Erol Taymaz

Reflections on Abkhazia: A View from Diaspora

The Adygean-Abkhazian peoples had a long, common history dating back at least to Early Bronze Age. They have lived in their homeland since the time they appeared in the history, and have developed a fascinating culture. They have defended their freedom and homeland against various invaders throughout the history.

1864 is the turning point in the history of Adygean-Abkhazian peoples. After the conquest of their homeland by the Czarist Russia, they were deported en masse from their country, and forced to be settled in Ottoman lands, stretching long distances from the Danube River in the Balkans down to Amman in present day Jordan. They have faced with the real threat of physical and cultural destruction after 1864, and their brethren people, the Ubykhs, who shared the same fate with the Adygean and Abkhazian peoples, are now extinct as a result of those tragic events.

The history of Adygean-Abkhazian peoples since the genocide and exile committed against them in 1864 is full of tragedies and heartbreaking stories. In spite of the deportation, oppression and denial of their basic rights, they have survived, and achieved two remarkable successes after the dissolution of the Soviet Union that rejuvenated the hope for their survival. The first success was the elevation of the status of Adyghe Autonomous Oblast to that of republic in 1991. The creation of the Republic of Adygea has provided a number of fragile but significant safeguards for the survival of the Adygean people.

The second success, which is very important for the Abkhaz as well as the Adygean people, is the independence of the Republic of Abkhazia. Abkhazians had no alternative but to be independent to survive after they were attacked by the Georgian army in 1992. The aim of the Georgian state was to wipe out whole Abkhazian nation, as Goga Khaindrava, then the Georgian Minister, has summarized succinctly: “[Abkhazians] are only 80,000, that is to say, we can easily and completely destroy the gene pool of their nation by killing 15,000 of their young. And we are perfectly capable of doing that." (Le Monde, April 1993) The onslaught of the Georgian army against the civilian people of South Ossetia on the day the Beijing Olympic Games started in 2008 was the final reminder to the world that the Georgian leadership never changes its policy towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia even if the leaders are changed. As a result of the last aggression, Abkhazia is now recognized as an independent and sovereign state by six members of the United Nations, including the Russian Federation.

Abkhazia, with the assistance provided by the Adygean and other North Caucasian peoples, repulsed the military aggression in 1992-1993, and lived under the continuous threat of another military aggression since then. A strict embargo, imposed by the Commonwealth of Independent States, and enforced by the Russian Federation, led to almost complete isolation of the country. Abkhazians were denied their basic rights, were not able to trade, to travel, to keep contacts with their relatives living in the diaspora. However, neither the threat of military aggression, nor isolations had weakened their determination for independence, because they knew very well from their tragic history that independence was, and is, the only guarantor for their survival. Their determination and firm stance led to the recognition of their independence by some members of the international community 16 years after the independence struggle. The process of strengthening independence and statehood in Abkhazia during the last 20 years makes all of us, Adygeans and Abkhazians living in the diaspora, to be hopeful for the future of Abkhazia and the Abkhazian people.

There is another, and more important process, that makes us hopeful. The peoples of Abkhazia have been successful in building not only a statehood, bu also a democratic statehood and polity in spite of all aggression and isolation. A simple comparison between presidential elections between Abkhazia and Georgia could provide information on the extent of democratization in Abkhazia. Georgian leadership, since the very first day of the declaration of independence in 1991 has hailed Georgia as a “model democracy” in the Caucasus, a hallmark of Western-style and Western-oriented democracy. Georgia has had three presidents in that period, the first two were ousted by coups d’etat. Abkhazia has had three presidents in the same period, too. All of these presidents were elected through free and fair elections, and, in spite of allegations about the “Russian interference” in some elections, the election results reflected nothing but the the will of the Abkhazian people. Free and fair elections at all levels (president, parliament and local elections), freedom of speech and organization, respect for all cultures and languages, and flourishing civil society organizations are among some of the indications of the development of democracy in Abkhazia. It is the existence and further deepening of democratic norms in Abkhazia that makes us all to believe in the future of Abkhazia, and the Abkhazian people.

We, Adygeans and Abkhazians living in the diaspora, believe that Abkhazia will never let any power to derail its drive for strengthening independence, and establishing a free, democratic and prosperous country. The diaspora will always provide its support to the Republic of Abkhazia and its people, because the survival of free and democratic Abkhazia is also a sine qua non condition for the survival of the diaspora.

Erol Taymaz
Member of the Executive Committee Turkey's Federation of Caucasian Associations (KAFFED). TURKEY

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