Natella Akaba
Historian, Chairperson of the board of the 'Association of Women of Abkhazia'. Abkhazia.

This is how this world is: to some countries, freedom and independence are presented as a gift from above, while others have to get them at the cost of huge sacrifices and trials. It is no coincidence that the residents of Abkhazia style the 30th September 1993 either ‘Victory Day’ or ‘Independence Day’. It is clear that, if there had not been a victory over the Georgian aggressors, Abkhazia would not have become an independent country. The attack was as sudden as it was treacherous for the Abkhazian side: literally, on the eve of the invasion, i.e. on 13 August 1992, the Chairman of the State Council of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze, in a telephone-conversation with the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia, Vladislav Ardzinba, announced that Georgian troops would not be sent to Abkhazia. However, it soon became clear that, since 11 August, preparations for Operation Sword, aimed at the lightning takeover of Abkhazia, had been in full swing in Georgia, and on 14 August the invasion took place.

The city of Ochamchira was the first to suffer the blow and was occupied by Georgian armed forces in literally a matter of hours. Since ethnic Georgians [or Mingrelians] were the majority in the city itself, and as the attack for the non-Georgian population was sudden, it was not difficult to "conquer" Ochamchira. Ethnic Abkhazians, Armenians and Russians, who found themselves in the territories occupied by Georgian troops, had to choose: either to get out of the city or village by secret paths to ensure their safety, or to join the partisan-struggle against the enemy. However, among the non-Georgian population of the Ochamchira district there were those who remained at home. Mostly they were elderly people and mothers with young children who were counting on the humanity of the Georgian military or on help from their Georgian neighbours.

However, these illusions vanished in the very first days after the invasion. This is not surprising, if we keep in mind that the Georgian armed formations brought into Abkhazia on 14 August hardly at all resembled a regular army – they were hastily put together and untrained detachments. As it became known later, in the course of preparations for the invasion of Abkhazia, those who were able to hold weapons in their hands were released from prisons and psychiatric hospitals in Georgia. As a result, sophisticated criminals, sadists and drug-addicts came to Abkhazia. Nevertheless, many local Georgians greeted these Georgian detachments with champagne and joyfully shouted: "Our people have come!" Some Georgian women threw fresh flowers at the tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

In those days, something unimaginable began in Ochamchira: in a city where people of different nationalities had lived side by side for decades, had helped each other, had sat at common wedding or memorial tables, and had shared their most intimate stories, brutal murders and robberies along ethnic lines suddenly began to occur. Moreover, among the Ochamchira Georgians there were also those who informed the Georgian security-forces about their Abkhazian, Russian and Armenian neighbours. However, sometimes, albeit infrequently, there still were such cases when Abkhazians, Armenians and Russians were protected by their Georgian friends and neighbours.

Starting the war, the Tbilisi "strategists" led by the well-known political intriguer Shevardnadze and his criminal associates Kitovani and Ioseliani could not foresee that the Armenians and Russians living in Abkhazia would stand shoulder to shoulder with the Abkhazians. An even greater surprise for them was that immediately after the beginning of the war, North-West Caucasian related to the Abkhazians (viz. Abazins, Adyghes, Kabardians, Cherkess), as well as Chechens, Ingush, Ossetians, Russians, Cossacks and other residents of the North Caucasus and South Russia came to the defence of Abkhazia.

The fact that during the war armed people kill each other and try to inflict as much damage as possible on the enemy’s troops is, unfortunately, a common phenomenon. However, when armed groups crack down on helpless old men, women and children, it is already difficult to explain from the point of view of military tactics or strategy. It is rather a manifestation of aggressive chauvinism. Moreover, all this took place immediately after the invasion of Georgian military-criminal groups into Abkhazia in 1992. The massacres of civilians of non-Georgian nationality shocked by reason of their cruelty, and it is hardly necessary to mention robberies. If the cruelty of the semi-gangster formations that invaded Abkhazia can be explained, though with difficulty, then it is much more difficult to understand why hatred for the Abkhazians and the Russian-speaking residents of our republic suddenly spread among many of the local Georgian community.

