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Category: History

Russia Abkhazia: history and present

the rossiya is Abkhazia: history and present

S.M. Shamba

Abkhazia in the 19th century is time of fight of the Russian and Turkish empires for influence in the region

Consistent and offensive policy of Russia on Western Caucasus, in particular in Abkhazia, began to develop in the 18th century, after the statement of Russia in East Georgia where in 1801 the Kartli and Kakhetian kingdom was abolished.

With coming to power in Abkhazia of the sovereign prince Keleshbey Chachba-Shervashidze, the wise and charismatic politician, the vector of rapprochement with Russia began to increase. Realizing responsibility to the people and, at the same time, seeing the increasing attention to the region of the neighboring powerful powers, it long time successfully maneuvred between the interests of Turkey and Russia.

In 1803 Keleshbey took the first formal step to rapprochement with Russia, intending to get rid with its help of protectorate of Turkey. In 1806 the sovereign prince requested admission of Abkhazia in citizenship of Russia, but the emperor Alexander I hesitated with the solution of this question. In the burst Russo-Turkish war of 1806-1812 Russia tried to exploit Keleshbey. So, in 1807 it was offered to sixty-year-old prince to fight the fortress of Poti off Turks, but it evaded from active actions, understanding that it can suffer heavy losses. At the same time, having brought together 25-thousand army, Keleshbey stopped attempts of Turkey to land a landing in Abkhazia.

Soon after death of the sovereign prince of Abkhazia, namely on August 12, 1808, his son, Seferbey (Georgy) Shervashidze, addressed the emperor with new "pleading points" on acceptance in citizenship of Russia, and on February 17, 1810 Alexander

I approved this document, having recognized Georgy as "the hereditary prince of the Abkhazian possession under the Supreme protection, the power and protection of the Russian Empire" 1. However to dominate on east coast of the Black Sea, it was necessary to beat out from this region of Turks, and, as we know, their influence and distribution was rather serious here (Turks called Sukhum by old Istanbul).

The fight of two empires continuing more than 50 years was ruthless also a krovava and first of all for that population which lived here. However opinion of some radical national patriots that Russia was at war with the people of Western Caucasus mistakenly as obviously that the Russian Empire was at war not with the people, and with Turkey for influence in this region. Both empires were one of the most powerful superstates of that time, they were faced by great historical tasks therefore fight for territorial domination between them was inevitable.

It is known that in May, 1812 the Bucharest peace on which Russia got all coast of Abkhazia and Mingrelia was made, thereby it managed to strengthen safety of the Crimea, and, besides, the main strategic task of Russia was solved — Napoleon lost the Turkish ally.

In 1829 the Adrianople treatise according to which Port refused in favor of Russia all east coast of the Black Sea and conceded it the Circassian lands was concluded. However this concession mattered only on paper, in practice, the Turkish Empire did not stop trying to return Abkhazia and all South Caucasus under the protectorate. This region always was strategically significant (as is well-known there passed the Great silk way) and it was important to Turkey to cut the communications connecting Russia with South Caucasus and also with the West. In this regard it is possible to draw a parallel and with recent events. In the modern history of the Caucasus we also observe fight of superstates for strategically important part of the Black Sea coast in geopolitical sense.

However we will return to the history of relationship of Russia and Abkhazia which, as we know, especially in the 19th century was very ambiguous. It is obvious that both claims of Turkey, and Russia were perceived by the people which were historically living in this territory as encroachment on national, within the whole ethnic group, independence. Besides, during this historical period, Western Caucasus it appeared without real leader capable to make independent decisions and to consolidate the adygo-Abkhazian general

Sergey Mironovich Shamba is the prime minister of the government of Abkhazia.

stvo. The dissonance in elite, split in society, absence of the leader capable to pick up management of the people, was led to internal fight. As is well-known the solution of global national problems, questions of war and peace, depended at that time on the highest estate to which peasants traditionally trusted. But princes and noblemen were divided in opinions, and the national leader using universal respect, and, above all wide trust was not any more. Thus, it is possible to say that as a result of uncoordinated actions and incorrectly chosen vector and there was a mass outcome of the Abkhaz-Adyghe subethnoses from the lands.

