Abkhazians are one of the most ancient indigenous ethnic groups of the Caucasus. Their culture and traditions are closest and akin to the culture and traditions of the North Caucasian peoples: Abaza, Adygs, Kabardians, Circassians, Ubykhs. Linguistically, they all constitute a single Abkhaz-Adyg group of the Caucasian family of languages.
The first mention of the Abkhazians is contained in an Assyrian inscription of the 12th century BC (this is the inscription of the Assyrian king Tiglathpalasar I), where the Abkhazian people appear under the name "abeshla". Little later, ancient Greco-Roman sources of the 1st - 2nd centuries AD mention Abkhazians and Abaza under the names "Apsils" and "Abasgs". The sources indicate the genetic connection with the Abkhaz-Abaza people by the ethnonyms "Apsua" (the self-name of the Abkhazians), "Abaza" (the self-name of the Abaza, related to the Abkhazians), "Obezs" in Russian and "Abkhazians" in Georgian chronicles. Abkhazians call their homeland "Apsny".
Abkhazia in the Middle Ages
During the 8th - 10th centuries, the Abkhazian Kingdom existed, the first King of which was Leon II, the son of the daughter of the powerful Khazar Khagan and cousin of the Emperor of Byzantium. Thanks to this kinship, the Abkhazian Kingdom then received, as they would say today, "international recognition." Abkhazia annexed all of Western Transcaucasia. The Kingdom reached its peak in the 10th century under Tsar George II.
The dynasty of Abkhazian kings ended in the male line with the death of the childless Theodosius the Blind, and power passed to his nephew Bagrat III, who inherited the Abkhazian throne from his mother, the Abkhazian queen Gurandukht, sister of Theodosius.
The formation of a new state - the "Kingdom of the Abkhazians and Kartlians", which continued to be called "Abkhazian" for several more centuries, began from him.
In the XIII-XV centuries, Abkhazia fell into the sphere of political and economic influence of Genoa, which founded a number of trading posts on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea and the Caucasus. In the XVI-XVIII centuries, the Abkhazian Principality was under the protectorate of Sultan Turkey. During this period, Sunni Islam spread here.
From the end of the 18th century, under the ruler Keleshbey Chachba (Shervashidze), the Abkhazian Principality strengthened again and, with the help of the fleet, controlled the Black Sea coast from Anapa to Batum. However, in 1808, Keleshbey was killed, and his eldest son Aslanbey, oriented towards Turkey, took the throne.
Abkhazia within the Russian Empire
In 1810, with the help of Russia, the youngest son of the murdered ruler, Seferbey, was placed on the Abkhazian throne, who after baptism took the name George. On February 17, 1810, by his letter, Emperor Alexander I recognizes George as the hereditary prince of the Abkhazian possession "under the supreme patronage, power and protection of the Russian Empire." Thus, Abkhazia, as a self-governing principality, becomes a part of the Russian Empire. According to a number of historians, one of the distinguishing features of the Abkhazian Principality was that, unlike the Georgian Principalities (Kartli-Kakhetia, Imeria, Guria, Megrelia), with its entry into Russia, it did not completely lose its statehood.
With Russian military support, the power of the Abkhazian ruler, who occupies a high place in the Russian military hierarchy, is being strengthened. In particular, the last sovereign prince Mikhail Georgievich Shervashidze (Chachba) had the ranks of Lieutenant General and Adjutant General and the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky.
At the same time, the Abkhazian rulers contributed to the promotion of Russian influence in the Abkhazian free mountain societies and the lands of the neighboring Ubykhs and Shapsugs.
By the end of the Caucasian War (1864), the Abkhazian sovereign Principality had lost its significance for the Russian administration, and in the same 1864, it was liquidated. On its territory, the Sukhum Military Department was formed, directly subordinate to the tsarist administration in the Caucasus.
The second half of the 19th century became the most tragic period in the history of the Abkhazian people, marked by a number of mass evictions of Abkhazians under pressure from the tsarist authorities to the Ottoman Empire (the so-called mahadzhirstvo). As a result, most of the Abkhazians were forced to leave their homeland, and the ethnic picture in Abkhazia has changed dramatically. The deserted lands began to be populated by representatives of other peoples - Armenians, Estonians and, above all, colonists from Georgia. If in 1886 Abkhazians made up 85.7% of the population of Abkhazia, then by 1897 they were only 55.3%. This dynamic continued in the following decades.
In Abkhazia there was no feudal ownership of land, there was no serfdom, all categories of peasants were the owners of their land. The basis of the social structure of Abkhazia was the rural community, which united all segments of the population and was imbued with milk kinship ("fosterage") of feudal lords and peasants.
After the collapse of the Russian Empire, Abkhazia joined the Union of the United Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus and the South-Eastern Union. On November 8, 1917, at a congress in Sukhum, a parliament was elected - the Abkhazian People's Council, which adopted the Constitution and the Declaration of the Abkhazian people. In 1918, at the Batumi International Peace Conference, the "Mountain Republic" (North Caucasian Republic) was proclaimed. Together with Dagestan, Chechnya, Ossetia, Kabarda, Abkhazia also entered this federation. Therefore, the Abkhazian statehood, lost in June 1864, was restored.
However, in June 1918, the troops of the newly proclaimed (May 26, 1918) Democratic Republic of Georgia, with the direct military support of imperial Germany, occupied the territory of Abkhazia. The policy of the Menshevik government of Georgia caused extreme dissatisfaction with the multinational Abkhazia, which facilitated the establishment of Soviet power here on March 4, 1921. The new regime was perceived as deliverance from the repressions and armed intervention of the Georgian Republic.
