetlana Chervonnaya, Conflict in the Caucasus: Georgia, Abkhazia and the Russian Shadow (Glastonbury: Gothic Image, 1994), x-xi) shows only Abkhazia itself, including several cities and the six current administrative regions of the country. [Online note: Three of these maps were photocopied from books and are not available online. The Encarta map is below.]

Appendix B: Important Dates in Abkhazian History since 1800 The information in this timeline was distilled from a large number of sources, all of which were cited in the main body of the paper. A great effort was made to keep this timeline as factual and objective as possible in particular, the facts were checked and verified in multiple independent sources if at all possible (see Bibliography, below). Additional timelines containing more information can be found in Svetlana Chervonnaya, Conflict in the Caucasus: Georgia, Abkhazia and the Russian Shadow (Glastonbury: Gothic Image, 1994), 139-172, and at the Web site of Accord: an international review of peace initiatives, published by Conciliation Resources (CR) (http://www.c-r.org/accord/georab/accord7/Chronol.shtml). 1801: Russia begins absorbing Transcaucasian principalities into its empire. 18061812: Abkhazia becomes an 'autonomous princedom' within the Russian Empire during a Russo-Turkish War. During the nineteenth century, much of the Abkhazian population emigrates to the Ottoman Empire. 18081824: Rebels led by the son of Abkhazia's last independent prince repeatedly take control of Abkhazia and are repeatedly driven into exile by Russian expeditions. 1830s1860s: Many Abkhazians in the Caucasus take part in Shamil's anti-Russian rebellions. 1862: A modified Cyrillic alphabet is developed for the Abkhazian language, which had previously been written in an Arabic script. 1864: Abkhazian princedom abolished, reorganised into the Sukhum Military Sector (renamed Sukhum District in 1883). 18661867: Confusion related to serf emancipation sparks a widespread rebellion. Almost 20,000 Abkhazians are expelled into the Ottoman Empire. 18771878: A new rebellion accompanies another Russo-Turkish War. Around 50,000 Abkhazians are expelled into the Ottoman Empire. Georgian immigration into Abkhazia increases. 19051906: Abkhazians generally oppose the revolution while (perhaps because) Georgians tend to support it. May 1917: Abkhazia joins the Union of United Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, which includes 7 North Caucasian states. 22 April 1918: A Democratic Federative Republic of Transcaucasia consisting of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan breaks away from the Russian Empire under Turkish pressure.

11 May 1918: The Union of United Mountain Peoples declares independence as the Mountain Republic. 26 May 1918: Georgia declares independence, breaking up the Democratic Federative Republic of Transcaucasia. 1722 June 1918: The Georgian army occupies Abkhazia. 21 February 1921: The Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia adopted. 25 February 1921: The Red Army invades Georgia, meeting little resistance. The Bolsheviks are supported by many in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and other regions that had been forcefully occupied by Georgia. 31 March 1921: An ostensibly independent Abkhazian SSR founded under Communist rule. 16 December 1921February 1922: Abkhazia and Georgia conclude a 'special uniontreaty' and form a federation in which each have equal status. 10 December 1922: Abkhazia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are incorporated into the Transcaucasian Federated SSR on 10 December and join the USSR three weeks later. 19221936: Nest'or Lak'oba heads the government of Abkhazia and opposes collectivisation and Georgianisation. In December 1936 Lak'oba dies while visiting Lavrenty Beria. A widespread purge of Abkhazian intellectuals and the Abkhazian Communist Party follows. April 1930February 1931: In a compromise to avoid collectivisation, Abkhazia is demoted from a 'treaty-republic' to an ASSR within Georgia. A week of protests by Abkhazians follows the transformation. 19371953: Migration of Georgians into Abkhazia encouraged. 1938: Abkhazian-language newspapers and radio programs shut down; Abkhazian language shifted to a Georgian script. 1945: Language of instruction in Abkhazian schools changed from Abkhaz to Georgian. 1953: Stalin and Beria die. 19531954: Some Abkhazian-language newspapers and radio programs revived; some Abkhazian-language schools reopened. 1957: Demonstrations demanding the separation of Abkhazia from Georgia either the restoration of its Union republic status or its incorporation into the RSFSR. 1964: Demonstrations demanding the separation of Abkhazia from Georgia. 1967: Demonstrations demanding the separation of Abkhazia from Georgia.

