Voice of the Abkhazians

-------------------- News from Abkhazia --------------------

 Holiday of Young Wine


On November, 5 Abkhazia will celebrate the Holiday of Young Wine for the first time. The festival will take place in the village Achandara of Gudata area, which is famous for its wine and Abkhazian grades of grapes.


Achandara it is situated northeastwards from Gudauta, in the foothill zone of the Bzyb Range. There is a sanctuary - the mountain Dydrypsh near Achandara. This village is one of the most ancient settlements of the Caucasus. The diameters of the trees that grow in the center of the village amount to four meters. They are more than three centuries old.


In the village square will be organized a fair and concert of folk ensembles. There will also take place a tasting of a grape drink called " amchar" in Abkhazia. It is young wine rich in carbone dioxide.


Visitors will also enjoy the horse riding stunts show. They will also see how grapes grow in the Abkhazian yards. Grape saplings are traditionally planted near mulberry, hazel and alder. It is considered that grape ripens better that way. It is often preferred to build grape pergolas (adzhzkhuatra).


Then in a farmstead will take place a feast. Traditional dishes such as hominy, cheese, boiled and smoked meat, chicken, cherry plum sauce - asadzhbal, achashv (pies with cheese), different salads with nuts etc will be served with wine. There will also be desserts: akalmysh (prepared from corn flour and grape juice), ajinjukh, alaharua (dried figs), young corn baked on coals, fried chestnuts, nuts and so on.


"We reckon that the holiday of young wine celebrated in November in many countries of Western Europe will become a tradition also in Abkhazia", the director of a Sukhum travel agency Frikan Gunba told during the conversation with the correspondent of Apsnypress.




 Georgia backs off blocking Russia’s WTO bid


Georgia has reached a compromise with Russia on monitoring trade on Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s borders, it announced on Thursday following consultations with Switzerland and the EU.


After 18 years of talks, Russia was finally granted most favored nation status in the majority of countries and is on the verge of joining the World Trade Organization. Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze said 15 minutes ahead of a new round of Swiss-mediated Russian-Georgian talks, that Georgia would give Russia a “final proposal.” Russia’s Top Negotiator Maxim Medvedkov said Russia would need a few days to consider it.


Although the proposal’s content was not disclosed, it likely involves the electronic monitoring of Russia’s trade operations on the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, without defining the trade formally as Russian-Georgian trade. Russia recognizes the both republics as independent states while Georgia and most WTO members do not.


The Wall Street Journal earlier wrote, quoting Georgian sources, that the EU warned Georgia it was ready to admit Russia by a simple majority rather than a unanimous vote unless a compromise was reached. If Russia is really interested in joining the WTO and Georgia’s proposal contains no “hidden reefs,” Russia’s accession could become official at the WTO ministerial conference on December 15-17.


Bilateral negotiations with all WTO members were completed by the spring of 2007 – all except Georgia. All major disagreements were settled during President Vladimir Putin’s first term when Russia pledged to reduce the national economy’s dependency on resources.


Russia has made a great effort to harmonize its trade laws with the WTO, adopting over 42 packages of bills since 1994. Formal WTO accession will provide effective preferences as soon as in 2012, and will convince other members that Russia will not use protectionist policies in foreign trade in the future.


Russia’s potential costs and benefits stemming from WTO accession were estimated before the global crisis. The World Bank’s David Tarr and Natalya Volchkova said in a 2010 report that the new trade agreement would bring Russia about $40 billion annually in the medium term. Russia’s overall WTO benefit will reach 3.3 percent of GDP ($53bln) in the medium term and 11 percent ($177bln) in the long run when the local business environment improves.


Harmonizing Russia’s laws and government regulations with WTO standards will influence everyone, especially low and medium-income families. In fact the former will benefit the most from the liberalization of the labor market. The most competitive and attractive Russian regions will also benefit from the change.


