Abkhazia in anticipation of a stable and long-lasting Russian authoritarianism?
Last week was tense in Abkhazia. The opposition of the de facto authorities tried to seize power in a revolutionary way, but failed. Aslan Bzhania's government retained power - apparently due to Russia’s unequivocal support. Clearly, the question arises as to why the Russian authorities decided to support the current protégé in the Abkhazian "news"? Why might his predecessor, who is no less loyal, be unacceptable?
According to the information available to the Democracy Research Institute, there is one major version in Abkhazian society relating to the Kremlin plans. A significant change in the de facto government of Abkhazia recently was the appointment of young Inal Ardzinba as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Both Abkhazian and, generally, Georgian media covered this topic with great interest. It was even said that Ardzinba would pursue Moscow's interests. He was even nicknamed "Moscow boy". Amid the crisis in Sukhumi, a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Sochi and the violent methods used to defuse the situation were seen by Abkhaz society as a proof that Inal Ardzinba was "Moscow’s man" who guaranteed stability for Aslan Bzhania's government and that in a few years the Kremlin would "transfer" Abkhazia to Ardzinba. It seems unrealistic to change the constitution of Abkhazia and lower the presidential age, so Bzhania's government is a kind of transitional government until Ardzinba reaches the age of 35.
It may be because of this imminent threat that the protest movement in Abkhazia, which has turned the nationalist part of the Sokhumi political spectrum against Bzhania, has accelerated. Supporters of former President Raul Khajimba appear to fear that Bzhania's government and then Ardzinba will make more concessions to the Russian Federation, which will deprive Abkhazians of the gains obtained by war. Part of Abkhazians are especially afraid that a large-scale privatization process will take place, including relating to lands, which will put the wealthy citizens of the Russian Federation in advantageous situation compared to Abkhazians. In addition, the presidency of a young politician backed by the Kremlin also threatens to reduce the possibility of changing the government, as well as the space for exerting pressure on it, drastically and for a long time.
Finally, what will be the consequences of the above scenario for the Gali district? Of course, due to its legal status, the Georgian society of Gali is excluded from these processes. However, the protest movement in Sokhumi was watched by the people of Gali with great interest and cautious anticipation. According to a local source of the Democracy Research Institute, Raul Khajimba and his supporters, with their anti-Georgian and ethno-nationalist sentiments, look more dangerous to them than Aslan Bzhania's government. Clearly, with similar fears, the Russian Federation can still gain loyalty or at least use the inertia of the people of the Gali district. If we consider this possibility in the context of further, gradual annexation and incorporation of Abkhazia into the Russian Federation, it should be thought-provoking for both the Georgian authorities and Abkhaz politicians. The latter should think more about how the region’s society can take a responsible part in Abkhazian politics.