Daniel Müller

Abkhaz democracy and the wilful ignorance of the ‘international community’

What I find most intriguing about Abkhazia 1992-2012 is its elections (on all levels). Yes, there is a certain turbulence about Abkhazian politics, including occasional violence (I’m speaking of intra-Abkhaz violence here, not of the attacks by armed Georgians mainly in Gal’); but, remarkably, in this beleaguered and tiny nation, there have been a number of closely fought elections, incumbents being turned out of office more often than not, in what seems to be a remarkably free vote, despite the lack of international help and goodwill. Surely this is a remarkable achievement, especially when comparing it with elections elsewhere in the region, say in Georgia and Russia.

The second remarkable aspect surely must be the ignorance with which the “international community” (i. e., the US-led countries, including the EU) approach this conflict. Yes, it is true that Russia (itself very much a non-democratic country behind a thin veneer, much like Georgia incidentally) is the main obstacle to “reunification”, as the Georgians call it. Without the Russian back-up to the Abkhaz forces, Georgia would undoubtedly have found the means to unleash a second full-scale invasion long ago, with a more or less complete genocide (not necessarily mainly physical) of the Abkhaz in its wake. But why is Russia standing by the Abkhaz and the Ossetians when it did not stand with, say, Abashidze, although the strategic interest (Batum) was even stronger there if anything? The answer is that Abashidze was not representative of the Adzhars, who, whatever their misgivings, were not willing to fight for autonomy, and certainly not independence, because they did not fear outright subjugation and destruction as the Abkhaz and Ossetians have every right to. So, the Adzhars (not so afraid and not willing to fight) were key to the re-incorporation of Adzharistan with the Russians standing by, just as the Abkhaz and Ossetians (justifiably very fearsome of what a new invasion would hold for them and very willing to fight, now as in ’92 or ’91 and ’08) are the reason for the lack of Georgian headway in Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia.

So, trying to solve the riddle by pretending this is a two-way thing – tiny Georgia vs. mighty Russia – will not work just as it has not worked in the past. Regrettably it is very likely that the ‘international community’ will stick to its failed strategies, driving Abkhazia ever further into Russia’s arms.

Daniel Müller
Programme Director of the Joint Ph.D. Programme for the Social Sciences and the Humanities at TU Dortmund University. GERMANY

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