History of Georgia Abkhazia, and Surrounding Area

This section includes the articles that cover regional history with an emphasys on the most recent events.

Program Director: Dr. Andrew (Andreas) Andersen

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Medieval Abkhazia, 620-1221

By the year 656, most of the South Caucasus except Lazica –Egrisi, was overrun by the expanding Arabs and became part of the Arab Caliphate that by that time included all of the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe (click on the map to get the full-screen image).  In the former Iberia-Kartlia, an Emirate of Tephelis was established with the centre in Tephelis (Tbilisi). That caused mass migrations of Kartvelian-speaking population westwards to Byzantine-controlled Lazica. As a result, several areas of formerly Svan- and Zan-dominated Lazica became Kartvelian-speaking among them Racha, Imereti and Guria (including today’s Achara) However, the Byzantine-Arab wars and partial disintegration of the Caliphate, created pre-conditions for the restoration of some elements of Georgian statehood: between 780 and 810 several principalities, kingdoms and other domains in the former Iberia gained sovereignty by throwing off the Arabs. 



Read more: Medieval Abkhazia, 620-1221

Soviet-Georgian War and Sovietization of Georgia, II-III. 1921


In the year 1918, Georgia restored her independence from Russia. This became possible as a result of World War I and disintegration of the Russian Empire due to its failure to withstand a tremendous pressure endorsed by the war effort.


Read more: Soviet-Georgian War and Sovietization of Georgia, II-III. 1921

The War in Abkhazia, 1992-1993

By George Nikoladze

Sokhumi Riot and prelude towards armed conflict
The lingering ethnic discord in Abkhazia exacerbated when, on March 18, 1989, the Abkhaz nationalists, who viewed an increasingly active movement for Georgia's independence as a threat to their political privileges of a "titular minority", signed a petition to the central Soviet government at a mass meeting at Lykhny, Abkhazia, demanding the rights to secede from Georgia. The move caused mass protests from the Georgian community, which accounted for by far the largest single group in (45,7%) of the population of the Abkhaz ASSR, and were resolutely opposed to any diminution of their links with the Georgian republic, holding rival demonstrations within Abkhazia and within Georgia proper. The protests climaxed in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and evolved into a major anti-Soviet and pro-independence rally on April 9, 1989, which was violently dispersed by the Soviet Interior Ministry troops, killing twenty, mostly young women, and injuring hundreds of demonstrators.  At a plenum of the Georgian central committee the following day the Communist party first secretary, Jumber Patiashvili, resigned and was replaced by the former head of the Georgian KGB, Givi Gumbaridze. The April 9 tragedy removed the last vestiges of credibility from the Soviet regime in Georgia and pushed many Georgians into radical opposition to the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the Abkhaz remained largely loyal to the Soviet rule partly to antagonize the Georgian movement and partly to obtain Moscow’s sympathy towards their cause.

Read more: The War in Abkhazia, 1992-1993

Soviet Abkhazia, 1921-1990

By George Nikoladze

Despite the 1920 treaty of non-aggression signed between Bolshevik Russia and Georgia, Soviet Russia’s 11th Red Army invaded Georgia on February 11 1921, and marched on Tbilisi. Almost simultaneously, 9th (Kuban) Army entered Abkhazia on February 19. Supported by the local pro-Bolshevik guerrillas, the Soviet troops took control of most of Abkhazia in a series of battles from February 23 to March 7, and proceeded into the neighbouring region of Mingrelia.

Read more: Soviet Abkhazia, 1921-1990

The Struggle for Abkhazia, 1917 - 1921

By George Nikoladze 
The Bolshevik coup in October 1917 and the ensuing Russian Civil War forced the major national forces of South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – to unite into fragile federative structures. Abkhaz leaders created, on November 8, 1917, their own post-revolutionary body, Abkhaz People’s Council (APC), but Abkhazia became embroiled into a chaos of the civil unrest.

Read more: The Struggle for Abkhazia, 1917 - 1921

The Russian Rule in Abkhazia, 1829-1917

By George Nikoladze
The Russian annexation of two major Georgian kingdoms between 1801 and 1810 facilitated the empire’s expansion far into the Caucasus region. During the Russo-Turkish War, 1806-1812, in 1810, a Russian force took hold of Suhum-kale and installed their protégé Sefer Bey (Georgi), who agreed to incorporate Abkhazia as a vassal principality within the Russian empire. Initially, the Russian control hardly extended beyond Suhum-kale and the Bzyb area, with the rest of the region chiefly dominated by the pro-Turkish Muslim nobility.

Read more: The Russian Rule in Abkhazia, 1829-1917

The Ottoman Rule in Abkhazia, 1555-1828

By George Nikoladze 
In the 1570s, the Ottoman navy occupied the Georgian fort of Tskhumi on the Abkhazian coastline, turning it into the Turkish fortress of Suhum-Kale (hence, the modern name of the city of Sokhumi). In 1555, Georgia and the whole South Caucasus was divided between the Ottoman and Saffavid Persian empires, with Abkhazia, along with rest of western Georgia, remaining in the hands of the Ottomans.

Read more: The Ottoman Rule in Abkhazia, 1555-1828

Abkhazia during the Georgian Golden Age and Renaissance, 1089 - 1221

By George Nikoladze

Reign of Queen Tamar was the peak of Georgia’s might in the whole history of the nation. In 1194-1204 Tamar’s armies crushed new Turkish invasions from the south-east and south and launched several successful campaigns into Turkish-controlled Southern Armenia. As a result, most of Southern Armenia with the cities of Karin, Erzinjan, Khelat, Mush and Van, was put under Georgian control. Although not included into Georgian Crown lands and left under nominal rule of local Turkish Emirs and Sultans, Southern Armenia became a protectorate of the Kingdom of Georgia.

Read more: Abkhazia during the Georgian Golden Age and Renaissance, 1089 - 1221

The Unification of the Georgian Kingdoms, 1008 - 1014

By George Nikoladze

In 1008, the Bagrationi (Georgian Royal House) ruler Bagrat III of Georgia united the kingdoms of Abkhazia (Apkhazeti) and rest of Georgia into a single Georgian feudal state. The second half of the 11th century was marked by the disastrous invasion of the Seljuk Turks who by the end of 1040s succeeded in building a vast nomadic empire including most of the Central Asia and Iran.

Read more: The Unification of the Georgian Kingdoms, 1008 - 1014

The Kingdom of Apkhazeti, ca 770-1081

By George Nikoladze

In Lazica, various ethnic segments including Mingrelian, Zhan and Svan-speaking Georgian tribes were subordinated to the Byzantine-appointed princes (Greek: archon, Georgian: eristavi) who resided in Anacopia and were viewed as major champions of the empire’s political and cultural influence in western Georgia. Arabs penetrated the area in the 730s, but they never succeeded in conquering it.

Read more: The Kingdom of Apkhazeti, ca 770-1081


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