Gali between Abkhazian and Russian cultural-educational policies

The cultural and educational policies of Russia and the de facto government of Abkhazia are increasingly taking the form of deep integration of the region of Abkhazia into the Russian space. The soft power of Russia and compliant educational policy of the de facto government of Abkhazia are consistently intensifying in the Gali district and are aimed at further distancing the Georgians living in the district from the rest of Georgia.

On March 25, Gudisa Agrba, de facto Minister of Culture of Abkhazia, during his visit to the capital of the Russian Federation, signed the so-called 2021 action plan for cultural cooperation between the so-called Republic of Abkhazia and Russia. According to Russian Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova, the Russian Federation "pays special attention to the development and deepening of cultural relations with the Republic of Abkhazia."[1] According to a source of the Democracy Research Institute, two high-ranking officials from the Russian Ministry of Culture visited Abkhazia a week after signing the above agreement. The agreement reached in Moscow was covered by the Abkhazian media and the relevant information was posted on the website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, but the visit of Russian high-ranking officials to Sokhumi remained beyond the media spotlight.

The Democracy Research Institute does not know what was discussed between the de facto government and the Russian guests, but it is expected that the popularization of the Russian language and culture will intensify throughout Abkhazia, including in Gali. It is also expected that the cultural ensembles of Gali will be involved in cultural events in Russia, which will likely bring them financial support. In addition, Russia may open the door of its cultural and educational institutions to Gali youth, which once again indicates that Russia is trying to change the public attitudes and gain support in Gali.

Along with these events, on April 5, Ada Kvarchelia, Chief Specialist of the Abkhazian Language at the de facto Ministry of Education and Language Policy of Abkhazia, visited Gali. In an interview with Radio Sputnik, she cited compliance of schools with epidemiological regulations as the main motive for her visit. However, in the same interview, she noted the need to create an Abkhazian-Russian educational space in Gali schools.[2] According to the source at the Democracy Research Institute, the purpose of Ada Kvarchelia's visit was to introduce compulsory teaching of the Abkhazian language in Gali. To this end, the de facto Ministry of Education and Language Policy of Abkhazia intends to make the examination of the Abkhazian language necessary for obtaining a school certificate. This will create an uniquely difficult situation for Georgian students who plan to enter higher education institutions operating not only in Abkhazia, but also in the rest of Georgia, where the submission of a school certificate is a necessary condition.

It seems that the education policy of Abkhazia is provided to the Georgian population of Gali not only in the language of an ultimatum. According to the source at the Democracy Research Institute, Ada Kvarchalia's visit to Gali was soon followed by a visit by a delegation from the Abkhazian State University of Sokhumi. The delegation was led by Vice-Rector Julieta Adleiba. According to the source, the meeting was held without journalists, which indicates that the purpose of the visit was not to demonstrate that they talked to the locals in a administrative tone. On the contrary, it was desirable for them to discuss the whole package of "generous" offers for the youth of Gali in a friendly atmosphere. These offers included admission to the Abkhazian State University in Sokhumi, which will allow young people from Gali to continue their education at universities in the Russian Federation after three years of study. Obtaining internationally recognized diplomas will give them opportunities to establish themselves in the Russian labour and employment market on an equal basis with Russian citizens.

The events developed in the last two weeks clearly show the intensification of Russian soft power against the Georgian population of Gali. For people in isolation, which is exacerbated by the pandemic regulations, there are opportunities that, on the one hand, will allow them to escape isolation, but on the other hand, shed light on the prospect of further distancing Georgians from the rest of Georgia.


[1] Russia and Abkhazia agreed on a joint cultural action plan (in Russian). Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, 25.03.2021. Source:

[2] Ada Kvarchelia on the problem of learning Abkhazian in Gali schools (in Russian). Radio Sputnik - Abkhazia. 5.04.2021. Source: