Abkhazia Conflict

By Susan Bohlen, 

By Flavia Almeida

Abkhazia Conflict

by Susan Bohlen, Spring 2000  


Abkhazia, which was made a part of the Soviet republic of  Georgia in 1921, unilaterally declared independence in August 1992  following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Georgia chose not to recognize  its independence however, and the two sides went to war. In turn,  thousands died on both sides and some 250,000 Georgians living in Abkhazia  fled. A shaky cease-fire was signed in 1994, but the conflict is still  not over (Deutsche Presse-Agentur: 10/2/99).

Since 1994 conflict has no  doubt continued, with countless talks convened among world leaders,  including the intervention of the United Nations and the Organization for  Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to discuss advances in, or  obstacles to the peace process. Heads of state, ministers of state,  deputy foreign ministers, representatives from interior ministries,  presidents, vice presidents, secretary generals, and prime ministers have  all met to discuss points on the settlement over all of these years, and  mechanisms on how to protect Georgian refugees who would want to return to  Abkhazia.

The United States as well as the European Union have both  allocated large funds to the separatist province in an effort to mend the  economic wounds in that region, for Georgia has been suffering  repercussions from the successive crises and difficulties in Russia (BBC:  12/24/97).   Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze has appreciated such  efforts, however along the course of these years, the support in the  international community hasn't been as strong as he would have liked.  Just recently in September of 1999, Shevardnadze criticized the world  community for ignoring the plight of 300,000 people displaced by the  conflict in Georgia's Abkhazia separatist region. Shevardnadze added that  the conflict has continued because the U.N. Security Counsel had not made  any 'objective assessment' of the situation and 'no significant progress'  has been made despite the 21 U.N. resolutions and the many rounds of  negotiations.

In his first appearance before the U.N. General Assembly  since 1992, Shevardnadze said that the displaced Georgians were  traumatized by the civil war while the international media seemed to be  more concerned with the conflict in the Balkans. On that subject,  Shevardnadze added that he supported the NATO air strikes in Kosovo as a  stand against ethnic cleansing, hinting that he would not object to a  similar military campaign launched against the separatist forces in  Abkhazia (Deutsche Presse-Agentur: 9/20/99).

Ethnic minorities make up one third of the Georgian population.  Ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijanis in Georgia number in 400,000 each. Some  200,000 residents of Georgia are ethnic Russians. Other ethnic groups  include 40,000 Ukrainians, 40,000 Kurds, and 20,000 Jews (BBC: 4/3/99).  So much potential for conflict and there is. Fighting between Abkhazia  and the central government has driven hundreds of thousands of people out  of the separatist province. Recently, 101 military observers, as well as  Russian peacekeepers in the area to help the peace process are monitoring  a cease-fire agreement between the two sides. In fact, in early 1999  Georgia admitted that the presence of Russian troops in the republic is  the only stabilizing factor in the region, but they still demonstrated  their disdainful attitude towards Russian servicemen in every way  possible.

 Despite the fact that many would demand the withdrawal of  Russian troops from Georgia, if that were fulfilled it may very well  worsen the situation in the republic, and the Georgians are aware of this.   The question for this essay was to find something that the  citizens of a republic can identify with nationally. Well, I think that  the struggle to regain a safe society and have the freedom to return to  their homes in peace is something they can all relate to.      


Kaiser, Robert G.. Why Gorbachev Happened. Simon and Schuster Co., 1991:  New   York. 

Kolsto, Pal. Nation Building and Ethnic Integration in Post-Soviet  Societies. Westview   Press, 1999: Boulder, Colorado. 

Deutsche Press-Agentur: "Ukraine offers to mediate in Georgia's  Abkhazia", 10/2/99 

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): "President Shevardnadze pleased  with U.S.   Support to restore Abkhaz economy", 12/24/97 

Deutsche Presse-Agentur: "Shevardnadze blasts world body for ignoring  displaced   Georgians", 9/20/99 

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): "Georgian presidential advisor  blames Russia   For provoking ethnic conflicts", 4/3/99      


Abkhazia Conflict

By:  Flavia Almeida


Despite the Sochi cease-fire agreement of July 27, 1993 the Abkhazian side launched an offensive against Sukhumi on September 16, 1993. The separatist forces were assisted by mercenaries from the Russian Federation, Turkey. Syria and Jordan. The Sochi agreement called for the withdrawal of heavy artillery, tanks and armored machinery from the conflict zone. The practically disarmed Georgian troops fought, outnumbered, for twelve days. The separatists took over Sukhumi on September 27. The separatist forces obtained military dominance in the region, except for Kodori gorge, and proceeded on a policy of "ethnic cleansing" aimed at exterminating the Georgian population. The terror carried out by the separatist troops and mercenaries prompted four fifths of its inhabitants to flee. More than 250,000 people have been exiled from their birth place simply because of Georgian origin. More than 6000 civilians were killed, more than 10,000 people wounded, women were raped and cities were burned down and looted. Before the military conflict the world did not take seriously the situation of Georgians in Abkhazia.

The government of the Russian federation blames the Abkhazian authorities for the conflict in the region. On December 06, 1994 during the OSCE Budapest Summit, several heads of state expressed their concern for the "ethnic cleansing", slaughtering of innocent people, and massive expulsion of ethnic Georgians.

Rarely has such open ethnic cleansing been carried out as in the Gall district. Before September 1993 96,000 people (97% Georgians) resided in Gall. After the fall of Sukhumi separatist forces invaded Gall faced with little resistance. The dramatic outcome of the invasion was the deaths of 1500 people, the burning alive of 183 people, the complete or partial destruction of 12 villages, 6000 residential houses, 40 high schools according to the UN. Only about 6 thousand people remained in the area. A meeting of the UN Security Council decided that peace or even any agreement could not be achieved without the deployment of peace-keeping forces to the region. The UN failed to carry out decisive operations and the deployment of troops were left to the CIS. Russian troops have been deployed in the conflict zone since 1993, but with no success until now. The military troops until recently served the purpose of merely border guards. The terror continued. After the deployment of peace keeping troops in the conflict zone, people who had left began to return. These people however continued to be targeted by the separatist forces. The brutality of the attacks are shocking and the degree of violation of huaman rights astounding. Citizens' houses were being invaded, burned and looted, people were being massacred and robbed, and raped despite the presence of troops.

Displaced people have not been able to return to their homeland, peace keeping forces and UN observers have not had any real influence in the administration and militia. The Abkhazian side has fixed elections which will only delay a resolution, or even make reaching one impossible. They will impede the peace mission and will probably legalize the ethnic cleansing policy.







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