Chapter 1. Abkhazians - ancient ethnos with original culture

1.1. Ethnos formation.

Analysis of the ancient history of the Abkhazian people testifies that this nation has roots reaching back to the multi-thousand-year past and that Abkhazians lived in the Western Transcaucasia, more precisely around modern Abkhazia. From time to time, they occupied territories from the northern termination of the Caucasian ridge to Trebizond, within the borders of present-day Turkey, and to Armenia. According to data of historians, formation of the Abkhazian ethnos began in II - IBC and came to an end in the period from VII AD to the beginning of VIII AD. The importance of this ­ period is that in its chronological frameworks it is possible to track ­ the evolution of ancestors of the Abkhazian people. At the heart of the modern Abkhazian language lies ­ the parent language which was already used in these places  in III-II­ BC.­

According to historian L.P.Zagursky (1888), a central part of the Caucasian ­ territory and the western part of Transcaucasia were occupied by groups of people whose relationship ­ with other people was not known, and  Abkhazians were one of the peoples of the western mountain group. These were: Abkhazians (Azega), living in ­ the Sukhumi district - 32 thousand people; Abazinians - 10 thousand people living in the southeast ­ of the Kuban region; Adygs – Circassians, Kabardians, Abadzekhs, Bzhedukhs, Shapsugs, Besleneevs, speaking  one language, but having two dialects.  Total number of Adygs - 130 thousand people Their language also had no relationship with languages ­ of other nations of the world. Famous German scientist Freidrich Miller named ­ such people “independently standing” (isolirte Volkег).

Their ethnogeographical area represented the territory of present Abkhazia and though in different years Abkhazians occupied  the vast  regions to the  north  and  east of  this  area, it was  always their  major settlement from  the middle of 1st century BC. By the end of 1st century AD some feudal pre-Abkhazian princedoms were formed, which for some centuries co-operated with each other and with neighbouring peoples. As S. Shamba notes, no serious scientists till now have challenged the fact of connection of the term “Apsua” with the tribe Apsils, resident in the territory of Abkhazia since I century AD. Throughout ­VII-VIII centuries, separate Abkhazian princedoms began to unite, and this process came to an end with the formation of the Abkhazian nationality and creation ­ of the complete Abkhazian state. The subsequent history of the Abkhazian kingdom was closely connected with Byzantium, which stimulated  its blossoming in X century and affected ­  life in the territory until its great decline in XV century.

XIV-XV centuries are characterised in the history of the territory by a revival and strengthening of Mediterranean communications. A special role in these was played by trade between Genoa and the coast of Abkhazia, which left a deep trace in the local economy, ­ political history and culture. During this period  trade routes were revived connecting the seaside trade centres with the North Caucasus and the Volga region (Golden Horde­). An increase in Turkish presence from the end of XV century diminished, and this completely interrupted time-honoured relations with Europe. By the end of XV century, after the capture of Constantinople by Turks and the decline of the Byzantian empire, the Abkhaz-Imeretian kingdom broke up, and internal friction among tsars and princes caused mutual enmity and fratricidal wars. This period was an epoch of the greatest decline in all spheres of life within isolated parts ­ of the former Abkhazian state. The XVIII century­ witnessed the primary ­ influence of the Ottoman empire using Abkhazia as the main base in a gain of the Western Caucasus.

Abkhazia is the most ancient country in Caucasus to practise orthodox Christianity. The assimilation of Christianity among the Abkhazian population had begun during ­ the first centuries AD, and in first half of VI century, Abkhazians  officially accepted Christianity. In coastal and mountain zones many churches were constructed. From IV to X centuries the Abkhazian church was administratively subordinated to Byzantium as ­ an Abkhazian catholic see, and the territory  actually Abkhazia acted within  the  limits of  the  Abkhazian  kingdom independently  -  the main temples of X century were under construction not in the capital of the kingdom (Kutaisi), but  nearer to the sea and Byzantium in a zone between Pitsunda and Bedia. This position continued in XI century, then for some time the local church depended  upon the Alanian Metropolia and, presumably,­  the Mtshetsk Catholic see. Wide communications with Byzantium raised the level of civilisation of the Abkhazian nation, constantly expanding its influence to almost all of Western Transcaucasia.

Inscriptions in temples of Abkhazia in Hutsuri2  appeared during a later time, at the end of existence of the Abkhazian kingdom, when the official Greek language of Abkhazia began to be replaced with this language of official establishments.  It  bears  no  relation  to  the  formation  of   ethnoses, as  the  Abkhazian  ethnos  was  formed  in  the V-III centuries BC in its own ­ territory. Inscriptions contain  the  message that  these  churches  are  constructed by "THE ABKHAZIAN TSARS”. If other countries under the rule of the Abkhazian tsars are also mentioned in inscriptions,  Kartli is usually placed after Armenia and Iberia, which testifies to its minor value. This is contrary to statements of the Georgian historians of the XX century, who declared that this kingdom, together with Abkhazia, struggled for the creation of a uniform "Georgian" state.


2 Hutsuri - the alphabet known since V century AD., believed to have originated from East Aramaic writing. It is used in modern Georgian language.

          Within the territory of Abkhazia, a certain role was played in due time by Catholicism, Judaism and Islam, in addition to Orthodoxy. Jews lived in local towns during ancient times. Their communities in the Middle Ages existed in Gagra  (XI century) and Sebastopolis (XIV century). The ancestors of Abkhazians encountered Islam for the first time at the beginning of VII century.

In the culture and life of the majority of modern Abkhazians, traditions ­of Christianity, Islam, pagan beliefs and ancient mountain customs are alive­. Perhaps this land is the best living example of the fact that ethical ­ doctrines of all religions are not naturally hostile to each other. For example,  Abkhazians who practice Islam also celebrate ­ Easter, and  present-day mountain people still consider the oath at a sacred oak to be indestructible. Ancient pagan symbols are also found upon the Abkhazian flag. On a red ­ field the open palm is represented - it holds no weapon, and  is the wave of the hand of a sower throwing grains onto an arable land.

The Abkhazian language together with other closely-related languages (Abazinian,­  Adyg and Kabardian, Ubykh, Circassian, Shapsug, etc.) forms the Abkhazian-Adyg (West Caucasian) group. It is known that language is the basis of  spiritual life of all people. Both  science and Abkhazians and Adygs (Circassians, Kabardians, etc.) themselves have no doubt that these peoples in the past made a single whole. This is proved to be true by similarity of language, character, belief, superstitions, customs, way of life, and traditional dress.

Ancestors of Abkhazians spoke in the different languages and dialects of such related tribes as Apsils, Abazgs, Sanigs and Misimianians. In the first centuries AD dialects united to create the Abkhazian language that promoted formation of the Abkhazian nationality, and to develop folklore ­and culture as a whole. Formation of uniform language promoted ­ the association of related tribes, and creation of the Abkhazian nation in which writing was already known at that time. The antiquity and high development of the Abkhazian language may be seen through its influence on the languages of neighbouring nations. With its help it was possible to interpret many ancient cuneiform­ inscriptions in different regions of the world and to explain the writing of some other peoples. This language, certainly enriched for two thousand years, is used by  modern Abkhazians. It is necessary to underline that neither the Abkhazian language at the beginning of the Christian era nor modern Abkhazian  have anything in common with the modern language of Georgia, or with the parent languages of nationalities and ­tribes earlier occupying the eastern Black Sea coast.

With the coming of Abkhazia under Russian protection in 1810, and later, with ­ its renaming as the Sukhumi Military Department, direct Russian administrative power was established in the country. In 1883 the Department was  included in the Kutaisi governorship as a district. The well-known researcher of territory G.A.Rybinsky in the work “Abkhazia in the agricultural and household ­ relation” (1894) gave the following data on agricultural population structure  in ­ the Sukhumi district: “besides Abkhazians, other agricultural population of the district represents ­ a surprising mix of nationalities - Abkhasians - 65 thousand souls, Russian settlers - 800 souls, ­ Estonians - 587, Germans – 288, Greeks - 2192, Armenians - 688, Mingrelians - 1472 souls”.

For that period, the results­ of the population census of 1886 in Abkhazia should be recognised as the most authentic data. The totals were: Abkhazians – 58,963 persons, Georgians (Mingrelians?) - 4166, Russians - 971, Armenians - 1049 and Greeks - 2149. As for Abkhazians, these are all who remained in the homeland after their mass exodus during the time of  makhadjirstvo.

The main points of reference for a country to the ethnos of indigenous people occupying ­ it are the results of statistical researches on ­ a population census in that country. These materials can provide a basis for research into a demographic situation, and ­ define the ethnic formation of the people in the territory.

The given statistics ­ for 1886 and the following years, which cannot be suspected of bias ­ and a juggling of data in the interests of the Abkhazians, show that in reality Georgians (actually Mingrelians) were almost absent from the territory of Abkhazia at the end of XVIII century, and only settled intensively in this territory from the beginning of XIX century (Table 1).


Table 1.   Ethno-demographic structure and population of Abkhazia, using­ material from the                                                                                              statistical researches undertaken  during the different periods :



It is also necessary to consider the fact that population reference to this or that ethnos is defined by the people living in territory belonging to those people, instead of by appointed or foreign persons, or by high-ranking organisations, up to and including  the United Nations.

According to calculation of the population of the Sukhumi district in 1916, the number of Abkhazians with Samurzakanians was 111 780 souls or 56 % of all the population,­  Kartvels - 37 414 or 18 %, Russians - 21 978 or 11 %, Armenians - 15 794 or 8 %, remainder of population - 10 627 or 7 %. Divergences in ­ numbers of  Abkhazians and Kartvels in 1897 and 1914 are explained, in our opinion, by reference to Samurzakanian inhabitants in 1897 not as Abkhazians, but as Kartvels, which is incorrect.

On the basis of the analysis of materials of censuses it is possible to draw the following conclusions:

1) results of an official  census are legally authentic materials;

2) at the time of the 1886  census,  and  during the period previous ­ to it, a mainly Abkhazian population (over 85 %)  lived in the  territory of Abkhazia;

3) after 1864 as a result of a colonial policy practised by Russian imperial ­ administration in Abkhazia, there was uncontrolled settling by peasants - Mingrelians, Gurians, Kartvels, etc. The settlements had become empty owing to  makhadjirstvo, i.e the departure of Abkhazians from their usual dwelling places.  At the same time, it is possible to assert with confidence that at the beginning of XVIII century there were very few representatives of other groups of  people (Mingrelians, Kartvels, etc.) living  in Abkhazia;

4) all statements from officials and organisations that Abkhazians did not live in the territory ­ of modern Abkhazia, identical ­ to the Sukhum district existing at that time,­ contradict legally confirmed facts, and have by  themselves no legislative grounds and are insignificant;

5) results of census establish the dwelling rights of the Abkhazian people within  the territory of Abkhazia, this ethnos having occupied the territory since ancient times.

The residence of the Abkhazian people in the given territory since ancient times is also proved by numerous archaeological materials and historical ­ data.

1.2. Ethnogenesis of the people of Transcaucasia.

Studying the works of researchers of Transcaucasia from the times of Homer (IX century BC), Pliny and Strabona, as well as those of Arabian, Persian, Russian and other historians, allows the  conclusion to be drawn that in the territory of Caucasus and Transcaucasia, including the areas adjoining this territory to the north and the south, up to 150 nationalities lived during the period from the Middle Ages to the middle of XIX century .

As we are interested only in the peoples occupying Transcaucasia (i.e. the territory of modern Georgia and the eastern Black Sea coast), for further analysis we have limited the list of the peoples by using certain criteria­. Firstly, names of the peoples occupying Ciscaucasia (Nogais, Sarmatians, Kumiks etc.), and secondly peoples ­ who were mentioned only once during the investigated period, have been excluded. Names appropriated on the basis of the  leader, or on the basis of residence at this or that settlement, have also been withdrawn – for example, Dadian - Bedians, Gorians. Names­ of the people of countries known at that time, who did not represent interest for­ our research (Armenians, Persians), and also the people of the states which ­ have later departed from the considered region (Tao-Klardjeti), have been excluded­­­.

Use of data presented in works of ancient and medieval ­ historians relating to an epoch and territory occupied by these ­ peoples, has allowed us to reveal certain laws of occurrence of the ethnonym of these people and their evolution. On the chart ( Fig. 1) the picture of evolutionary change in ethnonym of  the basic groups of people occupying areas of Northern Ciscaucasia, the Black Sea coast and Transcaucasia is shown. Whilst drawing up the chart, indicators such as the frequency of mentions of nationalities by different authors during the various centuries were used. From each work, only one mention of each ­ people was considered. The information of historians referring those or other nationalities to a  newly appearing ethnonym, or to the peoples which have changed  ethnonym over time, has also been considered­.

The presented material shows that in the distribution of  peoples­ within an investigated zone, some pure lines of ethnic groups take place. Naturally, inside groups a mixture between their separate representatives took place, however as a whole they kept their ethnic features ­which  have continued to exist unchanged till now. Geographical isolation has helped this situation to remain.

In our opinion, Svans are such a pure ethnic group,­ existing as an independent nationality which has kept features of their culture till now. As a special ethnic group Svans are mentioned in I century AD., although there are data that their ancestors were Mossineks, and possibly Melankhlens (V century BC). The native language of Svans is not  understandable for modern Georgians (most likely, it was not understandable for Kartvels in the Middle Ages) either by lexicon, or by  grammatical forms. There is even less  similarity in their customs. It is an independent ethnic society among the peoples of Transcaucasia. Their mixture with other ethnoses was prevented by features of their environment - they occupied a high-mountainous area at a point of turn of the Caucasian ridge from a north-south direction to east-west.

The first group of  people settled down  southwest of the Black Sea coast (Colchis) and expanded into the central areas of  Transcaucasia.  They   were represented  by  Colchians, and also by  a number  of  other  tribes  which in V century BC did not make a considerable ­ number in the region. Colchians under this name had been fixed in this region since V century BC and are also traced in works of historians till the end of ­XIV century. Since I century AD. their state had received the name Lazika, and ­ then, with its disintegration, in this territory the separate independent ­ states Imeretia, Guria and Mingrelia (IX-X centuries) were defined­. G.Paichadze, interpreting  the formation of the Georgian state, expresses the opinion that ­ after the termination of existence of the state Colchis (I century BC): “in ­ the territory of  Western Georgia (?)  the Egrissian state existed from II century till the end of VIII century,and in ancient sources  ­was called “Lazika”. In ­ Byzantian history, as well as in ancient sources, concerning Georgia the names "Colchis" and "Iberia" were used”. He named them western and eastern Georgia. However, G.Paichadze himself states that the terms  “Georgia “, and " the Georgian service “ are used in church annals only from XVI century. As for ­ the state Egrisi, it is not mentioned anywhere, except in Georgian history and the literature copied from the same XVIII century Georgian sources. G.Paichadze categorically declares that on the eastern Black Sea coast there were no Abkhazians at all, and those who had won practically all Transcaucasia, and had created the Abkhazian kingdom, were "Georgians".

The second group of people was represented by ancestors of Abkhazians - Geniokhs, living in the territory of modern Abkhazia. Their occurrence is traced ­ from V century BC, showing that they already during that time occupied various areas. According to ancient historians, Geniokhs during the early period had close connections with the peoples occupying the northern region of the eastern Black Sea coast, ­ where Scythians also lived at that time. Inevitable contacts of these ethnoses led ­ to mixing of nationalities, therefore in VI century there appeared a new nationality - Misimianians, occupying territory on the Black Sea coast from Adler to areas near the termination of the Caucasian ridge in the north. Misimianians, having mixed up with Zikhs,  gave rise (IX century) to  Djigets, ­ then to those people  who are today called Adygs. In language, anthropological ­ characteristics and customs, they are very close to their southern neighbours ­ (Abkhazians), and represent an inherently uniform ethnic branch with Abkhazians.

The Abkhazian ethnic line was formed as follows : Geniokhs, occupying territory from modern Adler in the north to the southern ­ borders of Colchis,  lived there with related Koraksian tribes in V century BC, and Ftirofags from III century BC till I century AD. It is supposed that they ­ were ancestors of Svans. Sanigs  were one of the branches of  the Geniokhs (I-IV centuries AD). In I century BC they began a new nationality - Absils. From VIII century Absils received a new ethonym – Abkhazians, which has existed throughout 14 centuries until now. In IV century the combination of  Geniokh and Sanig nationalities caused the appearance of a new ethnic group – Abazgs, who as ­ an independent people existed till the end of XIV century.


Fig. 1.  Evolutional changes of ethnonyms of peoples of Transcaucasia.  (Explanations are given in the text.

              See list of tribes, nationalities and geographic names on pp. 115-119).

In XI century in the territory of Abkhazia, as a result of the mixing of two national groups, basically Abazgs (though from XII century this branch would gradually fade­) and Abkhazians, the highest national and state development was reached, and during that time a new branch was formed - Abazinians. These people ­ have existed from XII century until now. All these ethnic lines of peoples possess one language, close to the languages of more northern ­ peoples occupying Northern Ciscaucasia who have similar customs and conduct a similar way of life­.

