An Overview of the Recent Conflicts & Abkhazia Today
July 20, 2015
The Georgian-Abkhazian War 1992-1993
On 14th of August 1992, the War in Abkhazia begun with Georgia, the neighbouring ethnic population. The war involved government forces from Georgia and Abkhazian forces who were in support of the independence of Abkhazia. The war raged for a total of 1 year, 1 month and 13 days. The situation first arose during the 1980s, when the anti-Soviet Georgians began seeking independence from the Soviet Union. This resulted in the Abkhazian nationalists seeking the official establishment of a separate Soviet Socialist Republic, based on a precedent of the existence of a separate Abkhazian SSR during 1925 – 1931. This clash in beliefs lead to numerous attacks and assaults on and by both parties. As the tension built up, the first armed clashes between the Abkhazians and Georgians took place on 16–17 July 1989 in Sukhum. The short conflict was sparked by the decision of the Georgian government to convert the Georgian sector of Abkhazia's Sukhum State University into a branch of Georgia's Tbilisi State University. Abkhazians strongly opposed to the new university, and saw it as an instrument to extend Georgian control. The resulting civil unrest quickly turned into militarized clashes that killed dozens and injured hundreds of mostly Georgians. After months of hostilities, armed conflicts eventually broke out in August 1992. Relations became extremely fierce, leading to Abkhazian militants storming the government building, and the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Georgians who had not left Abkhazia prior to the conflict. As a result of the year long war, 2,220 Abkhaz soldiers perished, along with 1,820 Abkhazian civilians, and 2,543 Georgian soldiers killed in action, while up to 30,000 civilians killed. In December 1993, an official ceasefire was signed by Georgian and Abkhaz leaders under the pressure of the UN and Russia.
The Abkhazian-Georgian Conflict 1998
The War in Abkhazia in 1998 took place in the Gali district of Abkhazia, after ethnic Georgians launched an insurgency against the Abkhazian secessionist government. The conflict is sometimes referred to as the Six-Day War of Abkhazia however this name only takes into account the Abkhazian May 20, 1998 - May 26, 1998 offensive while hostilities and insurgent attacks had already occurred before that date. The conflict was ignited by Georgians killing 20 policemen on 18th May 1998. Despite calls by the Georgian government opposition to send troops to Gali to help the Georgian rebels, the then President Eduard Shevardnadze refused. The Georgian rebellion was subsequently crushed by May 26.
The Russian-Georgian War 2008
On August 10th in 2008, the Georgian war in South Ossetia spread to Abkhazia, where Abkhazian rebels and the Russian air force launched a retaliation attack on Georgian forces. Abkhazia's then President Sergei Bagapsh said that his troops had launched a major military operation to force Georgian troops out of the Kodori Gorge (South Abkhazia), which Georgians still controlled. As a result of this attack, Georgian troops were driven out of Abkhazia entirely.
Shortly after the 2008 war, on August 26, the Russian Federation officially recognised both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. In response to Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Georgian government announced that the country has cut all diplomatic relations with Russia and that it has left the Commonwealth of Independent States. Georgia has since moved to increase Abkhazia's isolation by imposing a sea blockade of Abkhazia. Georgia and the majority of the countries in the world do not recognise Abkhazia as independent. Georgia officially considers Abkhazia as a sovereign territory of the Georgian state under Russian military occupation. In total, 4 countries recognise Abkhazia today; Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru. Abkhazia is also recognised by South Ossetia, Transnistria, and Nagorno-Karabakh. Abkhazia is currently housing hundreds of Syrian refugees who have fled the recent civil war in 2013, and since May 2012 it has welcomed approximately 500 Syrians of Circassian descent, with the Abkhaz government providing language lessons to all. In August 2013, the Abkhazian State Committee for Repatriation announced that since 1993, 7365 diaspora members had returned to Abkhazia, of which 4268 from Turkey, 494 from Syria, 107 from Egypt and Jordan and 2496 from Russia and other countries. More recently, In September 2014, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia announced that 273 Ukrainians fleeing the Civil war had been housed in Abkhazia. In the 2011 census, Georgians made up 19% of the population in Abkhazia, with 46,367 Georgians who mostly live in Southern Abkhazia around Gali. Abkhazians make up 50% with 122,069 people, while Russians, Armenians, and Greeks make up the rest of the population. Latest figures show that the current population in Abkhazia is approx. 240,705.