Some analysts are skeptical about an immediate benefit from Russia’s WTO accession. However, Yulia Tseplyayeva from BNP Paribas believes a transition period will help ease the short-term negative effects and make the long-term improvements come sooner. “Russia will have to encourage privatization and market reform. The tightening of government regulation in the economy will slow if not stop altogether,” she said.


If this round of WTO talks collapses, it could be delayed for another several years.


10.28.2011  RIA Novosti


 Endangered language


Sukhum, by Vitaly Sharia, The Abkhaz language is officially registered in the UNSECO’s list of endangered languages. The critical situation observed today is not newly emerged. Among numerous significant factors that affected the current state of the Abkhaz language we can outline the calamity of Muhajirism in the 19th century, which turned Abkhazia into a country with multi-ethnic population where the Russian language gradually acquired a firm status of interethnic communication language; and the Georgian demographic and political expansion during the rule of Beria in mid 20th century which forced the Abkhaz schools to accept Georgian language as the language of tuition.


After gaining independence Abkhazia seemed to have no obstacles to improve the conditions and develop the Abkhaz language. Moreover, relative density of the Abkhaz ethnicity has grown more than twice, from 18 to 44 per cents (according to the population count in 2003). However, the usage of the state language did not expand among interethnic communities, public places or mass media. And still many Abkhaz from urban areas do not speak their mother tongue.


State policy should take more firm steps aiming at preservation and development of the language. Several weeks following the discussion during the session of 14 November 2007 the People’s Assembly (The Parliament of Abkhazia) deputies adopted in the final reading a bill “On the state language of the Republic of Abkhazia”. The bill was officially published on 29 November 2007 in the governmental newspaper “The Republic of Abkhazia” and came into effect on the date of the publication. The adoption of the law was preceded by a vast work of many years attracted the best specialists and scholars in the field of philology, law and state building. Each point and paragraph of the law was thoroughly debated in the Parliament as well as outside of it.


Time framework for an actual acquisition of the state language status for the Abkhaz language is a tight period of 7 years. According to the last paragraphs of the Law to come into force in 2015, all heads of state authorities of the Republic of Abkhazia, as well as the heads of structural subdivisions, Deputies of People’s Assembly - the Parliament of the Republic of Abkhazia, heads of local governments are obliged to speak the state language. The state language should become a source language of legal acts.


The provisions of the Law were supposed to come into force step by step. Within 6 months following the adoption of the Law the text printed in the state language should have occupied not less than a half of space issued by nongovernmental printable mass media and not less than two-thirds of the volumes issued by state printed output. Television broadcasters irrespective of the form of ownership, should broadcast two-thirds of their programs on the state language. Starting from 1.01.2010 all meetings held by the President, all Parliament sessions and the sessions of the Cabinet Council should have held on the state language.


Last year the Parliament started to hold sessions on the state language with simultaneous translation into Russian language provided for those who do not speak the state language. The Speaker tries to hold his speech in Abkhaz, so do some deputies too. However they generally switch into Russian during discussion and exchange of opinions. The session papers distributed among the participants are in Russian, not Abkhaz as planned. The other supreme bodies have not reached even the same level.


However, as many skeptics and those judging the situation in a sober way forecasted during the discussion of the Law, if the planned measures provided by the Law will not be fostered by daily efforts from the government and the society, the planned measures will remain on paper. Unfortunately four years later since the adoption of the Law we witness this forecast.


The Abkhaz Language Fund and other organizations responsible for issuing periodicals in Abkhaz language have done a lot of work. However, this is not the aim, but means to achieve the designated goal, namely: all Abkhaz population, including all ethnicities should freely speak Abkhazian. Four years that passed since the adoption of the Law did not bring us closer to this goal.


There was nothing mentioned about language courses for adults for the last time, though preceding the adoption of the Law an active advertising in the Media and the Abkhaz Television broadcasted a series of programs for those aspiring to learn the language. I may assume, that both course organizers and participants realized that the efforts were not productive.


