Abkhazia is situated on the Eastern coast of the Black sea, bordering Russia in the North and North Caucasus along the Caucasus Mountains Range and Georgia in the East. Abkhazia is divided into seven administrative districts: Gagra, Gudauta, Sukhum, Ochamchira, Gulripsh, Tquarchal and Gal. Due to its mountainous nature, Abkhazia has many rivers and lakes, and rich fertile soil. The climate is very mild, averaging around 15 degrees Celsius. Higher elevations experience a more varied climate, with significant snow and even glaciers in some parts. The capital city is Sukhum (Aqw'a in Abkhaz) which lies on the Black Sea coast.

History Early Development

6th Century B.C.: The Greeks established trading posts in Abkhazia, a Caucasian land, then part of the region known as Colchis at the Eastern end of the Black Sea. Their cities, especially Dioscurias (modern day Sukhum) grew to be a prosperous trade center.

In 55 AD Saint Andrew and Simon the Zealot came to Abkhazia to preach Christianity where they were both buried. First Century B.C.: The Romans fortified Sukhum. The peoples' longevity was reported.

523 A.D.: Abkhazia became part of the Byzantine Empire. Christianity was adopted.  

780 - 978: The Kingdom of Abkhazia flourished and the Abkhazia Dynasty extended its sway over much of what is now Western Georgia.

978 - 13th Century: Abkhazia, as a result of dynastic inheritance, is united with Georgian-speaking regions in the mediaeval kingdom whose rulers carried the title 'Sovereign of the Abkhazians and Georgians'.

1300-1500: A portion of Abkhazia was under Mingrelian Rule.  

Source: The Cambridge World History - Volume 4: A World with States, Empires and Networks 1200 BCE–900 CE

+ History of Abkhazia: Ist-XVIIIth Century, by Oleg Bgazhba
+ History of Abkhazia: 18th Century-1917, by Stanislav Lakoba
+ Abkhazia by John Colarusso

1500 - 1680: The Abkhazian Chachba Dynasty drove the Mingrelians out and established the southern boundary that exists to this day.  

1578: Abkhazia was invaded by the Ottoman Empire

18th Century: Abkhazia, in alliance with Georgia, made repeated efforts to drive out the Turks.

Russian Empire

1801 - 1804: Various Georgian areas (Kartli and Kakhetia-1801, Mingrelia-1803, Imeretia and Guria-1804) came directly under Russian Rule (voluntarily seeking protection from Ottoman Turks and Iran).  

1810: Tzar Alexander the First, issued a Charter to the ruling Prince of Abkhazia acknowledging Abkhazia as an autonomous principality under the protection of Russia.  

1864: After prolonged fighting across the entire region of the Caucasus, Abkhazia was the last Caucasian principality to be forcibly annexed to the Russian Empire. Russian oppression was so severe that over the next few decades more than half of the Abkhazian population fled to Turkey and the Middle East.  

1917 - 1918: Abkhazia joined the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus. The Mensheviks took over the government of Georgia and annexed Abkhazia by a mixture of political manoeuvring and the application of ‘fire and sword’ by General Mazniashvili’s troops.

Soviet Abkhazia

March 1921: The Bolsheviks overthrew the Mensheviks in Georgia. The Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic was established independently of Georgia and headed by Nestor Lakoba.  

1922: Abkhazia was a signatory to the formation of the USSR acting as a sovereign Abkhazian Republic.  

1925: Abkhazia adopted its first Constitution under which it was united by a Special Treaty of Alliance with Georgia.  

1931: Stalin (Georgian) and Beria (Mingrelian) reduced Abkhazia to the status of an autonomous Republic within Georgia.  

1937 - 1953: Forced mass immigration into Abkhazia was carried out from Western Georgia (Mingrelia) by Stalin and Beria. In Abkhazia, as well as other regions of the USSR, mass oppression was carried out, thousands of intellectuals were persecuted. Before the enforced georgianisation of the 20th century, Abkhazia had a highly diverse demography with many Turks, Armenians, Jews, and Greeks, among others. Abkhazia celebrated its diversity, and the strict homogenization under Georgian rule greatly contrasted with the traditionally tolerant Abkhazian culture. During the period of enforced georgianisation (1937-1953), the Abkhaz were deprived of the right to teach their children in their native language; all Abkhaz schools and institutions were closed from the school-year 1945-46. The Abkhaz were only compelled to study in Georgian schools. The Abkhaz script (originally based on Cyrillic and then on Latin) was altered, against the will of the Abkhaz people, to one based on Georgian characters in 1938. Despite the reintroduction of schooling in Abkhaz and a reformed, Cyrillic-based script following the deaths of Stalin and Beria in 1953, in 1978 Abkhazian intellectuals signed a letter of protest to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR complaining about the status of Abkhazia and blamed the Georgian leaders for pursuing a "Beriaite" policy aimed at the "Georgianization" of the Republic. Major demonstrations at Lykhny (a sacred place in Abkhazian tradition) followed. The Abkhazian campaign, to be incorporated in the Russian Federation, was rejected by Russia and Georgia. Instead, concessions were made to the Abkhaz, including the opening of the Abkhazian State University and TV broadcasting for 15 minutes twice a week in the Abkhaz language. During that year (1978), Moscow allocated millions of roubles to help Abkhazia. The Abkhazian government never received the money. The sum was dispersed to constrain the Abkhazian people's protest at existing conditions.

