by Arne Piepke

"One who loses his land loses everything"

Abkhazian proverb
In Abkhazia everything is divided into before and after the war. The small region at the Black Sea, bordering with Russia, spent most of its past as a part of Georgia. Once ruled by the Soviet Union, the region sought independence from Georgia after the collapse of the USSR. A conflict arose which escalated in a war in 1992 and ended with an ethnical cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia one year later. Even though Abkhazian separatist forces defeated the Georgian troops, their country lost more than half of its population, with thousands dead and more than 200,000 displaced. This former paradise of the Soviet Union was laid in ruins and their independence remained unnoticed for years. Only in 2008, after the South Ossetian War, did Russia and a few other states recognize their independence.

With its diverse nature, the beaches and the Caucasus Mountains, Abkhazia was considered a prosperous region and one of the most popular tourist destinations within the Soviet Union. However, the Abkhazians have been treated as a minority all throughout history. During the Soviet era, Stalin deported Georgians to Abkhazia to decrease their proportion in the population. He wanted to suppress aspirations of independence by banning the Abkhazian language, closing native schools and replacing government officials with Georgians. Although the conflict between the youths slowly calms down, it is still present today – Georgians who came back shortly after the war experience different forms of discrimination and keep to themselves most of the time. Georgian students are interrogated regularly and forced to sign contracts which limit their freedom of movement.

Today the Abkhazians are still proud of their hard-won independence but wish to gain more influence and international attention. The young generation is growing up and has a chance to define the country’s future.
Some of them want to leave and study in Russia, while others are willing to stay – to see their beautiful country bloom again.