In the matter it is also necessary to consider ethnopsychological state of the people which were not wishing to recognize someone's power, appeared without real leader between two fires, the interests of the Russian Empire on the one hand and Ottoman — with another. The statement of the Turkish officer about policy Ports in the Caucasus which is equally right also concerning policy of Russia is remarkable in this regard: "In Constantinople the minds were darkened to such an extent that was not distinguished created in the Caucasus there and played with the fate of the whole people... Seeking to support Circassians, begin with destruction of their social and political life; inciting to fight against Russians, at the same time retreats" 2 bar to them the way.

We often are engaged in a mythologization of that really terrible period in our history and glorification of the people, closing eyes to the facts. And the facts, historical and documentary materials, military journalism of the 19th century demonstrates that in the region there was a fight not of the people, but Empires for spheres of influence and territorial domination. The people of Western Caucasus were hostages of time, hostages of great repartition. As one more confirmation to that, serves appearance here of the Anglo-French agents who promised mountaineers "to save" them forever from Russians if they accept protection of England. The people of Western Caucasus appeared on the way of collision of interests of more powerful powers which solved global, strategic problems. So was throughout all history of our people. For this reason generations of mountaineers were brought up by wars. Learning lessons from the past, we need to move further.

Today when the interests of world superstates face in the region again, we need to conduct the weighed, more pragmatic policy. Heroic history of our people was always connected with world tsivilizaitsonny processes, however bitter experience taught us that by force of only one weapon it is impossible to achieve wellbeing of the people. The statehood needs to be built on the basis of neighborliness and mutual trust.

Abkhazia of the end of the XIX beginning of the XX century — fight for survival

Within thirty years, from 1877 to 1907, Abkhazians for numerous indignations and revolts were considered in tsarist Russia as "the guilty population". Till 1864 the uniform country in the ethnic relation in the second half of the 19th century underwent colonization not only from the Russian, Greek, Armenian, Bulgarian, German, Estonian and other new settlers. Since 70-80th years of the 19th century from adjacent regions of the Western Georgia, representatives of the kartvelsky people, generally megrela rushed here. Then, in 1877, in the newspaper the Tiflissky messenger is published program article of the Georgian public figure Jacob Gogebashvili. In it, in particular, it was said that "Mingrelians have to be first deputies of the moved Abkhazians" 3. As a result of rapid processes of movement of the population the ethnodemographic situation in the country sharply changed. So, if in 1886 the Abkhazians made 85.7% of the population, then in 1897 — only 55.3%.

Kartvelsky colonization of Abkhazia turned out so rough that guarded tsar's authorities. The Russian interests in Abkhazia directly faced Georgian which used results of war for achievement of own interests. Representatives of the Georgian church, the intellectuals, various political parties and currents showed the claims to Abkhazia more and more distinctly.

During revolutionary events in Russia, the Georgian-Abkhazian contradictions excessively became aggravated. Abkhazians perceived all events on their homeland as "the Georgian revolution" and were on the side of the government against these "revolutionaries".

In 1907 at the initiative of the Russian Prime Minister P.A. Stolypin, the special decree of Nikolay

II from Abkhazians removed "guilt". From this point the relations with Russia approached even more. Acting through Abkhazia Russia began to see the reliable partner and the ally. And more than once residents of Abkhazia proved to Russia the devotion, helped in the most hard times what also participation of the Abkhazian rebels in World War I with bravery and eagerness started protecting from the enemy friendly to it the people testifies to. According to sources, during World War I in the Caucasian horse division of the Abkhazian volunteers 500 people were at war. The Abkhazian one hundred (conditional name of a military unit) was called one hundred crusaders as all riders were awarded war decorations. The strength of mind and courage of brave mountaineers impressed both the Russian researchers, and military. The Russian researchers noted what among those who were at war for the Russian army was sons of enemies of Russia much, defending honor of the Russian state as own.

The count Paletsky in particular noted: "the .diviziya visited fronts German, galitsiysky and

Romanian and everywhere showed bravery miracles. the division suffered many losses during the fighting activity. But the Caucasian mountaineers kept and keep still with huge courage and unshakable hardness. It is one of the most reliable bodies — pride of the Russian army. Caucasians had the full moral reasons of any participation in war not to accept. We took away everything from Caucasians: their beautiful mountains, their wild nature, inexhaustible richness of this fertile country. And here war broke out, Caucasians voluntarily went for protection of Russia and protected it selflessly, not as the angry stepmother and as the mother. They battle together with the Russian army and ahead of all, and most safely die for our freedom" 4.

