Textbook of the history of Abkhazia: Point of view
29/03/2010 14:55
Dodo Chumburidze
Senior Researcher, Ivane Javakhishvili Institute of History and Ethnology of Georgia

The textbook of History of Abkhazia for secondary educational institutions by Oleg Bgazhba and Stanislav Lakoba, Sukhumi, 2006.The book presents the history of Abkhazia from ancient times to the present day.Unfortunately, the textbook is so devoid of scientific argumentations, that it seems unnecessary to discuss its historical-cultural, socio-economic and political concepts ". It is clear that the textbook serves only one, ideological purpose: to teach young people in Abkhazia hatred and animosity towards Georgians; arouse a sense of being a chosen one; belonging to one of the oldest nations in the world – a "nation - creator of civilization"; pride for heroic past and a desire to protect one's country from "Georgian invaders".

Historical truth is completely distorted in the textbook. Facts are misinterpreted and this has been done purposefully. But that, given low professionalism of the authors of the textbook, was to be expected.

The geographic area represented in the History of Abkhazia textbook includes not only all ancient historic provinces of western and south-western Georgia, but also ancient civilizations of Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, which are presented as created by so-called Abkhaz tribes and as their historical achievement. Abkhazia is represented as the birthplace of ancient metallurgical culture, agricultural achievements, including ancient varieties of wheat and grapes, as well as wine. Through search for toponymic names and linguistic words the authors are managing to convince young people that Abkhazia was stretched across the entire western Georgia and most of eastern Georgia , Asia Minor and that the Abkhaz are descendants of Chalybes, Heniochi, Missiminian, Kardukh etc. The myth of the Argonauts is also about the Abkhaz, as a son of Aeetes - Apsyrtus is Abkhazian and so on. The textbook completely breaks and changes logic of works of outstanding Georgian scientists. This textbook presents Georgia to be only kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti that existed in the east of our country, and Georgians only residents of these units.

Chapters that tell of unions of Abkhazians with Alans, Armenians and other neighbours are also written from the political and diplomatic considerations. Not to mention Russians, who, like others, are called saviors of Abkhazia from Georgian invasions, but this is only in the late period of history. The textbook talks about Abkhazian government, literature and culture of which, despite great efforts of Abkhaz authors, were never manifested anywhere. As to principality-kingdom of Abkhazia in the early Middle Ages, all points to the fact that it was one of common Georgian kingdoms with its capital in Kutaisi, so using by Abkhazians of this historically well-known fact in their political interests is simply meaningless.

Almost all materials reflecting early class ancient and medieval era are scientifically false and are an attempt to historical sabotage in relation to the past of Georgia.

Even worse is the situation with representation and interpretation of historical materials of the modern period. It is presented in such a way that supposedly in the XIX century only Abkhazians lived in Abkhazia, as well as in Samurzakano, and afterwards Georgians colonized it, and unfairly seized land from Abkhazians. Such a blatant lie is partly a result of the Russian census, where people of all nationalities living in Abkhazia were called Abkhazians. They isolated residents of Samurzakano as a separate nationality and considered Georgians to be just residents of eastern Georgia. According to Droeba newspaper, only 70 thousand people lived in Abkhazia in 1866. According to other sources this figure was 65 thousand. 22 thousand out of which were Mingrelians living in Samurzakano, and Georgians living in other areas were registered as Abkhazians. According to 1897 census there were already 41 thousand people living in Samurzakano . According to well-known demographers, a reason for this was Christian population, which was affected by so-called Mukhajirstvo at a lesser extent. The population increased, while Abkhaz Muslim population suffered a demographic catastrophe due to the well-known events. Georgians in Abkhazia were always 2-3 times more than Abkhazians. Abkhazians accounted for 18-20% of the total population. Abkhazian historians and Russian statisticians falsified data and manipulated with demographic indicators. In terms of development of demographic processes, this textbook is no good at all.

