The Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, or the Abkhazian war, refers to the ethnic conflict between Georgians and Abkhaz in Georgia’s Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (“Abkhazeti” in Georgian) in 1992–1993.
The 13-month long war, between Georgia government forces and Russian-backed Abkhaz separatists resulted in 30.000 deaths and over 250.000 refugees. Post-Soviet Georgia was heavily affected by the war and suffered considerable financial, human and moral losses. Although Russian and international mediation, the conflict has been unresolved.
Abkhazia has been devastated by the war, and the subsequent continued sporadic conflict. The region, de facto independent from Georgia, suffers huge economic and social problems and is entirely dependent from Russia.
The situation in the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia has been tense since 1989. The first armed clashes between the representatives of the Abkhazian and Georgian populations took place on July 15–July 17, 1989. The Soviet government contributed to the separatist movement in Abkhazia and did nothing to prevent inter-ethnic conflict. The situation was further deteriorated by rising nationalism among Georgians, ethnic violence in former South Ossetia Autonomous Oblast and military confrontation after coup d’etat in Tbilisi in December 1991 – January 1992.
The tensions in the autonomy approached the dangerous edge in June 1992, when Abkhaz boevyks attacked the government buildings in Sokhumi. On July 23, 1992, separatist members of the Abkhazian government declared independence of the region, though this was not internationally recognized. The situation was further deteriorated by anti-governmental diversions made by several so-called “Zviadist” armed groups (supporters of overthrown President Zviad Gamsakhurdia) in Abkhazia. On August 14, 1992, Georgian police and National Guards units were dispatched to protect railways and restore an order in Abkhazia. The fights broke out the same day. On August 18, 1992, a secessionist government left Sokhumi. Georgian government forces managed to take control of most of Abkhazia. However, many Georgian military officers committed several atrocities against the local population, both Abkhaz and pro-Gamsakhurdia Georgians.
On September 3, 1992, a ceasefire was negotiated in Moscow. According to the agreement, Georgian forces were withdrawn from Gagra district. The ceasefire was soon violated by Abkhaz. Thousands of volunteer paramilitaries, mainly Chechens and Cossacs from the self-styled Confederation of Mountain People of Caucasus (CMPC) joined the Abkhaz separatists to fight the Georgian troops. Abkhaz and CMPC forces attacked the town of Gagra on October 2. With the fell of the town, the majority of the Georgian population was either executed, or expelled. The rebels largely supported by Russian military presence in the region established their control over Gagra, Gudauta (the town where former Soviet/Russian military base remains) and Tkvarcheli and approached Sokhumi. During the conflict, Moscow officially maintained neutrality; the Russian government condemned human rights violations and established sanctions against both sides. Russian forces situated in the conflict zone from the beginning provided unofficial support for the Abkhaz formations. Numerous eyewitness accounts testify to the bombardment of Georgian forces by Russian aircraft and the use of the Russian navy to transport Abkhaz fighters. Official statements by the Russian Ministry of Defence claimed that Russian forces were only acting in self-defence and were only returning fire when attacked.
In December 1992, rebels began shelling of Georgian-held Sokhumi. On March 4, 1993, Eduard Shevardnadze, head of the State Council of Georgia, arrived in the capital of the region to take control over the defensive operations in the city. On March 14, 1993, Abkhaz and the Confederation forces launched a full-scale attack on Sokhumi resulting in large destruction and causalities among the civilians. However, the government forces repelled the attack. Both sides accused each other in ethnic cleansing and genocide. Georgian government stated Russia was conducted “an undeclared war” against Georgia. The statement was strengthened by capturing several Russian officers by Georgians. On March 19, 1993, Georgian forces shot down a Russian aircraft SU-27.
On May 14, 1993, a short-lived ceasefire was signed. On July 2, a strong force of Abkhaz and North Caucasian mercenaries landed with the support of Russian navy near the village Tamishi. The battle was one of the bloodiest in the war. Several hundreds were killed and wounded from all sides, but Georgian forces succeeded to regain the positions. However, Sokhumi was virtually besieged by the end of July. Russian-mediated ceasefire was again agreed in Sochi on July 27, 1993 and lasted until September 16, when separatist forces launched a large-scale offensive against Sokhumi, which fell after a fierce fighting on September 27. Eduard Shevardnadze left the city narrowly escaping death. Soon Abkhaz forces and the Confederates overran the whole territory of Abkhazia, except small region of the Kodori Gorge (which more or less remains under the control of the Tbilisi government). The total defeat of government forces was followed by ethnic cleansing of Georgian population with all horrors of humanitarian catastrophe. More than 250.000 refugees (mainly Georgians, also Greeks and others) left Abkhazia. In September 1994, several reports indicated ethnic clashes between Abkhaz and Armenians, significant part of which supported the former during the war. Chechen militants of CMPC soon left Abkhazia to take part in the “Chechen Resistance War” against Russia.
In December 1993, an official ceasefire was signed by Georgian and Abkhaz leaders under the aegis of the UN and with Russia as intermediary. On April 4, 1994, the "Declaration on Measures for a Political Settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian Conflict" was signed in Moscow. In June 1994, CIS peacekeeping forces comprising only the Russian soldiers were deployed along the administrative border between Abkhazia and the remaining Georgia. The UN mission (UNOMIG) also arrived. However, these could not prevent further atrocities against the Georgians in the following years (around 1.500 deaths have been reported by the Georgian government in the post-war period). On September 14, 1994, Abkhaz leaders appeared on local TV to demand that all ethnic Georgians depart from the region by September 27 (the anniversary of the capture of Sokhumi). On November 30, 1994, Abkhazia promulgated a new constitution declaring independence of the breakaway region. However, none of the foreign governments recognized this. On December 15, 1994, the US State Department condemned Abkhazia’s declaration of independence. On March 21, 1995, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees accused Abkhaz militias of torturing and murdering dozens of returning ethnic Georgian refugees in the Gali District. Despite an official economic blockade imposed on Abkhazia by Russia and CIS in 1995 (virtually ended by the Russian government in 1997), the breakaway region has been enjoying both military and economic support by the Russian Federation.
In April–May, 1998, the conflict escalated once again in the Gali District when several hundreds of Abkhaz forces entered the villages still populated by Georgians support the separatist-held parliamentary elections. Despite the criticism from opposition, Eduard Shevardnadze, President of Georgia, refused to deploy troops against Abkhazia. A ceasefire was negotiated on May 20. The hostilities resulted in hundreds of causalities form both sides and additional 20.000 Georgian refugees.
In October 2001, around 400 Chechen fighters and 80 Georgian guerillas appeared in the Kodori Valley in extremely controversial conditions. The Chechen-Georgian paramilitaries advanced as far as Sokhumi, but finally were repelled by Abkhaz and Gudauta based Russian "peacekeeper" units. There have been some concerns (in both Tbilisi and Sokhumi) that Chechen attacks in the Kodori Gorge were a military escapade organized by certain Georgian authorities.
The conflict, one of the bloodiest in the post-Soviet area, remains unresolved. The Georgian government offered a large autonomy to Abkhazia several times. However, both Abkhaz government and opposition refuse any forms of union with Georgia. Abkhaz consider their independence as a result of liberation war against Georgian aggression, while Georgians believe the conflict to be a patriotic war to retain sovereignty and integrity of Georgia. Many accuse Eduard Shevardnadze’s government in initiation of a senseless hostilities, and then in ineffective conduction of the war and post-war diplomacy.
The new Georgian government of President Mikhail Saakashvili promises not to use force and to resolve the problem only by diplomacy and political talks.
Till today no one yet acknowlege Georgian genocide. The "Georgian Genocide Gallery" pictures is just a small overview of tragedy of Georgian people.
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The pictures are given by Giorgi Nikoladze - member of International Action Group of Abkhazia
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