It is obvious that without a full integration into the language environment adults from the Abkhaz urban areas will not be able to learn the language, even though they express their eagerness. While preschool age children easily hold two, three or even more languages. That is why I am deeply convinced that the government should focus on creation of a wide network of kinder gardens, where small children from different ethnic families could learn the state language. This option is far more costly and displays results in a longer perspective; however it seems to me more appropriate in response to the problem which has shaped during many decades. It requires well though-out decisions.


10.24.2011  “Ekho Kavkaza” (The Echo of Caucasus)


 World Domino championship in Sukhum


Sukhum, 300 contestants from 22 countries have descended on Sukhum for the 8th World Domino championship, which began on October 18. Sukhum has not seen such a large number of foreign visitors before, not even during the Abkhaz presidential elections. The few foreigners who came then were observers.


The president of the U.S Federation of Domino, Manuel Okendo, is already here. Rumours have it that the Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, who knows Mr. Okendo personally tried to persuade him not to travel to Abkhazia. Saakashvili even quickly set up a Georgian Federation of Domino and told Okendo to hold the 8th World Domino competition in Tbilisi.


Mr. Okemdo refused to do as told by Saakashvili, saying that sports and politics do not mix. The decision to hold the contest in Abkhazia was taken in the spring in Las Vegas during the last World championship. The officials of the Domino Federation already knew where Abkhazia is situated and  what it represents, but one of them admitted that he didn’t even know of the existence of such a republic. A series of visits and examinations convinced the officials that Abkhazia was eminently qualified to stage the World Domino competition.


Abkhazia has been given an opportunity to show what it can do. The 22 delegations come from North and South America, Latin America, Africa and Europe, and of course, Russia. First of all, they are people and each of them has a family, friends, work and other responsibilities. It’s a huge opportunity  for self-advertisement, which Abkhazia must use to the full.


10.19.2011  The Voice of Russia


 Political propaganda under a veil of “scientific objectivity”


Commentary of  a Professor in Political Sciences Iraklii Khintba,  Abkhaz State University and  Centre for Humanitarian Programs  on the Resolution 1832 (2011) of CE Parliamentary Assembly adopted on 4 October, 2011


Resolution 1832 (2011) of the CE Parliamentary Assembly  «National sovereignty and statehood in contemporary international law: the need for clarification» produces a rather ambiguous impression. On the one hand, it resembles a synopsis of a lecture on international law and practice by virtue of the style and argumentation employed. On the other hand, one can easily detect elements of political propaganda masquerading under a veil of «scientific objectivity».


The Resolution, which in fact is just a recommendation, begins with the acknowledgment that there is «the lack of clear criteria for statehood and for lawful secession» and «the criteria for statehood remain a contentious issue in contemporary international law». The reader expects that further on the document will provide such criteria and clarifications. But unfortunately what follows is just a dogmatic argument on non-acceptance of secession as a form of national self-determination.


So the first question arises: why do they call for elaborating clear criteria and clarification of the issue, if their purpose is just reiterating old but still ambiguous and disputable arguments?


In the concluding part of the document, the PA «invites all member states to refrain from recognizing or supporting in any way the de facto authorities of territories resulting from unlawful secessions». If there is still no certainty on the issue of lawful secessions, how to determine that, for instance, the Abkhazian secession was unlawful? And why does the resolution call for non-recognition in the absence of the criteria for statehood? It proposes that «the criteria for statehood, including those for the emergence of new states by legal secession and the modalities of protection of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of states be examined thoroughly in the framework of a follow-up conference to the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty». Great, but it has not yet been done. If they acknowledge the existence of a certain «legal gap», why not continue to refrain from politically propagandistic statements on the illegality of secessions and movements for self-determination in the region?