Thus, on the east Black Sea coast from the beginning of I millenium AD, the independent Abkhazian ethnos was formed as a mixture of several tens of ethnic groups, and later formed independent nationalities ­(subethnoses) within northern, western and southern Caucasus. Keeping ­ ethnic features, their own  unique culture was generated ­­ and exists to the present time­.

From the middle of the first century BC in the central area of Transcaucasia,­ new national tribal territorial formations appeared, represented by Iberians or Iverians who lived to the north of the newly-appeared state of Armenia. ­This region was named “Vrastan” by Armenians, and its inhabitants - "mountaineers", i.e. “Vratsis”, “Ivratsis” or Iverians. The tribal formation Karts or Kartls started ­ to appear from VIII century AD in writings of ancient authors as an ethnonym, and ­ the national group living in the  territory of East Transcaucasia exists until now as one of the nationalities of modern Georgia, along with Kakhetinians, Eras, Dvals, and other tribes of  Central Transcaucasia.

G.A.Melikishvili, echoed by G.Paichadze, declares: “Since the most ancient times, Western Georgia has been occupied by Megrel-Chansk (West Georgian­) tribes”. Nothing is declared about Abkhazians living in this area since ancient times, as the mention of them would demand an explanation of the fact that their ethnos appeared there before all other people of Transcaucasia, and also demand answers to other questions inconvenient for the Georgian historians.

Speaking about Georgia ostensibly extending its influence along the  Black Sea coast,­  historians involve the  Kartls ethnos for evidence,  and try to prove its relationship with ethnically independent tribes (for example,­  Colchians), who settled down in the western part of Transcaucasia in VI century BC. But, as already mentioned, Kartls historically appeared as an ethnos much later, approximately at the beginning of VIII century AD. Ethnic connection between Kartls and the people of the eastern Black Sea coast has not been traced,­ as Imeretians, Gurians and Mingrelians were defined as ethnoses,­ on the basis of the native people of Colchis, Lazika and ­ Abkhazia, much later than Kartls. It is also established that the language of Kartls has serious differences from ­ Mingrelian, Svan and other languages of the people of the Western Transcaucasia (and Mingrelians do not consider themselves Kartvelians), which once again underlines the dissimilarity of Kartls with other peoples of Transcaucasia and does not testify in favour of the accession of all these ethnoses to “Great Georgia”.

In the history of Transcaucasia it is considered that its settlement occurred from the south through Asia Minor and went across the eastern Black Sea coast. However in the territory of Transcaucasia there is one more pass to Asia Minor and regions ­ where in ancient centuries advanced ­ civilisations  settled down­. This route, along the border of modern Armenia and Azerbaijan,­ was frequently used during historically verifiable times for attacks on Transcaucasia by Persians, Khazars and Arabs. The settling of the Black Sea coast and formation in this territory of the Colchis state is historically confirmed from V century BC. The proto-Abkhazian tribes appeared in this region earlier than Colchians (who later pushed them north to the area of present Abkhazia and ex-Circassia). Considering that the states of the Black Sea coast were limited in the east ­ by the Suramsky ridge, it is possible to assert with confidence that this territory was occupied using the western channel from areas of Asia Minor. This is confirmed ­ by written sources, and V. Bochkarev (1890) also expressed the opinion that if Lazikans, Imeretians, Gurians,­  Adjarians and partly Mingrelians  belong to Kartvels, then they ­ differ so much from the patrimonial type that it is possible to allocate them ­­ as a  special group.

The later settling of tribes in the central areas of Transcaucasia (Iverians - from I century BC,  Eras, Dvals, Daks - from V-VI centuries,  Kartls - from VIII century), their anthropological and language differences from the people of the Black Sea coast, and the  area restriction of the Suramsky ridge – these all give the idea of a  later settlement in this region. Most likely, it resulted from the use of another, eastern route. Undoubtedly, ethnic ancestors of the people of these two regions ­ differed from each other. Obviously, this is only an assumption, ­ a hypothesis, but the facts demonstrate its viability, and impartial historians will probably find a grain of truth here.

As already mentioned, the state Lazika was formed in I century AD in the territory of Colchis, and Lazikans - prospective ancestors of modern Mingrelians who had especially intensive matrimonial relations with Abazgs in the region of the river Ingur - are mentioned for the first time in written sources. The ethnonym "Lazikans" completely corresponds to  “Colchians” and both existed till the end of XIII century. These people adjoined the territory ­ of Abkhazia, and Colchians and Abazgs both lived in the boundary regions. ­ We believe that between them there was a special ethnic group possessing its own language, and giving rise to modern Mingrelians. Having incorporated the use of­ two more languages, Abkhazians and Colchians (Lazikans) occupied the territory ­earlier belonging to  Abazgs (Abkhazians), and had the same, or separate but related, tsars. The territory of this ethnic group always remained an area claimed by the peoples who were settling down to the south of the boundary river Engur (Ingur).

Close to the start of the VIII century in central Transcaucasia, along with the Kartls, appeared isolated nationalities - Eras (Eretia), Dvals, living in a central part of the southern foothills of the Caucasus, and others. From XII century the Kakhetinian nationality, occupying ­the eastern part of  central Transcaucasia, starts to be found­. In  IX - X centuries there is ­ mention of Laks and Adjarians, who were  named  Djurdjuans by some historians, and others.

So, on the basis of the undertaken research it is possible to reach the following major­ conclusions concerning Abkhazian ethnogenesis:

1) Abkhazians are one of the most ancient peoples occupying the Caucasus. In ­ written historical sources the ethnonym “Abkhaz”,  through its ancestors Abazgs, Apsils and Geniokhs,  appears  from V century BC.

2) Ethnic and ethnographic lines of the evolutionary development of Abkhazians­ are clear. Throughout 26 centuries there was no mixture of this ­ ethnos with others, and during all this period Abkhazians  have been living  in their historical ­ motherland.

3) The statement  that Abkhazians went down to the Black Sea from the mountains (which are considered as North Caucasus) two centuries ago, is untenable, because:

a) on the basis of independent sources, the settlement of these ethnic ­ tribes within  the  territory of  modern  Abkhazia  by  V century BC  is confirmed­;

b) in the territory of the North Caucasus, representatives of ancestors of an ethnic branch of Abkhazians have not been found.

4) In the territory of Transcaucasia and the eastern Black Sea coast, until XX century some ethnic lines of  peoples have  appeared and been  formed:

a) Geniokhs -Absils -Abazgs -Abkhazians -Abazinians;

b)Misimianians -Zikhs - Circassians -Adygs;


d)Colchians -Lazikans - Gurians - Mingrelians.

5) To the east of the territory occupied by this group of peoples, we believe that independent ethnic branches of  the people of  central ­ Transcaucasia were formed.

6)The nationality or  ethnic group "Georgians" has not been found in the historical plan.

7) From the point of view of ethnogeography, these listed ethnic groups ­ of  peoples resided in local territories which ­ expanded or contracted from time to time,­  but they lived there constantly.

8) Mixtures of ethnic groups during the historically investigated period ( from V century BC) did not occur.

1.3. Transcaucasia and Georgia.

From the moment of creation of the state of Georgia in the 1920s, its ­ political leaders have undertaken a  vigorous campaign by means of the press, with the use of historiography to introduce in the consciousness of the people of the country, and also people of the states of the world, the idea that Georgians are a special nation allocated an elite status. An information war has begun, as a matter of fact. All activities of Georgian scientists have been aimed at proving the following:

1) Georgians are the most ancient people in the world;

2) in the territory of Georgia (including Abkhazia) there have always  lived only ­ Georgians;

3) the territory of Georgia stretches in the south from Armenia to Trebizond, then along the Black Sea coast to the termination of the Caucasian ridge, and  further on its axial line in the south and the east to Derbent, and in the north  to Tuapse, even to the river Kuban;

4) Abkhazians are an alien people who appeared in the territory of Georgia ­ two centuries ago.

Some statements from publications of the Georgian press and quotations from works of Georgian historians  are given below. We will consider which ­ arguments  and tactics of ideological war  were used for a substantiation of the first of the listed postulates.

Historiography as a science is based on several foundations: the studying of actual historical documents, archaeological research, and data from both anthropology and linguistics. However, materials such as legends, myths and so forth, it approaches cautiously, trying to separate wheat from chaff, and truth from fairy tales, by relying on a realistic approach.

But, unfortunately, along with works created on a scientifically historical basis, there is a set of products in which the basis lies in a retelling of ancient myths and fairy tales, with these fictions used for a substantiation ­ of facts which those or other theses contain­. The Georgian church, which has used its own interpretation of bible texts to give the reason for the Georgian nation being chosen by God, has especially succeeded in using this  basis as the description of history, and  the fact sheet confirming ­ the real history of mankind is ignored­. Unlike original scientific historiography, ­ where real confirmation of declared theses is required, the church demands only blind belief. The two-thousand-year existence of the church gives ­ the justification to say that the aim of finding  flock led the people up a blind alley, generated both chauvinistic aspirations and conflicts on religious ­grounds, and at times directly led to national tragedy. Being guided ­ by the principle “there are no authorities, except for God”, leaders of local (national) churches quite often supported and even ideologically proved the imperial  policy of their states, adding their weight to ethnic ­ and interstate conflicts. The first aim in this plan ­ was to confirm  the status of a particular nationality as God’s chosen, and its primary ­position among other peoples, having defined other peoples or ethnoses as being in a minor position if they are not attached to the given religion or do not concern the given church. In this situation, ordinary ­ chauvinism occurs, which contradicts Christian doctrines  that religion is above nationality.

The fundamental idea, which is actively exaggerated in the course of the information ­ war, is the statement that Georgians are the most ancient people of Transcaucasia. Georgians consider Kartlis Tskhovreba to be the main source confirming their chosen status. At the beginning of XVIII century, on the command of tsar Vakhtang VI it ­ underwent amendment, or as his son Vakhushta assured, had been corrected ­ by the scientific commission. But, as S.Baratov noted, to tell whether the actions of this commission  led to correction of the annals, or still included  major ­ distortions, would only be possible by having the first (original) version. But, it is not present and it is not known whether this first version ever existed.

It is thought that it makes sense to dot every i in a question of the name and ­ the maintenance of this work. From a legal position, the use ­ of the term Kartlis Tskhovreba as “History of Georgia” is wrongful by definition. Firstly, a literal translation of the name of this work  is “Hagiography of Kartli”; secondly, this historical work (without dependence upon its content) was written when the term "Georgia" did not yet exist;  thirdly, everything contained in this work directly concerns only Kartli, as all other kingdoms ­ and princedoms of Transcaucasia (Mingrelia, Guria, Imeretia, Abkhazia etc.) were independent states and had no ­ relation to Kartli (unless they were at war with it or were destroying it);  fourthly, ­ with regard  to Abkhazia in Kartlis Tskhovreba, it is only referred to as the Abkhazian kingdom, or simply as Abkhazia, a separate country independent of Kartli.

At present, these annals consist partly of Bible stories freely interpreted, and partly of Armenian history or Persian myths. Legends of "Georgia" go from the fourth generation after Noah, i.e. from Armenian descendants ­of Torgoma, or Togorma3, grandson of Iafet. It is necessary to consider that these myths were made on the basis of the Bible, which had got to Transcaucasia only after 324 AD when the people of that region began to accept Christian beliefs, onto which all this information about  Kartvelian history  was added after that date. Attempts to include within "Georgia" data on the invasion by Egyptians and a gain of the east Black Sea coast (Colchis) in 1565 - 1499 BC by Sezostris (Rameses) is also wrongful, as Colchis (where the tribe Colchians lived) was defeated at a time when the state and ­ the people (not only "Georgians", but also Kartls) were not yet mentioned. Also, Rameses I ruled two centuries after the date named by these historians.

Constant declaration by Georgians that theirs is the nation chosen by God, from the point of view of Christianity, is the greatest sin which has a name - pride. In pure science this phenomenon is called xenophobia and chauvinism. As for the people being chosen by God, this is defined not by the presence ­ of any relationship with forefathers or their descendants, but by their actions bringing light and truth to the world. After all, every person on the Earth, both under the Bible and under the Koran, is a lineal descendant of Adam, and of one of Noah’s sons. But in this particular case,­ the Georgian governors, and also the country controlled by them, have brought nothing but grief to their neighbours throughout the last century (and before).

Senkovsky (1838) wrote: “Georgians describe themselves as ancient people, presenting a list of  Georgian sovereigns from Farnabaz (Farnaoz) to George XIII, i.e. from 268 BC to 1800 AD, during which 98 consecutive reigns took place. In this case  Georgian literature should possess a number of annals containing the names of these tsars. But they do not exist! From Alexander the Great ­ till Peter I, Georgians lived without annals, and only Vakhtang VI compiled something like a chronicle which covers the period from Noah until the beginning of XIV century, and his son Vakhushta  abridged ­ this and  added  the subsequent reigns. The father did not specify sources or give­ years of reign, and the son, referring to “chronicles and documents” which disappeared together with him, gave concrete dates everywhere.

These facts alone would be enough to reject both these annals as not deserving the slightest trust, as they abound with strange  fables which would credit the ingenuities of any mythologist. Meanwhile these legends are accepted by many as history”.



3 In the Bible, Noah’s grandsons  Fuval and Meshekh and great-grandson Fogarma, the son of Homer, are named, and “from them the islands of the people in their lands were inhabited, everyone according to their languages, their tribes, their peoples” (Genesis 10, 2-5)                              


N.Dubrovin (1871), referring to “Annals about Georgia”, written ­ by Catholicos Antony, states that it admits that the history of the first tsars of Georgia “is dressed in the mysterious form of mythology”. But in a science it is necessary to present as arguments not fables and legends, but the opinions of scientists ­ based on fundamental research. The ancient existence of Kartvels (which as an ethnos are closely examined in publications using sources from VIII century AD), does not prove the antiquity of Georgia,­ as Kartvels then occupied the territory belonged to Armenia. In VII century Arabians took the capital of Armenia, and Tiflis, being an Armenian province, immediately surrendered. If  other people with their tsar had lived there, they would have protected their country, but it did not happen. ­ Armenians were the main population of Transcaucasia at that time, and Abkhazians who later came from Abkhazia, but not Kartvels (or Georgians). Abkhazians came in 780 AD when Abkhazian Tsar Leon II began his reign. Leon II, the nephew of Leon I, founded Kutais and moved the capital of Abkhazia there from Anakopia. A.Golovin ­ states that “ Abkhazian tsars, because of  increasing power and ­family connections with strong Bagratids of Meskhia, obtained  a power advantage in comparison with tsars of Kartalinia in Kartalinia itself, appointing their own sons as tsars”.

Thus, before the Bagratids dynasty, with which ­ the Abkhazian tsars subsequently  became related, the territory of Transcaucasia (excluding Abkhazia) was owned and ruled by  Persian and Armenian sovereigns, not including times of invasion by Khazars, Romans, etc.

1.4. Who are "Georgians"?

As follows from the scheme of ethnic continuity of the people of Transcaucasia, the term "Georgians" has no connection with the people of this region­. Since XIII century in Persian and Arabian documents devoted to this region, there has been a term “Gurdj” 4 which historians of XVIII and ­ later centuries transform into “Gurzan”, and the country where they live is called “Djurzan” or “Gurzan”. The country of Gurdjes is located geographically in the areas Tao-Klardjeti and along the southern Black Sea coast, and its main town, Artanudj, is nowadays a Turkish city.

Iakut notices that Georgians are newcomers in present-day Georgia, and they were not there until David III  captured Tiflis in 1228, and a century later they were still small in number. Even in 1832, as Senkovsky states, the numerical structure of the population across all Georgia was as follows: Georgians 101,000 souls, Armenians 56,000, Tatars (Azerbaijanians) 41,200, Ossetians 15,400, Pshavs 2,040, Tushes 2,400, Khevsurs 1,510, Greeks 1,810, Germans 1,040, Jews 500. Total  224,300 persons, i.e. after the declared 17 centuries of being in the territory, Georgians did not make ­ the majority of the population, especially if one considers that all ethnoses living in this territory were named Georgians, although they did not consider themselves as Georgians then or even now. If one accepts the condition that at that time Russians named only Kartvels and Kakhetinians as “Georgians”, their share as a part of the population will be insignificant.

Inhabitants of Transcaucasia before the XX century did not use the terms "Georgia" and "Georgians", as each of them considered that they belonged to­ a definite tribe and  nationality, which had more essential value. But for Russian officials and military men, use­ of the given term was convenient as it was not necessary to consider which set of  nationalities was occupying Transcaucasia, it was easier to name them in a word which did not define anything. As a result, ­ such people as Meskhs, Svans, Gurians and Imeretians have appeared as "Georgians"­. It is indicative that Abkhazians name modern Georgians as Gurdjes.

