History of the Jews in Abkhazia
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|History of Abkhazia|
The history of the Jews in Abkhazia dates back to the early 1800s. The Jewish population of Abkhazia consisted of Ashkenazi, Georgian and other Jews. It grew after the incorporation of Abkhazia into the Russian Empire in the middle of the 19th century. Most of the Jews left or were evacuated from Abkhazia as a result of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict of 1992–1993.
|Number of Jews in Sukhumi|
Abkhazia (// (listen), //;) is a de facto and partially recognized republic on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, south of the Greater Caucasus mountains, in northwestern Georgia. It covers 8,660 square kilometres (3,340 sq mi) and has a population of around 240,000. Its capital is Sukhumi. It is called Аԥсны́ [apʰsˈnɨ] in Abkhazian, აფხაზეთი [ɑpʰxɑzɛtʰi] in Georgian, and Абха́зия [ɐˈpxazʲɪjə] in Russian.
The status of Abkhazia is a central issue of the Georgian–Abkhazian conflict and Georgia–Russia relations. The polity is recognised as a state by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Syria. While Georgia lacks control over Abkhazia, the Georgian government and most United Nations member states consider Abkhazia legally part of Georgia, whose constitution designates the area as the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia.
The region had autonomy within Soviet Georgia at the time when the Soviet Union began to disintegrate in the late 1980s. Simmering ethnic tensions between the Abkhaz—the region's "titular ethnicity"—and Georgians—the largest single ethnic group at that time—culminated in the 1992–1993 War in Abkhazia which resulted in Georgia's loss of control of most of Abkhazia, the de facto independence of Abkhazia, and the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from Abkhazia.
A Russian garrison was installed in Sukhumi in the 1840s, as its fortress was part of the Black Sea defence line, and Jews from many regions of Georgia, particularly from Kulashi, settled in the town. As the 1897 census results indicate, there were also many Ashkenazi Jews in Sukhumi. A synagogue was built in the first decade of the 20th century.
In Soviet times, the Jewish population of Abkhazia increased greatly, but the Sukhumi Jewish community remained the largest in Abkhazia. According to the 1926 census, there were about 1,100 Jews in Abkhazia, most of them Ashkenazi (702) or Georgian (215). The Jewish community of Sukhumi was officially recognised by Soviet authorities in 1945, at the very end of World War II. Abkhazian Jews suffered like the other Jews of the Soviet Union during the massive anti-Jewish campaign in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Sukhumi synagogue was razed in October, 1951 (according to the official version, its territory was needed for urban development). The Jewish population increased to about 3,500 in 1959, but many of them immigrated to Israel and elsewhere in the 1970s.
As the Soviet Union was disintegrating in the late 1980s, ethnic tensions began to grow in Abkhazia and the number of Jewish emigrants increased greatly. There were still many Jews in Abkhazia at the outbreak of the Georgian-Abkhaz War in August, 1992. All of the Jews who wished to flee the fledgling republic were evacuated by the Jewish Agency and settled in Israel. Most of the few who remained were Ashkenazi. Those who remained had to endure the capture of Sukhumi by Abkhaz separatists and their allies.
As of 2009, there are about 150 Jews in Abkhazia, nearly all of them Ashkenazi. The community maintains a synagogue in Sukhumi. The majority of them are elderly, with their average age being 72 in 2004.
Rivka Cohen, Israel's ambassador to Georgia, visited Abkhazia in July, 2004.
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