The following Appeal is a good indication of both the level of despair to which the entire multi-ethnic population of Abkhazia has been reduced after Georgia's war of aggression (1992-93) and the harsh and inhuman blockade imposed by the CIS since January 1996 as well as their determination to continue the struggle for the legitimate self-determination of the Republic of Abkhazia.
To the CIS HEADS OF STATE
To the CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERATION COUNCIL OF THE FEDERATION- ASSEMBLY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION, E. STROEV
To the CHAIRMAN OF THE STATE DUMA OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION, G. SELEZNEV
To the PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDERATION OF THE PEOPLES OF THE CAUCASUS, YU. SOSLANBEKOV
To the EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CIRCASSIAN ASSOCIATION
To the CHAIRMAN OF THE UN IN THE ZONE OF THE GEORGIAN-ABKHAZIAN CONFLICT
To the CHAIRMAN OF OSCE
To the COMMANDER OF THE PEACE-KEEPING FORCES IN
THE ZONE OF GEORGIAN-ABKHAZIAN OPPOSITION
FROM AN ASSEMBLY OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE SOCIAL ORGANISATIONS, POLITICAL PARTIES AND MOVEMENTS IN THE REPUBLIC OF ABKHAZIA
The whole of society in the Republic of Abkhazia is attentively following the course of the negotiating process for a full-scale settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.
However, continuing provocations instigated by the Georgian side in the Security Zone and statements by Georgian politicians that resound across different outlets of the mass-media are creating renewed alarm and anxiety among the people of Abkhazia.
The impression is spreading that peace in the region is not in the interests of Georgia. People are continuing to lose their lives, one hears with ever greater frequency the explosions of mines, or shots at vehicles with people inside them, all the work of Georgian terrorist groups operating on the territory of the Republic of Abkhazia, especially in the Gal, Ochamchira and Tqvarchal Districts.
Quite openly and unambiguously in the press and on the television the Georgian Minister of Security, Sh. Kviraia, and the president of Georgia, Shevardnadze himself, declare that a partisan-war is in progress and will remain in progress on the territory of Abkhazia, that today Georgia is not the same as it was in 1993, that the weaponry and army available to Georgia are capable of returning Abkhazia to within the structure of Georgia, etc...
The stake by the politicians of Georgia on forceful methods in deciding how to settle the conflict and their thirst for revenge far from accelerating actually apply the breaks to the search for a path to peace and stability and hamper the gradual realization of the Quadripartite Agreement (4 April 1994) already achieved in the matter of settling the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.
The leaders of Georgia are making ever more frequent demands on Russia to alter the mandate for the presence of the Peace-Keeping Forces in the conflict-zone and to assign them policing functions.
The Foreign Minister of Georgia, Mr. Menagharishvili, at a press-conference on 5 Jan 1997 announced the intention of the Georgian head of state to demand at the CIS heads of state meeting planned for January of this year an intensification of the blockade of Abkhazia if at that time the process of the mass-return of the refugees was not restarted. And, if the Peace-Keeping Forces did not facilitate the return and protection of the refugees, then he (Shevardnadze) did not see the need to extend the mandate for their presence in the region.
It is perfectly obvious that the Georgian side is trying with the help of blackmail to provoke the Russian Federation into a forced mass-return of all the refugees.
Georgia's ambassador to Russia, Mr. V. Lordkipanidze, went even further in declaring: 'The CIS is obliged to show that it looks upon Abkhazia as an inseparable part of Georgia.'
Given the imminence of the meeting of the heads of state of the CIS countries and in connection with the hardening of the position of Georgia in relation to Abkhazia, we must make the following demands:
that there be a complete halt to the negotiating process, since there is no possibility of renewing state-legal relations with Georgia's fascist regime;
that there be an appeal to the CIS countries with the proposal that they accept the sovereign state of Abkhazia as a constituent-member of the CIS with equal rights, to enter later into the Customs' Union;
that the Parliament of the Republic of Abkhazia consider these questions and effect an end to any further negotiations with Georgia inclined to nazism.