Abkhazia as a part of the Soviet state is the 20th century

On March 31, 1921 Revk of Abkhazia adopted the Declaration on education by the Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia (SSR Abkhazia), the flag, the coat of arms, the Constitution of the Republic were developed and approved. However in 1931, the status of Abkhazia as SSR which was in the contractual relations with the Georgian SSR at Stalin's will was reduced to the level of the autonomous republic, and it was entered into structure of the Georgian SSR. The mass, 20th thousand national descent in the village of Duripsh was reaction to this decision. By the way, Abkhazians became the only people in the USSR which dared on mass national actions for political motives in 1931, 1947, 1956, 1967, 1978, 1980, 1989, 1991, demanding recovery of the status of the federal republic. The act of incorporation of Abkhazia to Georgia marked itself the beginning of the whole series of actions for violent assimilation of Abkhazians about which consequences all know well.

By the end of the 40th from the Abkhazian political and cultural autonomy remained little. In such situation Abkhazia met the beginning of the Great Patriotic War in which the population of Abkhazia took the most active part. More than 55 thousand residents of Abkhazia, from them 18 thousand Abkhazians, selflessly battled on fronts. 22 soldiers of Abkhazia were awarded with a rank of "Hero of the Soviet Union", however even it could not stop repressive policy of Stalin and Beria in the region.

After Stalin's death the aggressive policy of Georgia concerning Abkhazia remained, the statehood of the Abkhaz ASSR had in essence formal character and this despite the fact that according to the Constitution of the USSR the Autonomous republics had exclusive sovereignty on the territory.

During the period from 1989 to 1991. The Supreme Council of Georgia unilaterally made a number of decisions according to which public authorities of GSSR, and, therefore, and the state and legal acts adopted by them were proclaimed nelegitim-

ny and not having validity. In turn, the Supreme Council of the Abkhaz ASSR, realizing that such actions threaten statehood of Abkhazia, accepted on August 25, 1990. The declaration on the state sovereignty of Abkhazia and the Resolution on legal safeguards of protection of statehood of Abkhazia, as was the cause to I launch wars which became one more tragedy for our people.

Abkhazia and Georgia began with

Upon termination of fighting with mediation of the Russian Federation, the UN and with the assistance of CSCE negotiations, one of the main questions of which was a question of their further relationship. Further, up to events of August, 2008, Russia remained the intermediary in the conflict, peacekeeping forces of the Russian Federation carried out the mission for the line of separation assigned to it by the country leaders and long time were a guarantor of non-renewal of war. Regularly within post-war years Georgia under different pretexts made attempts of replacement of peacekeeping forces of Russia by NATO troops. Tbilisi constantly spoke about need of internationalization of settlement of the conflicts, the ruling clique of Georgia for preservation of events in the country in focus of constant international attention undertook various measures and did everything to change a format of presence of Russia in the Caucasus. Georgia was completely consolidated with forces which aimed creation in the Caucasus of the state aggressive and hostile to Russia (including there was a direct blackmail of Russia strengthening of Chechnya counting on concessions in Abkhazia). However the authorities of Abkhazia essentially stood on the positions.

The 21st century - policy of Russia for Abkhazia and South Ossetia — a new alignment of forces in the region

Recognition of independence of the Republic of Abkhazia by the Russian Federation in August, 2008 became a turning point in the history of our relationship. This event influenced not only an internal situation in our country, but also had special impact on the processes happening in world politics. If at the beginning of the 21st century more accurately in the region the interests of the USA were defined, then today the alignment of forces changed.

Not accidentally Russian experts and political scientists call the decision of Russia on recognition of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the answering purposes of protection of national-state interests of Russia, consider that this step will strengthen the rights of Russia for control over all territory of the Caucasus. Russia started development and application of complex, comprehensive and long-term geostrategy in the region and Abkhazia can become a binding, unifying link on the way to strengthening of the positions by Russia in the region in general.

