Nazi Naveriani writes memoirs. In her notebook she tells about her own restaurant and house at the seaside in Gagra month after month, year after year. About how she was doing business. About receiving the guests. About how she heard dozens of voices merging in a scream "Death!" and saw armed soldiers of the special police force, practicing at the city stadium, when she came out on the balcony in the morning of August 17, 1992. About how a few days later she had to take the most terrible decision in her life: to separate the family so at least one of her four children survived, escaping from the war-torn Abkhazia.
"It will always be in front of my eyes: how the houses burst when the shells were shooting, - Nazi remembers. - All was burning around. They killed. When we were bombed both from the sky and sea, my husband and I decided: if these three will drown on the steamer, then at least one child remains alive. If I will die with my baby in arms, then at least these three will survive. We separated so at least someone could survive. Gagra was taken on October 2, 1992. I caught the last plane with 11-month-old baby in my arms".
Somewhere wars were unleashed by politicians, somewhere by priests; the war in Ukraine was initially invented by science fiction writers. The war in Georgia was waged by historians and philologists. This war was initially waged on paper, manipulating by the national pride and collective traumas, and later - on the land, at the sea and in the air.
It is dangerous to reopen the old wounds. It is easy to say today that the matter has taken a dangerous turn from the very beginning because of this. The IDPs from Abkhazia still believe that the war could have been avoided.
Nana Gogia had just finished Abkhazian State University in 1989. The main higher education institution of Abkhazia appeared in 1979 as a result of regular protests of Abkhazians, who demanded separation from Georgia and direct subordination to Moscow about once a decade since the early Soviet times. This insistence began to bear fruit in the late Soviet period: the Abkhazians gained more and more rights and concessions. Their representatives have occupied almost all leading positions in the autonomous republic by the beginning of the war despite the fact that Abkhazians by themselves were a minority in Abkhazia. As of 1989 - only 17 percent, when the Georgians comprised almost a half of the population in the former autonomous republic of the Georgian SSR.
"Once my father came home from work and told my mother that he was told: "Join the party, change the nationality to "Abkhazian" in the passport, and you will be the director", - Nana tells. - It was funny for him, but it was not funny for many others – a lot of Georgians did exactly this way. I have a relative who held a high post in Sukhumi. He had two passports: it was written "Abkhazian" in one and "Georgian" in the other. He showed one passport in Tbilisi and the other one in Sukhumi".
But Abkhazians still wanted the national independence – fearing to be assimilated by Georgians and seeing themselves as equal, but not subordinate to them via Tbilisi.
"National problems were solved in a different way in Stalin years, - historian David Jishkariani says. - Abkhazian clan absolutely ruled Abkhazia at all levels in the 1920s. A radical change occurred in the times of Lavrentiy Beria: he removed the Abkhazian clans, and mainly Georgians came to administrative positions. According to archival documents, the level of Abkhazian schools was very low in the 1940s, so the Georgian education entered Abkhazia, what Abkhazians perceived as a blow to their national pride. It is possible to say from today's perspective that if you do not like the level of Abkhazian schools, you can improve them, but do not destroy them. So, of course, the pressure was adding to this conflict. Abkhazian historians became the flagships of the national identity after Beria's death".
The confrontation escalated sharply in the late 1980s, when the Soviet Union became seriously unstable, and the Georgian dissidents started loudly demand the secession from the USSR. Those residents of Abkhazia, that were not Georgians, were alarmed by the nationalist slogans of the anti-Soviet opposition that became more and more aggressive. The idea of secession from the Union together with Georgia was not supported by the Abkhazians who still preferred protectorate of Moscow instead submission to Tbilisi. Moscow, in turn, effectively played up these moods, hoping to blackmail uncontrolled Tbilisi with the Abkhazian issue.
Abkhazians once again made an appeal to Moscow on restoration of the Abkhaz SSR that existed from 1921 to 1931 at a gathering of thousands in Lykhny village on March 18, 1989. Stanislav Lakoba, historian, professor of the Abkhazian State University and a future major politician, was its author. Georgian students and staff of the university, where the teaching was in Abkhaz, Georgian and Russian languages, made a requirement to allocate a Georgian sector of the university as a separate higher education institution and make it a branch of Tbilisi State University in response to this step.
Nana worked as a teacher of English and Latin at the university at that time. "An Abkhazian woman sat at the department next to me and she was ready to blow my brains out because I am Georgian. It was impossible to work under the same roof. Almost all the Georgians left the university because of such tensions in 1989", - she tells.
The split of the university was not the only event of this kind in Abkhazia. Not only the "title" Abkhazians, but also Georgians, as the majority, felt themselves in fetters - by the local national hierarchy in which they were the second, - and demanded their own public institutions. "There was one theater in Sukhumi, of the Georgian and Abkhaz drama, - remembers the head of the public organization Abhazinterkont Archil Elbakidze, refugee from Sukhumi. - Georgians and Abkhazians have quarreled among themselves - the Georgians built a new theater, then the Union Abkhazia writers divided. The football team then split into Sukhumi Dynamo and Abkhaz Dynamo. Georgian historians split, so did the parliament and the population: the neighbor went against the neighbor, strife in families began".
Meanwhile, already roaming Georgia held mass rallies in response to Lyhninsky gathering. The largest of them was held on April 4, 1989 in the center of Tbilisi. Georgians had already believed that Moscow manipulates the Abkhaz question to suppress the movement for secession from the USSR. The rally against the independence of Abkhazia soon grew into a rally for the independence of Georgia and its scope have put the Soviet leadership to a standstill. Official Tbilisi asked Moscow to send troops. The communist leadership tried to put pressure on the protesters, but following this reaction was just the opposite of what they hoped. So, still not knowing how to "clean up" the center of Tbilisi from demonstrators, one hundred of which were on a hunger strike, the first secretary of the Communist Party of Georgia Djumber Patiashvili decided to demonstrate military force.
As stated in the report of the commission headed by the deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR Anatoliy Sobchak as a result of the events that followed, "on the morning of 04/08/89, the city was circled of 3 squadrons of military helicopters at low altitude, and about noon military vehicles with armed soldiers proceeded on the streets of Tbilisi on three routes. This action has played a provocative role. In response to it, individual groups of protesters began to seize vehicles and cordon off Rustaveli Avenue and exits to the surrounding prospect streets... At the same time lots of people began to gather on the square... Thus, a direct result of the demonstration of military force was a sharp increase in the number of protesters".
"In this complicated situation it would be better to wait with the decision about the forced termination of the rally, but the party leadership, which lost the ability to assess and manage the actual processes taking place in the republic, did not see any other way out of this situation other than the use of force", - the commission reported.
On the night of April 9, when the force was used, there were about 10 thousand protesters in front of the government building. Dispersal of demonstrators was done with the sadistic cruelty, using tear gas and firearms. Military attacked even ambulances, which arrived to pick up the wounded. On the blocked square the assault with the use of toxic substances led to the strangulation of 19 people, one protester was shot dead. Anatoliy Sobchak’s commission also stated that the participants of the operation tried to deny illegal use of gas, but were forced to confess "under the pressure of irrefutable evidence".
"Despite the efforts of Moscow, some demonstrations In Tbilisi continued on Monday (April 10 – OstroV), where the presence of troops increased. Armored personnel carriers and tanks were reportedly parked in urban areas, and a curfew was imposed. The general strike closed schools, shops and factories, and stopped some public transport,"- The Los Angeles Times wrote on April 11, 1989.
The second Georgian Sukhumi University has been recognized illegal by Moscow, but the Georgians did not pay any attention to it. The Sukhumi city school №1 gave room for the new university. On July 15, the university admissions office was to begin its work. But on the night of July 15, said Nana, "Abkhazians attacked the school and smashed all that was in the Georgian language… Books, notebooks… One young employee was nearly killed - luckily, at the morgue they discovered that he was alive. It finally became clear we can no longer work together, and in September the university was registered as the Sukhumi branch of Tbilisi state University. We have started to work in that school, which was later renovated".
The conflict around the university in Sukhumi led to mass clashes in Abkhazia, which lasted about two weeks. The situation continued to deteriorate in 1990 and 1991, when Zviad Gamsakhurdia came to power and Georgia gained independence. "The dissident, linguist, nationalist, who was unable to create a consensus in society, when the policy is a culture of consensus, - historian David Jishkariani says about the first president of independent Georgia. - There are a lot of myths around him. "Zviad Gamsakhurdia was a fierce nationalist". He was the same nationalist as were the first presidents of all post-Soviet countries, except where the first presidents were former communists”.
At this time in Abkhazia national and cultural organizations began to form. Under their guise militia groups formed. First, in 1989, a People's Forum of Abkhazia Aidgilara ("Unity") emerged, which played a major role in the confrontation around the University. Then - the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, the Russian Slavic house, Armenian Krunk and others.
On the other hand, political chaos prevailed in Tbilisi and other regions of the country. In Georgia there was a large number of armed groups not controlled by the central government, not subject to any of the military hierarchy, and loyal only to their field commanders.
As stated in the Human Rights Watch report on the events of 1992-1993, published in March 1995, "ethnic sentiments were involved in gangs and other paramilitaries who carried out ethnic chauvinist agenda of worst grades to serve their personal goals".
In 1990, elections to the Abkhazia local parliament were held. For the first time it was formed according to the quota principle - another concession, reclaimed by Abkhazians. Abkhazians, as a national minority in region, received 28 seats, Georgians (half of the population) got 26 seats, 11 more seats went to representatives of other nationalities. Later the local and central authorities ensued tough opposition with blocking each other's initiatives. For example, when Georgia refused to participate in the All-Union referendum on the future of the Soviet Union, the Abkhaz leadership has decided to held it by declaring the result of 98 percent of the vote for the preservation of the Union.
Meanwhile, the policy of Zviad Gamsakhurdia became increasingly authoritarian. By the beginning of 1992, he quickly lost his power and the support of the community, but he was able to maintain popularity in western Georgia, where he was born. The former prominent Soviet official, historian Eduard Shevardnadze then came to power. An armed confrontation between the supporters of the deposed and acting heads of state began in Georgia, and for a while Tbilisi lost its interest for Abkhazia.
Historian Svetlana Chervonnaya claimed that prior to the beginning of 1992 fighting, the Abkhaz officials and public institutions were also thoroughly infiltrated by agents of the former KGB. "In those years a lot of strong, with a military bearing men came to Abkhazia who, judging by their statements and medical certificates, could not live outside the subtropical climate of the region. Under the "roof"of innocent recreation centers, health centers, theaters, medical, scientific institutions, were people who were not related to culture or to science,"- she wrote.
Nazi and her husband decided to send three older children to grandparents to the western town of Zugdidi in August 1992. Magda, Nazi’s daughter, recalls that her mother did not allow her to take her new school supplies, confident that the conflict will end soon and children would come back home. But the normal academic year in Abkhazia did not begin. Instead, a few days after the departure of Magda, her sister and brother, the real war came to the region.
Loss of Tskhinvali
However, the war started in Tskhinvali even earlier. In 1989, the South Ossetian autonomy within Georgia demanded a status of a union republic too.
Dmitriy Sanakoyev, who held senior positions in the breakaway South Ossetia in the 1990s, served in army in the Baltic States in the late 1980s. "I returned to Georgia on the night of April 9-10, 1989, when there were mass protests with the victims in Tbilisi, - he says. - I did not even realize where I arrived. The state was falling apart. There were some movements in Tskhinvali too... I think that our extreme nationalism failed us, both the Georgian side and the Ossetian side. Any discussion on a national basis was regarded as opposition, and the government, as we have seen, was already very weak and It did not interfere with it. The genie was let out of the bottle".
The situation bacame serious only at the end of 1990, when parliamentary elections were to be held in Georgia. In South Ossetia the election was blocked, they held their local parliament election. New Georgian parliament, headed by Zviad Gamsakhurdia, deprived South Ossetia of autonomy in response. There were already hard clashes between Ossetians and Georgians all over the region.
"We were still trying to dialogue. The Georgian youth tried to tell us what is Georgia because we considered the Soviet Union as our homeland for a long time. But then there was fighting and bloodshed. We didn’t think that the Georgian government could protect us. And we found an excuse for those young boys, who first took sticks, then double-barreled guns and then the machine guns and grenades, - says Dmitriy Sanakoev, who was one of those boys in South Ossetia. - We thought that first of all we should protect our families. Banditry flourished not only in South Ossetia, but throughout the entire Georgia, harming all of the nationalities. Someone put it as an example of how aggressive the Georgian authorities are and the argument why we need to stand up for our freedom".
In December Georgia announced a state of emergency in South Ossetia and imposed an economic blockade. Russian interior troops came into the region. The first military clashes began in the spring of 1991, Georgian forces several times tried to enter Tskhinvali, but only destroyed the city and surrounding villages. In response, Ossetians burned Georgian villages in South Ossetia. Along with the regular military forces there were different, sometimes not controlled by anyone, groups of militants, which used the chaos for looting and violence.
The journalist of Radio Liberty Goga Aptsiauri in 1991 was a tenth grade student in Gori - the Georgian town next to Tskhinvali. "In the 90s, when there were clashes, Ossetians lived here in the Georgian villages, - he recalls. - Armed Georgian nationalists forced them to leave. I myself lived in the area where there were mostly Ossetians. When the armed Georgians suddenly entered the area, we were the only Georgian family there. All local Ossetians came to our house, so we saved them. They all hid in one room. My mother said the Georgians that the Ossetians were gone long ago. Then Ossetians quietly left during the night... they were afraid. The Georgians have done many bad things in the first year of the war".
In the second year of the war, in January 1992, South Ossetia held a referendum on independence and unification with Russia. When in the summer of 1992, the situation again began to heat up in Abkhazia, Eduard Shevardnadze was forced to sign Sochi agreement with Russia to end the South Ossetian conflict. A number of Georgian and several Ossetian villages, which had been a part of the Soviet autonomy of South Ossetia, remained under the control of Georgia.
War for Abkhazia
On June 24 1992, the day when Eduard Shevardnadze signed an agreement with Boris Yeltsin, the military seized the Interior Ministry building in Sukhumi - one of the few ministries, still headed by a Georgian, a devotee of Tbilisi. On July 23, when Tbilisi was occupied by opposition with Zviadists, Sukhumi Parliament actually declared independence of Abkhazia. At night on August 11, in western Georgia, which was controlled by the supporters of the deposed Gamsakhurdia, there were a number of bandit attacks on trains. On the same day Zviadists took to Abkhazia 11 high-ranking Georgian hostage officials who came to negotiate for the release of other hostages of high rank, captured in July.
It is believed that the central government sent troops to the western Georgia and Abkhazia to protect the railway and to the release of the hostages, followed by a provocation of the Abkhaz authorities. "I was in the presidium of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia, where Ardzinba himself requested government troops to guard the railway, - the chairman of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia in exile Elguja (Gia) Gvazava says, who was then a deputy of the Abkhazian Supreme Council in Sukhumi. - In Gudauta freight trains were robbed, then this repeated in Ochamchire. Ardzinba asked Edward the Great (Shevardnadze - OstroV) to send at least 5 thousand people to guard the railway in Abkhazia. But as soon as police showed up near the railway, it was shelled, several people were killed. This situation was used to begin the conflict".
However, both parties do not tell everything. According to some reports, the guarding of the railway was just a cover, under which either Shevardnadze, or formally under the control of Tbilisi's military commanders hoped to return the breakaway province under the control of Tbilisi.
On the other hand, the chairman of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia Vladislav Ardzinba (of course, a historian) was probably ready for such a step to find a sufficiently strong argument to start full-scale war with Georgia. When Georgian troops came to Sukhumi, he made a radio speech, calling people to war. Ardzinba himself, however, later claimed that on the day of the invasion of Georgian troops he tried to contact with Boris Yeltsin, but could not reach him. And he made the conclusion that the attack was coordinated with Moscow. Today we can say that both Ardzinba and Shevardnadze tried to flirt with Russia.
Whatever it was, but on August 18, the Georgian troops which were poorly controlled by Tbilisi, entered Sokhumi and then gained control of most of Abkhazia. Authors of the Human Rights Watch report wrote that Georgian troops began looting and abuse the civilians, mostly Abkhazians, so many had to leave the city.
This was probably the most fatal mistake of the Georgian side - if one can name separately existing, poorly controlled groups as a "side". The Abkhaz side considered that the actions of the Georgian soldiers give them moral right for war and terrible ethnic cleansing afterwards. Russian volunteers and "volunteers" from the KGB also justified their presence in Abkhazia in the same way, according to Human Rights Watch. The actions of the Georgian military in Sukhumi then played a cruel joke with the remaining there civilian Georgians: the Russians and Abkhazians, who were fighting to gain Sukhumi, did not think that they should spare anyone.
But a similar situation was in the towns that remained under the control of anti-government forces. Abkhazian, North Caucasian fighters and Russian Cossacks robbed and humiliated Georgians who stayed there. Human Rights Watch noted that both sides were not really concerned about the problems of the civilian population. "We, the Georgian population of Abkhazia, did not have any support, - says Gia Gvazava. - Abkhazians had Russia, and we had no one to support us".
Meanwhile, Russia continued its "simultaneous chess game". On the one hand, as a peacemaker, it imported humanitarian aid, exported civilians and imposed economic sanctions against both Georgia and breakaway Abkhazia. On the other hand the Russian military participated in the fighting and handed out weapons to groups or individuals who have used or have been able to use them to commit atrocities. Abkhazia, which met the first Georgia’s attack only with light weapons, soon gained the entire arsenal of modern army. Military vessels and aircraft, which the Abkhaz side did not posess, were also used against Georgians.
On August 22, the leadership of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus ordered to transfer volunteers to Abkhazia "for armed resistance to the aggressors" and announced all Georgians to be hostages "on the territory of the Confederation". Shamil Basayev was among others who came there to get their early combat experience.
On September 3, the parties have agreed on a truce with Moscow's mediation. Georgia, among other things, agreed to withdraw troops from Gagra. Russia announced the withdrawal of illegal armed units of the North Caucasus militants from Abkhazia. Another "truce" was signed on September 24 but the Georgian troops continued their attempts to dislodge the Abkhazians from territories they occupied. Abkhazia, in its turn, built up strength.
At that time, Nazi Naveriani remained in the city with her husband and 11-month-old son. The besieged Gagra started to starve. Nazi closed the restaurant and baked bread at home, then giving it to the hungry fellow citizens. They didn’t know anything about the fate of their older children. "I did not think that they survived," - Nazi said.
Zugdidi was controlled by the so-called Zviadists who occasionally clashed with government forces. "There was no light, no gas, all shops were closed, - Nasi’s daughter Magda says. - There were a lot of looters, it was scary to go out in the evening. Children were not allowed to go out. I remember that my grandfather did not sleep at night, he guarded us".
On October 2, Gagra was taken by the supporters of the Abkhaz government. Nazi managed to get to Tbilisi with her child. Her husband remained in Gagra. Later he was wounded by a sniper and fled through the forest towards the Russian border. Nazi heard news about him only when the family decided to hold his symbolic funeral.
The Abkhazian refugees returned home as armed soldiers. They brutally avenged local Georgians for the time when Gagra was in the hands of government troops. However, most of the atrocities were done by those whom witnesses did not identify as locals.
The battle for Sukhumi started in December 1992. Artist Guram Khubua sent his wife and three young children to Zugdidi, and stayed to protect his home. "They did not give any weapons to volunteers for three months because in there were government troops in Abkhazia, - he says. - Later everyone had to defend himself. In December they gave weapons to the people. Each volunteer defended his street".
Until mid-1993, the parties agreed on a truce several times, and each time it did not last long. The last one, which was signed in late July, obliged both sides to withdraw troops and heavy weapons. The truce lasted less than two months. "All Georgian tanks were withdrawn from Abkhazia, - Guram’s wife Natalia says. - We were told: academic year begins, return back home. And we did, but it turned out to be bluff".
Georgia was not able to quickly withdraw troops, because in western Georgia, at the administrative border with Abkhazia, fighting with Zviadists resumed. On September 16, claiming that the central government does not fulfill its obligations, the Abkhaz side has renewed the attacks. "By the time the Georgian army was gone from Sukhumi. There were only local volunteers, which were actually disarmed, - Guram recalls. - We were not able to defend the town by ourselves for long". It fell on September 27.
From the report of The New York Times on September 28, 1993:
"On Saturday and Sunday, he tried to revive the demoralized Georgian troops, imploring exhausted soldiers and even his personal guard to fight. But on Monday, a few hours before the rebels took the city center, Shevardnadze left Sukhumi. At least 500 Georgian soldiers were reportedly killed during the two-week siege and more than 2 000 were injured. The location of Zhiuli Shartava, the head of the Georgian government in Abkhazia, is not known. Georgian embassy in Moscow reported that he was captured and executed by the Abkhazians. Shevardnadze said that the rebels "executed dozens of officials, police officers and civillians". Approximately 20 000 civilians were in the city at that time, and thousands are now trying to escape".
