The Abkhazians in history


Christianity was introduced to the population in the 6th century, when they entered into protection of the Byzantine Empire under Justinian. With the rise of Islam in the 7th century, the fall of Sassanid Persia and the weakening of Byzantium, Abkhazia was formed as a principality that came to affiliate with the Khazar Khanate from around 800 A.D. as its prince married a Khazar princess. In the 10th century, Abkhazia became part of the Georgian state of the time (the Bagratid dynasty), during a period of anarchy between vassal princes and nobility.


From around year 1000 there were several Turkish-Mongolian invasions, and in the 14th century the Georgian state fell. Bagratid rule in Abkhazia was replaced by a feudal principality under Ottoman sovereignty. Muslim influence was again strong in the area, especially after 1578, when Abkhazia became a vassal principality under the Ottomans. Islamization of the population culminated much later, however-towards the end of the 18th century. But Christianity was still the faith of a large minority of the Abkhaz.


Russian annexation of the area, starting in 1801, brought Abkhazia increasingly under Russian influence. Russian-Turkish revalidation led to a split in the Abkhaz elite, mainly along religious divisions. The Russo-Turkish war of 1827-28 strongly enhanced the Russians' position. Conflicts between Russians and Abkhaz increased in the 1830s and 1840s, when the Russians used Abkhazia as a base for campaigns against the Cherkess, that are ethnically close to the Abkhaz.


Colonisation of the Abkhaz territory began even before 1810, but Abkhaz self-administration lasted until 1864.


Many Abkhaz emigrated in this period, and there was a major uprising in 1866 as a protest against Russian land reforms and taxation system. In the 1870s approx. 200.000 Abkhaz (1/2 of the population) were forced to emigrate, as they were declared to be unfaithful subjects of the tsar. This out-migration had two important consequences: Firstly, most of those who left were Muslims, so that the majority of the Abkhaz in Abkhazia was suddenly Christian. The other main consequence was that the Abkhaz became a minority in their own land as large territories lay open to immigration by Russians, Georgians and others.


Editor note: These information is from datebase of Centre of Russian Studies (Norway)