Forgotten World (99): Abkhazia

The break-up of the former Soviet Union has led not just to 15 new independent states but to a host of territorial disputes and conflicts, some of which – like Chechnia – are well-known and others of which – such as Abkhazia – are virtually unknown. Now Abkhazia may be formally part of Georgia and only have a population of around 180,000 but, for all practical purposes, it has been independent since a fierce civil war in the early 1990s ended in 1994 when it signed a ceasefire with Georgia.
UN observers and about 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops are stationed in the territory. Although no state has officially recognised Abkhazia’s independence, Russia has been accused of supporting the breakaway region to destabilise Georgia. Moscow has issued Russian passports to around 90% of Abkhazians. The latest controversy is over Russia’s intention to import building materials from Abkhazia to help prepare for the 2014 Winter Olympics to be held in neighbouring Sochi.