Abkhazia Overview

Abkhazia Overview


Abkhazia is located in the Caucasus region, the border between Asia and Europe. It is a mountainous land, crossed by the Caucasus Mountains (which separate Abkhazia from Circasia), and whose coasts are washed by the Black Sea. Of its 8,700 km2 area, 75% corresponds to mountainous areas, especially in the eastern area, near Svanetia, where some mountains exceed 4,000 meters in altitude.

The different arms that emerge from the main mountain range, form deep valleys with small but important river beds. An example of this is Lake Ritsa, north of Gagra, considered one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the world. In this environment there is also the deepest cave in the world, the Sima Krubera-Voronya, located in the Arabika massif (Orto-Balagan valley) with a depth of -2,160 meters.

Much of the territory (about 70%) of Abkhazia is covered by oak, beech and alder forests. In the altitude range from sea level to 600 meters above sea level, the region is rich in deciduous forests. Above this level, and up to 1,800 meters above sea level, various species of conifers proliferate, including some of the tallest trees in Europe, such as firs that exceed 70 meters. Between 1,800 and 2,900 meters above sea level, you can find meadows with alpine characteristics. Finally, above that altitude, the eternal snows of the mountain range and the glaciers extend.


Abkhazia enjoys a temperate subtropical climate due to the regulatory effect of the Black Sea and the climatic screen formed by the Caucasus, preventing the entry of cold boreal winds. Average annual temperatures reach 15 o C, with extremes of 4 o C in winter (January) and 23 o C in summer (July). The rainfall, while, ranging between 1100 and 1500 mm per year, and the humidity is relatively low.

Above 1000 meters above sea level, the thermal amplitude increases, and winters and summers are harsher, forming a climate with continental characteristics. Beyond 2000 meters of altitude, the mountain climate prevails, and temperatures drop considerably. In inland regions, rainfall increases, reaching 3,500 mm per year in mountainous areas. Snow can accumulate to over 5 meters in height in some regions of the Caucasus: avalanches are a latent danger in the few populated centers there.

Due to its pleasant climate and its beautiful landscapes, part of this territory was a place of great tourist influx, being known as part of the Soviet Riviera. In addition, the climate has allowed the development of agriculture, mainly crops such as tea, tobacco and fruits, in addition to the installation of vineyards.

Government and administration

The Head of State of Abkhazia corresponds to the President of the Republic, a position currently held by Sergei Bagapsh, after succeeding Vladislav Ardzinba, the first President of Abkhazia (1994-2004). The President is seconded by the Vice President: currently Raul Khajimba. The head of government, meanwhile, is the Prime Minister, a role that Alexander Ankvab has held since February 2005.

The Legislative Power is exercised by the People’s Assembly. It is made up of 35 members, elected by each of the 35 electoral districts.

The country is administratively divided into seven districts since 1995, named like its capital city:

  • Gagra (capital)
  • Gali (capital)
  • Gudauta (capital)
  • Gulripsh (capital)
  • Ochamchira (capital)
  • Sukhumi (capital)
  • Tkvarcheli (capital)

The Republic of Abkhazia is not a member of the United Nations, but since 2008 it is recognized by two countries that belong to that organization: Russia and Nicaragua. Additionally, on November 17, 2006, Abkhazia signed a mutual recognition protocol with the independence governments of South Ossetia and Transnistria, whose recognition is also disputed by other states. In 2009, Venezuela became the third member of the United Nations to recognize the Abkhaz government.

Social development


The demographics of Abkhazia changed drastically because of the war of 1990. According to the census carried out by the Soviets in 1989, Abkhazia had a population of approximately 500,000 residents, of which 48% were Georgians (mainly Mingrelians) and only 17 % were Abkhazians. Almost half of the latter were Sunni Muslims and the other half Orthodox Christians.

According to official estimates by the Government of Georgia, 264,792 people fled from Abkhazia to other parts of the country between 1992 and 1998. Of these, about 120,000 took refuge in the Samegrelo and Svaneti area, and more than 77,800 in the capital., Tbilisi.

Recently, with the aim of recovering the country’s population to its historical levels, the government of Abkhazia has promoted the repatriation of makhadjirs, that is, Abkhazians who had been exiled, mainly to Turkey, after the Russian invasion in the 19th century.


Most of the residents of Abkhazia are nominally Christian (Belonging mostly to the Orthodox Church and a small part to the Armenian Apostolic Church), Sunni or irreligious Muslims, but most of the people who declare themselves Christian or Muslim do not attend religious services. The influence of the traditional Abkhaz religion also remains strong among Christians, Muslims and non-believers. There are a very small number of followers of Judaism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other new religious movements. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been officially banned since 1995, although the decree does not apply today.

According to the constitutions of Abkhazia and Georgia, followers of all religions (as well as atheists) have equal rights before the law.

According to a survey carried out in 2003, 60% of those surveyed identified themselves as Christian, 16% as Muslim, 8% as atheist or irreligious and 8% as belonging to the traditional Abkhaz religion or as pagan.


Literature written in Abkhaz appeared relatively recently, at the beginning of the 20th century. However, Abkhazia shares with other peoples of the Caucasus the Nart sagas – a series of tales about mythical heroes. The Abkhazian alphabet was created in the 19th century. The first newspaper in Abkhaz, called Abkhazia and edited by Dimitri Gulya, appeared in 1917.

Arguably the most famous Abkhaz writers are Fazil Iskander, who wrote mostly in Russian, and Bagrat Shinkuba, a local poet.


The football remains the most popular sport in Abkhazia. Other popular sports are basketball, boxing, and wrestling.

Abkhazia has had its own amateur football league since 1994. The league is not part of an international football union.

Abkhazia Overview

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