by Dr. Stanislav Lakoba (abridged)




Abkhazia today resembles the surrealistic paintings of Dali: pictures of a 100 year-old husband and wife being shot at point-blank range, of Georgian SU-25 fighters of Russian make dropping cluster-bombs on a funeral procession in Kutol, of a brother being killed while following his brother's coffin so that two coffins have to be interred while fighter-planes are still overhead, of helicopters firing at the beaches in Sukhum on a summer's day, of tanks destroying villages, of soldiers killing little girls, burning families, slaying the wounded and cutting prisoners of war to pieces...


The fact is that people are being exterminated and the world is keeping silent... Well, almost -- for such news-agencies as Reuters, AP, the BBC, whenever they refer to us, our standard epithets are 'separatists' and 'rebels' ... How is it that we are separatists when we are actually not separating from anybody or attacking anybody? Are there any resolutions of the Abkhazian Parliament adopted before August 14, 1992 (or even several months afterwards) which have declared cessation from Georgia? There is not one! In fact, it was the Abkhazian side that suggested building our relations with Georgia on an agreed, federative basis. Therefore, it was the Abkhazian side which came out with proposals that would preserve the unity of Georgia. The response was the despatch to Abkhazia of tanks, fighter-bombers and guardsmen armed to the teeth...


In his speeches on Georgian radio on 7-8 December 1992 the leader of Georgia openly called for the possible annihila- tion of the Abkhazians. He said: "The fate of Georgia, her way to freedom and independence, is being decided in Abkhazia today. That is why I have called on every citizen of Georgia to make his contribution to this fight for freedom and independence. I repeat-- I have taken this decision against my will and my own beliefs. I know this is not right, but there is no other way". Then he said: "This war should not be a long one. The world believes us, and we would not let it down. We are for peace, and we must end this war as soon as possible. By the 3rd millennium Georgia will be the happiest country in the world". Freedom and independence for their own people and dictatorship and open chauvinism towards other people -- this is the double standard that underlines the Georgian policy in Abkhazia.


It is not by chance that in 1989 after the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict Academician Sakharov in one of his last articles called Georgia a 'mini-empire' (Ogonek 1989, 31). Later, describing the relationship between Abkhazia and Georgia, he wrote: "I tend to justify the Abkhazian position. I think we should regard with special attention the problems of small peoples: freedom and rights of big nations should not be exercised at the expense of small ones" (Znamya, 1991, 10, p.69).


The question of territorial integrity that has been so often raised lately is actually associated not with Georgia proper but with the former minor Soviet Empire, i.e. with the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia (1921-1931) was included as an autonomy under Stalin's dictate. As for the so-called Abkhazian 'separatists', they respect the territorial integrity of Georgia in her original ethnic borders, while the territory from the river Ingur up to the river Psou is considered to belong to the Republic of Abkhazia after the break-up of the USSR and the liquidation of the Georgian SSR.


In the 20th century the leading circles in Georgia made several attempts to annex Abkhazia. First, in June 1918-March 21, when the Georgian troops invaded Abkhazia and occupied part of its territory. This is one of the darkest periods in Abkhaz-Georgian relations within the living memory of many Abkhazians. The imperial nature of the Georgian Democratic Republic of that period was noted by Bechhofer. In his book, In Denikin's Russia, which was published in Britain in 1920, he writes: "I shall always recall the free and independent social-democratic state of Georgia as a classic example of an imperialistic small nation as regards the annexation of territories beyond its borders and bureaucratic tyranny inside the country. Its chauvinism exceeds all limits". The second attempt to annex Abkhazia was made in February 1931 and it was actually implemented after Nestor Lakoba, Prime Minister of Abkhazia, had died -- he was poisoned by Beria in Tbilisi in December 1936. This policy continued from 1937 to 1953 (the year of Stalin's death).


The war unleashed on 14 August 1992 is the 3rd attempt to annex Abkhazia. On the very first day of aggression the Georgian military said to the Abkhazians whom they arrested: "This is the end of Abkhazia. All the remaining Abkhazians will do what the Georgians tell them". This was documented by the Abkhazians Public Prosecutor's Office on 24 February 1993. Shevardnadze is accomplishing what Zhordania, Stalin and Beria began...