The argumentation of modern Georgian historians and politicians,­ trying to prove the uniqueness of the modern nation "Georgia", relies upon the ignorance of those inhabitants of Russia, America and Europe for whom the world ­ is presented in such a way that in Africa there live only Negroes, and in the Caucasus, only Georgians.

In modern Georgian interpretation of history, the toponym "Sakartvelo" is used, as it is supposed to be a synonym of  "Georgia". According to the meaning of this toponym, this is the country of Kartls. Hence, it ­ can extend only to Kartli, or at best to the Kartli-Kakhetinian kingdom. From XII century this name already covered some ­ princedoms in the territory of Central Transcaucasia, but did not survive. The evidence of it is the incorporation within the structure of Russia of separate kingdoms and princedoms of Transcaucasia in independent form. As long as ­ Georgia did not lay claim to all space within Transcaucasia, use of this ­name was not so essential. In particular, Abkhazia (which ancient ­ historians also ascribe to Gurdjistan), was an independent state till VIII century. Then, till XI century, it was a huge Abkhazian kingdom, and in no way "Georgia". Later, till XIV century it was the Abkhaz-Imeretian (or vice-versa) kingdom, then, with its disintegration, there were other independent kingdoms and princedoms, none of which carried the name "Georgia".



4 The word “Gurdj” is absent both from classical language (in which the Koran is written), and from modern Arabic (see Arabic-Russian dictionary, Moscow, 2000). If it does have Arab roots, it probably comes from one of their dialects. M.Fasmer believes that “Georgia is a newly formed Russian word” (see Etymological dictionary of Russian language, M. Fasmer, 4 volumes, Мoscow, 1986, V1, p. 464)


At this point it is pertinent to consider the topic of Iveria, as in one of the periods of XI century in Transcaucasia there occurred a strengthening of Armenia and the Armenian-Iverian kingdom appeared. At a later time Senkovsky asked the questions: “Where was Iberia, who were Iberians, and what right do Georgians have to appropriate this name?” He also answered:

“Attentive reading of the texts of Strabon, Pliny, Dionysius, Ptolemy, Plutarch, Tatsit and later writers of the classics of  antiquity reveals that ­Iberia was actually represented by Ossetia, Imeretia, and Radtcha... Also that Iberian as a nationality never ­ existed... Iberians are the people nowadays named mountaineers, and they could not represent any nationality”.

Summarising the presented data from annalistic sources, it is possible ­ to draw the following  conclusions:

1) Annalistic materials since VI century report on the country Djurzan, Gurzan, or Kurdj.

2) In early works, the country of Gurdjes is situated in the northern ­ part of the territory of Armenia. Further  to the north there is a country of  Abkhazians.

3) It is noted that both these states render tribute to the governor of Tiflis for Caliphs. Hence, to the middle of  X century, the territory adjoining  Tiflis was not the land of Gurdjes.

4) In works of VIII century, the lands of Gurdjes territorially reach to the southern ­ foothills of the Caucasian ridge in the country of  Abkhazians,  which borders with Alanians.

5) Annals confirm that  the Abkhazian people - Gurdjes - ­ went down from the  mountains to the vicinity of Tiflis in 1122,  expelled  Moslems, and began to rule there. This fact is confirmed by medieval history.

6) The medieval history of Transcaucasia confirms the existence during that ­ time, in the investigated region, of the Abkhazian kingdom, into which entered the feudal princedoms of Abkhazia, Kakheti, Ereti, and Tao-Klardjeti. No state, kingdom,  princedom,  area,  tribe  etc.  with the name "Georgia"   is mentioned as  existing at the end of  XI century.

7) Analyzing the occurrence of the terms "Georgia" and "Georgians", we are convinced­  that mostly they appear incorrectly, often through the ­ tendentious interpretation of Arab, Greek, Byzantine and other documents by later translators in ХIХ-ХХ centuries. This has led to the situation that in the course of ­ formulating history, translators have appeared more influential than historians.

1.5. Ethnos and territory of Abkhazia.

Analyzing the question of the origin of Abkhazians and the history of the settlement ­ of territory occupied ­by them, the majority of non-Georgian scientists and some ­ modern Georgian researchers (for example, Professor O.Djaparidze) consider that all the western part of the Caucasus was occupied by Hett-Abkhaz-Adyg tribes until IV – III millennia BC. The genetic relationship between ancient ­ Abkhaz-Adyg tribes and Hetts was specified by such well-known scientists as  I. Diakonov, S.Eremian, I.Dunaevskaya, V. Ivanov, etc.

Researchers name two directions of movement of ancestors of the present-day inhabitants of the region: from the North Caucasus where tribes related to Abkhazians nowadays live (Abazinians, Adygs, Kabardians, Circassians, Shapsugs), and from the south, from Asia Minor through Colchis. According to the first direction, ­ the cradle of Abkhaz-Adygs should be localised on the northern slopes of the western Caucasus, in the Prikubansk niche (G.A.Melikishvili, M.D.Lordkipanidze, etc.). From there, in an interval till I century AD (according to such authors as P.Ingorokva), and also after XVI century, part of the local population moved to the Black Sea coast. However, from the second half of II millenium ­BC, southern cultural ­ streams were dominant on the western Caucasus, therefore hypotheses about resettlements of Abkhazian ancestors from the north at that time, and the more so in XVII century, lose any archaeological substantiation­.

For the second, southern, direction, it is assumed that the Colchian ecological niche and northeast ­ areas of Asia Minor adjoining it were an ancestral home to the Abkhaz-Adygs­. Even from the end of II millennium BC to the beginning of I millenium BC  the Kashki-Abeshla tribes, presumably related to Adyg-Apsils, lived there (O.M.Djaparidze, G.A.Melikishvili, V.G.Ardzinba, etc.). In this case it is necessary to admit the movement (along the coast through the eastern Black Sea corridor and through passes) of direct language ancestors of Adygs during II - the beginning of I millenium BC on northern slopes of the western ­ Caucasus. Ancestors of Zikhs-Ubykhs thus occupied a niche between the Gagra ridge and Tuapse, connected with neighbouring territories by almost impassable ­ seasonal tracks. The proto-Abkhazian tribes (Apsils, Abazgs and Sanigs), as a primary­ part of the community, continued to live in Colchis, where they were identified by ancient authors.

­                The last migratory movements for 2000 years, according to written sources, were a proportion of the Adygs moving to the east (Kabardians) and a proportion of the Abkhazians moving to the north Caucasus (Abazinians). No large-scale return movements ­during this period have been noted. But the migration of ethnonyms is also rather indicative - the name of Abkhazians "Abaza" ­  moved from the territory of the modern Gudauta area (historical Аbasgia) to extensive areas of the northwest Caucasus.

Some Georgian scientists have attempted to confirm a hypothesis about the existence ­ in this area of the Georgian kingdom, through the discovery in the region of the east Black Sea coast of a considerable quantity ­of coins (named colhidki), by attributing these to Colchian origin. This  has not  received support, as these coins were minted in Greek cities and bear ­ an obvious print of the Greek monetary tradition.

At the same time, historical materials since I millenium BC testify to the presence of the Abkhazian state in western Transcaucasia.  In VI century BC, Procopi Kesareeski in the­ work “War with Goths” wrote about the border   which existed between Lazikans and ­ Apsils living together with Abazgs. Modern Kartvel historians incorporate Lazikans  within Kartvels, but Lazikans never considered themselves thus and still do not do so. In Procopi Kesareeski’s opinion, the border followed the river Fazis, which nowadays is called the Rioni. By III century BC, at the beginning of the Farnovaza dynasty in Transcaucasia, the border of the Abkhazian territory had been accurately defined. It ran along the Caucasian ridge, the river Ingur (Enguri), the Black Sea coast to present Batumi, via mountains to the source of the river Chorokh and to ­ lake Palakatsio, then further along the right bank of the river Debeda to the river Kura and, at last, to the river Alazan and its tributaries. It is important that at the end of IV century BC Abkhazia was an independent country and was not a part of what present Georgian ­ historians name "Georgia", and also that Abkhazians did not form part of  “the Georgian ­ population”.

By the end of I century AD,  some early feudal  proto-Abkhazian princedoms were formed on the Black Sea coast, which for some centuries co-operated with each other and with their neighbours. Occupied by Abkhazians, the territory ­ served as a kind of bridge between the north Caucasus and the Black Sea. Another connection was via the sea – ships moved along its coast  towards Asia Minor and Crimea. An important role was also played by the geographical position of Abkhazia, as the base of a triangle which was open to influence from the southeast where the road at the foot of the mountains (“the Abkhazian Way”) led, and which was used by conquerors and merchants.

