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Home>> Wold City Guide >> Abkhazia

Abkhazia

Area: 8600 sq km Capital: Sukhumi
Big Cities: Kutaisi,Batoumi,Sokhumi, Currency: Russian Ruble
Language: Georgian 71% (official), Russian 9%, Armenian 7%, Azerbaijani 6%, other 7% (Abkhaz is the official language in Abkhazia) Religions: Georgian Orthodox 65%, Muslim 11%, Russian Orthodox 10%
Industries: steel, aircraft, machine tools, electrical appliances, mining (manganese and copper), chemicals, wood products, wine. Leaders: Abkhaz,Russian.
Resources: forests, hydropower, manganese deposits, iron ore, copper, minor coal and oil deposits; coastal climate and soils allow for important tea and citrus growth. Exports: scrap metal, machinery, chemicals; fuel reexports; citrus fruits, tea, wine.
 
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History Of Abkhazia : Originally colonized in the 6th cent. B.C. by the Greeks, the region later came under Roman and Byzantine rule. In the 8th cent. a leader of the Abkhaz tribe formed an independent kingdom that became part of Georgia in the 10th cent. In 1578 the Turks conquered the area and gradually converted it to Islam. By a treaty with the Abkhazian dukes, Russia acquired Sukhumi in 1810 and declared a protectorate over all Abkhazia, which was formally annexed in 1864.After a presidential election in Oct., 2004, that apparently ended in a slim victory for opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh, allegations of fraud from the Russian-supported runner-up, Prime Minister Raul Khajimba, resulted in a call for a new election, and a governmental impasse ensued. The issue was resolved when Bagapsh, who was widely believed to have won despite fraud on Khajimba's side, agreed to a new election (Jan., 2005) in which Khajimba was his running mate. Russia's failed attempt to manipulate a presidential victory for Khajimba, despite Bagapsh's own pro-Moscow leanings, was generally seen as a significant blunder.In the 16th century, after the break-up of the united Georgian Kingdom, the area was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, during this time some Abkhazians converted to Islam. The Ottomans were pushed out by the Georgians, who established an autonomous Principality of Abkhazia (abxazetis samtavro in Georgian), ruled by the Shervashidze dynasty (aka Sharvashidze, or Chachba).As the Soviet Union began to disintegrate at the end of the 1980s, ethnic tensions grew between the Abkhaz and Georgians over Georgia's moves towards independence. Many Abkhaz opposed this, fearing that an independent Georgia would lead to the elimination of their autonomy, and argued instead for the establishment of Abkhazia as a separate Soviet republic in its own right. The dispute turned violent on 16 July 1989 in Sukhumi. Sixteen Georgians are said to have been killed and another 137 injured when they tried to enroll in a Georgian University instead of an Abkhaz one. After several days of violence, Soviet troops restored order in the city and blamed rival nationalist paramilitaries for provoking confrontations.Nowadays, you would barely know that any Georgians had lived in Sukhumi as traces of their heritage have been removed. And the Greek community of the city, amongst which Ioannidi grew up, has virtually disappeared. What Stalin began and the Georgian warlords continued, the Greek government helped complete by sending a big empty cruise ship to evacuate a thousand Greek citizens from Abkhazia at the end of the war in what they grandly called Operation Golden Fleece. Conflicting parties often find the thought of being on speaking terms with those who have allegedly committed atrocities against them to be unacceptable. Inter-group violence involves regular armed forces, but it also attracts uncontrolled, disparate armed groups lead by warlords or common criminals. These irregular forces gain prominence during the conflict, a prominence they are likely to lose once the peace process is on track. Though they have no vested interest in the specifics of a settlement, their lack of hierarchic control puts them in a position to derail the settlement process by not complying with agreements or by breaking fragile cease-fires.

Geography Of Abkhazia :  largely mountainous with Great Caucasus Mountains in the north and Lesser Caucasus Mountains in the south; Kolkhet'is Dablobi (Kolkhida Lowland) opens to the Black Sea in the west; Mtkvari River Basin in the east; good soils in river valley flood plains, foothills of Kolkhida Lowland .Abkhazia covers an area of about 8,600 km² at the western end of Georgia, on the north shore of the Black Sea. The Caucasus Mountains to the north and the northeast divide Abkhazia from Circassia. To the east, the region is bordered by Svanetia. To the southeast, Abkhazia is bounded by Samegrelo; and on the south and southwest by the Black Sea.The landscapes of Abkhazia range from coastal forests (endemic pine forests near Bichvinta/Pitsunda) and citrus plantations, to eternal snows and glaciers to the north of the republic. Because of Abkhazia's complex topographic setting, most of the territory has been spared from significant human cultivation and development. Therefore, a large portion of Abkhazia (nearly 70% of the territory) is still covered by forests today. The Bzyb is the largest river of Abkhazia in the Western Caucasus. It flows down from the Caucasus Major into the Black Sea in two branches. Length: 110 km. watershed area: 1,510 sq. km.Its valley borders the Bzyb Range, Gagra Range and some other ranges of Caucasus Major. A road from the Black Sea to the famous Lake Ritsa runs along the valley.The river is popular for kayaking and rafting.Georgia is bordered by the Black Sea in the west, by Turkey and Armenia in the south, by Azerbaijan in the east, and Russia in the north. The republic also includes the Abkhazia and Ajara autonomous republics and South Ossetia.