December 1977: 130 Abkhazian intellectuals call for Abkhazia to separate from Georgia. JanuaryMay 1978: Large demonstrations demanding the secession of Abkhazia from Georgia and its incorporation into the RSFSR. 18 March 1989: A demonstration in Lykhny organised by the 'Popular Forum of Abkhazia' and attended by over 30,000 calls for the restoration of Abkhazia's status as an independent SSR. The drafting of a Lykhny letter outlining their demands is commonly seen as the start of the current Abkhaz-Georgian conflict. 9 May 1989: A demonstration in Tbilisi opposing Abkhaz separatism grows into a proindependence rally. At least 19 die when it is broken up by Soviet troops. 16 July 1989: 16 reportedly die in clashes between Abkhaz and Georgian rioters in Sukhumi. 2526 August 1989: The First Conference of the Peoples of the Caucasus is held in Sukhumi. The Assembly of the Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus (later transformed into the Confederation of [Mountain] Peoples of the Caucasus) is founded. The other members support Abkhazia in its attempts to separate from Georgia. 25 August 1990: The Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia passes the Declaration on the State Sovereignty of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia. 9 April 1991: Georgia declares independence from the Soviet Union. Gamsakhurdia is elected President of Georgia. In May, Zviad

December 1991: A military coup overthrows Gamsakhurdia, who flees to Chechenia. 21 February 1992: Georgia abolishes its Soviet-era Constitution and reinstates the 1921 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921). This implicitly strips Abkhazia of its status as an autonomous republic. March 1992: Georgia's governing military council names former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze head of state. 23 July 1992: Abkhazia reinstates its 1925 Constitution, effectively declaring independence from Georgia. Independence not yet recognised by any state. 14 August 1992: Georgian troops invade Abkhazia in an attempt to restore central authority. Mechanised units attacking from Western Georgia (Megrelia) quickly manage to capture Sukhumi, while an amphibious attack in the north captures the town of Gagra. The Abkhazian government retreats to Gudauta. Early October 1992: Abkhazian fighters recapture Gagra. This is widely considered to be the turning point of the war. 25 March 1993: The Georgian parliament grants citizenship to all residents of Georgia and makes Abkhazian and Georgian official languages in Abkhazia.

24 September 1993: Gamsakhurdia returns to western Georgia (Megrelia) and launches a rebellion against Shevardnadze and the military council. 30 September 1993: The last Georgian troops leave Abkhazia. During the war, the Abkhazians received strong international criticism for repeatedly breaking truces and cease-fires (as did Georgian forces, but to a lesser extent). Most Georgians living in Abkhazia 200,000 to 250,000, or nearly half of the region's population flee to Georgia proper during the conflict. October 1993: Georgia joins the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). December 1993: Gamsakhurdia's uprising is defeated. Gamsakhurdia himself dies on 31 December, probably by suicide. 26 November 1994: Abkhazia ratifies a new Constitution based on its 1925 Constitution. 19951997: Russia imposes a relatively ineffective blockade on Abkhazia, in retaliation for Abkhaz support of Chechen separatists. May 1998: A Six-Day War of clashes between Abkhazians and Georgian troops cause 20,000-30,000 of the Georgians who had returned after the 1992-1993 war to again flee Abkhazia. 3 October 1999: Abkhazia held a referendum on independence and its Constitution, which passed easily. The referendum is considered invalid internationally, since refugees from Abkhazia were unable to participate. 1 August 2002: Abkhazia's Constitution is amended to allow citizens to obtain dual citizenship. At least two-thirds of Abkhazians have acquired Russian citizenship. 2003: Under strong Georgian pressure, Russia closes the last of its military bases in Abkhazia left over from the Soviet period. Russian peacekeeping troops still patrol the Georgian-Abkhaz border. 28 November 2003: The Russian Duma defeats an effort led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky to grant Abkhazia associate membership in the Russian Federation. November 2003January 2004: Demonstrators force Eduard Shevardnadze to resign. Mikhail Saakashvili becomes President of Georgia. Reunification of the country is one of his major goals. October 2004January 2005: A botched Presidential election in Abkhazia leads to worries of clashes between Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia. May 2004: Saakashvili proposes reuniting Georgia and Abkhazia in a two-state federation. The proposal is rejected by Abkhazian leaders. Georgian negotiators are reported to have unofficially considered allowing Abkhazians to possess dual Russian-Georgian citizenship. In the same month, Ajaria, another breakaway region in the south of Georgia, was reincorporated into the country.