It is interesting to note that the current Georgian leadership itself did everything to tear Abkhazia away. Backed by the Russian armed forces, they organized a coup in Tbilisi. In February 1992 the Military Council of Georgia abrogated the Constitution of the Georgian SSR of 1978 and re-instated the Constitution of February 21, 1921, in which Abkhazia is not specified as a subject of state-legal relations. Considering that the Constitution of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic of 1978 was adopted in conformity with the Constitution of the Georgian SSR of 1978, and the Constitution of the USSR of 1977, the abrogation of the latter deprived the Constitution of the Abkhazian ASSR of its legal basis. To overcome the legal vacuum in relations between the two republics, on July 23, 1992, the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia resolved to reinstate the Constitution of Abkhazia of 1925. Abkhazia at that time was united with Georgia by a 'special Union treaty'.


For years Georgia and Abkhazia had fixed territories and borders -- for 300 years the river Ingur divided Abkhazia and Georgia. When speaking of the borders of Georgia or any other republic of the former USSR it is not correct to regard the admission of these republics to the UN as an argument in favor of the international-legal recognition of their territories and borders, because by the time of the break-up of the USSR the territories and borders of national state entities were of an administrative internal political nature, NOT international borders. They were established by the imperialistic communist regime and merely divided administrative regions of the former USSR NOR sovereign republics. The very fact of Georgia's admission to the UN deserves special attention. This international organization was joined by a state in which the leaders had come to power as a result of a military coup. The conclusion suggests itself that it is Shevardnadze NOT Georgia who has been admitted to the UN!


The people of Abkhazia are being subjected to physical genocide: on Georgian occupied territories ethnic cleansing is taking place. The aim is to Georgianize Abkhazia and make it part of a Georgian unitary, mono-ethnic state. In the territories captured by the Georgian troops, the Abkhazian, Armenian, Russian, and Greek population is being systematically persecuted, ousted or killed. Hundreds of them are being subjected to torture or humiliation. Since the beginning of the war about 1,000 people from the Abkhazian side have been killed (i.e. every hundredth person), and more than 3,000 have been wounded; almost half of the population of the republic have become refugees. The eastern part of Abkhazia, the blockaded town of Tkuarchal and the whole Ochamchiran region are in an extremely difficult situation today. Seven Abkhazian villages (Kendegh, Tamsh, Adzjebzha, Merkula, Mokva, Beslakhuba, Kutol) have been burned down. The villagers are cut off from the outside-world and are experiencing shortages of food. However, they are desperately resisting the far greater numbers of the enemy-forces. Today you will not find Abkhazians in Ochamchira; they have been either expelled or killed. The Tbilisi authorities did their utmost to transform the political conflict into an ethnic-political one. Having sent in their troops, they gradually got the local Georgians (so-called, for they are largely Mingrelians) involved in this war. One cannot help recalling the statement made by the Georgian general Qarqarashvili, whom Shevardnadze called 'a true knight'. He said he was ready to sacrifice 100,000 Georgian in order to annihilate the 97,000 Abkhazian population (women, children and old people, of course, included).


The purposeful destruction of the historical and cultural centers and monuments of the Abkhazian people resulted in the burning down of the Archives, Institute, Libraries and Theatres. The Museum and Art Gallery have been plundered. The University and Institutions carrying Abkhazian names were put in the hands of looters. Invaluable manuscripts, historic documentation, folklore and linguistic records perished in the flames. Every possible thing is being done to deprive the Abkhazian people of their history.


The Parliament of Abkazia and Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, V. Ardzinba, sent 12 appeals to the UN hoping that they would be heard. As it appeared, our appeals for help further aggravated our extremely difficult situation. Several missions of the UN and CSCE that visited Abkhazia at the invitation of Tbilisi took a pro-Georgian position, giving priority to the principle of the so-called territorial integrity of the former Georgian SSR over that of human rights and the right of people to self-determination.


As is well known, Georgia insisted on the problems of Georgia and Abkhazia being discussed in the Security Council. Ardzinba sent an open letter to the Secretary General of the UN, in which he expressed his readiness to present the Abkhazian point of view at a Security Council meeting. According to Article 2 of the UN Charter, a representative of the Republic of Abkhazia has the right to take part in such discussions. To our regret, this constructive proposal on the part of the Abkhazians remains unanswered to the present day.