As for the interests of the West here, the famous American political scientist Ariel Coen quite accurately expressed the American approaches to settlement of the conflicts in the Caucasus. They are defined, first of all, by interest in energy resources of the Caspian Basin, desire to isolate Transcaucasia from influence of Russia, maintenance of interests of the main partners — Turkey and Israel. In this context also the strategic interests of the USA aimed at providing guarantees of independence and territorial integrity of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia are considered.

If Georgia becomes the member of NATO, Abkhazia and South Ossetia will gain for Russia further great importance as buffer zones. We are on the threshold of emergence of new political realities in the international relations. The USA continues to consider himself by the only superstate, and Europe remains the main arena of the international interests of America. Change of a ratio of forces on the European continent, finally, will also be crucial in the one who will predominate in the world — it the general idea of arrangement of forces.

Policy of Turkey at the present stage

Turkey historically and demographically was always involved in events in the Caucasus. As for the present stage, since 1991 Turkey considered Georgia the valuable strategic partner. Similar close partnership was connected with the fact that Georgia was considered as economically important ally since it provided the channel for transportation of the Caspian energy resources on the international markets through Turkey, passing Russia and Iran. I will remind that the USA and Great Britain lobbying and financing the project as its justification put forward the idea about need of diversification of routes of export of energy carriers and stabilization of the world energy market. It became counting on the fact that transportation of considerable volumes of oil which could be carried out through the territory of Russia on the existing Baku — Novorossiysk oil pipeline will be made bypassing Russia now that would allow to reduce its influence in the region. Americans not only received an oil source alternative to the Persian Gulf, but also expanded a zone of the influence. (There is even an opinion that encouragement and feed with foreign financial injections of separatist forces in Chechnya had as one of the purposes maintaining tension on one of sites of the Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipeline that provided maintenance of interest of Azerbaijan in creation of an alternative route for oil export).

Projects of the oil pipeline of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, gas pipeline of Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and zheleznodo-

the rozhny message of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars aimed to strengthen relations of Turkey with the Caucasus and the Caspian Basin. Thus, in conditions when Georgia was included in these projects as the key player, the need of support of policy of Georgia was not subject to discussion, even during the civil war in Georgia and war with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For the same reason the Turkish military assisted the Georgian partners in their aspiration to conform to standards of NATO in military and defensive areas that was the mandatory requirement for the accession to alliance.

However all this could stake the relations of Turkey with Russia — the major world economic and power partner. Observed recently the pragmatic, weighed politician of Turkey, especially in the relation with Russia cannot but cause optimism. Many analysts and diplomats note that Turkey begins to take an independent position, especially in upholding of own interests. In July, 2008 the official visit to Turkey of the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov took place. Particular importance was attached to the Russian-Turkish negotiations in political and state numbers of both countries. The head of the Republic of Turkey especially marked out importance of strengthening of regional cooperation of Moscow and Ankara which by words Abdullakh Gül, is an important factor of maintaining stability in Eurasia and the world today in general.

In May of this year the prime minister of Turkey Recep Erdogan met in Sochi the Russian colleague Vladimir Putin. The ex-Turkish foreign minister Hikmet Çetin connected the Sochi visit of the head of the government generally with a perspective of the all-Caucasian settlement in which enhanced action of the USA, OSCE, NATO was designated, however analysts not unreasonably connected the causes of a meeting with desire of Turkey, on the one hand, to keep the Russian project "Blue Stream", and with another — with the aspiration not to lose MABISSO. Ankara needs to react deliberately and to adapt quickly to quickly changing situation both in the Caucasus, and in Europe that it is competent, and, above all in time to make necessary decisions.

The authorities of Turkey understood and adequately reacted to events of August, 2008 when in the water area of the Black Sea there was an opposition of the Russian and NATO fleet. In fact, Turkey appeared in epicenter of North Atlantic and Russian contradictions, however, having shown adherence to principles, and, despite the membership in the North Atlantic alliance did not allow to violate provisions of so-called "convention Montreux" according to which there are certain restrictions for an entrance to the water area of the Black Sea of the fleet of not Black Sea countries. Thereby Turkey gave to the world a signal that it is ready to interfere with economic and politiches-

Kia processes in the Caucasus if that is demanded by the interests of the country even if it is contrary to advance of Euro-Atlantic interests in the region.

In Turkey the Caucasian Committee of solidarity of Abkhazia which deals with problems of our compatriots continues to function actively, protects the interests of the Republic of Abkhazia in higher levels of the Republic of Turkey. The Turkish government thanks to lobbying of diaspora, even in the conditions of the most cruel blockade of post-war years, closed eyes to delivery by the sea to Abkhazia of the most necessary cargoes. The authorities understand that the numerous Abkhaz-Adyghe diaspora lives in Turkey, the considerable number of citizens of Turkey invested money in Abkhazia and participate in business activity therefore it cannot remain away from those processes which happen in Abkhazia now. Besides, there is a considerable potential for development of economic relations between Abkhazia and Turkey, especially in those areas where Turkey takes a strong competitive position — tourism, construction, logistics, retail trade, communications, the food industry. Abkhazia can also provide the base for entry into the prospering and quickly growing markets of the Russian Federation and other countries of the region. Realizing it, the prime minister of Turkey T. Erdoğan designated new foreign policy approach of the country, having presented an initiative of creation of the Caucasian platform of stability and cooperation which was welcomed practically by all countries of the region. This union has to include representation of all people, ethnic groups and regions.

Turkey has close historical, strategic, economic and ethnic links to all countries of the Caucasus and it needs to take it into account. Already today Turkey could render to Abkhazia various help and invest in economy. Humanitarian support will not receive any complaint neither from internal lobby groups, nor from Russia, nor even from the European Union which certain countries, feeling the responsibility for current situation, very actively give humanitarian support. Turkey can establish the direct economic relations with Abkhazia, give the chance to students from Abkhazia to get higher education in Turkey, to adjust through sea and air traffic with Sukhum that will serve first of all the interests of Turkey. To us is foreordained to be neighbors and we believe what Turkey interests not only strategic partnership with Russia, but also establishment civilized, in

that number and the political relations with Abkhazia, thereby to correct historical past mistakes.

Russia and Abkhazia — on the way of closer cooperation

Recognition of independence of Abkhazia by Russia designated transition to new, absolutely other level of the relations, relations at the level of the independent equal states. At this stage we are engaged in development of new mechanisms of interaction at the interstate level. There was a need of formation of institutes of the interstate relations.

Abkhazia seeks for close cooperation with the Russian Federation, our closest neighbor and the strategic ally. Our policy is directed to cooperation, first of all, in safety, economy, education. Russia is a guarantor of safety for Abkhazia.

Russia is also our main torgovoekonomichesky partner. We continue work in the direction of deepening of interaction with the Russian Federation and at the same time we try to establish partnership with the rest of the world.

During national liberation war of 1992-1993, Abkhazia turned the eye towards Russia, and, despite difficult, sometimes contradictory actions of former Russian government, firmly stood on the positions. The Abkhazian side gave an accurate signal that under no circumstances will not depart from the made decisions as though it was talked of protection of own Fatherland. Even in the conditions of the hardest blockade, Abkhazia continued to show firmness in upholding of the positions and showed the inexhaustible potential. I think, Abkhazia for these years proved the viability, and first of all as the reliable partner.

The Abkhazian kingdom reached the blossoming under a wing of a two-headed eagle of the Byzantine Empire. Today we have a chance to find revival under a wing of a two-headed Russian eagle. Our policy is directed on rapprochement with our neighbors, with the countries where our numerous diaspora lives. Abkhazia can serve as the bridge for rapprochement of Turkey and Russia.

Russia already made the choice and announced for the whole world recognition of sovereignty and independence of Abkhazia, having executed responsibility which is historically conferred on it, now line for Turkey which equally divides responsibility for tragic events of times of the Russo-Turkish war.

1. Materials and notes on vladetelsky and property rights of descendants of the lightest prince Mikhail Shervashidze, the last possessor of Abkhazia. Verdun, 1913. Page 5-7
2. -beat Osman. Memoirs of 1855. Events in Georgia and in the Caucasus//the Caucasian collection T.I Tiflis, 1877. Page 169
3. Tiflissky messenger. 1877
4. R. Aguazhba. Abkhazians in World War I. Abaza magazine No. 2, 2006 of Page 30-32
Annika Maike
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