In 1921, Abkhazia and Georgia became Sovietized. On 31 March 1921, an independent Soviet Republic of Abkhazia was proclaimed. On 21 May 1921, the Georgian Bolshevik government officially recognized the independence of Abkhazia. But the same year, under pressure from Stalin and other influential Georgian Bolsheviks, Abkhazia was forced to conclude a union (i.e., confederative) treaty with Georgia. Abkhazia still remained a full union republic until 1931, when its status was downgraded, under Stalin's orders, from that of Union Republic to that of an Autonomous Republic within Georgia. This act of incorporation of Abkhazia into Georgia was conducted without the approval and against the will of the Abkhazian people and caused mass protests in Abkhazia. Thus the creation of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic within Georgia was not the result of the granting by the Bolsheviks of autonomous status to one of the republic's minorities, as it is often alleged, but was rather the forced convergence of two neighbouring states by the incorporation of one of them, Abkhazia, into the other, Georgia.
Vladislav Ardzinba, first president of Abkhazia, stated: “In 1931 Abkhazia was transformed into an autonomous republic within the Georgian SSR. Seemingly it was the only republic whose political status changed under pressure from Stalin not upwards but downwards”. (See Pravda, newspaper, 14 July 1989).
DECLARATION OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMITTEE OF THE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA ON INDEPENDENCE OF THE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF ABKHAZIA.
21 May 1921
The Menshevik’s power, being bourgeois by its nature, oppressed the revolutionary movement of the national minorities and bred the antagonism between the certain minorities residing in Georgia throughout the centuries.
Soviet power has a different approach to this issue, advancing the principle of fraternal relations and equality between all workers.
The right to self-determination declared by the Great October Revolution is recognized as the best remedy for the eradication of national prejudices and the strengthening of relations between the workers.
On this basis, the Revolutionary Committee of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia recognizes and welcomes the establishment of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia and believes that the relations between the Georgian SSR and the Abkhazian SSR will be decided at the first Congress of the workers and peasants of Abkhazia, as well as of Georgia.
Let the workers of both socialist republics decide the forms of close and fraternal cooperation.
Revcom of the Georgian SSR
The mass-immigration of Kartvelians (mostly Mingrelians) goes back to the late 1930s. Abkhaz's script was then altered from a roman to a Georgian base. Abkhaz-language schools were summarily closed in 1945-6, following by a ban on broadcasting and publications. The Abkhazians as a nation were due to face transportation (like the numerous other peoples transported by Stalin from the Koreans in the late 1930s through to Abkhazia's Greeks in the late 1940s), and, as a 'scholarly' justification for that, the literary-historian Pavle Ingoroqva was commissioned to argue in print that the Abkhazians only arrived in Abkhazia in the 17th century, conquering the 'original' Abkhazians of history, who were thus a 'Georgian' tribe. This calumny was revived in the heady days of Georgian nationalism from 1988 AND IS WIDELY BELIEVED BY MANY ORDINARY KARTVELIANS, who for this reason still regard the Abkhazians as unentitled to be living in Abkhazia. See: Demographic change in Abkhazia
Ruslan Xodzhaa quotes in his new book from his own earlier 'Documents and Materials of the Abkhazian People's Soviet 1918-1919' (in Russian, Sukhum, 1999) on -General Georgi- Mazniashvili's (Mazniev) behaviour: 'Not a single tsarist general raged as mercilessly when subjugating the Caucasian peoples as Mazniev in Abkhazia' (p.7). A contemporary assessment of Georgia at this time was given by an objective observer, Englishman Carl Bechhofer: “The free and independent social-democratic State of Georgia will always remain in my memory as a classic imperialist body, that is characterized with territory-snatching outside and bureaucratic tyranny inside; its chauvinism is beyond all bounds”. (In Denikin's Russia and the Caucasus, 1919-1920, London 1921, p.14.)
March 1921: The Bolsheviks overthrew the Mensheviks in Georgia. The Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic was established independently of Georgia and headed by Nestor Lakoba. 1922: Abkhazia was a signatory to the formation of the USSR acting as a sovereign Abkhazian Republic. 1925: Abkhazia adopted its first Constitution under which it was united by a Special Treaty of Alliance with Georgia. 1931: Stalin (Georgian) and Beria (Mingrelian) reduced Abkhazia to the status of an autonomous Republic within Georgia. 1937 - 1953: Forced mass immigration into Abkhazia was carried out from Western Georgia (Mingrelia) by Stalin and Beria. In Abkhazia, as well as other regions of the USSR, mass oppression was carried out, thousands of intellectuals were persecuted. Before the enforced georgianisation of the 20th century, Abkhazia had a highly diverse demography with many Turks, Armenians, Jews, and Greeks, among others. Abkhazia celebrated its diversity, and the strict homogenization under Georgian rule greatly contrasted with the traditionally tolerant Abkhazian culture. During the period of enforced georgianisation (1937-1953), the Abkhaz were deprived of the right to teach their children in their native language; all Abkhaz schools and institutions were closed from the school-year 1945-46. The Abkhaz were only compelled to study in Georgian schools. The Abkhaz script (originally based on Cyrillic and then on Latin) was altered, against the will of the Abkhaz people, to one based on Georgian characters in 1938. Despite the reintroduction of schooling in Abkhaz and a reformed, Cyrillic-based script following the deaths of Stalin and Beria in 1953, in 1978 Abkhazian intellectuals signed a letter of protest to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR complaining about the status of Abkhazia and blamed the Georgian leaders for pursuing a "Beriaite" policy aimed at the "Georgianization" of the Republic. Major demonstrations at Lykhny (a sacred place in Abkhazian tradition) followed. The Abkhazian campaign, to be incorporated in the Russian Federation, was rejected by Russia and Georgia. Instead, concessions were made to the Abkhaz, including the opening of the Abkhazian State University and TV broadcasting for 15 minutes twice a week in the Abkhaz language. During that year (1978), Moscow allocated millions of roubles to help Abkhazia. The Abkhazian government never received the money. The sum was dispersed to constrain the Abkhazian people's protest at existing conditions. See: Republic of Abkhazia
See also: The period of the Stalin--Beria terror (December 1936—1953) - ''Origins and Evolution of the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict'', by Stephen D. Shenfield
Historical Maps: Abkhazia at various times in history
The maps included here give an idea of the frontiers of Abkhazia at various times in history. The Abkhazians call their capital /Aqw'a/, but it is more usually known in other languages as Sukhum (Sukhum-Kalé or Sukhum-Kaleh in the period of Turkish influence along the Black Sea's eastern coast; /soxumi/ in Georgian). The ending -i in the form /Sukhumi/ represents the Georgian Nominative case-suffix, and it became attached to /Sukhum/ from the late 1930s when (Georgian) Stalin and his Mingrelian lieutenant in Transcaucasia, Lavrent'i Beria, began to implement a series of anti-Abkhazian policies. Abkhazians today, for obvious reasons, resent the attachment of this element from the language of a people they see as oppressors.
Map of Europe in Year 1800, Southeast - Source: Euro Atlas
-Map of Europe in Year 800, Southeast - Kingdom of Abkhazia
-Map of Europe in Year 900, Southeast
-Map of Europe in Year 1000, Southeast
- Related issues
- 'Poor Little Georgia' – Not! Bill Kristol and the Menshevik myth of democratic Georgia, by Justin Raimondo - AntiWar.com