A Brief Guide to Abkhazia

Alex Mellon /
Alex Mellon / | © Culture Trip

Only officially recognised by Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela, Abkhazia regards itself as an independent state, declaring its sovereignty nearly 30 years ago. Here’s everything you need to know.

Location:

Bordering the Black Sea, Abkhazia is situated in the most north-western corner of Georgia, just south of Russia and the Caucasus mountains.

History:

The Kingdom of Abkhazia was formed in 756 but became part of Georgia in 985. As with most regions in the same part of the world, Abkhazia fell under the Ottoman Empire, before succumbing to Russian rule in 1810 where it was annexed just over 50 years later. In 1931 Soviet Russia incorporated the region into Georgia where it remained for 60 years, until Georgia declared independence in 1991. A year later Georgia sent troops into Abkhazia to stop it breaking away, but serious conflict lasted until the 1994 ceasefire (mentioned above).

Political status:

According to Georgia, its government and the United Nations, Abkhazia is considered a part of Georgia, but in reality Georgia exercises very little control over the region. Georgia’s constitution names the area as the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia and as such it has enjoyed a de-facto form of independence since 1993 after fierce fighting with Georgia. A ceasefire was declared in 1994 with Russia predominantly acting as peacemakers. Today it is generally more politically aligned with the Russians, rather than Georgia, and Russia remains one of a select group of countries that recognises the state’s independence.
Abkhazia are competing at the 2018 CONIFA World Cup, here’s everything you need to know about the tournament.

Demographics:

According to a 2011 census, just over half the population is ethnic Abkhaz, with the remainder made up of Georgians, Russians and Armenians. The Georgian population was higher before conflict in the early 1990s, but has diminished significantly since then.

Under Abkhazia constitution all religions and atheism have equal rights, with roughly two-thirds of the population Christian, with Islam as a distant second. There has been a recent rise in those following the Abkhaz native religion, with priests and rural communities revisiting local rituals in a form of neopaganism.

Although Abkhaz is one of the official languages, it is considered “endangered” given the lack of educational materials in Abkhaz. There are, however, magazines and newspapers published in Abkhaz and it is used in legislative and executive council debates.

Profile:

Population: 240,000 approx.
Capital: Sukhumi (or Sokhumi)
Major languages: Abkhaz, Russian
Currency: Rouble
Major religions: Christianity, Islam

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