Bibliography (with some annotation) Books and pamphlets: Aves, Jonathan. 1996. Georgia: from chaos to stability? London: Royal Institute of International Affairs. Bayev, Pavel. 1997. Russia's policies in the Caucasus. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs. Chervonnaia, Svetlana. 1994. Conflict in the Causasus: Georgia, Abkhazia and the Russian Shadow. Glastonbury: Gothic Image. A very interesting and valuable book, written during the Abkhaz-Georgian war of 1992-1993. However, its glowing Foreword by Eduard Shevardnadze and its characterisation of the Abkhazians and Mountain Peoples in general as BlackHundred obscurantist forces (202) leads me to take it with a grain of salt. Cohen, Jonathan, ed. 1999. A Question of sovereignty: The Georgia-Abkhazia peace process. London: Conciliation Resources. This is an entire issue of Accord: an international review of peace initiatives that includes nearly a dozen articles by a wide range of authors. It is available online at http://www.c-r.org/accord/geor-ab/accord7/index.shtml Coppieters, Bruno, David Darchiashvili and Natella Akaba, eds. 2000. Federal practice : exploring alternatives for Georgia and Abkhazia. Brussels: VUB University Press. This book is available both at the Mount Holyoke Library and online at http://poli.vub.ac.be/publi/orderbooks/federal_practice_contents.html Coppieters, Bruno, Ghia Nodia and Yuri Anchabadze, eds. 1998. Georgians and Abkhazians. The Search for a Peace Settlement. Brussers: VUB University Press. This book is also available online: http://poli.vub.ac.be/publi/Georgians/contents.html Enoch, Reuven. 1998. Two Mirrors: Georgian events of 1988-89, as reflected in the Georgian and central Soviet mass media . Jerusalem: The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Gachechiladze, Zaza. 1995. The Conflict in Abkazia: a Georgian Perspective. Washington, D.C.: National Defense University, Institute for National Strategic Studies. This pamphlet contains notes on a talk given by Professor Gachechiladze of the University of Tbilisi. Gachechiladze discusses the conflict from a Georgian perspective and explores its significance to Russian, Turkey, Chechenia and Armenia as well as Georgia.

Goldenberg, Suzanne. 1994. Pride of Small Nations: The Caucasus and Post-Soviet Disorder. Atlantic Highlands: Zed Books. Hewitt, George, ed. 1998. The Abkhazians : a handbook. New York: St. Martin's Press. This volume contains 16 essays on Abkhazian culture and history, as well as English translations of several important documents. Although generally wellwritten and reasonable, most articles are written by Abkhazians and present a prominent bias in favor of the Abkhazian side of the conflict (according to Abkhazia.org (http://www.abkhazia.org/art_of_politics.html), Hewitt is Abkhazia's Honorary Consul in London). Although this is a valuable resource, there are some instances in which basic information given in this volume directly contradicts that found in other, more objective sources. Jones, Stephen and Robert Parsons. 1996. Georgia and the Georgians. In The Nationalities Question in the Post-Soviet States, edited by Graham Smith, 291-314. London: Longman. Kazemzadeh, Firuz. 1951. The Struggle for Transcaucasia (1917-1921). New York: Philosophical Library. A valuable reference on the brief period of independence experienced by Transcaucasian countries during the Revolution. Although the focus is on Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Abkhazia and the Mountaineers' Republic do receive some mention. Kozhokin, Evgeny M. 1996. Georgia-Abkhazia. In U.S. And Russian Policymaking with Respect to the Use of Force, edited by Jeremy R. Azrael and Emil A. Payin. Santa Monica, California: RAND Center for Russia and Eurasia. Knight, Amy W. 1993. Beria, Stalin's first lieutenant. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Beria was an ethnic Georgian (Megrelian) from Abkhazia. This is sometimes used to explain his policy of Georgianizing Abkhazia during his time in charge of the Georgian and Transcaucasian Communist Parties. Leitzinger, Antero, ed. 1997. Caucasus and an unholy alliance. Helsinki: Leitzinger Books. This book includes several articles that address the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict from a strongly pro-Georgian point of view. Unfortunately, many articles are little more than wild rants in broken English and often directly contradict information found in many other sources. Although the Georgian perspective is valuable, it is difficult to take the articles in this volume very seriously. Lynch, Dov. 2004. Engaging Eurasia's Separatist States: Unresolved Conflicts and De Facto States. Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press. Otyrba, Gueorgui. 1994. War in Abkhazia: The Regional Significance of the GeorgianAbkhazian Conflict. In National Identity and Ethnicity in Russia and the New States of Eurasia, ed. Roman Szporluk, 281-309. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharp.

