Monday, 30 June 2008

Abkhazia to close border with Georgia after market bombing

SUKHUM, June 30 (RIA Novosti) - The unrecognized republic of Abkhazia will close its border with Georgia on Tuesday, Abkhaz president Sergei Bagapsh said.

Six people were injured Monday as two blasts went off at a market in Sukhum, the capital of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia. Earlier reports that one person had been killed were unconfirmed.

On Sunday, six people were injured after two bombs went off in Abkhazia's Black Sea resort of Gagra.

"From tomorrow, the Georgian-Abkhaz border will close," Sergei Bagapsh told journalists. He went on to blame Georgia for the bombings.

"We know where it all comes from - from Georgia," the president said. "Having tried everything, they [Georgian authorities] have resorted to the most disgraceful thing - terrorist attacks."
Tbilisi called the accusations "absurd."

Police have stepped up security measures in the Abkhaz capital, and the president announced that he would meet with the separatist republic's Security Council later Monday.

Abkhazia's foreign minister, Sergei Shamba, earlier said the blast was caused by an explosive device and investigators have found no criminal motives for the attack.

"It is politically motivated," Shamba said. "Of course, we will investigate different possibilities, but no one has any doubt that the trail leads to Georgia."

Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the subsequent fighting.

The pro-Western Georgian government of Mikheil Saakashvili has said it is determined to bring the breakaway region back under its control.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Documentary Gives Alternative Version of Polling Day Shooting

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 24 Jun.'08 /

Burnt out buses in the village of Khurcha. Photo: Batumelebi newspaper

An investigative documentary produced by the Reporter studio has claimed that a shootout and rocket attack on two buses in the Abkhaz conflict zone on election day, May 21, was pre-arranged and has indicated that it was staged by the Georgian side.

Georgian TV stations reported on election day that in the village of Khurcha on the Abkhaz administrative border the Abkhaz side blew up two buses ferrying ethnic Georgians from the Gali district of breakaway Abkhazia to Zugdidi. The passengers were on their way to vote, according to those reports. The Georgian Interior Ministry said that four women were injured in the attack. TV stations also aired footage showing armed Georgian policemen carrying a woman, who had a spot of blood on her back, as well as the buses on fire. Shooting could be heard in the footage.

The short documentary, which was screened on June 24 in one of Tbilisi movie theaters, however, tells a different story. It alleges that TV crews were brought to the scene in advance, and had time to prepare and set up their equipment before the buses were attacked.

Video footage obtained by the producers of the documentary from the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s archive (footage which was not aired on TV) shows two empty buses being hit by grenades. Because the frame is steady - despite the explosions - the documentary makers conclude that the camera must have been placed on a tripod.

“It is obvious from the footage that the video camera was placed on a tripod and [the cameraman was] waiting, which seems unnatural as gunfire is also heard in the footage. The second explosion was recorded by a cameraman without any reaction at all,” the documentary says. “The footage shows that the grenade was launched not far from where the cameraman was standing.” The documentary also alleges that the grenade was launched from a Georgian-controlled area.

The documentary also includes interviews with some local residents, who say that two unknown men came to the village asking locals to follow them as “people were needed for a video shoot.”
Batumeleb, a local weekly newspaper in Batumi, in an article on May 28 also interviewed residents of Khurcha, who said they had been asked by unknown men to participate in a video shoot.

The Khurcha incident is one of the episodes in the documentary, which mainly deals with alleged electoral violations during the May 21 parliamentary elections. It contains interviews with election observers, some from opposition parties, and journalists, who speak of intimidation and attacks on them while monitoring the elections.

Friday, 20 June 2008

New Perspectives on Soviet Mass Violence

New Perspectives on Soviet Mass Violence

Call for Papers Date: 2008-07-15 (in 25 days)
Date Submitted: 2008-06-13
Announcement ID: 162806

Thematic Issue of the Journal of Genocide Research (JGR)

New Perspectives on Soviet Mass Violence

The study of Soviet mass violence has for a long time been overshadowed by ideological disputes and battles of the Cold War. Even Raphael Lemkin, the self-proclaimed founder of the UN Genocide Convention and pioneer of the study of mass violence, was an ardent anticommunist and recommended the United States to sponsor an international special committee to investigate Soviet genocide (See Anton Weiss-Wendt’s article “Hostage of Politics: Raphael Lemkin on ‘Soviet Genocide’” in the Journal of Genocide Research 7 (2005), Nr. 4, 551-559). Furthermore, Ernst Nolte’s apologetic comparison between the crimes of Hitler and Stalin that led to the West German Historikerstreit (historians' quarrel) in 1986 has further politically charged and complicated a serious academic investigation of Soviet mass violence. Since the end of the Cold War, a number of unbiased studies have broadened our knowledge about genocide, ethnic cleansing and other forms of mass violence in the former Soviet Union. However, several aspects as for example the deportation of the Chechens and other Caucasian peoples and the Ukrainian famine 1932/33 need more empirical research.