Climate and Weather Of Abkhazia : Georgia's climate is affected by subtropical influences from the west and mediterranean influences from the east. The Greater Caucasus range moderates local climate by serving as a barrier against cold air from the north. Warm, moist air from the Black Sea moves easily into the coastal lowlands from the west. Climatic zones are determined by distance from the Black Sea and by altitude. The plains of eastern Georgia are shielded from the influence of the Black Sea by mountains that provide a more continental climate. Summer temperatures average 20° C to 24° C, winter temperatures 2° C to 4° C. Humidity is lower, and rainfall averages 500 to 800 millimeters per year.At higher elevations, precipitation is sometimes twice as heavy as in the eastern plains. In the west, the climate is subtropical to about 650 meters; above that altitude (and to the north and east) is a band of moist and moderately warm weather, then a band of cool and wet conditions. Alpine conditions begin at about 2,100 meters, and above 3,600 meters snow and ice are present year-round.Georgia's climate is affected by subtropical influences from the west and Mediterranean influences from the east. The Greater Caucasus range moderates local climate by serving as a barrier against cold air from the north. The relatively small territory covers different climatic zones, which are determined by distance from the Black Sea and by altitude. The climatic zones are ranging from humid subtropical to the eternal snow and glaciers. Georgia is divided into two different climatic regions: west part - humid, warm and east –moderately warm, continental climate. Alpine and highland regions in the east and west, as well as semiarid region on the Iori Plateau to the southeast have distinct microclimates. Alpine conditions start at 2,100 meters and above 3,600 meters year-round snow and ice is present.In general, the best time to visit is from mid April through October, when days are warm or hot. Tbilisi can be very hot in July and August. Evenings tend to be cool, even in the summer. The climate varies considerably from east to west; in the eastern mountains, the weather is dryer and more extreme. The western part of Georgia, near the Black Sea, has a more moderate climate. No matter when you go, be sure to take along a sweater for the cool evenings.Georgia's climate is affected by subtropical influences from the west and Mediterranean influences from the east. The Greater Caucasus range moderates local climate by serving as a barrier against cold air from the north. The relatively small territory covers different climatic zones, which are determined by distance from the Black Sea and by altitude. The climatic zones are ranging from humid subtropical to the eternal snow and glaciers.

Culture Of Abkhazia :  Of all the arts that have been developed and practiced throughout Georgian history, none surpasses architecture as an expression of the nation's artistic vision and heritage. It is difficult to know whether this phenomenon is a direct result of the Georgians affinity for and skill with stone, whether its springs from certain edicts of Eastern Orthodoxy that inhibited sculptural representation, or whether it evolved from a people's need to build and rebuild monuments to their nation and their faith in the face of ceaseless incursions and conquerors. Whatever the underlying reason for such a magnificent 1,300-year tradition, the traveler to Georgia cannot but be amazed at the degree of artistry and creativity that gave birth to these treasures. The turn of the seventh century was an epoch of extraordinary architectural achievement, as the early tentative forms with which Georgian architects struggled to achieve their vision found harmonious completion. The tetraconch Church of Dzhvari is perhaps the shining example of this artistic triumph. original in design and conception, it soon became a model for many other architects. Sioni Ateni, Dzveli Shuamta, Martvili, and Dranda are all churches classified as of the Dzhvari type.Only the Georgian artistic achievements in metalwork can be compared to those of architecture during the Middle Ages. The craft has an illustrious pedigree in the Caucasus that goes back to the third millennium BC. From the barrow graves in Trialeti we already know that the ancestors of the Georgian were accomplished in smelting, forging, soldering, stamping, and embossing articles of the greatest delicacy as early as the Bronze Age (from the second millennium to the beginning of the first millennium BC).The most ancient folk tales are about the Atzan midgets and the giant Narts. The Atzans were so small that they could walk on the stems of leaves, but they also displayed great physical power and courage. The downfall of the Atzans came when they rejected the existence of any authority, even God. They defiled their water sources, and committed other sacrileges that compelled God to destroy them by fire. The Nart epics are shared by peoples throughout the North Caucasus. The Narts were warriors who fought, hunted, feasted, and engaged in martial games. they were the hundred giant sons of the same mother, Sataney-guasha, who was known for her great beauty, perennial youth, and wisdom. Her husband became old and feeble, and was not held in esteem. The brothers had one sister named Gunda whose beauty and gentleness drove her sisters-in-law to plot to kill Gunda, for which they were punished. The Nart tales depict the mother-in-law as the victim of her scheming daughters-in-law, unlike European tales, where mothers-in-law are the most likely villains.Georgian music culture is acknowledged in many countries of the world. composers G. Kancheli, S. Tsintsadze, S. Nasidze, Conductor - J. Kakhidze, Violinists - L. Isakadze, M. Iashvili, Piano players - E. Virsaladze, L. Toradze, Singer - P. Burchuladze, laureate of a number of international competitions - Georgian State String Quartet, Georgian State Chamber Music Orchestra enjoy the success in the leading concert halls of the world.

