844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Ghosts of Sukhumi (Sukhumi, Abkhazia)

July 21st, 2010 - Ghosts roam the streets of Sukhumi. You may not see them. You may not hear them. But I assure you, they are there. And trust me, you do not want to see them...ever. You cannot help but sense their presence. This is as close as you want to get. For there are those mortals roaming these streets that see them in vivid HD and would give anything, I am certain, to forget them forever. They will try but they will never succeed. Nor should they be allowed to forget. Never.

Shortly after arriving I entered an upscale hotel in the center of town hoping someone behind the desk could not only speak English but would direct me to the street where my intended homestay was located. I found my paladin in the form of a woman named Alana. Not only did she call someone to pick me up and bring me to the homestay (she was friends with the wife of the son of the owners or something along those lines) she also changed money for me, called the Ministry Of Foreign Shit on my behalf, and even smiled. I am amazed how much I have come to appreciate a smile. Sometimes it pays to be tall and helpless.

Upon arriving at the homestay I discovered that the owners' daughter also spoke English. It was like friggin Christmas. At one point the owner/mother of said daughter made an attempt to warn me about the Russian miscreant in the room adjacent to mine. Apparently, he was an unsavory type. She kept advising me to lock my door, put my bags in the wardrobe, and keep my window locked. The truth is my Russian is a little non-existent so you could say I was a teensy bit confused. At one point her husband put a screen of metal bars (I helped) on my window. Who the hell was this guy? Hitman? Bank robber? Insurance salesman?



Strangely enough I was unable to get my Abkhaz visa for another two days as I arrived on a Saturday and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not open until Monday morning. Likewise with the banks. To make matters more complex there are no ATMs in Sukhumi and credit cards are accepted nowhere (I thought about calling Visa and telling them they are a bunch of bloody liars. Clearly they are not everywhere I want to be). Luckily, my new friend Alana changed enough money to tide me over. And so I began to wander.

Before arriving I had a read a little about the Georgian-Abkhazian Conflict, the War in Abkhazia (1992-1993), and the Sukhumi Massacre. A campaign of ethnic cleansing began before, during, and after the fall of Sukhumi on September 27, 1993 perpetrated by a combination of Abkhaz separatists, northern Caucasian peoples, Cossacks, and Russians. In accordance with a cease-fire brokered by the UN and guaranteed by Russian peacekeepers Georgian military forces withdrew all tanks and heavy artillery from the city. Many ethnic Georgians, putting their faith in the agreement, remained in hopes of a peaceful resolution. It was not to be. On September 27th Abkhaz separatists violated the agreement and began their siege. As the city was overrun so began the systematic torture, rape, and murder of ethnic Georgians.

As I wandered the streets I tried to imagine the horror that unfolded during those dark days. Not terribly easy when confronted with the throngs of Russian tourists plying along the beach and all around the city. Yet there are still monuments to war strewn about the city, not the least of which is the Abkhazian government building that was gutted during the conflict. Many members of the deposed Abkhazian government refused to flee, a decision that led to their not so glorious deaths.

The ruin still stands, serving as a grim reminder to the tragedy that unfolded all those years ago. I wonder if the burned out shell remains as a sort of monument to independence and victory over the Georgians. Directly in front of what is left of this building is the 'Alley of Glory' monument dedicated to Abkhazia's fallen war heroes. It is hard to believe that its location in front of a visible remnant of Georgia's defeat is mere coincidence.

The derelict building is open to anyone that wishes to explore the premises. I'd half expected someone to come along and thwart my reconnaissance mission but it never happened. I had free run of the place and even made my way to the roof at one point. Wandering through the debris one cannot help feel haunted by what must have occurred there and elsewhere throughout the city. It was a little unsettling wandering the halls of a burned out war-torn building alone, even during the day. The large volumes of trash and hypodermic needles speckled about the lower levels did little to quell my anxiety. However, I had the place to myself. Just me and the phantoms. Thankfully, they were invisible, at least to me. Thankfully, they were not looking for me.














Notice the 'Fuck Georgia'. Succinct and to the point I suppose.



Elevator shaft. I took the stairs.











Although signs of improvement are everywhere there are still constant reminders of days past. You can find destroyed houses and bullet ridden walls right in the center of the city not five minutes from the seaside promenade. And although Sukhumi exhibits signs of a subdued vibrancy it still has a quasi-deserted feel to it, as if something is missing, as if something is not quite right. Just a product of my heightened state of awareness? Perhaps. But then again.