"I am convinced that the occupation plan of Sukhumi was drawn up in the Russian headquarters," - said Shevardnadze, former Soviet foreign minister. Western diplomats avoided accusations in Russia’s direct intervention, but in fact every Georgian in Sukhumi shared the opinion of Shevardnadze. "We are not fighting with Abkhazians, - said Nanar (real name Nodar - OstroV) Natadze, a 64-year-old Shevardnadze’s advisor. - We are at war with Russia. We are likely to suffer defeat, but Georgia will rise again". Russian nationalists supported the separatists. Russian officers were captured in battle, the Russian pilots bodies were found in the Russian aircrafts shot down by Georgians earlier this year.
"In addition to the heavy artillery, rocket launchers, and missiles with thermal system, Abkhazian troops were armed with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weapons. The Georgians were armed mainly with machine guns. In the framework of the truce, signed by Shevardnadze on July 27, Georgian troops were forced to withdraw or disable all heavy weapons in the region. The Abkhaz forces were obliged to do the same. Then, saying that Georgians delay the withdrawal, the Abkhazians hit on September 16".
Flight from Sukhumi
Nana Gogia and her father did not leave Sukhumi in time. They only managed to send the sick mother to relatives in Senaki in western Georgia, and get to the city suburbs, where a small boat came to deliver people who fled from Abkhazia on the Ukrainian ship, which was located nearby. Many were on duty day and night on the dock only to get on that ship.
"Suddenly several helicopters started to bombard the dock, - in a trembling voice Nana tells about their third day of attempts to flee from Abkhazia. - Women with children threw all their belongings and fled, but some people stayed, including my father and me. I said: "Does it matter where we die - on the docks, or at home?" The whole city was burning. I do not even want to recall it... The sky was red, though it was not night, it was a daytime. When they finally took us and I realized that we will not die, I looked at Sukhumi from the sea... I can not put that into words... From morning to night two boats carried people from the dock to the ship. Helicopters bombarded the docks a few more times. They saw that there were mainly women and children, but they bombarded anyway".
Gia Gvazava stayed in Sukhumi until the evening of September 28: "When they took the city on the night of September 27-28, we were at the airport, waiting for the morning. There was heavy shooting, and after 15-20 minutes, Shevardnadze and several other people came. He was waiting for a vip-aircraft, but it turned out that there was no pilot. We asked the head of the airport to find the plane for the president, and in the morning of September 28, up to 70 people flew with him. I had to stay because people kept coming and my brother and mother were still in Sukhumi. In the evening of September 28, when it became clear that the city was taken and they can attack the airport any time, another old plane without seats was accidentally discovered. It took about 300 passengers. We were shelled, the plane suddenly lost height and flew to Kutaisi at a very low altitude over the sea. I flew back to Ochamchira, Abkhazia by a helicopter. I gave my word to the soldiers who remained in Sukhumi that we will help to open the road from Ochamchire. The road was open and they all passed. Ochamchire was taken on September 30".
Guram was able to get to his family after the fall of Sukhumi. The only way out of the burning region was through the Svaneti mountains - the most desperate option, which people had to take. "When it all started, we ran to Tsebelda, where our grandmother lived, but there was no way back, - Natalia says. - The only way out was through the Svaneti mountains. We drove to the mountains all day, then we left the car taking only the most valuable things. We went by foot for four or five days".
Many did not survive this passage - people were dying of starvation. Local people behaved differently. Some welcomed fleeing countrymen as their family. Others robbed them, taking away the last belongings. The oldest daughter of Natalia and Guram was 6 years old, the middle son was 4.5 years, the youngest was 2.5 years old. Guram still can not understand how they managed to walk for that long.
Tens of thousands of people who fled the terror in Abkhazia, came into a ruined and half-starved Tbilisi, whose residents themselves have forgotten about such benefits of civilization as heat and electricity. The calls for internally displaced people to go back home started to appear on the pillars and walls of the Georgian capital.
The civil war continued in Georgia until the end of 1993. Supporters of Zviad Gamsakhurdia took city after city, including the port of Poti and an important railway junction Samtredia. They threatened to reach Tbilisi. It is believed that a desperate situation has forced Eduard Shevardnadze to a decision, which Georgia vehemently opposed - to agree to membership in the CIS, which at that time was seen as a quasi-USSR with the undisputed domination of Russia. In late October, Russian troops entered Georgia, putting an end to the Zviadists’ success. Zviad Gamsakhurdia died under mysterious circumstances on "approximately December 31", 1993 in Chechnya, where he had been since he lost authority in Tbilisi. In early 1994, Georgia agreed to let Russian "peacekeeping" forces into Abkhazia.
