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Abkhaz people must make decisive choice

By Lorik Marshania
Georgia Online, 31 October '12


Lorik Marshania (Marshan) a native of Ochamchira (town in Abkhazia), ethnic Abkhaz is a prominent scientist and public figure of Georgia of Abkhaz origin, academician, doctor of economic sciences, professor, honored worker of science.

Marshaniya is an author of over 200 scientific publications, including monographs, books, pamphlets and articles on economics and management. Particularly noteworthy are his publications on international relations.

He was awarded the State Prize after prominent Social and political figure, writer and poet, an ethnic Abkhaz, George Sharvashidze, "For tireless social and political activities, and the cycle of journalistic work in years of 1980-1995, on interethnic issues - understanding and unity of the Abkhazian and Georgian people for peace and harmony among all peoples."

Marshania died in a car accident on August 13, 2010.

He graduated from high school in Sukhumi, the Moscow State Institute of Economics. He began his career in Abkhazia’s state planning agency. Was a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of Economics, later - Researcher at the Department of Economics of the Abkhazian Research Institute of language, literature, history and economy of the Dmitry Gulia Georgian Academy of Sciences, Associate Professor, Vice-Rector of the Institute of Subtropical Agriculture in Sukhumi, the First Deputy Chairman of the Board of Ministers of Abkhazia, Abkhazian regional party secretary, deputy head of the agricultural department of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party, President of the Institute of Economic Management at the Council of Ministers of Georgia.

***

The following article by Lorik Marshania was published in April 2008, on one of the websites of the "Georgia Online" media group in response to the proposal by the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili made in March 2008 to the separatist regions of Georgia, offering them a wide autonomy.

This article is also interesting, as is partly reveals the situation in Abkhazia before the war of 1992-1993, and the relationship that existed between ethnic Georgians and ethnic Abkhazians.

Due to the fact that some of the commentators on this website continue to spread Abkhaz-sided mythological version of the events, we found it necessary to publish a translation of the article, whose author is not an ethnic Georgian (to avoid accusations in spreading the Georgian propagandistic views), but a highly respected Abkhazian.

***

Recent events have once again clearly demonstrated the fact that for Russia the relationships between Georgia and USA grew from the category of jealousy into the category of hate and enmity towards Georgia.

Stumbling blocks were the issue of the territorial integrity of Georgia and its desire to join NATO.

In this confrontation of powers mostly suffers the population of Abkhazia.

In fact, today Abkhazia has become a hostage of political bargaining between great powers.

Particularly critical time has come for a small Abkhazian ethnos. The issue is straight: to be or not to be! How to survive and get on to the feet in the mess of global confrontation, where small and big powers pursue only their national goals, violating the interests of indigenous peoples.

As a result of the fatal mistakes of the leadership of the Russian Empire in the XIX century, many people disappeared from the face of the earth, including Ubykhs (North Caucasian tribe), who lived next door to Abkhazia on the territory of the Sochi-Adler.

The past can not be crossed, but living there is not possible. We have to know and remember our history, extract lessons from there, both negative and positive and draw conclusions!

That history clearly indicates negative accretions of the past from Russian side on Abkhazia as a result of the criminal actions of the former leaders of the USSR (1937-1950 years). Those were the years of the communist orgy marked by repression, the physical extermination of the best representatives of the Abkhazian intelligentsia, closing Abkhaz schools, a ban of the native language, etc.

In 70's of last century the tsarist autocracy began to settle Russian, Moldavians, Bulgarians, Estonians, Armenians and Greeks in the empted land of Abkhazia (the expulsion of Abkhazians in the Ottoman Empire). In 1949 - 1950 years intense relocation of Georgians began to Abkhazia mainly from areas of western Georgia.

These two events are undoubtedly important factors of assimilation of the Abkhazian ethnos. This is an undeniable historical truth!

