One more resonant material has appeared about separatist Abkhazia and its realities - the Russian “new newspaper” recently published an article by Irina Tukmakova “Zabroshka Country” (https://novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/03/29/strana-zabroshka). This article begins with a rhetorical question:
“Abkhazia has deposits of oil, gas, coal, granite, marble, and various valuable minerals. Half of its area is suitable for agriculture, another half is forest land. The enormous length of its mountain rivers by the country's standards creates the potential for safe and cheap hydropower. On its territory there are subtropical and alpine zones, you can relax in ski resorts or lie on the beach. It is finally one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Why has Abkhazia turned into a country of continuous "abandonment ..."?
And really why? In the material, the authors are trying to find an answer to this question. The standard answer is given by the separatists for years “there was a war and everything was destroyed by the Georgian invaders” does not seem to suit her. As well as other Russians.
After all, it will soon be 13 years since Russia has recognized the "independence" of separatist Abkhazia, is investing a lot of money here, but the abandonment and devastation have not diminished. Moreover, huge Russian investments did not lead to the emergence of at least something similar to the economy in Abkhazia. Nothing is produced here:
“On the very first evening in Sukhumi, I bought a can of yogurt. At the checkout, I read on the label that the yogurt was made in Karachay-Cherkessia. I asked the saleswoman if there was a local, not imported one. The saleswoman explained that there are no dairy factories in Abkhazia. None, although cows walk the streets like dogs.
Abkhazian honey is considered almost the best in the world, but there is no commercial harvesting of honey. Any stick stuck in this ground will be hammered and start bearing fruit, but there is no processing of feijoa and oranges. And there is no confectionery factory. That is, it exists, but it is abandoned. The flour mill, built in the 1960s, has been abandoned. And the tea factory that produced Georgian tea, grade II during the Soviet era, has also been abandoned. The meat is brought from the Krasnodar Territory, and the Sukhum Combine is abandoned. The brilliant sanatoriums that have given Abkhazia the glory of the Soviet Cote d'Azur have been abandoned, turned into ruins. Private houses by the sea have been abandoned and are crumbling, no one lives in them. All this is simply called abandoned in Abkhazia. There is milk, there is food, and then there is abandonment. "
The author also describes the state of the resort infrastructure built during the years of the Georgian SSR:
“The star of Gagra was the sanatorium“ Georgia ”. A strikingly beautiful monument of the "Stalinist Empire" style, although it was built seven years after the death of the leader of the peoples. In some places, it was necessary to cut through the rock in order to fit the huge building into the mountains. Bathrooms in each room have been tiled with blue flowers. The balconies offered a stunning view of palm trees, cypresses, the endless sea...
On "Georgia", closed to outsiders, go on whole excursions. In my presence, a young man in a red hat led a group of five people across the floors. He told tourists where the gramophones stood in the ruined tea room, what were the stairs that the members of the Central Committee used to go to the dining room, what baths were in the suites. And how "they built it conscientiously under Stalin." At the same time, the young man did not confuse the year of construction, he called it 1960. The excursionists nodded in agreement and asked what happened to the building when Stalin died.
“The war with Georgia,” the guide answered, making a serious face. - Before the war with Georgia, the sanatorium worked, but it was heavily fired upon, destroyed, and plundered.
The guide told me that he often takes tourists to look at the Abkhazian abandoned place. So I heard this word here. The abandoned property is any real estate object that there is no one to restore, there is nothing for it, and it seems like there is no need. This is a suitcase without a handle. It just stands there until it collapses. We have a lot of this too. But in Abkhazia, something that once glorified it is "lying around" as an abandoned place.
The famous Winter Theater was built in 1953. Opposite - the visiting card of Gagra, the Colonnade. The Winter Theater bears traces of its former beauty. There and inside, in some places, balustrades, stucco moldings, patterned beams, and the marble floor of the lobby have been preserved. The windows were smashed, the parquet was broken, the plumbing was torn out….
The once elite rest house "Skala" has turned into an abandoned place. The main building, built under the councils, some investor began to renovate ten years ago. He put in windows, brought in furniture. It all stopped there. Some say that he ran out of money, others that the Abkhaz partners "threw" it...
Ask any Abkhaz, how could all this splendor turn into an "abandoned place"? He will sigh and say: war. In Gagra during the war, he will repeat, they burned and plundered the Oldenburg castle, destroyed "Georgia ..."
“In fact, Gagra suffered little during the war,” says businessman Kirill Bazilevsky. - The Abkhazians managed to conquer the city by the fall of 1992.
In "Georgia" and other rest homes, looters took everything away after the war. All these buildings were empty and not guarded."
In general, the separatists, as a standard, continue to write off all the devastation "for war", although everyone already knows very well that the resort facilities, which became the masters of the separatist territory, were brought to such a state by the marauders.
Apparently, the author does not deliberately write about the terrible genocide of the Georgian population of Abkhazia, about the atrocities of separatist militants and Armenian militants from the Baghramyan battalion. However, everyone can guess well about this, otherwise why the Georgians were forced to leave their solid capital houses in a hurry and flee to save their lives. Many did not have time to escape and were brutally killed and tortured by those who then “raided” their property.
“The most terrible abandonment in Abkhazia is the former residential buildings. Especially when you know how they became abandoned. You don't need to look for them, you don't need to go to them, they hurt your eyes on almost any street in the capital, and the village just consists of them. And these are not wooden wrecks, as in the deceased Russian villages, but once strong, massive stone houses, which even now can say a lot about their former well-to-do owners.
Ochamchira greets guests with an abandoned reinforced concrete hulk on the seashore. This is an almost completed and then abandoned Soviet rest house. The building is completely dead, only there are satellite dishes on the roof. When were they installed? There is no one to ask. There is not a soul on the street.
On the short street leading to the highway from the sea, not a single living house. All are destroyed, dismantled, all have windows and no roofs. In the gardens, tangerines hang on trees.
If you wish, it is not difficult to walk along with the houses and calculate what percentage of apartments are empty.
“Four-fifths,” a gray-haired man in a red jacket says to me.
He's the only one I met on a Saturday afternoon in this city. I was sitting on some concrete block at the garage door and closely watched me take pictures.
- Aren't you afraid to walk alone? - the little man squints, lighting up a cigarette. - We have wolves here, you know?
I know that wolves are running around Ochamchira. Local authorities are asking citizens to shoot them. From what to shoot - such nonsense in Abkhazia and before asked, there is a weapon in every family. And now a law has been adopted, according to which one can arm from the age of 21.
The gray-haired peasant does not want to answer my questions.
- Nobody will talk to you here, - he gloomily says and leaves.
Behind the residential houses one-fifth, as I now know, an unexpected view opens up: a neat courtyard covered with gravel, a fence, and a brand-new two-story mansion. This is a kindergarten for 200 children, built with money allocated by Russia. It was laid down in 2017 and was going to open in 2019. Didn't meet the deadline. But the problem, judging by the statements of the Abkhaz authorities, was the most acute: the old kindergarten for 80 places, officials complained, was sorely lacking for four thousand Ochamchire families.
According to the USSR census, in 1989, 20 thousand people lived in Ochamchira. Moreover, all the years of Soviet power, the population in the rich industrial city grew. After the war, the population decreased by four times. According to the State Statistics Service of Abkhazia, the last calculations for registration were carried out in 2003, then 4,700 people were registered in Ochamchira. Really lived less, because there is nowhere to work. Another 19 thousand people were counted in the area. Apparently, it is assumed that these families will take children from the villages to a new kindergarten built in the "dead city".
Here, the author, of course, does not specify that the money for an empty kindergarten, which Russia allocated, was banally plundered. Naturally, the cost of the object, which was not needed, was overstated several times, the money went into the pockets of separatist officials who were used to looting. That was the end of it. Ochamchira, as it was "abandoned" and remained, and the population disperses and dies out. The author dwells on the latter fact separately. Also, "so as not to offend the separatists" refers to Irina Tukmakova and the issue of Georgian refugees:
“60 percent of the population of Ochamchira were ethnic Georgians.
“By and large, there were no significant military actions in Ochamchira,” says a local businessman, who asked not to publish his name. - Georgia controlled the city for a long time, it was mainly Georgian. The authorities in Ochamchire supported Tbilisi. The Georgian army entered Abkhazia in August 1992 and was going to move by rail, but the Zviadists revolted in Eastern Georgia, they blew up the railroad. Therefore, the Georgians had to walk along the highway. They quickly slipped through Ochamchira and the entire eastern part of Abkhazia met resistance only in Sukhumi on the Red Bridge. There was no front as such in Ochamchira.
In other words, most of the empty and destroyed houses were devastated and destroyed by non-enemy shells. Both sides of that war still accuse each other of atrocities exclusively.
But both sides, my Abkhaz interlocutor now admits, acted in the same way.