Should the CIS countries ratify the Georgian plan to intensify the blockade of Abkhazia, we demand of our own government:
that it renounce the Russian Federation's role as intermediary in the settlement of the conflict;
that it appeal to the authorities and peoples of the North Caucasian republics with the request that they render assistance to Abkhazia with a view to suppressing the plans for its strangulation.
The above-appeal was sanctioned unanimously at a general assembly of representatives of the social organizations, political parties and movements of the Republic of Abkhazia on 24 January 1997.
The socio-political movement 'Aydgylara'
The Congress of Russian Associations
The Armenian Cultural-Philanthropic Society 'Krunk'
The People's Party of Abkhazia
The War- and Labour-Veterans' Council
The Association of War-invalids in Abkhazia
The Mothers' Movement of Abkhazia
The Communist Party of Abkhazia
The Federation of Independent Trade-unions
The Council of Elders of Abkhazia
The Polish Community
The Greek Community
The German Community
The Jewish Community
The Association of the Cossacks of Abkhazia
The Societies 'Apsadgil' and 'Apsabara'
Chairman of the Assembly, Vice-Chairman
of the Council of Elders of the Republic of Abkhazia B.
Secretary of the Assembly S. Zukhba
24 January 1997
We, the writers of Abkhazia, appeal to you, our dear colleagues, at this difficult time, which is critical for the fate of our people.
It is now almost 3 years that Abkhazia has found itself subject to blockade, which was allegedly instituted as a security measure in connection with the war in Chechnya. From the beginning of 1996 this blockade was intensified, and we find ourselves isolated not only politically and economically but also morally.
As everyone knows, the war in Chechnya is over. The blockade of Abkhazia, however, continues. Freight-transport is not allowed to reach us either by land or by sea - this now applies even to humanitarian aid. Recently, the border-guards of the Russian Federation turned back from the Sukhum sea-port a freight-vessel from Turkey laden with flour, potatoes and sugar. All roads leading to Abkhazia are closed - there is no communication with the outside world. Even during the Soviet period the citizens of Abkhazia were able to travel without restriction to any country; hydrofoils sailed to Turkey; people were in communication with relatives; business was conducted. But now times have changed - the "democrats" have revealed their true colours.
In April this year (1997) Mr. Shevardnadze prepared for us yet another surprise (with the full knowledge, naturally, of Russian bureaucrats): international phone-links were severed. As a result, the citizens of our cosmopolitan republic have been deprived of their only chance of communication with relatives who are to be found living in every city of Russia, the North Caucasus and abroad. What is this if not 20th century savagery right under one's nose?!
What is happening? What is the cause of this callousness on behalf of the sorry excuses for politicians who are responsible? The answer is apparently the Abkhazian side's lack of acknowledgement of the principle of Georgia's territorial integrity. The right of a nation to self-determination is flatly dismissed.
Allow us to make a short excursion into history. It was by 'fiat' of Stalin that Abkhazia in 1931 was herded into the Georgian SSR in the guise of an autonomous republic, remaining therein for about 65 years (viz. upto the dissolution of the relevant super-power). And it is this, it would seem, that entitles the present-day leaders of Georgia to lay claim to it as an indivisible part of this country.
Quite consciously, no attention is being paid to the fact that after the October Revolution, specifically from 1921 and for almost 10 years, Abkhazia enjoyed a special status: as a member of the Transcaucasian Federation, it was an independent member of the USSR, according to a treaty signed by the representatives of the government of Abkhazia. Previously, from 1810, Abkhazia was an independent member of the Russian state. In the XVI-XVIIIth centuries it was a protectorate of Ottoman Turkey, after being an independent state for many centuries. In all, Abkhazian statehood has lasted for about 1,200 years.
