Our Position
Will the de facto authorities of Abkhazia defeat ethnocracy?
The issuance of de facto Abkhaz passports to Georgians living in Abkhazia is still on the agenda. Georgians constitute a large part of the population of the republic and their exclusion from both the political space and economic activities is only detrimental to the development of Abkhazia. At the same time, the views of the de facto political spectrum are not unanimous on this issue.
According to the Democracy Research Institute, one of the first initiatives of the newly elected Chairman of the Abkhaz People's Congress, Davit Pilia, to issue Abkhaz passports to the residents of Gali, sparked a public outcry, despite the fact that his public statement referred not to "passportization" but to "documentation” of the Gali population. It seems that in order not to irritate the Abkhaz war veterans’ union Aruaa and the right-wing nationalist party Amtsakhara, "neutral" terms were chosen. Nevertheless, even reference to the above issue provoked a harsh reaction among these organizations. Their biggest fear is that if residents of Gali are given de facto Abkhaz passports and a precedent of dual Georgian-Abkhaz citizenship is allowed in Abkhazia, the sacrifice they made to separate Abkhazia from Georgia will become meaningless. These forces say that they will fight "to the last drop of blood" if the de facto authorities of Abkhazia pursue the above policy.
In this situation, it is interesting that neither the de facto President nor the Government speak about the issuance of passports to Georgians. They are not initiators of the political debate. Apparently, the Government is trying to start a public discussion and prepare public opinion through its loyal Abkhaz People's Congress, thus avoiding the type of crisis that Alexander Ankvab could not cope with.
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After the end of the war and expulsion of the majority of ethnic Georgians, which has been repeatedly mentioned in UN resolutions as ethnic cleansing, ethnocratic rule was established in Abkhazia. Although ethnic Abkhaz people do not constitute an absolute majority in present-day Abkhazia, they are represented by an absolute majority in the de facto parliamentary and executive branches. Representation of ethnic Armenians and Russians is protected, though disproportionately. As for Georgians, who make up the vast majority of the population of the Gali district, even their fundamental rights are not on the agenda, not to mention their representation. They do not have the right to vote, move freely or engage in free economic activities. All this is linked to citizenship.
The vast majority of the Georgian population in the Gali district are citizens of Georgia and hold Georgian passports. There are exceptions when some people individually manage to get Russian citizenship, though mostly those who have lived in Russia for a long time and periodically return to their houses in Gali. Russian citizenship guarantees greater mobility in economic terms, but not political rights. The latter is guaranteed only by the de facto passport of Abkhazia, which is inaccessible to Georgians for the fear of the far-right and conservative part of the Abkhaz political spectrum towards them. In all the known cases, when the de facto authorities of Abkhazia tried to issue de facto Abkhaz passports to the Georgians of the Gali district, the above became the basis for internal confrontation and political crisis. Opposition to de facto President Sergei Bagapsh, as well as his successor, Alexander Ankvab, was based on this nationalist sentiment. It can be said that the latter lost power due to the issuance of these very passports to Georgians.