We are conscious of the fact that the war with Georgia, which has a population that exceeds the number of Abkhazians 40-fold, is disastrous for us. But we have simply no choice. A possible way out of the situation is the withdrawal of all Georgian troops from Abkhazia, and only after the introduction of peace-keeping forces. There will be no winners in this war. Sartre once said: "When you learn about the details of a victory, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the victory and the defeat"! At this point it is possible to consider several ways to achieve a peaceful solution to this military conflict:


1. If before the armed aggression of Georgia against Abkhazia on 14 August 1992 the Abkhazian people and the Parliament of Abkhazia expressed their desire to have federative relations with Georgia, and this desire was voiced in the draft-treaty published on the initiative of the Abkhazian side before the war, then today, after the atrocities and the bloodshed, we can only talk about confederative ties with Georgia at best. There are, however, very few supporters of this idea on either side.

2. Very popular among the multi-ethnic inhabitants of our Republic and among many deputies is the idea of Abkhazia as a neutral state, a kind of 'Caucasian Switzerland'. We are a country situated at the juncture of East and West with a good communication-system: sea-ports, railway-lines, airports, and highways (including those via the mountains to the North Caucasus).

Abkhazia can also become a gateway to the Middle East. Such a state would be in the interests of Russia, the west and Turkey. As long as 1919 the English Military Command and General Denikin demanded the immediate declaration of Abkhazia as a neutral state and the withdrawal of Georgian troops beyond the river Ingur.

3. Abkhazia sees her future in such a community as the Caucasian Confederation, the predecessor of which is the Confederation of the People of the Caucasus, an influential and authoritative organization that was established in August 1989 in Sukhum. It unites today 16 ethnic groups living in the area from the Caspian to the Black Sea.


For many centuries Abkhazia had formed a single whole with the North Caucasian world in linguistic, ethnic, cultural, political and economic respects. This to a great extent concerns the ties between Abkhazians and the peoples who are closely related to them, the Adyghels, Karbardians, Cherkess, Ubykhs and Abkhazians. Abkhazian people also long traditional ties with the south of Russia, specifically the Cossacks who, with their original culture are close both to Russia and to the Caucasus. In 1917 Abkhazia was a full member of "The Union of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus' and 'The South East Union of Cossacks, Mountain Peoples and the Free Peoples of the Steppes'.


Meanwhile, the war in Abkhazia becomes more violent. The Georgian soldiers are killing civilians. Russia at the same time is negotiating an agreement with Georgia. Under various pretexts, including incidents when Russian military bases in Georgia come under armed attacks, weapons, ammunition and military equipment are still being handed over to Georgia. The question of the Russian-Georgian border is also being considered.


Thus, in February 1993, Shevardnadze publicly stated that one of the aims for concluding a treaty with Russia was to have from her as many armaments as possible. And Kitovani, Minister of Defense, complained: "We are ready to become an outpost for Russia in the Caucasus". To become one, Georgia has to be a strong state. At the same time Russia did not transfer even the 10% of military technology due to us. The North Caucasus, people of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Mingrelia and the so far peaceful Adjaria feel concerned about such action and statements.


In violation of the Resolutions of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation of 25 September and 25 December 1992 the military equipment is regularly being handed over to Georgia. At the end of March Major-General Boris Dykov, assistant-commander of the Transcaucasian Military Forces, gave out the information that "one division has gone over to the Georgian armed forces and by the end of the year 34 military camps are supposed to be given to Georgian" (Nez.Gaz., 1993, 25 March).


The impression that Georgia wants to withdraw the Russian troops from its territory seems to be incorrect. On the contrary, the leading circles of Georgia are afraid of losing their support. As Shevardnadze stated at the end of last year, the Georgian borders would be unprotected if the Russian troops left Georgia. This was confirmed by Deputy Ada Marshania, who pointed out that the Russian troops should be withdrawn from Abkhazia, but not from the rest of Georgia, that actually has no army of her own to protect her borders.


The question of withdrawing the Russian troops from Abkhazia was raised in the talks in Sochi. We can only guess what was being said behind closed doors! The Abkhazian representative was not admitted, even as an observer. This is another attempt to decide our future behind our backs.


At the present time Georgia is the main destabilizing factor for the political situation in the North Caucasus and southern Russia. That is why some of the statements of the analytical review of 22nd January 1993 made by the president's information service, seems strange. It says: "To hold power Shevardnadze needs more serious support on the part of Russia. Not only economic and spiritual ties connect Russia and Georgia. Geopolitical and military realities push them towards each other".