- Georgians burned Abkhazian houses, Abkhazians - Georgian ones, - he continues. “Having taken Sukhum at the end of the war, our troops reached the border with Georgia in three days, and no one expected that the war would take such a turn. The Georgians fled, leaving their houses in a hurry, often did not have time to take basic things. The local authorities were the first to flee because they feared that they would be reminded of the support of the Georgian administration. A mass exodus of refugees began. Ours entered practically empty Ochamchira. In some villages, partisan actions began, and their houses were damaged. But mostly they remained empty because the Georgians fled. Their houses were either dismantled or simply occupied by neighbors.
This is how Ochamchira, the closest - in different senses - to Georgia city, and began to be called "dead". Refugees left not only their homes but also their jobs. There was no one to borrow them. Businesses were abandoned just like housing."
Regarding the fact that "Georgians burned Abkhaz houses" is an open lie. It was the Armenian occupants who burned down the houses of Azerbaijanis in Karabakh, and the whole world saw this recently. And there were no facts of purposeful burning or destruction of Abkhaz houses by Georgians. The Georgians have always considered the Abkhaz brothers, one people with them, and, unlike the separatists, they never stooped to burn the houses of their brothers.
Further, the author touches upon the problem of the catastrophic extinction of the population of separatist Abkhazia:
“I stopped near an empty house near Ochamchire. Stone, solid, with traces of beauty, with a long staircase, he attracted attention. But it was not the house that hooked me, but the bus stop in front of it. A sign was bolted to its roof with a wire: "Crockery rental". Phone number and an arrow, where to go for the dishes. I have seen this in Abkhazia more than once.
Two girls were walking near the bus stop. The eldest looked like a schoolgirl, I did not immediately understand that the youngest was her daughter. I asked what the announcement meant.
- Well, you need dishes, you don't have enough, for example, you go and ask for a while, which is not clear, - the little mother answered unfriendlily.
In fact, people have enough money for dishes in everyday life. In the Abkhazian village now they live more and more by subsistence farming, they will scrape together on a plate with a spoon.
“This is necessary for a funeral, and they are often buried here,” journalist Anton Krivenyuk explained to me. “There are many relatives in the villages, and every time large tables are laid for the funeral. And there are counters that will bring dishes, you just have to say when you have "crying". “Crying” often goes away because a lot of people are dying. Here men rarely live to be 65 years old. I look at my generation, 35–45 years old: one drank himself, another chipped, a third drowned, a fourth suicidal, the fifth hit by a car ... More than half of my peers are already in the afterlife. You simply cannot imagine what a humanitarian catastrophe is in Abkhazia. "
But the humanitarian catastrophe in Abkhazia began with the massacre and expulsion of the Georgian population. As it turned out, it is impossible to build one's happiness on the seized property of others, on the tears and blood of the exiled Georgian brothers. As a result, the “victorious” separatists have a demographic catastrophe of the Abkhaz ethnos.
“- It was called the word“ busy ”, - says Kirill Bazilevsky. - When the Georgians fled, neighbors settled in their houses, and on the gates, they simply wrote: "Busy." Abkhazia is full of such real estate, which has not been formalized in any way. They have been trying to create an inventory here for ten years, but for some reason, they cannot.
People close to the authorities look at this problem in different ways.
- Yes, there is, after the war, someone left and left the house for neighbors, relatives, - admitted in a conversation with me the President of the Chamber of Commerce Tamila Mertskhulava. - They got scared and left. But no one forbids them to return! Except, of course, for the citizens of Georgia. Who took part in the war and left.
A former Abkhaz official, a participant in the war, spoke differently (he asked not to be named).
“Unfortunately, our population got some bad habits after the war,” he said.
- During the war, when the Georgians fled, not only village houses were vacated, but also many city apartments. They were occupied by villagers, they moved to the cities, having received good housing and household appliances for free. Then our village began to empty. Although not only the village, then Ochamchira was also deserted. But the worst thing is that this gave people a passion for "freebies". It would have passed over time. But, unfortunately, Russia returned the habit, when "free" money suddenly fell on Abkhazia."
In general, before the looters-separatists were guilty of the Georgians (whom the separatists do not want to return because they say, they "all fought", including babies), but now Russia is to blame.
Or maybe it is easier to overcome this ill-fated "looting habit" since it is destroying the population of separatist Abkhazia? If people die out because of such habits? And maybe it's time to make peace with the Georgian brothers, with whom they have lived side by side for centuries without such "habits"?