To foster the discussion on Soviet mass violence, the editors of the Journal of Genocide Research are therefore inviting papers for a thematic issue devoted to this topic. The editors welcome original and innovative articles dealing with all possible aspects of Soviet mass violence from the beginning of the civil war to the end of the Cold War.

Proposals (max. 2 pages) for papers should be submitted with a short biographical sketch by July 15 to both editors:

Dominik J. Schaller (

Jürgen Zimmerer (

The articles, which should be a maximum of 8500 words including documentation, will be due at December 10, 2008.

After initial editor screening, all submissions will undergo peer review.

Please share this information with interested colleagues!

----------------------------- Journal of Genocide Research - the official Journal of the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS)

International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS)

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Pitsunda to host international forum "Abkhazia-2008. Investments, Prospects"

Caucasian Knot, by Anzhela Kuchuberiya, CK correspondent

The international economic forum under the motto "Abkhazia-2008. Investments, Prospects", organized by Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) of Abkhazia with the help of the Republic's Government, will take place on June 17-21 in the sea report of Pitsunda.

The forum will be attended by CCIs of the Southern Federal District of the Russian Federation, Republics of Northern Caucasus, Turkish cities of Trabzon, Istanbul and Adapazari, as well as representatives of business circles of Turkey, the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent reports with reference to Gennady Gaguliya, president of CCI of Abkhazia.

The participants of the forum plan to discuss investment projects and programmes for different spheres of the economy of Abkhazia, in particular, investment proposals for agriculture, industry, processing industry, wholesale trade, power engineering, construction and transport.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

CBA Presents Al Jeel Al Jadeed Dance Groups in ''The Hope''


Music composed by Samer Sami
Choreographer Yenal Hatk
Group Manager Awni Zakaria

JULY 18-19, 2008 AT 07:30PM DOORS OPEN 07:00 PM

Passaic County Technical Institute 45 Reinhardt Road Wayne, NJ 07470

For more information:

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Abkhazia waits for new war with Georgia: "If the Russians leave, tomorrow NATO will be just outside Sochi."

KP special correspondent Darya Aslamova is sure only force can tear the small proud Abkhazia Republic from Russia

Part 1

Darya Aslamova — 10.06.2008 В Абхазии снова ждут войны с Грузией: «Если русские нас кинут, НАТО завтра будет под Сочи»

It was Aug. 14, 1992. I woke up at 06:00 in the morning at Stalin's old dacha. The Georgian Army was everywhere. Soldiers were sleeping side-by-side. Tropical birds sang in the nearby garden. I had just sat down on the windowsill under the sun to do my eyebrows when I saw Georgian Defense Minister Kintovani waddling to the sea in a wet towel.

"War in a resort town?" I thought. "What nonsense!"

"How many hours until the war?" I shouted to him. "Will I have time to get to Sukhumi?"

"You've got two hours," he answered.

I remember walking with my friend to Sukhumi. We bought the only remaining cucumber at an empty city market and a bottle of Soviet champagne. I remember the pained face of Sergey Bagapsh, who is today's Abkhazian president. He must have sat alone in the huge empty building housing the Cabinet of Ministers waiting for the world to end.

I remember how the first bursts of machine gun fire forced us into the home of a stranger — a woman named Emma who was shaken with fear. We sat on the floor drinking champagne and eating the cucumber as all hell broke loose around us.

I remember how the Georgian Army raked the sweet resort town with fire.

Drunk soldiers smashed storefront windows and robbed the goods. One soldier even handed me a bottle of fake French perfume.

"Here!" he said. "Take this. I won't worry over it!"

On that violent August day, all seemed lost for Abkhazia.

"The Abkhazia campaign is over," Kintovani said victoriously before his flight to Tbilisi.

But the war had only just begun.

I remember carpets of bright mandarins spread over the snow in Abkhazia's bullet ridden gardens in March 1993. No one would harvest them. Picking a mandarin might mean catching a stray bullet in the head.