As we all know, in those difficult years tragic fate reached not only Abkhazians, but many people of the former USSR, including the Caucasus, Transcaucasia, the whole Georgia. The best minds of the state were exiled by trains and shot.

Who should be blamed?

The fact that the chief executives of the country (the Soviet Union) at the time were ethnic Georgians (Stalin, Beria), who to this day are associated with Georgia and the Georgian people, formed in the minds of generations that Georgians were responsible for the tragedy of the peoples of those times not the leaders of Russia and the Soviet Union .

For some reason, the politicians of Russia forget and do not remember their compatriots Yezhov and jerks like him, the founders of repression in 1937. Is it true and fair!

Next, let’s recall what happened in 1870, Tsarist Russia, under General Muravyov arranged national disaster of Abkhaz people, violently expelled the "rebellious mountaineers" in the Ottoman Empire of Turkey, known as the "makhadjir."

Under Soviet rule in 1945, the former secretary Suslov, while being on vacation in the city of Sukhumi, mentioned in his conversations with the former first secretary of the Abkhazian regional party A. Mgeladze, "There is an idea to combine resorts of Abkhazia and Sochi and create a single resort district on the Black Sea coast with direct subordination to Moscow."

In 1948, while being also on vacation in Sukhumi, Poskrebyshev (Assistant of Stalin), said: "What would Abkhazian and Georgian comrades say, if we combine Sukhumi, New Athos, Gudauta, Gagra and Sochi and establish a resort district in subordination to Moscow."

In the 60s Nikita Khrushov arrogantly warned Georgians: "You will see, Georgians! I’ll incite Abkhazians ... ". During this period, Khrushchev summoned then First Secretary of the Abkhazian regional party Mikhail Bgazhba and gave him order to request by the name of Abkhazian people unification of the autonomy with Krasnodar region of Soviet Russia.

In 1990, after the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union "the Abkhazian Card” was used against Georgia in the big political game.

Leaders of Yeltsin's Russia, following his favorite imperial principle of "divide and rule" in 1992 by arming the Abkhaz and Georgians, forced them to shoot each other, committed genocide of both parts.

At the meeting at the Academy of Sciences of Georgia, Boris Yeltsin, said: "In the tragedy of Abkhazia there is Russia's fault too".

Intensive bombing of Sukhumi and its surroundings lasted for eight months in 1993. Today, everyone knows that mercenaries, armed to the teeth with Russian weapons, were coming mainly from Russian regions (Confederates, the Cossacks, former Afghan fighters) . 529 Fighter Aviation Regiment was set in motion, stationed in Gudauta district of Abkhazia - "Bombora", inspired and led by the reactionary groups of Russia and aggressive generals, led by the Ministry of Defense Chief of Staff Baluyevsky, who still saber rattling, threaten Georgia and Ukraine for their desire to join NATO.

In fact, Russia was and is a party in the conflict.

In present times, President Putin with his reckless actions and deeds aggravate the situation in Abkhazia. A classic example of this fact is the meeting in Sochi in 2004 and the support of one of the candidates for president of Abkhazia R. Khajimba who was nominated by Ardzinba. In pre-election period "landing" of officials of the State Duma of Russia: Zatulin, Kobzon, Deputy Prosecutor General Kolesnikov, the Deputy Minister of the Interior and others were sent to Abkhazia with one goal: to support presidential candidate, who would be the next puppet of the Kremlin!

This blatant act showed the world the true face of Russian politics, open and
brusque interference into the neighboring region. The question is how international law can explain this nonsense?

Today, the assimilation and Russification process of Abkhazia is intensified, as it happened with the North Caucasus autonomous regions of Russian Federation under the communist system. 80% of the current population of Abkhazia own Russian passports. As a result of all this, the Abkhazian ethnos loses its face: independence, traditions, language, identity, and others .The real interests and aspirations are completely ignored. Abkhazia's current leadership lacks real independence!

At this stage, Russia implements massive illegal privatization of state property of Abkhazia, as well as the property of refugees and displaced persons.