"I am Manana Hvingiya, born 21.12.1950 in Sukhumi, lonely idle pensioner. I worked as ophthalmic physician at the eye department of the Republican Hospital for 15 years. On August 27, 1994, an irresistible longing for home and the graves of my relatives forced me to cross the Russian-Abkhaz border in Adler and go home. My house at 124 Kuibyshev Str, was occupied by residents of Tkvarcheli town, Valery Agrba and his family, where they live up until now. I went to my neighbors, the Armenians. On September 15, 1994 I was kidnapped by an international gang for ransom. On September 23, 1994, I was rescued by a military group of Interior Ministry in Sukhumi, and the same day placed in the bullpen, where I was waiting for my execution. Only on October 5 1994, thanks to the efforts of the International Red Cross, the issues between the KGB and the Interior Ministry over me have been resolved and I was taken to Adler...".
Manana wrote this letter in two copies: one in Russian for me, the second in Georgian to the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons. For nearly a quarter of century living away from home and without a home, Manana is trying to apply for the resettlement of IDPs. It was her who introduced me to Nazi, who came to the Ministry to apply for her son. "Manana was a very skilled and famous doctor", - later Nazi told me. Manana treated her husband after a heavy accident.
Manana went from Abkhazia in early 1993 to briefly visit her brother. It turned out she went for good. But back in 1994, she still was not going to live with it.
Manana says that two groups hunted her in Abkhazia. The first consisted of the common criminals who were hired from Adler by friends of her uncle - to get a ransom. The second was Abkhaz KGB staff, on a tip from the new occupant of her house, who wanted just to kill her. By kidnapping her, the first group actually saved her from the second. But the situation was complicated even more after the storming of the house, where she was held, Manana got into the hands of the de facto authorities of Abkhazia.
I walk around Tbilisi together with Manana. To the Ministry of IDPs, where people are put in a queue on the basis of points to receive housing from the state, to the administration of veterans in another ministry, to meet with Gia Gvazava... Somehow it happened that the chief doctor, who worked with her in one office, didn’t include Manana into the lists of veteran doctors of the Georgian-Abkhaz war. Manana had to look for the people who worked with her in a belligerent Abkhazia and could prove that before the court. It would give her one more point, when first in line are those with seven or eight points...
"Last year I took a survey, - says Manana. - This is a process, when you fill in certain documents: where, with whom you live, what property you own, what is your financial situation, what productsyou use - up to the toilet paper. As I have no husband, no children, I'm not an invalid for health reasons, I have very little chance to get an apartment quickly. I was given three points. They are for a single woman, a studio apartment. There apperared to be a lot of people like me, it is a kind of another queue".
Manana does not want to tell where she had been living all these years and "on what concrete floor she slept". Manana can not count how many times she changed the housing after the forced departure of Abkhazia. On one June evening, in the house where she temporarily stopped, little fragile Manana, sitting cross-legged on the her bed and looking up at me with huge black eyes, said: "When I will have a small studio apartment, if only I could afford lots linens and mattresses! Everybody will live at my place, there will be enough room! Is this not happiness?"
It is believed that as a result of Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflict, there were about 300 000 internally displaced persons in Georgia. Many were settled in hotels and hostels, where they live up till now.
Vephiya Mikautadze lives in one of such former hotels in Kutaisi. Vephiya says that once there was a good hotel. But today it is not more thant a crumbling facade, broken pipes and gloomy dark corridors... Vephiya has been living here since 2006. "We left on September 27, after the Abkhaz took Sukhumi. We were last to ran. When I got on the ship, there were no longer places in hotels." - he says. In recent years, people began to leave these hotel rooms - they slowly settled, some on their own, while others - with the help of the government.
Former hotel in Kutaisi, where discplaced residents from Abkhazia live
But the waiting list for housing is moving very slowly. After more than 20 years after the end of the conflict, the grown up children from these families apply, ousting those who have been waiting since the 1990s.
To be continued…
Yuliia Abibok, OstroV