Discover Abkhazia's Story
Discover Abkhazia was established as a non-governmental organisation in 2015. Discover Abkhazia is registered and based in the United Kingdom.
Sophie Royle, creator of Discover Abkhazia
After moving to Georgia in my late teenage years, I would hear stories about Abkhazia through Georgians who had left Abkhazia prior to the 1992 war, and from younger Georgians who had experienced war much closer to home in Tbilisi in 2008. I wanted to know more about Abkhazia, but unfortunately the internet provided me with very little useful information, and the only available information was often plagued with political propaganda or emotional bias from Georgian and Russian voices. This lack of apolitical information, teamed with my curiosity and interest in conflicts and the Caucasus, led me to visiting Abkhazia myself. I went to Abkhazia alone, and after a few weeks I truly discovered Abkhazia. Abkhazians were eager to show me their country, to talk about the war and their issues, to educate me on everything from Abkhazia's cuisine to the wonderfully complicated Abkhaz language.
Upon returning home from this trip, it was near impossible to explain to my friends and relatives where I had just been. I couldn't open the internet on my phone and say "here, look, this is Abkhazia!" because the information online was still riddled with politics, misinformation and propaganda. How could people really learn about and discover Abkhazia, if the real Abkhazia was nowhere to be found on the internet? I couldn't just sit around complaining about the lack of information, I could do something about it. The simple, apolitical guide to Abkhazia was born. Discover Abkhazia started out here, as a website, before I expanded the project into book form. Every country has a travel guide - but Abkhazia didn't. I wrote the book, combining useful travel information with a phrasebook which was put together through my own experiences as a foreigner learning Abkhaz, alongside natives' knowledge of the language. The very first English-language travel guide for Abkhazia was finished and made available across the globe through Amazon.
Through my efforts in neutrally promoting Abkhazia to a worldwide audience, I made numerous important contacts in Abkhazia who were fascinated with my project, including the President of Abkhazia himself. I was presented with the opportunity to meet the President and conduct his first ever interview with a western journalist. I was allowed to make my own set of questions, and be as political and controversial as I liked. I wanted this interview to bring answers to Discover Abkhazia's audience, because although this organisation is apolitical, there are questions which naturally arise when learning about such a controversial country, and who better to represent the political voice of the country than the President. You can read this interview here. Despite my wealth of working contacts in Abkhazia, I cannot say that there have not been characters on Discover Abkhazia's journey who have been discouraging, threatening and disruptive. Several run-ins with the Georgian government have at times made me want to pack up Discover Abkhazia and leave this mission for somebody else to continue. Yet, closing this organisation is exactly what these critics want. They do not want this apolitical information online for the world to see, they do not want foreigners to know that Abkhazia is a safe and welcoming place, or that Abkhazian people even exist. This organisation was founded on the principle that reliable information must not be replaced by political games. It is not my mission to tell you which side to support in Abkhaz-Georgian issues, it is my mission to make sure that whatever your final decision is, you have made this decision using as much reliable and apolitical information as possible.
My work on Discover Abkhazia is constantly ongoing, I always seek to add new information and present all aspects of Abkhazia, which naturally undergo changes over time. I travel regularly to Abkhazia which enables me to provide up-to-date information, and continue my research into the culture, lifestyle, people, food and language. I hope after browsing this website, you feel like you have learned a lot about Abkhazia, and I hope this website has given you the confidence to visit and truly Discover Abkhazia for yourself.