Armenians in Abkhazia

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The Armenians in Abkhazia form the second largest ethnic group in Abkhazia after the Abkhaz.[1] Armenians settled in Abkhazia in late 19th and the early 20th centuries and are now the largest ethnic group in Sukhumi, Gulripsh and Gagra districts forming 20% of the Abkhazian population with 45,000 out of a total of 215,000.

History[edit]

Although a few Armenians lived in Abkhazia in the Middle Ages, significant Armenian immigration to Abkhazia began in the late 19th century when much of Abkhazia became depopulated due to the exodus of many Abkhaz of Muslim descent to the Ottoman Empire after the Russian crackdown on the rebellion in Abkhazia; at the same time anti-Armenian pogroms started in Turkey and the attitude of the Porte towards its Armenian subjects became increasingly more brutal.[2] More Armenians came to Abkhazia in 1910s fleeing the Armenian Genocide.[2]

During the 1992–1993 War in Abkhazia most of the Armenians[3] remained neutral for a long time, but as Georgian attacks on their settlements increased, they increasingly opted to support Abkhazians[4][5][6] and many fought on their side. Armenians made up a quarter of the Abkhaz army; twenty Armenians were awarded the title of Abkhazian Hero and 242 were killed in battle. Armenian population declined after the war as many Armenians left the country (mainly for Russia and Armenia) due to the economic hardships.

Demography[edit]

The earliest reliable records for Abkhazia are the Family Lists compiled in 1886 (published 1893 in Tbilisi), according to which the Sukhum District's population was 69,000 of which 28,000 were Abkhaz. The Armenians in that list totalled 1,090.

According to the 1897 census there were 58,697 people in Abkhazia who listed Abkhaz as their mother tongue.[7] There were about 1,500 Armenians in the Sukhumi district (Abkhazia) at that time; its total population was nearly 100,000.[8]

Armenians in Abkhazia by districts in 2003[9][10]
District (or city) Armenians  % Total population
Gagra 16,322 46.8 34,869
Gulripsh District (excluding Kodori Valley) 9,375 47.0 19,918
Sukhumi District 7,209 61.4 11,747
City of Sukhumi 5,565 12.7 43,716
Gudauta 4,141 12.7 34,869
Ochamchira 2,177 8.8 24,629
Tkvarcheli 67 0.5 14,777
Gali 14 0.1 29,287
Abkhazia 44,870 23.75 213,812

The Russian, Armenian and Georgian population grew faster than Abkhaz, due to the large-scale migration enforced especially during the rule of Joseph Stalin and Lavrentiy Beria.

The following table summarises the results of the other censuses carried out in Abkhazia.

Year Armenians Total
1926 13.8% (25,677) 186,004
1939 15.9% (49,705) 311,885
1959 15.9% (64,425) 404,738
1970 15.4% (74,850) 486,959
1979 15.1% (73,350) 486,082
1989 14.6% (76,541) 525,061
2003 *** 20.8% (44,870) 215,972

^*** [11]The Georgian authorities did not acknowledge the results of this census and consider it illegitimate. At the same time, the Abkhaz regime have been accused by local Armenian NGOs of intentionally decreasing the number of Abkhazian-Armenians.[12]

Religion[edit]

Armenian Apostolic Church gives ecclesiastical guidance to most of the Armenians.[citation needed]

Politics[edit]

There are ethnic Armenians in the People's Assembly of Abkhazia and Armenian-language schools in Abkhazia.[2] However, Armenians are under-represented in the Assembly as the number of the parliamentarians of this ethnicity is less than their share in the republic population.[4] The Council of Armenian Community of Abkhazia has complained over "negative attitude to Armenian population" and has expressed concerns over the distribution of anti-Armenian leaflets, as well as an attempt of sabotage at a Sukhumi Armenian secondary school in 2006.[13]

In 2007, the Georgian media began running several stories on the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia, claiming that ethnic Armenians in the area, who make up roughly 20% of the local population, would be controlling the elections.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Abkhazia Offers Citizenship to Diaspora. IWPR. CRS No. 314, 10-Nov-05; V.A. Chirikba. Armenians and their Dialects in Abkhazia. In: Evidence and Counter-Evidence, Festschrift Frederik Kortlandt, Volume 2, SSGL 33, Amsterdam - New York: Rodopi, p. 51-67.
  2. ^ a b c Л.С. Ланда (L. S. Landa), Амшенские армяне Абхазии: фрагменты истории (Hamshen Armenians of Abkhazia, fragments of history), Материалы VII Молодежной научной конференции по проблемам философии, религии, культуры Востока. Серия “Symposium”. Выпуск 33. СПб.: Санкт-Петербургское философское общество, 2004. C.106-108)
  3. ^ Helen Krag and Lars Funch. The North Caucasus: Minorities at a Crossroads. (Manchester, December 1994)
  4. ^ a b Abkhazia Today. The International Crisis Group Europe Report N°176, 15 September 2006, page 5. Retrieved on May 30, 2007. Free registration needed to view full report
  5. ^ AGBU, ABKHAZIA ARMENIANS: HOLDING A HOME IN AN UNSTABLE TERRITORY, 11/1/2004
  6. ^ The Security of the Caspian Sea Region pg 286 by Alexander Kyrlov edited by Genadi Chufrin
  7. ^ 1-я Всеобщая перепись населения Российской Империи 1897 г. Кутаисская губерния. Спб: 1905. С. 32б retrieved from "АБХАЗИЯ-1992: ПОСТОКОММУНИСТИЧЕСКАЯ ВАНДЕЯ" by Svetlana Chervonnaya.
  8. ^ Sukhum in Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (Russian)
  9. ^ ETHNO-CAUCASUS - НАСЕЛЕНИЕ КАВКАЗА - РЕСПУБЛИКА АБХАЗИЯ - НАСЕЛЕНИЕ АБХАЗИИ
  10. ^ Управление Государственной Статистики Республики Абхазия «Абхазия в цифрах», г. Сухум, 2005
  11. ^ 2003 Census statistics (Russian)
  12. ^ The authorities in Abkhazia intentionally decrease the number of Armenians. Public Radio of Armenia. February 2, 2006.
  13. ^ ARMENIAN COMMUNITY OF ABKHAZIA CONCERNED OVER NEGATIVE ATTITUDE TO ARMENIAN POPULATION. armtwon.com. January 16, 2006.
  14. ^ "Армянский вопрос" в Абхазии глазами грузинских СМИ, Regnum

See also[edit]