15 июн 2011

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.