The second question concerns the mechanisms or the machinery for resolving conflicts and other disputes stemming from aspirations of different identities in Europe. Why do the authors of the Resolution deliberately confuse the notions of cultural and political conflicts and ethno-political conflicts (ethno-territorial)?


The Resolution refers to the earlier document (Resolution 1334 (2003)), which was to clarify and legitimize the only way to resolve identity conflicts, i.e. autonomization and decentralization. And here again we encounter this substitution of notions. The conflicts they consider are political and primarily non-violent ones, caused by unjust distribution of power and economic gains. Groups that struggle for improving their structural conditions need to be distinguished from groups which have undergone violent wars and claim independence. Decentralization is appropriate for correcting structural inequities and empowering groups. But as an instrument to address strong ethnic and political conflicts it is hardly relevant.


This reluctance to acknowledge the different nature of conflicts in the region contributes to the low efficiency of European engagement in conflict-resolution and transformation-processes in the South Caucasus. For instance, the authors of the Resolution prefer to forget that the reason for the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia is not what they call «Russian intervention» in 2008. The real reasons are Soviet quasi-federalism, which spurred ethno-nationalism, and the aggression of the illegitimate Georgian government against its own citizens and their state in 1992 (under the Soviet Constitution autonomous republics [such as Abkhazia] enjoyed the status of a state).


The only point that inspires confidence is the final provision of the Resolution «to analyze the origin and trends of self-determination movements by addressing the most salient factors, in particular instances of growing tensions among minority or ethnic groups». Europe does indeed need a far better understanding of the conflicts in the South Caucasus. Maybe this process will help the truth to come out, so that the conflicts are more properly addressed.



 Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Chirikba met UN delegation


Sukhum, On October 12, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia Vyacheslav Chirikba, , met UN delegation headed by UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez – Taranco. The delegation also included Co-chair of the Geneva discussions Antti Turunen, political adviser to the UN and representative at Geneva Discussions Hailu Mamo, advisors of Oscar Fernandez - Taranco – Gianluca Rampolla Del Tindaro and Christopher Carlin.In his salutatory speech Oscar Fernandez-Taranco congratulated Vyacheslav Chirikba on his new appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs and also pointed out that it was his first visit to Abkhazia.


According to the Minister, Abkhazia has great experience of successful cooperation with United Nations. “We have achieved a high level of trust between UN and Abkhazia. We have good contacts with the Co-chair of Geneva Discussions Antti Turunen and now we are glad to welcome you. This is an expansion of our contacts and to some extent their renewal”, – noticed Chirikba.


Foreign policy priorities of Abkhazia became the major issue of the discussion. Minister pointed that building a modern democratic state is a very important goal. Abkhazia is open for cooperation and is interested in establishing future contacts with UN and UN agencies that provide humanitarian support to local people.


Oscar Fernandez – Taranco, in his turn, expressed hope for successful continuation of UN humanitarian projects to become an important basis for further cooperation between UN and Abkhazia. UN delegation also expressed its interest in the overall political situation in the country.


UN Assistant Secretary General emphasized that prolongation of Geneva Discussions on Security in Transcaucasia and IPRM meetings plays a significant role and is an important aspect of the UN Political Mission.


Minister agreed that communication in the framework of Geneva Discussions and IPRM meetings in Gal is a positive factor but stressed that achievement of certain results can be possible only when Georgia starts to consider Abkhazia as an equal partner of negotiation process.


At the end UN Assistant Secretary General thanked the Abkhaz side for the warm welcome and expressed his wish to participate in the next Geneva Discussions.


10.12.2011  Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Abkhazia

 Vyacheslav Chirikba is appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia


Sukhum, President Alexander Ankvab signed a decree on appointment of Vyacheslav Chirikba as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.