Parsons, Robert. 1990. Georgians. In The Nationalities Question in the Soviet Union, edited by Graham Smith, 180-196. London: Longman. Sanchez-Montero, Manuel. 2001. The Conflict in Abkhazia. In The Geopolitics of Hunger, 2000-2001: Hunger and Power, 51-62. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers. Suny, Ronald Grigor. 1994. The Making of the Georgian Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press,. A history of Georgia from ancient times to post-Soviet independence, this book includes (on pages 321-322) an admirably concise history of Abkhazia and Abkhaz-Georgian relations. -----. 1993. The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution and the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Stanford: Stanford University Press. -----, ed. 1983. Transcaucasia: Nationalism and Social Change. Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications. United Nations Department of Public Information. 1995. The United Nations and the Situation in Georgia. New York. This UN reference paper contains both background on the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict as well as copies of Security Council Resolutions, cease-fire agreements and other relevant documents. Walker, Edward W. 2003. Dissolution: Sovereignty and the Breakup of the Soviet Union. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. This book considers the question of why all the Union SSRs in the Soviet Union became independent states when none of the country's ASSRs (including Abkhazia) or other regions were able to accomplish the same even though some of them succeeded in establishing de facto independence through civil wars. Walker focuses on the supposed 'sovereignty' of the Union republics and their official right to secede from the USSR. Journal Articles: Most articles in periodicals focus specifically on the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict during the 1990s and 2000s, giving limited historical analysis. Still, they are very helpful in any attempt to explore the tangled interplay of Russian, Georgia and Abkhazia in recent years. Axexseev, Mikhail A. 1998. Early Warning, Ethnopolitical Conflicts, and the United Nations: Assessing the Violence in Georgia/Abkhazia. Nationalities Papers 26 (2): 191-213. Cornell, Svante E. 2002. Autononmy as a Source of Conflict: Caucasian Conflicts in Theoretical Perspective. World Politics 54: 245-276.

