Bathed by the Black Sea on the West, protected on the East by the majestic snowy mountains of the Caucaus, bordering North with Russia and South with Georgia (which still considers it its own territory), Abkhazia feels more like the creation of an imaginative painter than a real place, so beautiful it is.

The contrast of sea and mountains is exciting and soothing at the same time, while the rich, volcanic black soil, and a warm, sea tempered climate make it a perfect candidate for runaway agricultural and touristic success. Which is not the way it is, unfortunately: the country is in a state of poverty and decadence.

A bloody civil war against Georgia in 1992-93, and its still enduring consequences, smother the country’s ambitions and stymie its progress. The conflict, caused by Abkhazia’s tentative to establish itself as an autonomous republic sparked a horrible war that killed thousands, displaced more than 250.000 people (georgians, fled in Georgia) out of an original population of less than 600.000, and wrought havoc on the country’s civil and industrial infrastructure.

So, what strikes most of Abkhazia today is the emptiness: vast swathes of empty, uncared for land, devoid of people or of animals, just ruins of abandoned, burned or shelled buildings littering the territory. The northern part, nearer Russia, has been redeveloped for the joy of the thousands russian tourists who cater its beaches in summer. But the southern one goes, the more things are to be found in a state of utter disarray.

Currently officially recognized only by Russia (since 2008), and by a handful of states (some of them not recognized themselves by the international community, like Transdnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh), it lives in a state of semi-isolation. Its citizens are entitled to a Russian passport, but they are nevertheless denied travel outside of the Russian federation, as other embassies do not consider such passport valid (citing its being issued by an embassy located in an unrecognized state).

They suffer trade bans, can’t legally export anything outside of Russia and Georgia, and are not entitled to a civilian airport due to international pressure. They are, to put it simply, in a vise between a powerful neighbour, Russia, and a smaller neighbour supported by a powerful ally, Georgia with the U.S. In the middle, Abkhazia and the abkhazi, their beautiful land, and the hundreds of memorial plaques that commemorate soldiers died everywhere “defending their land”.

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