If as a foreigner I remember the war just just like yesterday, how vividly do the Abkhazians recall those heavy days? I laughed with them at the irony when Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvilli made his fiery appeal to the Abkhazian people: "Brothers and sisters...!"

Georgia once again hurled the whip down upon Abkhazia this resort season, testing the Abkhazians with sabre -rattling in the Kodorsk Gorge, secret attempts at negotiations, spy planes flying overhead, proposals for a broader autonomy, provocations on election day on the Abkhazian-Georgian border and U.S. mediators visiting Sukhumi. But all this ballyhoo just worsens the cold war between Georgia and Abkhazia.

As we drove into Sukhumi, we were greeted by a poster reading: "Glory to a victorious nation! 1992-1998."

Is the young unrecognized nation preparing for another war?

In memoriam: Mukhadin A. Kumakhov – 1928-2008

In memoriam
Mukhadin A. Kumakhov – 1928-2008

Today I received the very sad news from Moscow that Professor Muhadin Kumakhov died on June 7, following a short period of illness. His funeral will take place in Nalchik today (Tuesday).

Къэнахэм Тхьэм ящимыгъэгъупщэкэ. И ахърэт Тхьэм нэху ищ.

Kodzokue Metin

Mukhadin A. Kumakhov

The great Circassian linguist Mukhadin A. Kumakhov passed away in Moscow on June 7.

Mukhadin Kumakhov graduated from Tbilisi State University, where he continued his doctoral dissertation under the guidance of the Georgian caucasologist Arnold Chikobava. As a professor of the Institute of Linguistics the Academy of Sciences in Moscow, and for many years the Head of the section for Comparative Linguistics at this institution, his scientific contributions to Caucasology and General linguistics received wide international recognition. He was a member of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, elected honory doctor of Lund University (Sweden) and a member of the Societas Caucasologica Europaea. For his contributions to the development of Caucasology he was awarded the Chikobava Prize of the Georgian Academy of Sciences. He was the chief-editor of the recently published Adyghe (Circassian) Encyclopeadia (in Russian).

He has taken part in many international caucasological conferences and gatherings, for instance, in London, Oxford, Paris, Istanbul, Ankara, Berlin, Munich, San Sebastian. He spent several years as visiting professor at the Department of Linguistics at Lund University (Sweden), where he wrote a number of articles and two monographs (in cooperation with prof. Karina Vamling).

Professor Kumakhov published over two hundred scientific articles and twelve monographs, among them: Inflection of the Adyghe languages (in Russian), Historical-comparative phonetics of the Adyghe (Circassian) languages (in Russian), Historical-comparative grammar of the Adyghe (Circassian) languages (in Russian), Studies in General and Caucasian linguistics (in Russian), Ergativity in the Circassian languages (in Russian), Circassian clause structure (in English, in press).

Mukhadin Kumakhov is buried in his native Nalchik in Kabardino-Balkaria, North Caucasus (2008-06-10)

Monday, 9 June 2008

Moscow Says Ecological Criticism of Sochi Olympics Hurts Russia’s Image

Window on Eurasia

Paul Goble Vienna, June 7 – Criticism by UN and Russian ecologists of the impact of construction for the 2014 Sochi Olympics is harming Russia’s image, that country’s natural resources minister said yesterday, but it is entirely misplaced and will not lead Moscow to shift any of the venues as many environmental activists had sought.Ecologists both at the United Nations and from a variety of environmental groups have focused in particular on the planned site of the bobsled run, but Yuri Trutnev said he did not believe that construction there would have any impact on the environment although it was affecting the image of the country (

According to Trutnev, the UN Ecology Program had given Moscow had given an overwhelmingly positive assessment of the Russian government’s plans in Sochi, including the Russian government’s commitment to spend four billion rubles (170 million U.S. dollars) on environmental protection of the region.

But despite the minister’s claims and his dismissive attitude toward any objections to what the Russian government is doing, the ecologists, both foreign and domestic, are likely to continue their campaign, given the incredibly sensitive eco-system in Sochi and its surroundings, a system that will be seriously affected by the construction Moscow has planned.

Moreover, the ecologists will get support from three other groups who oppose the games: local homeowners who fear that they will lose their residences as the central Russian government tears down less expensive housing to make way for upscale residences and facilities for the games.

Some of these people took part in a demonstration in Sochi in early May, carrying signs reading “We do not want to be and we will not be BOMZHi” -- the Russian acronym for ‘people without a definite place of residence’ and a derisive term that is usually translated as “street bums.”