In this connection, a second question arises: what were the documents on the basis of which in 1975 at Helsinki the decision was taken on the territorial integrity of countries? Was it boundaries of ethnic groups or states that were of prime concern? Regardless of what was viewed as the determining factor at the time, we wish to emphasise in the present case the fact that neither by language, nor historical destiny, culture, toponymy, folklore or any other criterion do the Abkhazians bear any similarity to the Georgians. The psychology of the Abkhazians is totally different from that of the Georgians, for this latter people have an entirely different mentality. Modern activists who fuss over the territorial integrity of Georgia are very well aware that the territory of Abkhazia from the most ancient of times had the status on atlases of the world not as an ethno-administrative entity within Georgia but as a distinct, independent state. Starting from the most ancient authors (Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny, Procopius of Caesarea) upto the famous Turkish traveller of the early XVIIth century, Evliya Celebi, as well as the Frenchman Dubois de Montpereux, all of them observed that on the modern-day territory of Abkhazia there lived the forebears of today's Abkhazians (Abazgians, Apsilians, Sanigians).
'Territorial integrity' in Georgian means Abkhazia devoid of Abkhazians. Georgia wishes to deprive us of our only historical homeland. We have already endured such deprivation once at the hands of the Russians in the second half of the 19th century, during the years of exile to Ottoman lands (maxadzhirstvo) after the Great Caucasian War.
The second major problem precluding any settlement to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict is the return of the refugees and displaced persons. Here, too, Georgia cannot disentangle itself from its political ambitions. As regards this issue, there is the decision taken in Moscow on 4th April 1994 and signed by the representatives of Georgia, Abkhazia, Russia and the UN, where, in precise and clear language, a gradual and orderly process for their return is prescribed. However, the humanitarian aspects of the return of the refugees are currently subordinated to the political calculation that the return of the refugees might serve as an excuse to reinvade Abkhazia. Regarding the number of refugees, the Georgian activists have done so much talking through their hats that they themselves presently have no idea how many persons fled from Abkhazia after the war. According to their figures, the number of Kartvelians (Mingrelians, Svans, Georgians and Laz) living in Abkhazia prior to the war was 246,000, whereas now from the mouth of the president and leaders of the Georgian Foreign Ministry we regularly hear the figure of 300,000 Kartvelian refugees from Abkhazia living in Georgia.
In order to put this situation into context, we would like to introduce just one fact, from the census of 1886, which fixes in official documents that at that time there lived in Abkhazia fewer than 4,000 Kartvelians (3,474 Mingrelians, 515 Georgians). This figure alone is enough to counter the false claim which is being proffered to the world community to the effect that Georgians have supposedly lived in Abkhazia from time immemorial, on the basis of which the equally false claim is made for Abkhazia being an inseparable part of Georgia.
The number of Kartvelians kept on increasing in Abkhazia, especially during the Soviet period, thanks to help from 'the father of all nations' - Stalin, not through natural population growth but through transplantation, especially from Western Georgia. It follows that it is not even legitimate to call these people refugees inasmuch as they have simply returned to their own historical land. Recent times have seen many acts of terrorism committed by the Georgian side in the Gal, T'qw'archal and Ochamchira regions of Abkhazia. Georgian activists themselves do not hide this in their appearances in the mass-media, including TV. At the end of last year the infamous activist of the so-called 'Abkhazian Autonomous Republic', T. Nadareishvili, declared that they had funds to launch sabotage-groups into Abkhazia. As a result of these, children, old people, women, peace-keepers and local militiamen are losing their lives on the roads and in residential areas. The number of victims of Nadareishvili's 'action' has already reached 300. Arson-attacks continue to be directed against administrative and residential buildings in Abkhazia's regions and towns.
