The negative outcome of traveling a lot and frequently living abroad- is having difficulties to feel excitement again. Ahh… first times were so bright! All tastes, smells and noises. But finally cities started to be so similar, architecture and landscape not fascinating anymore, less surprises and challenges on the road. After traveling became the way of my life, I am not able to reach that excitement I had first times. Although, I’m still not able to settle down. Drugs- they are such a good analogy! The first dose suppose to be the best. Later, to reach same effect you need more or stronger ones. So it’s time to change the way of traveling. Couchsurfing and hitchhiking still give me vibes, but places not so much. I wish to go to South America, deeper to Middle East or maybe Africa, but at this moment I don’t have opportunities to do that. So, why not to go somewhere where is… kind a forbidden place? Why do not go to a territory, which is recognized as an independent state just by Russia and few other countries, but doesn’t have international recognition? Where does kidnapping sometimes happen and bombs were falling not so many years ago? “Elementary, my dear Watson. Because it’ dangerous”. Maybe yes, maybe no… maybe doesn’t matter. After all, “Danger” definition depends on the perspective.
The idea to go to Abkhazia was really attractive for me. As for a traveler who needs something new and as for a political science student who loves compare her theoretical knowledge gained from literature and lectures with “touchable” reality. And also, I wanted to get to know Georgia from all side. But wait, is it Georgia or not…?
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia experienced more complicated period than my lovely Baltic state. New independent country in Caucasus had to face separatist movements within its borders. The ethnic and territorial conflict in North-West Georgia has been present for a number of decades, but it reached the strongest tension between the Abkhazians (ethnic minority) and Georgians, when many Abkhazians decided not to support Georgia’s aim to become independent. Abkhazia wanted to stay autonomous and maybe in the future to establish a separate state.
Abkhazian’s main argument to prove their right for independence is that during Soviet Union time, the territory of Abkhazia was an Autonomous Republic within the Socialist Soviet Republic of Georgia. However, Georgians are stressing another period- during the pre-Soviet era, in which Abkhazia was a part of contemporary Georgia. As we see, both sides choose different historical phases to prove their historical understanding for their own purposes.
Also, it is important to mention some demographic facts that supports Georgia’s right to protect its territorial integrity. The pre-war population of Abkhazia was around 530.000, of which Abkhazians made up only around 17% of it. Nearly half of population were ethnic Georgians and other two most numerous groups were Armenians and Russians. To contradict these statistical facts, Abkhazians are blaming historical injustices, like Georgianization carried out under Stalin that decreased number of their ethnic population.
So, Abkhazians really did not want see Georgia independent and were better supporting idea to keep the Soviet Union to maintain autonomy. Eventually, Georgia became independent and Abkhazians, to keep them happy, were granted a certain over-representation in the local legislature. Despite that, Abkhazians leaders were not satisfied with it and started to intensify ties with Russian politicians and military elite. Not such a big surprise, but tension transformed to a war in 1992, August 14. It resulted highly localized, a yearlong armed struggle. The population of Abkhazia had been reduced to 216,000 from 525,000 in 1989.
During the war, Georgian troops have been accused of having committed looting, robbing and murders, while Georgia blames the opposite side for the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia. The number of those killed during the ethnic cleansing ranges from 8,000 to 10,000 people and up to 250,000 ethnic Georgians were expelled from their homes.
In September 1993, the Abkhazian side won the war, with external assistance. Abkhazian separatists were supported by North Caucasus and Cossack militant and by Russian Federation forces. Georgian forces were pushed across the Inguri River out of Abkhazia, leaving behind one of the richest provinces of the ex-Soviet Republic. The former Autonomous Republic declared its independence, but were not officially recognized by any government in the world. Since the war, Abkhazia has been isolated from developments in Georgia and has extended its economic and political ties with the Russian Federation.
Georgia was not able to find solution to this situation alone, so the international community became involved in negotiation process.The UN organization created peacekeeping operation “United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia” (UNOMIG), which more than fifteen years tried to produce a peaceful agreement, but organization did not managed to reach successes. A peaceful settlement between war parties was not found. In 2008 conflict was renewed, followed by a Russian invasion into Georgia’s territory and occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Finally, Abkhazia was officially recognized as an independent state by Russia, Venezuela, Nauru (where the hell it is?), Nicaragua and of course, South Ossetia and Transnistria.
The main difficulty the UNOMIG had to face was… mother Russia. Country which is one of the most powerful members of the UN, which also had veto power and was supporting existence of conflict. The dissolving Soviet Union in the end of 20th century was going to loose Caucasian countries. New independent countries would integrate into international economic and political structures and start to be under Western influence. Creating the conflict situations in Caucasus would help to destabilize new states and make them less attractive for international support.
Russian Federation was playing the main international role in this conflict since the beginning. The Abkhazian leaders and troops had been supported verbally and military by this huge state. Russia was doing whatever it wanted, because the UN was not able to take decisions that would oppose Russia’s strategic interests. UNOMIG was not capable to find solution in Georgia- Abkhazia conflict because one of the main powers wanted this organization to be week. So, finally Russia closed the UNOMIG by vetoed it.
Since 2009 other organizations are still active in the region, but peaceful agreement between Georgia and Abkhazia (and Russia?) was not found. Georgia blames Russia for occupation, Russia as always protects Russian’s rights and Abkhazia… Here I am finishing “a short background” I wanted to give you and I am moving to the story of my personal trip to Abkhazia.
At least, I will try to write it tonight.