Abkhazia is a breakaway republic in Georgia which has been the subject of a territorial dispute since the early 1990s and is recognised only by Russia, with whom it shares it’s northern border, and a handful of other states. The area is part of Georgia’s sovereign territory and the autonomous government sits in the Georgian capital Tbilisi as the breakaway republic is under the control of the Abkhazian People’s Assembly. The UN sees it as Georgian territory.
In 1992, the trans-Caucasian railway network was destroyed following the independence of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan and the fighting that followed. Much of the network was destroyed in the War Of Abkhazia by the Georgian armed forces. Russia and Georgia clashed over both Abkhazia and South Ossetia and as a result, there is now a large Russian military presence in the breakaway republic. Georgia has declared it a Russian occupation of its territory.
Railway routes to Sochi in Russia, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, were restored in the early 2000s but the remaining part of the network lies abandoned. There has been talk in some quarters about re-opening the network however issues with security remain, especially in relation to links with Georgia.
There’s some fascinating information about the Republic Of Abkhazia on their website, http://www.therepublicofabkhazia.org which includes the time line of their road to independence below –
1600s-1700s: Abkhazia and other Caucasian regions struggle for freedom from Ottoman rule.
1801: Abkhazia seeks protection from Russia against the Ottoman Empire.
1810: Czar Alexander I declares Abkhazia an autonomous principality.
1864: Russia annexes Abkhazia and begins a series of oppressive measures that will eventually force about half the Abkhaz population to flee.
1917 – 1918: Menshevik government of Georgia annexes Abkhazia.
March 1921: Bolsheviks overthrow Mensheviks in Georgia, establish Abkhazian SSR.
1922: Abkhazia joins USSR as a sovereign Abkhazian Republic.
1925: Abkhazia adopts its first Constitution, with a Treaty of Alliance with Georgia.
1931: Joseph Stalin and Lavrenti Beria reduce Abkhazia to a Republic within Georgia.
1937 – 1953: Stalin and Beria pursue policy of forced “Georgification,” forbid public use of the Abkhaz language, close Abkhaz schools, force use of the Georgian alphabet, and outlaw Abkhaz newspapers, journals, and literature.
1978: Abkhazia protests oppression of Abkhazia and “Georgianization.” The USSR suppresses protests, but allows the opening of a University and TV station in Abkhazia.
1988 – 1990: The Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic moves to secede from the USSR while attempting to stamp out Abkhazian independence.
1992: Abkhazia declares its territorial sovereignty. Georgia responds by invading Abkhazia, beginning a 14-month war.
September 1993: Georgian forces are defeated and driven out of Abkhazia.
November 26, 1994: Abkhazia adopts its current constitution and holds national elections. Russia, Georgia and other CIS states impose economic sanctions.
2008: Russia and other CIS countries ease sanctions. Georgia does not.
August 26, 2008: Following Georgia’s attack on Abkhazia and South Ossetia and subsequent defeat, Russia becomes the first nation to recognize independent Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Nicaragua and Venezuela follow suit.
Location: Abkhazia, Georgia
photos: Arslan @ xcitefun.com