From the book: Trans-Caucasia by Harold Buxton (1926)

+ The Stalin-Beria Terror in Abkhazia, 1936-1953, by Stephen D. Shenfield
+ Demographic change in Abkhazia 1897–1989
+ Thirty years of "guilt" (1877-1907), by Stanislav Lakoba
+ The Treaty between Abkhazian National Congress and Georgian National Congress | 9 February 1918

Post Soviet Period

1988 - 1989: Leaders of the National Movement in Georgia demanded the abolition of the "Autonomies within Georgia together with secession from the USSR.  

1988 - 1990: The Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic unilaterally adopted a number of measures which essentially effected the secession of Georgia from the USSR, abrogating in the process all legal acts that united Georgia and Abkhazia under  Soviet jurisdiction.

1990: On the eve of the signing of the new Soviet Union Treaty, Abkhazia, like all of the other autonomous republics, declared its sovereignty. On the next day, Georgia declared the abrogation of the Abkhazian Declaration of Sovereignty. Georgia abrogated the autonomy of Ossetia, leading to  armed conflict between South Ossetia and Georgia.  

1992: Abkhazia declares the sovereignty of its own territory and proposes a federative treaty to Georgia to fill the "legal vacuum" that resulted from Georgia's unilateral abrogation of all Soviet legal documents. On August 14th, exactly 20 days after being accepted by the United Nations, Georgian troops entered the territory of Abkhazia without any notification to the Abkhazian government and launched a land and air attack on the southeast part of Abkhazia and its capital city. Bloody fighting continued for 13 months.

1993: On September 30th, Abkhazian forces - backed by the Confederation of the Peoples of the North Caucasus Organization, finally ousted the Georgian troops from the territory of Abkhazia.  

1994: In April, a joint Declaration of the Political Settlement was signed by the parties to the conflict - the UN, Russia and OSCE, in the presence of the UN Secretary General. The Declaration outlined principles for the peaceful settlement of the conflict on the basis of equality between the parties.  In May, negotiations under the auspices of the UN sanctioned the deployment of the CIS peace-keeping troops to separate the parties to the conflict.

+ Origins and Evolutions of the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict, by Stephen D. Shenfield
+ The roots of the conflict, by Bruno Coppieters
+ Abkhazia: a problem of identity and ownership, by George B. Hewitt - Central Asian Survey, 1993

Recent history of Abkhazia

After Georgia annulled all Soviet legislation, Abkhazia, as a temporary measure,re-enacted its 1925 constitution, and a new constitution was acclaimed by popular referendum on November 26 1994, restating Abkhazia’s national sovereignty, which was not recognised by Georgia or any other state, as were the elections in November 1996; the Constitution was amended in 1999, at which point Abkhazia finally declared its formal independence Later, a regime of economic sanctions was imposed on Abkhazia by Russia, Georgia and the CIS states. This  had a severe impact on the economic growth and development of Abkhazia. Until 26th August 2008, when Russia (followed by Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Syria) recognised both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, Abkhazia continued to act as a de facto sovereign state, constantly making its case for international recognition, having finally declared its full independence from Georgia in 1999.

Politics and Issues in Abkhazia’s Relations with Georgia

After the end of the conflict in 1993, Georgia made several military attempts to take Abkhazia back (e.g. in 1998 and 2001). The introduction of troops (masquerading as police) of the Georgian Army in the upper part of the Kodor Gorge of Abkhazia effectively put an end to the already fragile peace process. Until the troops fled from the Gorge after bombing and prior to a land-attack on 12th August 2008, Georgia continued to claim that part of Abkhazia to be part of Georgia by relocating there the so-called “Government in exile” (The Georgian-recognised Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia never had any actual jurisdiction over, or relevance in, Abkhazia). Georgia and the international community (apart from Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, and Syria) refuse to recognise the Sukhum-based government, despite the fact that it exercises sovereign rule over its territory and people, whilst Georgia has been unable to do so since the end of the war on 30th September 1993.

Abkhazia demands reparations from Georgia for destruction during the 1992-93 war as well as for the economic damage suffered due to the sanctions placed on Abkhazia by the CIS states. Within Georgia, there are high numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs, or refugees) from the war, mainly Mingrelians who fled in fear of what the post-war chaos would mean for those who supported the Georgian invasion. Georgian President Saakashvili (like his predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze) often uses the IDPs as a bargaining chip for humanitarian assistance from the world-community. Abkhazia argues that during the 1992-93 war, many local Georgians living in Abkhazia fought on the Georgian side against the Abkhaz. According to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, those who use arms in an armed struggle and then flee do not fall under the international definition of refugees. Experienced Abkhazian expert Liana Kvarchelia writes that Abkhazian society can allow the return only of those Georgians who did not fight on the Georgian side and only after they recognise Abkhazia as an independent state. She also says that the same right for return should be given also to descendants of Abkhazian refugees from the Russian-Caucasian War of the XIX century and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, who live mostly in Turkey. Abkhazia demands for recognition as a sovereign state both by Georgia and by the international community have been substantially strengthened by Russia’s recognition of 26th August 2008.

+ Georgian-Abkhaz War | FBIS Reports (Aug-Oct. 1992)
+ The Blockade of Abkhazia
+ "The Key to the Future" | Georgian-Abkhazian Conflict


According to the data of the census, conducted in February 2011, the population of the republic stood at 240,705.

The urban population of the Republic represents 50.3% or 121,255 persons, whilst the rural population represents 49.7% or 119,450 persons.

The ratio of men to women was 46.4% and 53.6% respectively. The population-figures for the most numerous nationalities break down as follows: Abkhazians – 122,069; Russians – 22,077; Armenians – 41,864; Georgians – 43,166; Megrelians/Mingrelians – 3,201; Greeks – 1,380.

Abkhazians in the Republic make up 50.71%, Armenians 17.39%, Georgians 17.93%, Russians 9.17%.

There is also a large Abkhazian Diaspora of over half a million, based in Turkey but with populations in Syria and Jordan.


Abkhazians speak Abkhaz, though Russian is also common and shares co-official status, - whilst Mingrelian and Georgian are widely spoken in the Gal district, where most of the returned ‘Georgian’ refugees live. Written Abkhaz, based on the Cyrillic alphabet, first appeared in 1862.


The majority of Abkhazians within Abkhazia are Orthodox Christians, comprising approximately 75% of the population.  Another 10% of Abkhazians are Sunni Muslims, and there are small numbers of Jews, Lutherans, Catholics and followers of new religions. Abkhazian historian Stanislav Lakoba, when asked about the religion of Abkhazia, answered that the Abkhaz are eighty percent Christian, twenty percent [Sunni] Muslim, and one hundred percent pagan!


The majority of Abkhazians live in rural areas, mostly in large family homes where they grow and process their own food. Horses have an important place in Abkhazian culture. Equine sports and equestrian activities are popular with Abkhazians and often play a central role in festivals. Song, music, and dance are also important to Abkhazian culture. There are joyous songs for weddings, ritual songs, cult songs, lullabies, healing songs, and work songs. There are special songs for the gathering of the lineage, for the ill, and songs celebrating the exploits of heroes. All of the arts are represented in Abkhazia. There are drama and dance companies, art museums, music schools, and theatres for the performing arts. Poetry and literature are also held in high regard.  It has recently been acknowledged that there is a disproportionately high occurrence of nonagenarians and centenarians in certain areas in the Caucasus, including Abkhazia. These long-lifers are known for continuing their active lifestyles, continuing to work the fields, dance, sing, and walk for miles long past their ninth decade.


Abkhazia is mostly rural and boasts a variety of abundant agricultural natural resources, primarily citrus fruit, tobacco, tea, and timber. It also has some energy resources with coal mines and hydro-electric plants. Abkhazia’s economy is heavily reliant on Russia, using the rouble as its currency, and relying mostly on Russia as export market, a trading partner and investor.  Turkey is another big economic partner for Abkhazia. Economic and travel sanctions were imposed on Abkhazia in 1996 by the CIS countries after its declaration of sovereignty and the removal of Georgian troops from the country. The economic blockade following years of military conflict devastated the Abkhazian economy. No foreign direct investment was able to breach the blockades, and international trade is highly restricted. Lifting of the embargo by Russia opened new horizons for the country’s economic growth. Tourism to Abkhazia is on the rise, with the number of tourists reaching almost 2 million visitors in 2007 and the expectation that this number will continue to grow in coming years. Fishing and construction industries are increasing their volume annually.

Nature & Environment

Despite the years of isolation, Abkhazia managed to preserve its unique and virgin natural parks and resources. Abkhazia is rich in freshwater and may become one of its biggest exporters. The fast-growing tourism industry is challenging Abkhazia’s environment. Years of isolation, however, deprived Abkhazia of its access to international know-how on environmental protection standards.