Djvansher Djvansheriani (Djuansher Djuansheriani), in the XI century book “Deeds of Vakhtang Gorgosal”, wrote that in the V century, the border between Abkhazia and Iveria passed along the Rioni river. Ioann Sabanisdze in VIII century stated that the borders of Abkhazia included Khaldia and Trebizond. The X century Byzantian emperor and historian Constantine VII Flavius (Porphyrogenitus) also confirms that Trebizond was within the borders of Abkhazia.  

By XVII century Abkhazia was defined as a completely  independent ­ state in its present territory. In “The new and full geographical ­ dictionary of the Russian state, or the Lexicon”, published in Moscow in 1788, we read:

“Abkhazians are the free and numerous people living in the Caucasian mountains, ­ whose language has no similarity­ to any other  known language except  Circassian, to which it shows a ­ slight resemblance. The land on which these people live is called Absny in their own language”, i.e. Abkhazia. Further in this work the borders of the Abkhazian people’s residence were noted: “During former times these people lived only in the western part of the Caucasian mountains adjoining the Black Sea, on rivers which run into that sea between the rivers Kuban and Enguri. The Enguri  river separated them from Mingrelians. The majority of the people  have lived in this country until now in the following districts:  Khirpis, Chashi, Sadze, Aibga and Akhshipsе, which to Circassians are known under the general ­ name of Kushgashik, (i.e. “behind the mountains”) “.

According to the dictionary, in the western part of Abkhazia lived Toobs, Ubykhs, Shashes, and Shapsugs. Later compilers of the dictionary separately describe “the third small part of the Abkhazian people..., who in the previous century (i.e. in XVII century) moved to the north side of the mountains, where they lived between the Circassian regions and Kabarda (they are referring to Abazin tribes)... The language of these northern Abkhazians  is identical to that of midday Abkhazians”. Further, it is specified that the centre of all this territory was fortress Sukhum-Kale, where there were ­ sovereign Abkhazian princes.

How do Georgian scientists see the historical origin of Abkhazians? S. Shamba quotes material from the department of ancient history, archeology and ­ ethnography of the Sukhum branch of the Tbilisi state university: “Scientists studying Caucasia know that the Abkhazian people make two ethnoses. The descendants of ancient Abkhazians are the same as Georgians, and make today about 80 % of Abkhazians. They carry Georgian surnames, the majority of them speak Georgian and have namesakes among the Georgians. Apsuas (Abazinians) in the territory of Abkhazia appear only in the late ­ Middle Ages. Before 1621, no Apsuas lived in Abkhazia. From that year, church and other annalistic documents prove it to be true that only three surnames lived in Abkhazia”.

S. Shamba notices that this opus ­expresses the opinion widely held in Georgia as to the history of Abkhazian (and not only Abkhazian) people­. Because the fact of Abkhazian ancestors residing in the territory of modern Abkhazia   is impossible to deny, as it is confirmed ­ by many ancient and medieval sources, the concept ­ according to which ancient and medieval Abkhazians were the same as Georgians has been invented­. Modern Abkhazians (they are named Apsua because this is what they call themselves) – “came down from the mountains two centuries ago” - i.e. from the North Caucasus.

In 1989 the Georgian writer R .Mishveladze sent an open letter to writer Fazil Iskander in which he wrote:      “... Never anywhere in nature did the Abkhazian language exist, nor the Abkhazian culture, and damned Bolsheviks ­ have misled naive Adygs, have thought up the Abkhazian ­ autonomy for them in the territory of Georgia, and in passports have written down a nonexistent nationality – Abkhazian..”

 Here is how the history of the Abkhazian people appears in a short statement by a group of well-known Georgian writers M. Kahidze, R. Mishveladze, T. Meburishvili and G. Djumuhidze in the newspaper "Аhalgazrda Komunisti" of May 6th, 1989. From this statement it appears that Abkhazians are in no way Abkhazians, but “from the North Caucasus, Adyg tribes (Apshils and Abazgs) came to us (i.e. to Georgia) two centuries ago... The tribes which came on a visit  called themselves by the name of the most ancient Georgian tribe, the Abkhazian tribe, and, having grown bolder due to our naivety,  imposed the Adyg language upon Georgian Abkhazians, who within millenia could not make a sound in any language except native Georgian”. This last statement sounds absolutely absurd,­ and basically contradicts both historical experience and the laws of linguistics­. In history there have been occasions when these or those people have converted to the language of newcomers more developed in cultural relations. For example, the Daks, ancestors ­ of Romanians, converted to the Roman language. Reverse cases have not been observed. For instance, Bulgar nomads transferred their title to the Balkan Slavs, but the latter retained their own language which is still understandable to Russians, Ukrainians, etc. How could “half-civilised tribes of humble origin, who did not have ­ either culture or history”, according to the statement of the Georgians, impose their language upon “ingenuous Georgian Abkhazians”? Moreover, it is known that the phonetics of the Abkhazian language ­ is so complicated and original that to master it is possible only in early childhood, and adults  are not capable of this. But even the Georgian nationalists could not invent statements about the total abduction by “half-civilised Adygs” of the babies of “Georgian Abkhazians”.

Georgian "historians" T. V. Koridze and Z. D. Abashidze managed to drag this thesis even into “the Orthodox Encyclopaedia”, published under the aegis of the Moscow patriarchy, where in the article “Abkhazian - West Georgian Catholic See” there is the statement that present Abkhazians are “tribes who moved ­ in the 1630s from the North Caucasus and took their name from local Abkhazians”.

In № 4 edition of Georgian magazine "Critic” for 1989 one can read: "The tribe “Apsua” (the self-name of Abkhazians), come down from the North Caucasus and lodged ­ on the most ancient Georgian land, has made ­ insidiousness resistant to human ­ concept: named itself “Abkhazians” and, having appropriated our history, has "declared" itself sons and owners of the finest corner of  Georgia... If ­anyone wished to respect this Apsua tribe, they would write them a nationality –“Apsua”. You (Abkhazians) have the right to express your discontent only in Adygea”. R. Mishveladze's articles show a special emotionality and rudeness:  “... Inch by inch poured by blood, over centuries won, we inch by inch conceded to all without discrimination - whether dervishes of humble origin, or the tribes which have come down from the Caucasian mountains, which have neither culture nor history... Let us  become owners of our lands, let us create new Georgian villages in the territories occupied by visitors”. As ­ well-known Georgian writer Chabua Amiredjibi declares­: “Abkhazians are the Georgian tribe. And those who have come to us from the North Caucasus are any riff-raff, Adygea, murderers and ­ half-civilised tribes...”.

The former president of Georgia Z. Gamsakhurdia remarked: “Georgia is the country ­ of  Georgians”, meaning by this that Abkhazia also belongs to Georgians­.

The writer and publicist G. E. Tsereteli, one of the organizers of the group "Meore-dasi" (a political movement of the Georgian intelligentsia), and confirmed by the Georgian Soviet historiography as being ideologically close ­ to Russian revolutionary democrats, in 1873 wrote:

“All Caucasus is our country. You should mentally imagine that our ­ foot stands on our land, that we are in our country. Whether we will lodge in the country ­ of Circassians, though in Dagestan, everywhere is our native land”. After these statements Tsereteli urged the  Georgians to occupy all the coast of the Black Sea to the Crimea to which, “as like leeches, foreigners have stuck:  Greeks, Tatars, Jews and others”.

We consider it necessary to pay attention to G. Paichadze's work “Names for Georgia in written Russian  historical sources”,  where ­ the main principle of research used by world science is broken­: firstly analysis, then synthesis, and finally conclusions. G. Paichadze ­ begins the first paragraph of the ­ work with the conclusions that all Transcaucasia since II millennium BC is "Georgia", and all people living ­ in its territory are ethnic "Georgians". As for "Georgian" and "Georgia", as already mentioned such a people, nation or ethnos, and also the country, did not exist up to the most recent times. Therefore to speak about the existence of Georgia throughout 26 centuries is a  nonsense, an invention which does not have anything in common with historical validity. It can be seen from our ­ research that such ethnic groups of people as Colchians (then Gurians) and Svans really existed during the specified period and that in the beginning of XX century they, along with Kartvels and Kakhetinians, became a part of the newly-created nation - the Georgians. Into the new state formation, other ethnic groups also entered: Mingrelians, Adjarians, Meskhetians, etc. The Georgian nation was formed and received this status from the moment of commencement­ of the state Georgia on May 26th, 1918 and, hence, existence of the nation and the state probably totals hardly  one century.