Among numerous archive and source materials, mostly drawn up by Russian officials, staff of the Division of the Modern History of Georgia working on the modern history of Abkhazia, have not seen documents that would have proved colonization of Abkhazia in the XIX century, by mainly Georgian population, as it is presented on pages 260 -264 of the abovementioned textbook of the Abkhaz authors. Russian authorities established 35 Russian villages in Abkhazia. They expelled Georgians from their already legalized houses. And examples of this are plenty not only in Georgian but also in the Russian press of that time. Russian administration considered Georgians and Abkhazians not loyal people who had no knowledge of agriculture and were not cultured. Adopted resolutions, speeches of members of the Duma, press, etc were openly demonstrating that Abkhazia and Ajara coast were to be settled by Orthodox population of inner provinces of Russia. This is confirmed by numerous documents stored in our archives. These are lists of persons and the census of the population of the new villages on the territory of Abkhazia, so it is easy to refute the lies to which Abkhaz authors resort. But the question arises: is it reasonable to assert the truth when a lie has a purpose and there is a great imperial machine in the face of Russia behind it? ..

According to the authors of the book, cruelty of the Russian army that was expressed during the conquest of Abkhazia is to blame on Georgian generals, i.e. Georgians. In fact, these generals (for example, Tsitsianov), which, despite the Georgian origin, served in the Russian army and state interests of Russia, conquered also Georgians. The anti-Georgian orientation is characteristic of chapters of the book such as "General Mazniev and
occupation of Abkhazia," Abkhaz troops and the first dispersion of the People's Council of Abkhazia", "Imperial dreams and assembly of September 1918 "," General Denikin and the British command on the Abkhazian issue " etc.

Based on these chapters one can conclude that in 1918 Georgians allegedly carried out occupation of the Abkhazian state; that the only enemy of Abkhazia today as well as in anciant times have been only Georgians; that certain Mingrelians (sub-ethnic group of Georgians) live in western Georgia who have no place either in Sukhumi, or in Gudauta, and even in the Gali district, or anywhere in Abkhazia, as this whole area is a historic land of the Abkhaz and so on.

Such and lots of other accusations are also in the chapter " Abkhazia in the Soviet and post-Soviet period". We do not intend to refute arguments contained either in this chapter (or in another chapter of the book) as it requires not a response of two words but a whole book. Moreover, it is necessary to conduct a broader work than is done now in relation to the work of historians of self-proclaimed "states" that are now occupied by Russia, or more precisely the ideology of these new "states".

Textbooks on the history of so-called South Ossetia and Abkhazia often show dangerous trend. These stories are completely ideologized and aimed at annexing these territories in the future, including with weapons, one of which is Russian bases that are being built here against Georgians. Each chapter concludes with questions for pupils where the authors of the textbook incite and inspire hatred and aggression towards Georgians in young people. This lays potential ruthlessness and dedication in young people which must determine their behavior in case of need to fight with the Georgians in the future. On the other hand we do not fuel such hatred and thereby are doing a good job, because hatred has never done any good. But, indeed, we should pay more attention to study of history. Otherwise, Georgian youth will not able in the future to answer their Abkhazian peers to slander, which they are taught in school and that is no more than a scientific falsification.

Georgian scientists really have nothing to add to the assessment of the historical past, which is supported by a variety of sources and historical and cultural data. If the Abkhazian researchers can talk about Abkhazian elements in Western Georgia, arguing with one or two materials from linguistics and toponymy, we have countless number of Georgian elements in Abkhazia. This is a huge amount of ethnonyms, toponyms and hydronyms in Abkhazia which are in no way connected with the language of Apsua, and they can only be explained through Georgian and other Kartvelian languages. The entire Abkhazian culture, as well as culture of other parts of Georgia, is part of Georgian culture.

If our state intends to give a fitting response to such works, it is necessary to pay more attention to historical research and popularization of the history among the younger generation. Secondary Education gives them either a very low level of knowledge in this area or nothing at all. And soon young people will not be able to debate with non-Georgian citizens on our own history even during an ordinary discussion. Scientists do not have appropriate working conditions, access to archives is not free, and pay is laughable, large number of professional researchers is out of work. While at the same time Russian scientists themselves are involved in falsification of the history of Georgia. The leaders of Russia and the self-proclaimed states provide full support to Abkhazian and Ossetian historians to conduct such works. While recently not even one grant was awarded to a historical subject by the Georgian National Science Foundation, while very interesting topics, including those relating to the history of Abkhazia were presented. It is essential that the authorities allocate money for research projects in the field of history in English and Russian languages. And it will be a response to books that are unfounded and devoid of all possible scientific basis like the textbook of the history of Abkhazia compiled by pseudo-historians of so-called independent Abkhazia.

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