Abkhazia Diaries Part 1

I assume that most of you slept through the history lessons in school so I think it’s time to refresh your minds.

Abkhazia is a small country located in one of the shadiest backwaters of the former Soviet Union between Russia and Georgia. It’s still officially within Georgian borders even though it claimed its independence 20 years ago. It’s only recognised by a few countries like Russia,Venezuela and some small island nations in the Pacific Ocean. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the Abkhazians fought a bloody war with Georgia lasting 13 months between August 1992 to September 1993. It ended with an Abkhazian “victory” and thanks to heavy Russian support they pushed out all Georgian forces. Thousands of Abkhazians and Georgians died in this tragic conflict and the relations between Abkhazia and Georgia are still very infected.

I came to Abkhazia with zero expectations, I didn’t even know what to expect. I needed to apply for a visa in advance but it was quite funny because the Russian border guards didn’t give me an exit stamp and neither the Abkhazians gave me an entry stamp. That’s because having one of these stamps in your passport is a violation of Georgian law. If they had stamped my passport they would put me in prison immediately if I enter Georgia. I was a little bit nervous about this because I didn’t know if they would give me a stamp or not. Luckily they didn’t. The visa wasn’t even glued to my passport so nobody can prove that I’ve been in Abkhazia. These same rules follow for people visiting South Ossetia, that’s also a violation of Georgian law so don’t enter Georgia with any of these stamps.

Anyway, even if not many countries recognise Abkhazia as an independent country it has already acted like one for twenty years without any Georgian involvement. It’s not wrong to call it to an Russian satellite state because without Russian support it would be completely isolated and it wouldn’t survive for long. For example, the shops are full of Russian products, the currency is Russian roubles, Russia is giving Russian passports to everybody in Abkhazia who want one and so on.
Russia is Abkhazias big brother numero uno.

On the other hand Abkhazia has many qualities to act like an independent country. They have their own language,their own culture, their own traditions, they control their own borders and so on. Abkhazia is like the Caucasian Kosovo, their situation is quite the same. But Abkhazia will never be a free and a widely recognised independent country as long as the Western world has Georgia as their close ally. Until anything changes Abkhazia has to rely on Russia to survive. Georgia will never recognise Abkhazia or South Ossetia as an independent countries. Maybe you remember back in 2008 when Georgia attacked South Ossetia and tried to take control over Abkhazia again. Mother Russia stepped in her foot immedeatly and pushed out all Georgian forces and that was the end of that conflict. Another interesting thing worth to mention is that Abkhazia recently took 120 Syrian refugee families. Quite impressive for a poor small country with a population only of 252000.

However, I’m not exaggerating when I’m saying that Abkhazia is located in maybe the shadiest backwater of the former Soviet Union. It’s hands down the most rundown country I’ve ever been in. Almost nothing have changed since the end of the war in 1993. No development at all. The cities are full of destroyed houses with no windows or roofs and you can see bullet holes everywhere. Everything is rundown or destroyed. One of the reasons why you can see so many destroyed buildings is because after the war Russian oligarchs bought large chunks of land in hope of making big bucks in the future. Things didn’t develop as they planned so they are still holding their hands on their property. BUT there is an other side of Abkhazia also.

Abkhazia has a very pretty coastline, it has a very beautiful nature full of snow covered mountains,rivers,lakes,palm trees,waterfalls,forests,caves and a blue ocean. I thought New Zealand was the only country in the world that had that. It’s has also a lot of other different attractions and a bunch of UNESCO heritage sites. The Russian black sea coast can’t even compete. It has so much to offer so it’s no wonder that Abkhazia attracts a lot of Russians who spends their summer holidays there. I dare to say that it beats Sochi in almost every category. Abkhazia has so much potential if they would clean the place up and of course, if their political situation was better.

Next post will be about my own experience.


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