Since the start of XX century there has also been a basic change in the ethno-demographic situation in Abkhazia. If in 1886 Abkhazians made 85 percent of the population ­ of Abkhazia, in 1916 their share had decreased to 57 percent, and in 1926 had fallen to 27 percent. The Georgian occupation was strengthened over many years and has changed into a severe constant genocide. As a result of the systematic settling ­ of Georgians within Abkhazia after its annexation by Georgia, and later during the­ existence of the USSR, the demographic balance has been broken. The indigenous population has appeared as a minority and with such oppression that any questions connected with  sovereignty could not  be considered  any more, and could not even occur, as they would have challenged ­ the majority of the people of the country. The Georgian majority had been created artificially, due to immigrants from the invading country. Abkhazia in this situation not only lost its independence, but because of a constant attack on the national language, and introduction of the Georgian alphabet, the culture of the ethnos was systematically destroyed. As a result, Abkhazia transformed from a sovereign state into a certain region in ­ which the Abkhazian nationality lived as a minority.

One of the arguments that Abkhazians are Georgians is the fact that some Abkhazians and Georgians have the same surnames. This really occurs, usually as a result of assimilation, or an artificial or natural­ change to the ethno- demographic situation in the region. The period ­ of intensive change of surnames in Abkhazia started at the beginning of a genocide ­ of the Abkhazian people by Georgia, and the active settling of territory by Georgians and replacement of the  Abkhazian government by Georgians. This process was accompanied by ethnic cleansing, political and physical violence, destruction ­ of the ruling elite of the country and its intelligentsia, and occurred during the years of the Stalin regime. In these circumstances, the presence among  surnames belonging ­ to the native ethnos of others belonging to other nationalities cannot ­ be used for the assignation of all ethnoses to these nationalities, as the change of surnames occurred  during earlier times.

Historical sources testify that even during the first period of the ‘Georgianisation’ of Abkhazia, churchmen of different levels were appointed ­ exclusively from the Kartvelian nationality, who knew neither Russian nor local  languages. They wrote books of records of births, marriages and deaths, and with their help Abkhazian surnames were altered to Georgian style: Maan - Маrgania, Emkhi - Emukhvari, Аchbа - Аnchabadzе, Inal-ipa - Inalashvili etc. Such transformation of surnames took place in the XX century during ­ the new period of ‘Georgianisation’ of territories. The authors know cases when the Jewish surname Mikhelson  was advantageously transformed to Mikhalashvili, and the Russian Maklakhov to Маglakelidze.

The purposeful and consistent policy of the Georgian government towards the genocide of the Abkhazian people should have­ led to the full cleansing of Abkhazia of the non-Georgian part of its population, and this was one of the reasons for the conflict which took place in 1989. For the purpose of ­ full assimilation of Abkhazians, the Ministry of Justice of Georgia passed the law № 3/1 dated February 23rd, 1990, obliging employees of the Registry Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic, for people of Abkhazian nationality with   surnames terminating ­ in -iya, -ia, -va, or -ua in documents proving their identity, to write the nationality "Georgian" in the relevant column. It was ­a violent change of nationality, and therefore of citizenship, for ethnic Abkhazians.

In details describing the situation in Transcaucasia at the beginning of XIX century, N. Dubrovin stated that   after numerous requests by possessors of princedoms in the Central Transcaucasia for Russian citizenship:

“Russia assumed to rank Georgia as a Russian province, as “the Kingdom of Georgia”, and after 1800 Georgia (Kartli and Kakhetia, authors) "for ever"­ joined Russia. Its territory to the north bordered on the Caucasian ridge, in the west ­separated from Imeretia by Khopinskaya Valley, from Ahaltsikhski Pashalyk by mountains, on continuation from Toparavana Dale to Akhbaba. In the south it was separated from Karski Pashalyk by the river Arpachai, and from Khanate Erivanski by lake Gokcha. In the east, the river Djagor ­ separated it from Khanate Ganzhinski, and river Alazan from Djaro-Belokan.

Georgia included Kartalinia, Каkhetia, Samkhetia (consisting of Trioleti and Borchala), Kazakha, Shamshadyl, Bambaka and Shuragel, as well as the lands of Khevsurs, Pshavs, Tushes, and Ossetians. The whole area did not exceed 280 versts from  east to west and 300 versts from north to south. The population was about 100,000 souls.

The western part of Transcaucasia consisted of the kingdom of Imeretia, the sovereignties of Mingrelia,­ Abkhazia and Guria, recognised as independent of Turkey by the Kuchuk-Kainardjiski agreement of 1774, and Ahaltsikhski Pashalyk “­.

The first official mentions of "Georgia" were contained in military reports of wars with Persia in ХVIII century, in which ­ Russia also took part. On fig. 2 the map of that time defining ­ the borders of "Georgia" (as understood by the Russian military leaders) is presented­. According to ­ the map, which is a legal document, these borders ­ included only Kartalinia. Abkhazia­ had no relation to this princedom­.

The border between Abkhazia and Mingrelia, specified in the map of XVIII century ­ which is the first legal document, passes along the river Enguri (Ingur), and so-called "Georgia", according to this map, is located in ­ insignificant territory of Central Transcaucasia and does not border on ­ Abkhazia at all. The southern border of Abkhazia on the river Ingur is also noted  by other authors. Countess Uvarova wrote “We are already in Abkhazia, whose borders are considered to be from a town called Gagra to the river Ingur in spite of the fact that the part of the country from the river Kodor to river Меrkula or Mokva  belonged to Mingrelia for a very long time, and made one of the furthest parts of the Dadiani princedom;  from Merkula to Inguri is situated so-called Samurzakan, or the sovereignty of Murza-Khan “.

In the book “Data on conveniences of apartment accommodation  for all kinds of  troops in Abkhazia (Short military-statistical review with apartment map)”, written by 1st department of Headquarters of the Joint Staff in 1843, the border of Abkhazia is described in detail, beginning from Samurzakan to the land of Djigets. In this book, detailed characteristics of the nature of the country are given - woods, rivers, lakes, ­ settlements, the economic condition as a whole, class structure, etc. A big map of Abkhazia showing troop locations is enclosed in the book.

F.F. Tornau in the book “Memoirs of a Caucasian officer” wrote that “the real border of Abkhazia begins on the right bank of the Inguri”. ­ We find interesting ­ data on the borders of Abkhazia in K.D. Machavariani's works. He wrote:

“Borders of the Samurzakan site are made in the north by the Caucasian mountains (their spurs), in the south by the Black  

Sea, in the east by the river Ingur and the boundary with Mingrelia, and in the north by the river Okhurei and the Kodori site - Samuzarkan has received the name from the prince Murzakan Shervashizhe to whom the possessor of Abkhazia has charged management of this site... On the left side of the Ingur, the Zugdidi and Senaksky districts of Mingrelia begin­”. In this work it is also underlined that the Samurzakan area was always territory in Abkhazia and was outside of Mingrelia, and at the beginning of XVIII century was occupied only by Abkhazians.

In 1864 the Georgian priest D. Machavariani and Russian general I. Bartolomei ­ remarked: “Samurzakan is separated from Mingrelia by the river Ingur, which often happens to be impassable, whereas from Abkhazia there is no such barrier. It can serve as an explanation as to why there were stronger influences on Samurzakan from Abkhazia in the past­  than from Mingrelia,  and confirmation of the national legend of the ­ indivisibility of Abkhazia and Samurzakan”. Throughout the last three ­ centuries and to this day, the Ingur river is the political and state frontier of Abkhazia, separating it from Mingrelia and Georgia.

Annalistic sources confirm the existence from VIII to XI century ­ of the powerful independent state of the Abkhazian kingdom, ­ whose territory ­ covered areas in the north to Kuban, in the south to Batum, including a part of modern East Georgia from Tbilisi, and further to Armenia. During ­ the subsequent period as a part of the Abkhaz-Imeretian kingdom there was an independent political formation - the princedom of Abkhazia. In XII - XIII centuries the residence of Abkhazian sovereign princes Chachba-Sharvаshidzе was Tskhum (Sukhum). This royal line ruled Abkhazia to the middle of XIX century. ­ In the middle of XIII century, under attacks from Mongols, the Abkhaz-Imeretian kingdom broke up ­ into a set of kingdoms and princedoms, among which there was also a separate ­ state - the princedom of Abkhazia. Then, throughout 600 years, before acceptance into the structure of the Russian empire in 1810, the Abkhazian princedom did not unite with any one kingdom or princedom. On the contrary, during these centuries it fought them, with varying degrees of success. For example, at the end of XIII - beginning ­of XIV century Mingrelia occupied eastern areas of Abkhazia (Tskhum province) until Anakopia. Struggle for this territory was conducted till XVII century. Until the moment of incorporation of Mingrelia into the structure of Russia in 1803, fortress Anaklia on ­ the left bank of the river Ingur was in the hands of Abkhazia, where the successor to the Mingrelian sovereign prince was held as a hostage.  Even the presence of the largest defence construction in the Caucasus – the  60-kilometre Kelasur (Great Abkhazian) wall could not stop Abkhazians from taking the boundary by storm and restoring the ancient ­ political border along the river Ingur. The territory supervised by the Abkhazian princes was narrowed, extended, narrowed, then again extended, but Abkhazia never stopped ­ existing within its historical borders.

At the end of XVIII and beginning of XIX century, the majority of the Caucasian states ­ were joined to Russia : Kartli-Kakhetia in 1801, Mingrelia in 1803,­ Imeretia in 1804, the Gurian princedom in 1811. In 1804-1806 the Azerbaijan khanates were attached to Russia. In 1810 the structure of Russia also included Abkhazia, which was never  “Georgian”, and did not represent itself as the Georgian nation or ethnos. The border from the south separated Abkhazia from Mingrelia and other kingdoms and princedoms which were independent state formations. Abkhazia became a part of the Russian empire as a sovereign state, as a subject of world politics, and ­ this was recognised and fixed legally. The Abkhazian princedom, having asked for ­ Russia protection, was included into Russia’s structure with its own territory ­ actually identical to today's, having thus kept its independent status, unlike all other princedoms existing in the territory of modern Georgia.

The expulsion of Abkhazians to Turkey (so-called "makhadjirstvo"), which started straight after 1810, was a mass exodus. Some tens of thousands of   people were compelled to leave their native land. Russian imperial officials had complete power over all those who remained. The Lykhni revolt, in which about 20 thousand people took part, flared in 1866. It was an attempt to restore the princedom, i.e. statehood, but was ­ unsuccessful and was suppressed by military force. Severe reprisals followed - prisons, banishment, and hard labour began. In 1877 there was a new revolt  and more reprisals, including further expulsions to Turkey. This time 50 thousand people left Abkhazia, which was a national tragedy­. Throughout XIX century Abkhazia lost about 180 thousand people, including 135 thousand Abkhazians. The country became deserted. Its territory began to be occupied by people­ of other nationalities: Armenians, Greeks, Germans, Estonians, Russians,­  Ukrainians, Jews. But most of all, the country was occupied by so-called Georgians, i.e. Kartvelians, Kakhetians and Mingrelians. Over a decade (1886-1897), the number of settlers in Abkhazia from Transcaucasia grew sixfold, reaching 26 thousand people. The national structure of the population had sharply changed­.

In 1864, in connection with the beginning of a mass ­exodus of the indigenous population to Turkey, a part of the territory of Abkhazia, from ­ the river Mzymta to the river Begripsta, was attached to ­ the Black Sea district formed at that time, which subsequently became a province. The Russian imperial government continued further to break the territorial integrity of Abkhazia. At the end of XIX century, Emperor Nikolai II presented a considerable part of Gagra region to his relative Prince A. Oldenburgski, who in 1903 founded “Gagra climatic station” as an aristocratic ­ resort. The decree of the emperor from December 24th, 1904  confirmed the “Decision­ about joining of Gagra climatic station with neighbouring area as far as the river Bzyb to the Sochi district of the Black Sea province”. ­ The colonisation of the territory, which had occurred since the first half of XIX century, greatly increased during the last quarter of the century and came from different directions - from Turkey, Russia, Mingrelia, and Imeretia.


Fig. 2. Copy of “Plan of operations of the troops of Major-General Sukhotin in Asia in the campaign of 1771” (fragment), from “Official and historical documents of ХVIII century, concerning Georgia. Vol. 1, from 1768 to 1774”.


According to G. Dzidzaria, Abkhazia in XIX century consisted of the Bzyb, Abkhazian (Sukhum) and Abzhui regions, and the Tsebelda (from 1837) and Samurzakan (from 1840) police districts. In 1840 Djiget police district was formed between the rivers Gagripsh and Hosta ­(Small Abkhazia). In 1841 this territory was added to the Abkhazian princedom, and in 1847, together with Tsebelda police district, was transferred to­ the Black Sea district. The Capital was Lykhni. G. Dzidzaria also wrote, referring from I. K. Ash (1830), that “The northwest border of Abkhazia is the river Gagripsh, from which the land of Djiget begins”. After Russian had constructed a fortress in Gagra in 1830, this land was attached to Abkhazia, and  entered the Sukhum department even later.

The territorial organisation of the Sukhum military department,­ which was officially a part of the Kutaisi province, was later subject to constant reformation. After 1864 the former third department of the Black Sea coastal line (from the river Gagripsh to the river Kodor) was divided into districts: 1) Ochamchira (the former Samurzakan district and Tsebeldа): Gudavа, Оkum, Bedia, Ochamchira, Ilori, Dali gorge, Georgian and Tsebelda fortifications; and 2) Pitsunda (Abkhazia, former Abzhiva, Bzyb and Sukhumi districts): Drandi, Кеlasuri, Sukhum-Kale, Ааtsi, Gudaut, Souk-su, Tserа, Pitsundа, Gagra,­ Pskhu, and Akhchi-Pskhu.

Thus, on the basis of objective data it is possible to draw the  following conclusions:

1) Ancient authors confirm the existence of the Abkhazian ethnos from V century BC onwards, and also its location within the territory of the Abkhazian state situated along the coast of the Western Transcaucasia. Its southern border passed along the river Fazis (Rion), and sometimes its limits also included  more southern ­ areas, including Trebizond.

2) Though the Abkhazian kingdom, situated in the  territory of present Abkhazia­ as well as in areas of eastern and southern Transcaucasia and partially Armenia for almost six centuries, broke up into separate feudal formations,­ the independent Abkhazian state continued to exist in the historically confirmed territory of origin of its ethnos. Since the V century BC, during the whole period of residence in this area of  Abkhazians as ethnos, the territory of Abkhazia remained within the borders existing nowadays, as the property of its people, and was never transferred in possession to someone via a legitimate procedure.

3)The settlement during prehistoric times of Abkhazians in the region of present-day­ Colchis, and their displacement to the north by  tribes which later occupied this area, ­is confirmed by the presence of various forms of  Abkhazian toponyms in Southwest Transcaucasia.

4) The Abkhazian state during that time already had its own name - "Absny", which has existed till now in the form "Apsny", which means Abkhazia.

5) It has been confirmed that the Abkhazian population of the country was numerous before the beginning of “makhadjirstvo”, which led to an exodus from the country of several hundred thousand Abkhazians and similar nationalities.

6) The territory of medieval Abkhazia, and its borders which passed from the south on the river Ingur to the Caucasian ridge, then north  along it to Kuban, are accurately defined in documents­.

7) The originality of the Abkhazian language, which does not have ­ similarities to others (especially to  languages of the Kartvelian group), except for a  certain similarity to Circassian and some other languages of the people ­ of the North Caucasus, is  extremely clearly defined­­. Possibly, the similarity to the language of these people became one of the reasons why, in "The Dictionary...", the border  of Abkhazia goes to Kuban, as during that time Circassians lived to the north of the borders of Abkhazian territory.

8) The indication of the presence in the country of only one language testifies to the­ absence in the territory of Abkhazia of   other nationalities with their own languages, i.e. to the  homogeneity of its population.

9) A very important fact is that  Abkhazia is separated from Mingrelia  by the river Ingur  (Enguri), which serves as a  natural border. It confirms ­ that on primordially Abkhazian land till the middle of XVIII century (anyway, till its beginning),  so-called "Georgian" tribes,  and especially  people of Kartvelian nationality, never lived. The border passed, then as well as now, along the  river Ingur. The first mention of the border along the  river Ingur, separating ­ Abkhazia from its  southern neighbours, occurred in III century BC.

10) The given annalistic materials once again establish ­the groundlessness of all insinuations from Georgian historians, politicians and writers trying to prove that Abkhazia is not, and  never has been,  a state located in its own territory within strictly defined ­ borders, and with the Abkhazian ethnos existing in this territory throughout several millenia.

11)  For a state to be recognised as a sovereign unit, it is necessary to have the ownership of territory with a native ethnos existing within it. This has been proved to be true for Abkhazia.