A second group opposed to Russian plans for Olympic construction includes members of that region’s Old Believer community. Their cemetery is at risk, and in April, they attempted to bring their concerns to the attention of an International Olympic Committee delegation but were beaten off by local militia.And the third group consists of the Circassians, who number more than 600,000 in the North Caucasus and more than 4.5 million in Turkey, Jordan and other countries of the Middle East and Europe. They object to the games being held where tsarist officials expelled their ancestors in 1864, a genocidal action that led to the deaths of half the community.

On the one hand, Trutnyev’s cavalier dismissal of all objections clearly highlights how little Moscow cares about what those most affected by its plans think. But on the other, his attitude almost certainly will spark more complaints rather than fewer, a trend that points to more trouble ahead for a project Putin apparently wants to have as a capstone of his career.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

International Crisis Group Report - ''Georgia and Russia: Clashing over Abkhazia''

Tbilisi/Moscow/Brussels, 5 June 2008: Moscow and Tbilisi need to cease military preparations in and around Abkhazia and cool their rhetoric lest their increasingly dangerous confrontation bring war to the Caucasus.

Georgia and Russia: Clashing over Abkhazia,* the International Crisis Group's new report, released as EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana visits the region for the first time, examines the dispute's causes and gives recommendations to all parties involved.

"Russia should withdraw the troops and equipment it has deployed over the past two months", says Magdalena Frichova, Crisis Group's Caucasus Project Director. "At the same time, Georgia should adopt a new approach to the Abkhaz, encouraging their links to the outside world to lessen dependence on Russia and emphasising genuine confidence building".

Concerned that prospective Georgian membership would bring NATO to its most sensitive border, Moscow deployed reinforcements to Abkhazia in April and May, continuing a pattern of escalation. This includes an upgrading of ties with the breakaway territory, statements that force will be used to protect Russian citizens there if hostilities resume and the downing of Georgian drones. Georgia argues Russia undermines its territorial integrity by supporting Sukhumi's independence bid, economically, financially and militarily. Many in the West agree that Moscow has become a party to the conflict.

The West must use its influence to press for peaceful resolution. Persuading Russia to withdraw its new troops and to accept changes to the negotiations format that emphasise direct Georgian-Abkhaz dialogue and give the EU a role on a par with itself and the UN, would improve the chances for diplomacy.

Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili offered a new peace plan for Abkhazia in March, with extensive autonomy, a jointly-controlled economic zone and gradual merger of law enforcement and customs agencies. If it is to have an opportunity to succeed, Tbilisi must drop consideration of war scenarios and take steps to persuade the Abkhaz it is serious about engaging with them and acknowledging their grievances, not simply making a show for the benefit of its Western partners.

"Neither Georgia nor Russia probably wants war, but it could all too easily come by miscalculation, and if it does, it could set the Caucasus - North and South - ablaze", says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group's Europe Program Director. "All sides need to recognise the risks in their policies, return to the negotiations table and support confidence building".

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels)
Kimberly Abbott (Washington)
To contact Crisis Group media please click here *Read the full Crisis Group report on our website:

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Foreign Bank Accounts Prevent War

04 June 2008 By Yulia Latynina / Staff Writer

Georgia says Russia was planning to invade the Kodor Gorge during the early morning hours on May 9. Although the breakaway republic of Abkhazia considers the gorge a part of its territory, in the strict legal sense, the Kodor Gorge is Georgian territory and it is controlled by Tbilisi now. Therefore, had this attack actually taken place on Victory Day, it would have been classified as a Russian-Georgian war.

The main reason why this attack did not take place was unprecedented strong opposition from the West, including the United Nations' sharp condemnation of Russia after Moscow shot down Georgia's unmanned reconnaissance aircraft on April 20. Another reason -- less well known -- was U.S. President George W. Bush's phone call to President Dmitry Medvedev.

The excellent work by Georgia's military intelligence was an unpleasant surprise for Russia's generals. Tbilisi was able to produce clear evidence of Moscow's military buildup in the region, including howitzers brought to the city of Tkvarcheli, an ideal place to shell the Kodor Gorge. In addition, Georgian intelligence spotted intensified paratrooper training exercises in the region, not to mention the relocation of Tochka-U short-range missiles to North Ossetia, from which they could have easily reached Tbilisi.

It is inconceivable that then-President Vladimir Putin was not aware of this military buildup. Moreover, the escalation of forces in the region occurred right after Putin called for closer economic integration between Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

For Abkhazia, the war would have surely meant losing its independence to either Georgia or Russia.

