Metin Sönmez

The bulk of the world’s ethnic Abkhazians today live in Turkey as part of the North West Caucasian diaspora, their ancestors having lost their homeland as a consequence of Russia’s victory in the 19th-century Caucasian War, which ended in 1864. But it was not Russians who were destined to be seen as presenting the main threat to the well-being (or even survival) of the Abkhazians during the eventful years of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Today, exactly twenty years have passed since Georgian tanks rolled across the bridge over the River Ingur, thereby sparking the war with Abkhazia, which was to last for 14 months and to cost the Abkhazians 4% of their local population, every family in Abkhazia lost at least one of their members — not for nothing has Abkhazian historian, Stanislav Lakoba, spoken of his motherland as lying between hammer and anvil. Despite the fact that Eduard Shevardnadze, who headed Georgia’s State Council at the start of hostilities, has acknowledged that the war was “our biggest mistake”, Georgia has done nothing to make amends; on the contrary, it has continued to make grave mistakes.

Since the end of the war in September 1993 Georgia has not only done its best to have Abkhazia isolated internationally but has attempted more than once again to essay the military option there, supporting acts of sabotage and terrorism launched from its western province of Mingrelia, which is separated from Abkhazia by the Ingur.

Georgia’s final huge miscalculation came in 2008, when, late on 7 August, President Mikheil Saakashvili issued the order for Georgian troops to attack South Ossetia. After Georgia’s defeat in the 2008-fighting, which saw Abkhazia regain control over all its  territory with the expulsion of Georgian troops from the Upper Kodor Valley, Abkhazian statehood was recognised on 26 August by President Dmitry Medvedev on behalf of Russia.

Looking, then, at the recent history, we may, without exaggeration, consider the last two decades to be the re-birth of the state of Abkhazia, even if the bulk of the international community (notably the USA and EU) persists in the erroneous belief that Abkhazia’s destiny (like that of South Ossetia) can be decided in international discussions from which the Abkhazians themselves are excluded.