At the beginning, the Bolsheviks gave Abkhazia freedom of political choice, which was realized by the proclamation of an independent republic (SSR) of Abkhazia (March 31, 1921 - February 17, 1922). In December 1921, the leaders of Abkhazia, under strong pressure from Stalin and Ordzhonikidze, were forced to conclude a "special union treaty" with Georgia, ratified in February 1922, which fixed the equality of the two republics. On December 30, 1922, Nikolay Akirtava, authorized representative of the SSR of Abkhazia, signed the Treaty on the Formation of the USSR.
From February 1922 to February 1931, the SSR Abkhazia was called "Treaty". The III All-Abkhazian Congress of Soviets adopted the first Soviet Constitution in Abkhazia in April 1925. In February 1931, under pressure from Stalin, the treaty SSR of Abkhazia was transformed into an autonomous republic (the Abkhazian ASSR) and incorporated into the Georgian SSR.
On December 28, 1936, at a dinner in the house of Lavrenty Beria, the Chairman of the government of Abkhazia, Nestor Lakoba, was poisoned. With his death, the most tragic period in the modern history of Abkhazia began. Terror fell upon the republic, which led to the complete annihilation of the political and intellectual elite of the Abkhazian people. The Georgianization policy was carried out at an accelerated pace: the Abkhazian script was transferred from Latin to the Georgian graphic basis, the original Abkhazian place names were replaced by Georgian ones, teaching in schools began to be conducted in the Georgian language, an assimilation resettlement policy was purposefully carried out, aimed at deforming the ethno-demographic structure of the population. During the 1937-1953 period, tens of thousands of Georgians were resettled from the interior regions of Georgia to Abkhazia, which significantly increased their share in the population of Abkhazia.
In a veiled form, the demographic expansion of Georgians continued into the post-Stalin period. It all resulted in the following statistics: if in 1886 in Abkhazia Georgians made up only 6% of the population, in 1989 they were already 45.7%. Mass rallies and demonstrations demanding the secession of Abkhazia from Georgia took place in 1957, 1964, 1967, 1978 and 1989.
In 1989-1990, the Georgian Parliament unilaterally began to make decisions that ignored the interstate nature of relations between Abkhazia and Georgia and, in essence, led to the abolition of the Abkhazian statehood. Tbilisi declared illegal and invalid all state structures of the Soviet era from February 1921. In response, on August 25, 1990, the Supreme Council of the Abkhazian ASSR adopted the Declaration on the State Sovereignty of Abkhazia.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, Vladislav Grigoryevich Ardzinba, Doctor of Historical Sciences, became the generally recognized leader of multinational Abkhazia, who in December 1990 headed the Supreme Council of Abkhazia.
On July 23, 1992, the Supreme Council of Abkhazia decided to restore the validity of the Constitution of Abkhazia of 1925, and adopted a new Emblem and Flag of the Republic. At the same time, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Abkhazia addressed the Georgian authorities with a proposal to restore equal state-legal relations. In response to this, on August 14, 1992, the armed aggression of Georgia against Abkhazia began, accompanied by the targeted destruction and expulsion of the non-Georgian population, the destruction of monuments of the material and spiritual culture of the Abkhazian people, and other massive violations of human rights.
Hundreds of volunteers from the North Caucasus, the South of Russia and the Cossacks, representatives of the Abkhaz-Adyg Diasporas of Turkey and Syria and Jordan came to the aid of Abkhazia. Because of a bloody war, the armed forces of Abkhazia managed to drive out Georgian troops from the territory of Abkhazia and on September 30, 1993, reach the state border of Abkhazia with Georgia along the Ingur River.
In 1994, Russian peacekeeping forces under the flag of the CIS were brought into the conflict zone in the border regions of Abkhazia and Georgia.
On November 26, 1994, a new Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia was adopted; Vladislav Grigoryevich Ardzinba was elected the first President of Abkhazia.
On October 12, 1999, following the results of the referendum, the Act on State Independence of the Republic of Abkhazia was adopted.
Overcoming post-war difficulties, the country was moving towards its cherished goal - building an independent legal democratic state.
In January 2005, Sergey Vasilievich Bagapsh (1949-2011) was elected President of Abkhazia.
On August 26, 2008, after Georgia's aggression against South Ossetia and Russia's peace enforcement operation, the President of the Russian Federation (at that time - Dmitry Medvedev) decided to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and establish diplomatic relations between Abkhazia and Russia. The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (2008), the Agreement on Joint Efforts in Protecting the State Border of the Republic of Abkhazia (2009), the Agreement on a United Russian Military Base on the Territory of the Republic of Abkhazia (2010) and a number of other interstate and intergovernmental documents.
In addition to Russia, the UN member countries Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Syria, as well as the Republic of South Ossetia, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics recognized the independence of the Republic of Abkhazia.
On November 24, 2014, in Sochi, the Presidents of Abkhazia and Russia Raul Khadzhimba and Vladimir Putin signed the Treaty of Alliance and Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Abkhazia.
The agreement brought relations between Abkhazia and Russia to a qualitatively new level of strategic partnership. It provides for the creation of a common space for defense and security, the conduct of a coordinated foreign policy, the formation of a common social and economic space, the promotion of the socio-economic development of Abkhazia, the creation of conditions for the full participation of the republic in the integration processes in the post-Soviet space, implemented on the initiative and with the assistance of Russia, the preservation of cultural, spiritual and humanitarian space.
Today, the Republic of Abkhazia is progressively developing its socio-economic and tourism potentials, expanding international contacts, strengthening its defense capability and paying special attention to the development of civil society, the preservation of its native language, traditions and culture.