What impact would this war have had on Georgia? If attacked, Tbilisi would have been forced to retaliate. No country will turn the left cheek after the right comes under howitzer fire. But even under the best of military outcomes for Tbilisi, any armed conflict with Russia would have wreaked havoc with Georgia's economy.

What would an Abkhaz war have meant for Russia? It would have caused the total destabilization of the entire Caucasus region, effectively turning it into a new Balkans.

Paradoxically, although this war would have created serious problems for Russia, there were two groups that would have clearly benefited. One is the military, which profits from any war -- even the one that is lost. Another group is Putin and his entourage. A war that would have begun immediately after Medvedev's inauguration would have assured that Putin effectively stayed in power.

In the end, however, it was the West that ruined the general's big plans for an invasion. The military had banked on the hope that the West would not care who was attacking whom in the region. But the West -- and particularly the East European democracies from Poland to Latvia -- were very concerned over a military conflict in the region, because they saw it as part of an attempt to fundamentally restructure the post-Soviet geopolitical landscape in Russia's favor.

If Russia attacked Abkhazia, this would have placed Moscow squarely in the category of the world's rogue state. A country is considered a rogue state not so much because it eliminates freedoms for its own citizens, but because it pursues a reckless, aggressive foreign policy.

One interesting twist, though, is that the leaders of rogue states keep their money in foreign bank accounts, which are often frozen after they wreak havoc in other countries. Perhaps it was precisely this factor that played the most important role in dissuading Moscow from invading Abkhazia.

In the end, Moscow's elite were guided by one sober and pragmatic rule -- you should never fight against those countries in which your bank accounts are located. I think I know why Putin had such a gloomy, sour expression on his face during Medvedev's inauguration.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Foreign Minister of Abkhazia' Sergey Shamba arrives in Turkey

by Hasan Kanbolat, Today's Zaman

The "foreign minister" of Abkhazia, located on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, Sergey Shamba will arrive in Turkey today. Shamba, who will speak at the Selimiye Caucasus-Abkhazia Association in İstanbul on June 2, will also hold a press conference in Ankara on June 4. The same day he will deliver a speech on developments in the region, Abkhazia and the future at the Ankara Hilton. Shamba will subsequently attend an "Abkhazian Night" in Ankara and return to his country on June 6.

The people of Abkhazia, along with other northern Caucasus peoples, resisted Russian invasion, and for this reason the Sunni-Hanefi bloc that made up 70 percent of the country's population was subjected to genocide in 1864 and 1878; they were forced to migrate to Ottoman territories. This laid the foundation for the current Abkhazian problem. Abkhazia, an autonomous republic subordinate to Georgia, declared de facto independence on July 23, 1992, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. War subsequently broke out between Georgia and Abkhazia, lasting through to 1993. The war proved destructive and exhausted the options and prospects for the coexistence of these two nations.

The Abkhazian government that took office on Jan. 12, 2005, took some aggressive steps to restructure the country's domestic and foreign policy. The visit by President Sergey Bagapsh to Turkey was postponed until fall 2007 for health reasons. Bagapsh's second visit, scheduled to take place in late October 2007, was postponed upon the request of Turkish authorities, given the general elections due to take place in Turkey and the increased tension in Georgia. To this end, it is argued that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Bagapsh will meet in Turkey in 2008.

Following Kosovo's declaration of independence on Feb. 17, the Abkhazian government called on the international community to recognize its independence. But the real problem for Abkhazia is the probability of annihilation. Abkhazian intellectuals are particularly concerned by an unrecognized state order, a failure to increase the already small population and Russian domination of the Abkhazian language. For this reason, the local authorities seek to maintain good ties with Turkey to offset the Russian influence and ensure their survival in the region. The upcoming visit by Shamba to Turkey is important for the future of the Caucasus. Shamba will probably ask for Turkey's mediation to resolve the problems with Georgia and its role with the aim of narrowing the scope of embargo measures against the country.

Suspension of the Georgian-Abkhazian dialogue causes escalation of tension between the parties. To maintain peace in the southwestern Caucasus and resolve the disputes between the parties, the tension needs to be gradually decreased. Russia is uneasy with the involvement of external actors (EU, US) in regional issues with regards to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For this reason, Georgia seeks to ensure the issue remains an international one. Georgia will also benefit from Turkey's role in resolving issues pertinent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia; it will be in Georgia's best interests if the Georgian government allows the establishment of a sea connection between Trabzon and Sohum. Otherwise Saakashvili will have to meet with Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev to resolve these problems if he is eager to achieve their resolution by summer 2008.