And this is not a complete list of the negative attitude of Russia towards Abkhazia.

Now, let’s analyze the situation in Abkhazia, as part of Georgia.

The world community needs to know that while being part of Georgia, Abkhaz nation, despite the difficult tragic vicissitudes of its history, has managed to keep itself physically, to find its own face, national autonomy, language, culture, literature, tradition, identity, unlike many current North Caucasian republics of the Russian Federation.

Abkhazia is the only autonomous republic in the former Soviet Union, the Constitution of which contains an article on the official language - Abkhazian.

Back in the 70's of the last century, children in autonomous regions of Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Chechnya and Ingushetia, Karachay were not learning the native language. While in Abkhazia 25 Abkhaz schools were operating, and more recently - 73 (Abkhaz and mixed), where more than 5 000 students were studding in Abkhazian language.

Eight Abkhaz deputies from Georgia were the members of the Supreme Council of Soviet Union and Georgian parliamentarians consisted of elected 40 people from Abkhazia, 15 of them were Abkhazians. The Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic had 140 deputies. 57 (40.7%) were Abkhazians, 53 (37.9%)Georgians, 40 (21.4%) - Russian, Armenian, other nationalities - in the city and district councils Abkhazians made up almost a third, and among workers of Council of Ministers and the regional party - more than half. Eight of the thirteen ministers and five of the eight chairmen of state committees were Abkhazians, five of the city and district prosecutors offices were headed by representatives of the indigenous nationality.

Abkhazian State University, a national television which was broadcasting only in Abkhazian language, Abkhazian State drama theater and museum, D.E. Gulua literary memorial museum, State Song and Dance Ensemble, dance ensembles "Sharatyn", "Ertsahu" State Symphony Orchestra, the Abkhaz State Choir, female vocal and instrumental quartet "Gund" ethnographic song and dance centenarians "Nartaa" (winner of the International Prize " Golden Peacock "won in Hungary) functioned in Sukhumi. Many of these groups have repeatedly toured abroad, introducing the national culture of the Abkhazians.

Creative unions of writers, composers, artists, architects were working quite affectively. Public art gallery, public library, a theater company was also operating. On the basis of its own printing house were issuing the native language historical and ethnographic literature, magazines and newspapers, increased printing of Abkhaz language newspaper "Apsny Kapsch" etc.

D. Gulia Abkhazian Research Institute of Language, Literature, History and Economics was functioning. About thirty Institutes conducted studies with of all-Union and international significance.

Prominent Abkhaz scientists were elected as members of the Georgian Academy of Science: George Dzidzaria, Zurab Anchabadze. On the initiative and request of the Communist Party of Georgia national poet of Abkhazia Bagrat Shinkuba was awarded the high title of Hero of Socialist Labor, the title of People's Artist of the USSR was rewarded to Pachalia.

Development of the national economy, especially its unique subtropical agriculture, resorts and tourism was prioritized.

In Abkhazia, the basic key management positions were held by Abkhazians - First Secretary of the Abkhazian regional committee of the Communist Party, Chairman of the Supreme Council, the secretary of the party, first deputy prime minister, minister of education, culture, university rectors, chairman of the union of writers, artists, composers, TV committee, etc.

I want to note that, as an exchange of personnel, at different times over fifty representatives of the Abkhaz nationality were working in the government, ministries, committees, the Komsomol of Georgia and they were holding top positions .
The basic factor of the Abkhaz-Georgian relations – is that more than 40% of the population of Abkhazia were mixed Abkhazian-Georgian families, and it created the large network of relationships.

Where else, in the former national autonomies, or in the area within the Russian Federation (now the republics with their presidents) you'll find this level of national representation and full development? Nowhere!

The fate that awaits Abkhazia from Russia.

After this positive chain of events, in 1992-1993, the Georgian government made a fatal mistake in relation to Abkhazia and its people.

We are talking about entering the territory of Abkhazia, Sukhumi in particular, by National Guards ("Mkhedrioni") in August 14, 1992.

