The tempting policy of the de facto authorities of Abkhazia in the Gali district

The integration of the only ethnic Georgian enclave remaining in Abkhazia, the Gali district, into the economic and political space of the de facto republic is still considered a matter of urgency. Although some attempts were made in this direction during the rule of late de facto President Sergei Bagapsh and former de facto President Alexander Ankvab, such steps have always been viewed with skepticism by Abkhazian right-wing patriotic parties. The result is that the Gali issue is not a visible part of the Abkhazian political agenda and requires special attention from outside observers.

De-facto President Aslan Bzhania’s visit to the Gali district on November 24 was important in this regard. According to official sources, the visit was part of scheduled visits to the districts of the de facto republic of Abkhazia. Bzhania visited Gali after the Gudauta, Gulrifshi and Ochamchire districts. Officially, the reason for arriving in Gali was to visit social infrastructure and economic facilities. Aslan Bzhania also visited the Enguri crossing point and was assured of its proper functioning. However, according to the information available to the Democracy Research Institute, the informal part of this visit was much more important.

According to unofficial reports, during the November 24 visit, Aslan Bzhania met with three young people from Gali, who declared themselves as Abkhazians from Samurzakhano and chose to study at higher education institutions on the territory of the Russian Federation. In order to facilitate their movement and demonstrate their advantages compared to other residents of Gali, they were given the so-called Abkhazian and Russian passports. The de-facto President promised similar gifts to all the young residents of Gali, who declared themselves as Abkhazians from Samurzakhano and wanted to go to Russia to study.

Georgians in Gali are particularly affected by the attacks on their identity through the tempting policy. Every resident of Gali who, for a number of reasons, renounces his/her Georgian ethnicity is considered to be "sold". The de facto President's meeting with such people is a sign to the locals that the de facto authorities of Abkhazia will continue its policy of tempting even more residents of Gali to recognize themselves as Abkhazians from Samurzakhano.

It is unfortunate that the de facto authorities of Abkhazia continue to divide the population of the territories under its control on the basis of ethnicity, thus irritating a significant part of them - Georgians living in Gali. Such a policy deepens the internal dividing lines in the Gali district and creates mistrust between those who want Georgian ethnicity and those who give it up. And finally, what will this policy give to the future of Abkhazia, if the policy of identity implies the replacement of one ethnicity with another, and if the change of ethnic boundaries is justified by any method on the basis of this principle? The de facto authorities of Abkhazia, on the one hand, irritate people and, on the other hand, lower the moral standard, which in pragmatic terms will not play in favor of the idea of ​​Abkhazian independence. Passportation and cultural-educational tools do not contribute to the strengthening of Abkhazia's identity as a country, but encourage the soft power of the Russian Federation.