If only I could speak Russian. The stories these people must have locked inside them. It is these moments where I find myself wallowing in self-condemnation for not being brighter, for not possessing enough language proficiency to engage the locals. Damn me.






My homestay
Rise up this mornin', 
Smiled with the risin' sun, 
Three little birds 
Pitch by my doorstep 
Singin' sweet songs 

Just can't seem to let go




I'm going out a limb here and surmising that this is not an authorized dealer.



PETA would not be amused.



I also spent a lot of time patrolling the seafront. How many hours did I consume sitting on a bench staring blankly out to sea letting each thought fade into the next along a random chain almost completely devoid of coherence? Of course, my existential reveries had the assistance of local homemade wine. You'd be an asshole not to sip the local brew. There are worse ways to spend your time. Believe me. As I sat there, paddling the depths of my own consciousness I tried to envision the rescue operation that ensued long ago as a flotilla of ships attempted to save desperate civilians from impending doom.

The beach is a bit underwhelming, rocky and a tad forlorn, although the hordes of sunbathers seem to mind little. I believe the concrete two story structures lining the beach have something to do with the construction, docking, launching, and loading of ships although I cannot be sure being the landlubbing scallywag that I am. What I do know is that the majority of these structures are in a state of advanced decay although the teenagers using them as a diving platform appear to have no complaints.









At one end of the beach rests the rusting, burned-out corpse of a small petroleum tanker not two hundred feet from frolicking beachgoers. Not sure why it is there but not climbing aboard and playing shipwreck was deemed inexcusable by my inner child. Never flout your inner child. [Author's Note: It appears that the ship has now been removed as a perusal of satellite imagery has failed to located the wreck.]














Oh, the irony.






Sometimes, exhausted / with toil and endeavour, / I wish I could sleep / for ever and ever; / but then this reflection / my longing allays: / I shall be doing it / one of these days. 


************************

Someone was not pleased with this post. I received the following e-mail to someone I will refer to as Ms. A:

Dear Sir,

I just read your travel diaries in Abkhazia and I am not surprised that all your sources comes from Georgian side which is all biased and also Wikipedia which is not a reliable source.

For example: Before arriving I had a read a little about the Georgian-Abkhazian Conflict, the War in Abkhazia (1992-1993), and the Sukhumi Massacre. A campaign of ethnic cleansing began before, during, and after the fall of Sukhumi on September 27, 1993 perpetrated by a combination of Abkhaz separatists, northern Caucasian peoples, Cossacks, and Russians. In accordance with a cease-fire brokered by the UN and guaranteed by Russian peacekeepers Georgian military forces withdrew all tanks and heavy artillery from the city. Many ethnic Georgians, putting their faith in the agreement, remained in hopes of a peaceful resolution. It was not to be. On September 27th Abkhaz separatists violated the agreement and began their siege. As the city was overrun so began the systematic torture, rape, and murder of ethnic Georgians.

I strongly recommend you to talk with the scholars whom are the expert on Georgian - Abkhaz conflict.

I should remind you that Abkhazians are lost 4% population in that war and the most important thing is Abkhazians did not seek this war but it's imposed on them by Shevardnadze.

I strongly recommend you watch the documentary film "Absence of Will" by Georgian director Mamuka Kuparadze: http://vimeo.com/8826939

And here is an excellent commentary about the documentary: http://www.abkhazworld.com/articles/analysis/406-absence-of-will-commentary.html

This is what Georgian General Karkarashvili says:

[11.52 sec.] Gia Karkarashvili [General - Army Commander of the State Council of Georgia]: In the first place, the Ossetian war [1991-92] in Tskhinvali had just ended. The Georgia National Guard suffered heavy losses. We were exhausted. That’s why I thought it was reckless to go into Abkhazia. But I was told that the 13th-14th August was a good time to launch a military operation because the Russian Parliament was in recess. Unfortunately, we entered Abkhazia in a very disorganized way. We didn’t even have a specific goal [REMEMBER the claims about protect the railway] and we started looting villages along the way. As a result, in the space of a month we managed to make enemies of the entire local population, especially the Armenians(*).

And here is an excertp from UNPO's report:

 ‘...When Georgian troops under general command of Defense Minister General Tengiz Kitovani first entered Sukhumi on August 14, Georgian soldiers attacked non-Georgian civilians, beat them, killed many, robbed them, and looted their houses and apartments. Reports of attacks on Abkhazian, Armenian, Russian, and other non-Georgian minority civilians, including killing, torture, and burning, looting or smashing of houses or other belongings, originate from many regions of Abkhazia under Georgian military control and for the entire period since August 14.’ [UNPO: November 1992 Mission to Abkhazia, November 1992, b. Human Rights and Cultural Destruction] http://www.unpo.org/downloads/AbkGeo1992Report.pdf

Unfortunately you completely rejected the Abkhazian side and used only biased Georgian sources. Probably you even didn't research on what you read in Wikipedia but just accepted all of them as a truth.

I hope that you can use more academical and reliable sources to see different otherwise you will be one of the victims of Georgian black propoganda.

Like as we see an excellent example at: http://www.rustavi2.com/news/news_text.php?id_news=42812&pg=1&im=main&ct=0&wth=   Who invaded Abkhazia in 1992?



Regards,

A.

TO WHICH I REPLIED:

Dear Ms. A,

Wikipedia is not research, nor do I base anything solely on it or any encyclopedia for that matter. I merely provide links for those folks that know little or nothing about the conflict, i.e. just about everyone in the west. If anyone draws ultimate conclusions from Wikipedia or from one or two blog post (i.e. mine) then they are idiots. I am not a historian. I am not an expert. I am merely an average person trying to understand the seemingly irrational. I did more than just read, I actually took the time to visit. I would have spent much more time there but unfortunately I do not speak Russian and Abkhazia is cut off from the international banking system so money was an issue.

Both sides committed terrible acts. Nothing about what has occurred in that region over the last twenty years is simple and cannot be stated, by anyone, in black and white terms.  I do not reject the Abkhazian side because the Abkhazian side has so many intricate facets. There were not just Abkhazians involved but a motley crew of unsavory elements from all over the Caucus region. Many innocent Abkhazians, as well as innocent Georgians, were caught in the middle of a terrible ordeal.  Shevardnadze was a scumbag but in that conflict there is plenty of blame to spread around on both sides.

I will check out all the information you have provided and I certainly appreciate your time and effort. If I could I would return to Abkhazia right now so we could sit down and discuss the history of it. I would have given anything to meet a person like yourself while I was in Sukhumi but I was not so fortunate. I have an extremely open mind and will listen to anyone that want to discuss such issues. In the next few days I have a few more posts concerning my visit to Abkazia being published on my site. Please read them and let me know your views. When I have time I will incorporate the information you have below into my postings. I recommend that you copy and paste your e-mails into the 'Comments' section beneath each post. This will give anyone reading my blog posts a deeper understanding.

Thank you for contacting me. I do appreciate it.

Best Regards,


Rich

TO WHICH SHE REPLIED:

Dear Richard,

I am not living in Abkhazia but in Hague, Netherlands. Let me know if you get here. I would like to talk with you.

I've visited Abkhazia several times as you did and focused on Georgia(n)-Abkhazia(n) confict (but NOT Georgian-Russian conflict in Abkhazia). Unfortunately many Westeners using only Georgian sources which is have lots of biased information and completely reject Abkhazian side.

I am glad that you will check the links which I sent you. Especially the commentary can be very useful to understand the conflict. http://www.abkhazworld.com/articles/analysis/406-absence-of-will-commentary.html


And please check end of this page: http://www.abkhazworld.com/articles/conflict/299-fact-seet-on-the-refugee-situation-in-abkhazia.html  you will see how the Georgian propoganda machine works.

There are many things to say about that, I don't know which one I should mention.

Regards,

A

TO WHICH I REPLIED:

A,

You took the time to contact me and I must repeat my gratitude for your insight and willingness to exchange views. I do appreciate it. I believe that anything less than complete candor and frankness concerning on my part would be disrespectful to you so here goes:

Firstly, I believe you took some of what I wrote out of context. The excerpt you provided from my blog was referring to the fall of Sukhumi specifically which would naturally focus on the actions of the Abkhazians and their allies as they retook the city. There is little doubt that horrible atrocities were committed during that operation just as there is little doubt that the Georgian army committed horrible atrocities when they entered Abkhazia. I don't believe you read my post the day before where, in addition to the Wikipedia articles, I also had a link to the Human Rights Watch report and to a book ("Georgia Diaries") written by American journalist Thomas Goltz who spent years covering the Caucasus region. Also, although Wikipedia is merely an encyclopedia it does provide references with which to delve deeper into the research. Wikipedia is not the final word on anything, only the beginning, and should only be used as a tool to get started.