-----. 2002. Autonomy and Conflict. Ethnoterritoriality and Separatism in the South Causasus: Cases in Georgia. Dissertation Abstracts International 63 (4): 673-C. Derluguian, Georgi. 2001. The Forgotten Abkhazia. Working Papers of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Program on New Approaches to Russian Security 18: 1-18. Fawn, Rick. 2002. Russia's Reluctant Retreat from the Caucasus: Abkhazia, Georgia and the US after 11 September 2001. European Security 11 (4): 131-150. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. 1995. Georgia/Abkhazia: Violations of the Laws of War and Russia's Role in the Conflict. Human Rights Arms Watch Project 7 (7): 1-56. Gorgiladze, Rusudan. 1998. Georgian Politics and the Conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, 6 (1): 14-17. Hewitt, B. G. 1993. Abkhazia: A Problem of Identity and Ownership. Central Asian Survey 12 (3): 267-323. King, Charles. 2001. Europe's Nonstate States. East European Constitutional Review 10 (4): 99-102. -----. 2001. Potemkin Democracy Post-Soviet Georgia. The National Interest 64: 93-104. -----. 2004. A Rose Among Thorns: Georgia Makes Good. Foreign Affairs 83 (2): 13-18. -----. 2004. Tbilisi Blues. Foreign Affairs, August 25. (http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20040825faupdate83575/charles-king/tbilisi-blues.html) This article and its postscript by King present one of the most concise and clear explanations of the situation in Abkhazia and Georgia generally that I encountered in my research. It appears King's postscript is only available at the Foreign Affairs Web site, at the address given above. Kvarchelia, Liana. 1998. Georgia-Abkhazia Conflict: View from Abkhazia. Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 6 (1): 18-27. Lynch, Dov. 2002. Separatist states and post-Soviet conflicts. International Affairs 78 (4): 831-848. Macfarlane, S. Neil. 1997. On the front lines in the near abroad: the CIS and the OSCE in Georgia's civil wars. Third World Quarterly 18 (3): 509-525. Migranyan, Andanik. 2003. Georgia Propelling Its Disintegration. Russia in Global Affairs 3 (4): 118-125. Migranyan is a professor at Moscow State University. This brief article is an interesting look at Russian attitudes toward the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.

Nodia, Ghia. 1998. Dynamics of State-Building in Georgia. Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 6 (1): 6-13. Transcript of a speech given at Harvard University by Nodia, a professor at Tbilisi State University. This was one of the most informative and least militant Georgian-authored articles I was able to find. Slider, Darrell. 1985. Crisis and Response in Soviet Nationality Policy: The Case of Abkhazia. Central Asian Survey 4 (4): 51-68. Stanglin, Douglas. Moscow Adopts the Monroeski Doctrine. US News & World Report, July 19. Trimble, Jeff. 1989. The Soviet Agony Over States' Rights. US News & World Report, April 24. Web Sites: Although the information found on Web sites deserves special scrutiny and merits special skepticism, electronic resources contain much that is difficult to find in print especially in regards to current events. Additionally, the Internet provides a platform for many of the actors themselves to present their own interpretations of events directly, without being filtered through scholarly analyses. Although we can expect them to be biased, these accounts should be of considerable interest. Abkhazia. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abkhazia Wikipedia contains dozens of relevant articles on Abkhazia, Georgia, the Abkhazian language, Abkhazian history, Abkhaz-Georgian relations, Abkhazian politicians, etc. Rather than list them all here, I will include a link to a page on which many of them are referenced and encourage the reader to explore the relevant articles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Abkhazia Abkhazia. http://www.socsci.uci.edu/gpacs/abkhazia/ A Web site focusing on Abkhazian culture run by the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies and the School of Social Ecology of the University of California, Irvine. Coalition for a Democratic Abkhazia. http://www.abkhazia.org/ The Coalition for a Democratic Abkhazia is an opposition political society based in the United States. Although it called for an independent Abkhazian state in the 1990s, it has recently encouraged the reunification Georgia and Abkhazia as equal partners in a Georgian Confederation, apparently due to what it views as incompetence and corruption on the part of the current Abkhazian leadership.

Gigineishvili, Levan. 2003. Conflicting Narratives in Abkhazia and Georgia: Different Visions of the Same History and the Quest for Objectivity. http://gseweb.harvard.edu/~t656_web/peace/Articles_Spring_2003/ Gigineishvili_Levan_ConflictingNarrativesAbkhaziaGeorgia.htm Parliamentary Commission on Abkhazian Issues. http://www.abkhaziageorgia.parliament.ge/ A subsection of the official Web site of the Georgian Parliament. Regions and territories: Abkhazia. BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3261059.stm The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation. http://www.unpo.org/member.php? arg=03 Abkhazia is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation. UNPO's Web site on Abkhazia includes recent news related to Abkhazia as well as many important documents. Russian-language Abkhazian Web sites: http://abhazia.com/ http://www.abkhaziya.org/ http://www.apsny.ru/