Abkhazia suffered irreparable losses during the Patriotic War of 1992-93. In November 1992, Georgian armed formations that invaded the territory of Abkhazia burned down the Abkhazian Scientific Research Institute with all its historical archives, archaeological and ethnographic materials, as well as the Central State Archive of Abkhazia. The Sukhum Local History Museum, libraries, and some schools were also destroyed. All this was the done by 20th-century vandals, headed by the "great democrat" and favourite of Western leaders, E. Shevardnadze. It is clear that the destruction of monuments of Abkhazian history and culture was aimed at destroying the Abkhazian national identity and spiritual heritage.

As is known, according to the norms of international humanitarian law, in the course of hostilities, citizens who do not participate in an armed struggle as well as objects of cultural and spiritual heritage are liable to protection. However, all these norms were grossly violated by the Georgian armed formations. These facts largely clarify the official Abkhazian position regarding the ways of resolving the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and the possibility of returning Georgian refugees to Abkhazia, with the exception of the territory of the border Gal District, where ethnic Georgians [mostly Mingrelians] previously lived compactly and continue to live after the war.

Particularly significant is one of the episodes of this war, which largely predetermined its outcome. The Sochi Agreement, concluded on 27 July 1993, mediated by Russia, provided for a ceasefire from 28 July as well as the immediate start of a phased demilitarisation of the conflict-zone and the return of the legitimate Government and the Supreme Council to Sukhum. The idea was to effect this process under the control of international observers.

The Chairman of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia Vladislav Ardzinba instructed the representatives of the legislative and executive authorities who were in the city of Gudauta for the duration of the war to begin preparations for returning to the capital Sukhum. However, these plans were not destined to be realised, because in the territories of Abkhazia occupied by Georgia, including Sukhum, local Georgians began to hold mass-rallies, the participants of which carried posters with the such slogans as: "We will not allow the return of the Abkhazians!", "We do not want to live next to the Abkhazians!" etc. Moreover, all these actions were widely covered by Georgian TV-channels and print-media and were plainly authorised by the authorities. It is clear that this caused extreme indignation among the Abkhazian, Armenian and Russian deputies, members of the government, the general public and combatants. Such rallies are seen as confirmation that in the future the joint-existence of Abkhazians and Georgians in one state is not possible.

As a result, this war did not last several days, as the Georgian aggressors planned, with the subsequent suppression of "Abkhazian separatism", but lasted more than 13 months and ended with the defeat of Georgia. The defeat in the Georgian-Abkhazian war was a complete surprise for Georgia, since the initiators of the invasion – the Shevardnadze-Kitovani-Ioseliani triumvirate that was operating at that time – counted on a successful blitzkrieg. For many citizens of Georgia, this became a cause for disappointment, and the loss of Abkhazia (and South Ossetia) debunked the idea of ​​​​a single, indivisible, unitary Georgia, which many previously perceived as a "mini-empire". This led to the beginning of the formation of the two independent republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

As is well-known, in 2003, because of the Rose Revolution, Shevardnadze was removed from power by the opposition, and Mikheil Saakashvili became the leader of Georgia, who in 2008 decided to unfreeze the "frozen conflicts" in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In response to the attack on South Ossetia, the Russian leadership brought armed forces into the conflict-zone in order to launch an operation to force Georgia to make peace. Within five days, Russian troops, together with the South Ossetian armed formations, ousted the Georgian armed detachments from South Ossetia, and also, in cooperation with the Abkhazian forces, from the Upper Kodor Gorge in Abkhazia.

In response to Georgia's aggressive actions, on 26 August 2008, Russia officially recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. In response, Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia, and on the initiative of Mikheil Saakashvili, official Tbilisi stopped considering Abkhazia and South Ossetia as parties to the conflict. To this day, Georgian leaders are still trying in every possible way to convince the world-community that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are Georgian territories occupied by Russia. They stubbornly promote this myth at the Geneva negotiations.

The fact that a significant part of Georgian society is still under the influence of such myths may indicate an inability or unwillingness to analyse objectively and rethink the past of their country. Consequently, the repetition of the tragic mistakes made in the past cannot be ruled out, which is an obstacle to building a sustainable world.

In addition, to this day, the citizens of independent Abkhazia live under the conviction that there exists a very biased attitude towards them on the part of international organisations. For example, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has repeatedly adopted resolutions in which Abkhazia appears as a territory of Georgia occupied by Russia, thereby denying the people of Abkhazia the right to determine their own destiny. In addition, the demands to revoke the recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that are periodically and ritualistically presented to Russia by some international organisations cause a very negative reaction.