Prior to his appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs Chirikba headed the Department of Political Science and Conflict Resolution in the Abkhazian Institute of Humanitarian Studies and the Department of Geopolitics in the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Abkhazia and as leading research fellow of the Sector of Caucasian Languages Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


Chirikba also served as Advisor to the President of the Republic of Abkhazia on foreign policy. He is also the head of Abkhazian delegation to Geneva talks on security in Transcaucasia.


10.11.2011  Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Abkhazia


 Alexander Ankvab, President of the Republic of Abkhazia arrives for an official visit to Russian Federation


Sukhum, On the 5th -6th of October Alexander Ankvab, President of the Republic of Abkhazia, will pay an official visit to Russian Federation. During his visit Alexander Ankvab and Dmitry Medvedev will discuss various aspects related to the bilateral cooperation including the issues on providing the security of the country.The leaders will also discuss other priority issues of the intergovernmental cooperation regarding the social and economic development, coordination of the international activity, restoration of the property rights of Russian citizens in Abkhazia and will define the perspectives of the further bilateral cooperation.


10.06.2011  Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Abkhazia




Geneva, The participants of the Geneva International Discussions have just completed their seventeenth session.


In Working Group I, the participants reviewed the security situation on the ground and welcomed the fact that the general situation has been calm and stable during the period after the previous round. The regular and constructive work of both IPRMs was appreciated by all participants. They continued to address the issue of non-use of force and international security arrangements. The co-Chairs underlined that, despite the fundamental differences and divergent opinions, efforts should be undertaken in order to make progress towards better security and stability on the ground, through interim steps and concrete measures. The value of confidence building was highlighted.


In Working Group II, the participants reviewed the various aspects of the situation on the ground, including the situation of vulnerable populations and various specific humanitarian issues. The discussions benefitted from comprehensive briefings from all participants on humanitarian activities undertaken and identified specific directions for follow-up. Participants were given the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the various aspects of confidence-building measures during an information session on the subject.


The participants agreed to hold their next session on 14th December.


10.04.2011  APSUAA RIBJI


 OSCE Chairmanship, at Geneva Discussions, calls for greater freedom of movement


Geneva, 4 October 2011 –The Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for Protracted Conflicts, Giedrius Čekuolis, today highlighted the progress in the three years of the Geneva talks, especially through the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms, where security issues faced by the people affected by the August 2008 conflict in Georgia are discussed and resolved.


All the participants welcomed the fact that the security situation remains stable and calm. “This is no small achievement. Three years ago the security assessment was very different,” said Čekuolis.


In the absence of commitments on the non-use of force by all sides “our common goal must be the development of confidence- and security-building measures that could strengthen confidence and military transparency,” added Čekuolis “We cannot live in a security vacuum, otherwise the security situation on the ground could spin out of the control again, and the consequences could be disastrous.”


“Glossing over grievances won’t do. They need to be dealt with. There are still ordinary people who are suffering the consequences and a poorer quality of life because of restrictions on freedom of movement as well as on access to education and healthcare, just to name a few.”


Čekuolis called on the participants to ensure that all local communities are allowed to live without having their freedom of movement restricted.


At today’s 17th round of the Geneva International Discussions the new EU Special Representative, Philippe Lefort, joined Antti Turunen of the UN and Giedrius Čekuolis of the OSCE as one of the Co-Chairs.


The Geneva International Discussions take place in two parallel working groups. One group deals with security and stability, and the other with humanitarian questions, including internally displaced persons and refugees.


The Co-Chairs agreed with the participants that the next meeting will be in Geneva on 14 December 2011.


10.04.2011  OSCE


 Maxim Gundjia, Minister of Foreign Affairs, sent a congratulatory note to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Environment and Labor on the occasion of the Independence Day of Tuvalu


Sukhum, The note says in particular:


“People of Abkhazia share all the solemnity of this celebration. We do appreciate and respect the establishment of relations with your country and will keep it in our history as an important contribution to the peace and prosperity! On behalf of the people and Government of Abkhazia I wish your country all the best in its future.”


10.01.2011  Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Abkhazia