Nation profile

Abkhazia
Apsní

General information
Population
240,705 h. (2011)
Area
8,660 km²
Institutions
Government of Abkhazia, Popular Assembly of Abkhazia
Major cities
Sukhumi
State administration
De facto independent state
Territorial languages
Abkhaz, Mingrelian, Svan, Armenian, Greek
Official languages
Abkhaz, Russian
Major religion
Orthodox Christianity, Sunni Islam
National day
30 September

Presentation

Abkhazia is a de facto independent country located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. It has been recognized as an independent state by five UN member states. All other states regard it as being part of Georgia.

A Kingdom of Abkhazia existed during the Middle Age. Subsequently it became united with the Kingdom of Georgia. In the 16th century Abhkazia fell to Ottoman domination, and in the 19th century it was conquered by Russia.

Abkhazia became a republic within the Soviet Union in 1921. At first, Abkhazia was subordinated to the Georgian SSR only in some areas. Since 1931, it was fully incorporated into Georgia as an autonomous republic.

In the 1980s, Abkhaz nationalism demanded that Abkhazia be upgraded to full soviet socialist republic status, not subordinated to Georgia.

After Georgia had declared independence from the USSR in 1991, Abkhazia followed suit in 1992. Abkhaz forces backed by Russia fought a war against the Georgian army in 1992-1993. The Abkhaz forces won, Abkhazia consolidated itself as a de facto independent country, and more than 200,000 ethnic Georgians fled Abkhazia or fled it.

Yet another war erupted in 2008 between Russian-backed Abkhaz forces and Georgia, after the latter tried to put an end to Abkhaz and South Ossetian de facto independence. The Abkhaz side again won the war in only 5 days. Russian recognition of Abkhaz and South Ossetian independence followed suit.

Ever since, the successive Abkhaz governments have tried to combine efforts to cement the independence of Abkhazia with the maintenance of political, economic and military protection from Russia.

Language

The country’s national language is Abkhaz, a member of the Northwest Caucasian family. It is spoken by about 100,000 people in Abkhazia (40% of the population), where it is one of the two official languages. The other one is Russian, which is the main language of education and administration, and enjoys a strong presence in urban environments.

An Armenian community has existed in Abkhazia since the 19th century. Currently it is made up of about 40,000 people, some of whom keep the use of the Armenian language alive; others speak Russian and, a minority, Turkish.

In addition, two language communities of the Kartvelian family are also settled in Abkhazia: the Mingrelian, in the south-eastern region, and the Svanetian, in the north-eastern region. Both languages are severely threatened.

National identity

According to the 2011 census, 50,7% of Abkhazia’s inhabitants are ethnic Abkhazians; 19.2% are Georgians (including Mingrelians and Svans), 17.4% Armenians, 9.1% Russians, and 0.6% Greeks. This census is not recognized by the Georgian authorities. Nevertheless, it reflects the big drop in Georgian population following the war events (in pre-war times, Georgians made up 45% of the population).

Abkhazians see themselves as a people related to Circassians to the north of the Caucasus range, with whom they share the Northwest Caucasian language family.

Politics and government
 
Abkhazia is a de facto independent state, recognized as such by Russia, Venezuela, Syria, Nauru, Vanuatu, and Nicaragua. The rest of the UN member states consider Abkhazia as part of Georgia.

The Abkhaz republic is headed by the President —elected by universal suffrage—, and has its own government and parliament —the People’s Assembly of Abkhazia, elected by popular vote— which exercise executive and legislative powers respectively.

Although independent of Georgia, Abkhazia has a high degree of dependence on Russia in defense, foreign affairs, and economy, a situation that makes the country something similar to a Russian protectorate.

President: Aslan Bzhania (since 2020)
Prime Minister: Alexandr Ankvab (since 2020)
Distribution of seats of the People's Assembly (Parliament). 35 members (2017 election):
Forum for National Unity of Abkhazia - 6
United Abkhazia - 3
Independents - 26

(Last updated November 2020)