Second, although I found "Absence of Will" to be interesting it was, in my opinion, not terribly enlightening and a bit naive. In my opinion it was not a professional effort and was more anecdotal than it was hard-hitting journalism. It breezes right over all the intricate complexity that was part and parcel of not only the conflict but of the Caucasus region in general . So many different forces were at play at that time it is difficult, even now, to adequately grasp the situation. The former Soviet Republics (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia) in the area were in chaos back then. The fall of communism blew the lid off years of repression and discrimination. It was a free for all and everyone was attempting to fill the vacuum left by the Kremlin. This included elements of the Russian government. It was a complete mess and, as a result, a lot of people did a lot of terrible things. 

If you read all of my blog posts concerning both Georgia and Abkhazia you will see that my view is not one-sided at all and that I made an attempt to understand all sides. Mistakes were made by many but I cannot, after all that I have read, place the onus of responsibility on Georgia. I am not even sure what 'Georgia', or 'Abkhazia' for that matter,  was back then. Who was really in control? What was the level of Russian interference? American interference? It is difficult to say but I can tell you this: At no time did I come to a final conclusion regarding the Georgia-Abkhaz Conflict. Much more research would be needed. Any sympathies I have for Georgia stem much more from its recent relations with Russia. This is a gross oversimplification but Georgia wants to 'Go West' (i.e. join NATO, the European Union, etc.) and Russia does not like it one bit. This is at the heart of the recent war between the two. Another book I would highly recommend is "A Little War That Shook The World" by Ronald Asus.

Bottom Line: I think the origin of that conflict lies within the complex geopolitical make up and history of the region and cannot be summed up neatly into bullet points. And, truth be told, how different are Georgians and Abkhazians, really?

I hope this helps to elucidate my position a bit more clearly. Again, I appreciate the discussion and find it to be quite stimulating.

Best Regards,


Rich

TO WHICH SHE REPLIED:

Richard,

Here you are:




And please, ask this question yourself: Who started the war?

Georgi Anchabadze gives answer in "naive" documentary: 

Reporter: What did the Abkhaz want?
[21:12 sec.] Georgi Anchabadze [Historian]: Perhaps they wanted complete independence from Georgia. They certainly didn’t want to join Russia again. Even now they don’t want that(*). They wanted more real political rights within Georgia.
Anchabadze: They offered three choces:

1. Georgia should become a federation with Abkhazia.
2. Abkhazia should become a republic within Georgia.
3. A two-chamber parliament should be set up.

Georgia said no to all of these things.


Georgians have big power to spread what happened them also their black propaganda. Their backers help them as well. Abkhazia trying to tell their point of view but others even doesn't listen them.

At the end of "Absence of will" documentary can be naive... How pity...

A.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzvtaZIMy98

5 comments:

  1. We abkhaz,just wanted georgians out of our lands. They were put into our country by Stalin. They forced their culture on us,now claiming we are all the same,and that we are brothers.
    Demographics speak for themselves.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Demographic_change_in_Abkhazia_1897-1989.svg
    Russians abused our hate,but it got to a certain point where we would become anybodys slaves,just to get rid of Georgians.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting comment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Delete
    2. Dear Rich, i see that you are blogger and lot of people read your blog, so i want to ask you to not lie to the abroad readers and delate Abkhazia from your list of traveled countries because, eaven for today (22.07.2017) Abkhazia is part of Georgia, so don't be a victim of Russian bullshit. Republic of Abkhazia is de facto, and it is part of Georgia (de jure). :)

      ;)
      Givi

      Delete
    3. I don't view Abkhazia as a separate country, any more than I view Eastern Ukraine as a part of Russia. It is merely the constraints of language that may give that impression. Disputed territory? Not to Georgia, right? I get that but I view the situation in practical terms, which boils down to control. No matter how you slice it, the result is the same: tragedy all around.

      Delete
  2. what the fuck is wrong with people who murder and rape the innocent. i don't care which side you are on. there is no justification for it. want people to leave ? line them up and march them out of the city.

    ReplyDelete

'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim