Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Visit to the ABC Republic

I wanted to link to this story from Der Spiegel about Abkhazia (abrieviated 'ABC' in diplomatic circles), the region of Georgia trying to breakaway and become an independent nation in its own right.

Abkhazia, in case you don't know from earlier posts here, is a land of about 300,000 people along the Black Sea that was once referred to as the "Côte d'Azur of the Soviet Union" or more simply as the "Soviet Riviera" since it was part of the only sub-tropical climate to be found anywhere in the massive landmass of the Soviet Union (which itself covered 1/6th of the globe). Georgia hasn't exercised any real control over the region since losing a brief civil war in 1993, yet still insists that Abkhazia remains a part of Georgia. The Abkhaz people, meanwhile, have managed to do a fairly good job of governing themselves, according to the Der Spiegel piece. Ten years ago the capital Sukhumi (or Sukhum as the Abkhaz spell it) was a city devastated by the civil war with Georgia. Today, Der Speigel notes: "Nowadays there are electric buses in the streets, banks are open and adolescents in school uniforms congregate in front of the Pushkin High School. A Louis de Funès film with Abkhazian subtitles is playing at a local cinema. There are traffic lights, a children's library and speed limits."

But so far only Russia and Nicaragua have recognized Abkhazia's independence. The reason is largely political - the 'Western' powers (the US, UK, France, Germany) all back Georgia, so they refuse to participate in carving a new state out from its flanks - even though they have no misgivings about carving an independent state of Kosovo out of Serbia. Others, like China, don't want to recognize any new ethnically-based states for fear of encouraging restless (and often oppressed) ethnic groups within their own borders.

So Abkhazia remains trapped in a kind of Twilight Zone of international politics - existing as a functioning nation in everything but name.
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