The decision was made on the initiative of the State Council of Georgia and was a fatal mistake.

There were more opportunities to prevent the war through negotiations, mutually acceptable solutions. But, unfortunately, all the ways for peace were not used, and the Georgian guards, supported by heavy military, broke in Sukhumi motivating it by combating criminal violence. In fact, Mkhedrioni members were bandits and robbers themselves. This naturally angered and alienated people. They were shocked by the double press - from one side they were left by their Abkhaz leadership and on the pther - suffered from by far not the best representatives of the Georgian military.

To my deepest regret, so far, this vandalism was not given the political and legal assessment. This indifference on the part of the Georgian leadership to this bloody tragedy, at least, makes the public wonder and bewilderment! People should finally know the names of the organizers, instigators and perpetrators of the tragedy of Abkhazia, which killed about thirteen thousands people. Otherwise it turns out that it is everyone’s fault or nobody’s! But it can not be true! As a result of this uncertainty, state criminals of that time still are considered as heroes (both in Georgia and in Abkhazia, as well as in Russia).

Based on the above – in the historical dynamics of relations between Russia and Georgia towards Abkhazia, the legitimate question arises: What choice should Abkhaz people make? With whom to live and how to build its democratic future? In the meantime, in the search for independence, Abkhazia did not get anything positive, but lost the most important thing - the Abkhaz people!

Both, the past and the present, indicate that Russia is a tragic perspective for Abkhazia, the path of complete assimilation, Russification and physical disappearance, for more than 15 years Abkhazia de facto exists under Russian imperial boot. The process of de-facto annexation and usage of unique resources is ongoing. Moreover, Russia will never recognize the sovereignty of Abkhazia, as it is contrary to its national interests and threatens the collapse of Russia itself.

As the result - the Abkhazian ethnos will lose its ethno-historical space, its face. It will share the fate of Ubykhs!

Now let's discuss the real prospects of Abkhazia and Georgia, especially the proposals of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

In spite of the above mentioned negative accretions of the past on the part of Georgia against Abkhazia, today, 15 years after the tragic events, the Georgian leadership has rather serious, pragmatic and realistic proposals, the implementation of which may be the start of the recovery, the establishment and further development of the Abkhaz people.

Lets review the proposal in more details. They are:

1.Broad political representation for the Abkhazians
2. A new post of Vice President of Georgia to be occupied by an Abkhazian.
3. The right to veto legislation related to the constitutional status of Abkhazia, and to
Issues related to Abkhaz culture, language, and ethnicity.
4. The establishment of a joint Free Economic Zone in the Gali region, including the sea port of Ochamchire.
5. The gradual merge of Abkhazian and Georgian law enforcement agencies and
customs services.
6. International guarantees to ensure wide federalism, unlimited autonomy, and
Security.

Guarantees should definitely be recorded in the Constitution of Abkhazia, Georgia, and international legal norms.

The same has never been offered in the history of the Abkhaz-Georgian relations.
It deserves serious attention and bilateral discussions. And this requires trust, political will of the parties and wisdom of people.

Practical implementation of those proposals gives a real chance to bring up the Abkhazian ethnos!

In an open letter a well- known social activist and scholar – Abkhaz Taras Shamba, wrote in 1992:

"Our sacred duty is to follow the principles expressed by prominent members of the public, which says:" Abkhazians and Georgians have always lived and live side by side, shared the joy and sorrow. Together they met the good guests, together fought for their independence. So let’s act according to the fundamental interests of the peoples of the republic, so that our children gratefully remember their fathers and older brothers, who managed in difficult times to break the deadlock and to preserve the most precious to us - the unity of the peoples, peace, and friendship in our land. "

So let us all seek for ways of how put into practice those holy and true words. Stop the evil, remember ancestors, think of the children!

Let wisdom and responsibility help us in future”

Well said!

Completely agree and ready to implement these holy words!

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