I went for a walk near the border area of the break away region of Abkhazia.
This morning I walked near to the border of Abkhazia, a break away region from Georgia on the northeast bend of the Black Sea.
Around ten days ago a Georgian man was murdered there by Abkhazian border guards. I met one of his friends in Anaklia who told me the story:
Giorgi, that was his name, was bringing some vegetables from the market in Zugdidi to his family on the other side of the divide. This is usually a simple affair — people can still cross this border, and even foreigners can make the crossing with an easy-to-obtain permit. However, on this occasion a border guard took his passport, and, rather than handing it back to him, tossed it on the ground and kicked it.
I was told that the Georgian reacted against this show of disrespect. The discussion elevated, insults were exchanged, and I was told that the guard ended up drawing his pistol and shooting the border crosser in the leg.
Now injured, Giorgi began limping towards the Georgian side of the border, being led away by bystanders, cursing the Abkhazians as he retreated — calling them separatists, Russian sympathizers…
When he was just about beyond the Abkhazia border area two guards came running up from behind him. One of them knocked him down, shot him in the stomach, then administered a lethal shot to the head. The green-clad guards then turned scampered back to safety at full speed, leaving the dead man in the middle of the road.
His friend showed me a video of the killing over and over again.
“I must have watched this 500 times,” he said.
It still shook him.
In 2008, the War in South Ossetia spread to Abkhazia, and the armed conflict between Abkhazia and their Russian backers began once again against Georgia. Ever since Georgia first declared independence from the Soviet Union, Abkhazia has been declaring independence from Georgia. Flare-ups of violence have been occurring ever since, and up to 250,000 ethnic Georgians were expelled the separatist region and over 15,000 were killed.
As of now, Abkhazia for the most part rules itself/is occupied by Russia. But very few countries acknowledge it — which is yet another reminder that we still do not have an official definition of what a country even is.
I look out towards the beach at Anaklia. The sea is glistening in the bright sun, kids on a school trip are running in circles, young men are racing each other over the sand, a family is swimming, three young women are sun bathing in bikinis, and an old couple just nodded and smiled at me as they rode by on their horse drawn cart. I am just a kilometer or two from the defacto border, a place where a man was killed just a week and a half ago for verbal insults, and the place couldn’t be more peaceful.
I’ve been in ex-war zones before, but I’ve never seen one that looked like this. Just eight years ago Russian tanks were in the streets here. It seems as if everyone has a story of how they had to flee their homes and lost everything — including friends and relatives.
There is no sign of this now. Anaklia is developing fast, basic infrastructure has been created — roads have been built and homes have been hooked up with electricity and running water for the first time. In a place that was a rural backwater that had little other than cows hardly five years ago is rapidly growing to become the predominant resort on the Black Sea. The people are generating new forms of income and for the most part appear to be engaging the new landscape and opportunity which now surrounds them.
This development was by no means natural — it was strategic. It was initiated by all out fiat by former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who pushed private companies to open immaculate five star hotels here and directed the building of a full-on beach resort. This resort lies directly on the border of Abkhazia, where it ends a militarized area of fences and bunkers begins. The thinking, I am told, is that it is far more difficult to wrest away developed land that’s speckled with luxury hotels than it is a rural nomansland of cow farmers.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3678 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
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