In a recent appearance on Russian TV, Mr. Shevardnadze castigated two Russian generals who, he alleged, at the time of the Georgian-Abkhazian war handed over weapons to the Abkhazian side. However, he never speaks of the fact that in 1991-92, prior to the start of the war in Abkhazia, spurious 'raids' were staged on the storage facilities of the Transcaucasian Military District in the environs of Tbilisi, as a result of which, according to the officially published figures, Georgia acquired 400 railcar-loads of assorted weapons and ammunition. All of this is well known to the mediators participating in the current negotiations. They also know full well that members of Georgia's 'National Guard' operating in Abkhazia engaged in murdering peaceful citizens, old people, women and children, strafing their living quarters. They know this, but they say nothing - it would appear that they are afraid of offending their former boss. For example, B. Pastukhov, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, during his meetings with the Abkhazian government in Gudauta during the war, styled Shevardnadze an opportunist, whereas today he dotes on him. He and his colleagues behave as though they worked not for the Russian but for the Georgian diplomatic corps, and as if their president were not Yeltsin but Shevardnadze.
So great, it would seem, is the momentum generated by Stalin's blood-soaked initiatives!
As a result of the biased approach to deciding how Georgian-Abkhazian relations are to be resolved, artificial obstructions are being laid along the path. The whole world knows that it was not Abkhazia that ignited the war, and that the one who started it got his just desserts. However, this aggression has thus far not received the appropriate condemnation according to international conventions. Today, with rare exceptions, at meetings having to do with the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, the mediators, primarily the Russians, seek, by means of 'peaceful coercion', as Shevardnadze has put it, to drive Abkhazia into Georgia, where there is neither peace nor order. This neologism in the Russian language, 'peaceful coercion', is oxymoronic, for there is simply no such thing - any coercion implies the knout and compulsion.
Such is the behaviour of those self-styled 'democrats'.
Finally, we would like to make one further point. As is well-known, the people of Abkhazia hold to their pro-Russian orientation, which is not accidental. Even before the establishment of Soviet power, during the late tsarist period, Abkhazia received assistance from Russia. This was principally in the areas of construction (roads, bridges), navigation along the Black Sea coast, familiarisation of Abkhazians with Russian culture, the opening of schools, the creation of an alphabet, publication of primers and textbooks, and the establishment of resorts. This continued during Soviet times. How can one not mention in this context the building of health-resorts in Gagra, Pitsunda, Myussera and elsewhere?!
It is unfathomable to us why Russia decided to break all these vital links, failing to consider that such a step would cause pain not only to the citizens of Abkhazia but also to those Russians themselves who every year used to travel here for their holidays; many of them have close relatives here, with whom at the present moment there can be no contact thanks to the circumstances that have developed.
It must be admitted that there have been tragic pages in the history of Abkhazian-Russian relations. This principally relates to the mass-transplantation of the recalcitrant peoples of the Caucasus, including the Abkhazians, to Turkey and other countries of the Near East. The tsarist policy of liquidating small peoples in order to please the more 'privileged ones' is sadly alive to the present day in the mind of certain representatives of the government of the Russian Federation. How else to explain the blood-letting in Karabagh, Sumgait, Chechenia, Pridnestrov'e and Abkhazia?
All of this causes us to doubt whether Russia can really carry through to the end the peace-keeping mission it has taken upon itself and its mediation in the negotiations. Shouldn't we rather appeal for help to some other country? We, writers of Abkhazia, in appealing to you, our colleagues, urge you to empathise with our pain, the pain of our entire nation, which finds itself between the hammer and the anvil, and to express your own views on this situation, for leaders cannot ignore the just voice of writers, who by profession are the conveyors of the ideas of good and justice.
Signed 19 May 1997 by: Bagrat Shinkuba, Boris Gurgulia, Georgij Gublia, Aleksei Gogua, Nikolaj Khashig, Konstantin Lomia, Dzhuma Akhwba, Nikolaj Kvitsinia, Mushni Lasuria, Platon Bebia, Vitalij Amarshan, Vladimir Zantaria, Rushni Dzhopua, Anzor Mukba, Ovanes Torosjan, Shamil Pilia, Lev Lubchenko, Nadezhda Venediktova, Nikolaj Patulidi, Ruslan Kapba, Aleksej Argun, Sergej Zukhba, Shota Chkadua, Vladimir Atsnaria, Shota Salakaia, Sardion Tarkil.