There was no voluntary accession of Abkhazia into Russia
18/11/2010 12:52
Avtandil Songulashvili
Doctor of Historical Sciences

Review of article by Andrey Epifantsev "On the question voluntariness of accession of Abkhazia into Russia".

A state should have a clearly defined international function, and it should not be just means for a strong state to realise its goals. Only in this case its price on the international market is solid and stable, only then it will become a real state. That is why there is no political future for pseudo-states such as Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Karabakh, Transnistria, Abkhazia and "South Ossetia", no matter whether their protector-country recognized them as independent states or not. If a state as such is not needed by any one or for anything, then it loses its function and role, and is deprived of the world arena.

Indeed Russia has recognized Abkhazia guaranteeing its full assimilation and extinction. Today Abkhazians understand very well that the time has come to decide the matter: to be or not to be. Therefore there is a need for certain gestures and Andrey Epifantsev is trying to do this. He presents the case in such a way as if we are talking about two sovereign states and scientific community of the two states is trying to figure out logic of capture of Abkhazia.

Abkhazian scholars, in contrast to Russian authors, recently objectively evaluated past events and noted that forcible resettlement of large number of their compatriots to the Ottoman Empire was an act of aggression carried out by Russia. In 1997 the parliament of Abkhazia assessed these events as genocide. Epifantsev does not deny those events but he offers a different assessment. According to him, "it is not important whether accession into Russia was voluntary or not." The main thing for him, and it is quite just, is that "in any case, whatever the reaction of Abkhazians and no matter what Russia has done itself, sooner or later Abkhazia would have joined it anyway." "The issue of voluntariness of accession, in principle, is not a historical issue but a factor of modern politics - says Epifantsev and to back this argument he quotes Lenin. This does not need any comments. It's just that Epifantsev here talks about accession and not capture as Russia has played only a "progressive" role in development of conquered peoples. Any European countries such as France, England, etc captured countries and turned them into colonies, where local population suffered terrible oppression and exploitation. Whereas Russia added captured territories to its territory, abolished their statehood, called aboriginal people inferior "natives" and this, as it turns out, was a great fortune for those peoples.

Backward Abkhazia with its tribal and clan system developed only inside Russia. This is the leitmotif of the article. The author criticizes Abkhazian historians who considered national liberation struggle against oppressors to be a positive thing. According to Epifantsev part of Abkhazian people "fought not as much against Russia and for independence but mainly against progress and for possibility to continue their archaic way of life". and so much cynicism: "When it became clear that it was not possible to defend their little world this part of the people decided to voluntarily leave for Turkey and reproduce ancestral customs there".

According to the author, it is not so important whether Aslan-bey had support of people or not, whether Seferbey was authorized to write a petition to the emperor or not, whether tsarism poisoned Abkhazian princes or not?! All this is secondary. The main thing is that Abkhazia appeared in paradise ... The act, which occurred on July 10th, 1810, cannot be called voluntary accession of Abkhazia into Russia. Capture of Sukhumi-Kale by use of force was the first step in tsarist aggressive policies in Abkhazia. Russian authorities took another half-century of struggle to finally establish itself there. The struggle between Safar-bey and Aslan-bey, first of all, was a confrontation between the two countries - Turkey and Russia for supremacy in this part of Georgia. The capture of Sukhumi-Kale was not a victory of Safar-bey over Aslan-bey but the Russian victory over Turkey in the fight for Abkhazia. Safar-bey, whose power was based on Russian bayonets, did not deserve respect of people (see O. Bgazhba, S. Lakoba, History of Abkhazia, Sukhumi, 2007, p.205).

At the same time the article by Epifantsev presents the matter as though Abkhazia was doomed, but a good Russian appeared, offered a helping hand and rescued it. Absolutely nothing is said about the fact that the Abkhazian principality was the same formation in western Georgia, as principalities of Guria, Mingrelia and Svaneti, which had suffered the same fate as all of Georgia, and later the entire Caucasus. For more than two hundred years Russian occupational regime has been fighting to seize Georgia. To confirm this example of the Russian aggression in August 2008 will be sufficient. Russia has taken away from us 20% of our territory (12,000 square kilometres) - the Tskhinvali region and a historical region of Georgia - Abkhazia. Naturally, the above mentioned article mentions absolutely nothing about this.


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