Foods In Abkhazia :Georgian cuisine is considered one of the main attractions for tourists in Georgia. Georgian cuisine is very specific to the Caucasus region and offers a variety of dishes, mostly high in salt and fat. Each historical province of Georgia has its own distinct culinary tradition, though Georgian food is similar throughout the country. Although Georgian food does offer a variety of vegetarian meals, Georgian cuisine is mostly based around various meat dishes. Georgian cuisine is not very varied: the same dishes are often eaten at each dinner.The food differs from region to region within Northwestern Georgia, but its Mingrelian cuisine is perhaps its most famous, which is notably spicier than most Georgian food, and is just generally delicious.Each part of Georgia has its unique cuisine with flavours derived from spice combinations, but as a rule, a focus on herbs and garlic predominates.Cafes and restaurants mostly serve Georgian and more traditional European food, while fast food restaurants offer local dishes such as khinkali, kabab, barbecue and khachapuri. For a breakfast with a difference, try the khachi, a soup of tripe, cow hoof and lots of garlic.Local dishes include pkhali (made from young spinach leaves pounded together with spices) and cured meat (basturma). Georgians pride themselves, with some justification, on being the bons viveurs of the former Soviet Union, and their culinary tradition has survived better than most the dead hand of Soviet mass-catering. The cuisine makes extensive use of walnuts, which are used to thicken soups and sauces (anything including the word satsivi will be served in a rich sauce flavoured with herbs, garlic, walnuts and egg). Walnuts also feature as desserts, coated in caramelised sugar (gozinaki), or in churchkhela, when they are threaded on string then dipped in thickened, sweetened grape juice which is subsequently dried into chewy, flavoursome candles.Georgia, the country that invented wine, today produces more than 250 fine wines. Both delicious and ecologically sound, most of food in Georgia is organic.

Travell Guide and Tips : Life in Abkhazia is inexpensive. The main currency is the Russian ruble. The currency most easily exchanged is the US Dollar. It can be exchanged in any of the many banks in Gagra, Gudauta, and Sukhum. Credit cards are not readily accepted. It is a good idea to purchase some rubles before entering the country. Georgian currency is not accepted in Abkhazia, and it is a bad idea to try to use it or to flash it about in public places.Georgia doesn't exactly offer peak and off-peak travel seasons, so take your pick about when to head there. Travel is less restricted in summer - there's not much snow - so mid-year, when it is warm and sunny, but not overly hot, is a good option. July and particularly August are uncomfortably humid in many parts, and temperatures regularly reach 40°C (104°F). However, this is an excellent time to be in the mountains, where it is sunny and cool. This is also the peak season on the Black Sea.Formerly the holiday haunt of the privileged elite of the Soviet Union, Georgia is blessed with stunning scenery, a balmy climate and a rich variety of flora and fauna. Enclosed high valleys, wide basins, health spas with famous mineral waters, caves and waterfalls combine in this land of varied landscapes and striking beauty.Travellers should avoid all land borders with the Russian Federation.  Travellers should exercise particular caution in Svaneti, Pankisi valley, Zugdidi and Tsalenjika districts.
Travellers should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.The main type of incident for which British nationals have required consular assistance in Georgia in 2006 was for victims of crime, occasionally involving violence.  See the Crime section of this travel advice for more details .We advise against travel to the separatist regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and also the upper Kordori Valley (also known as upper Abkhazia). There is a risk of violence in these areas because of the continuing military and political tensions in these regions.You should not attempt to enter or leave Georgia via the land borders with the Russian Federation (i.e. Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia) as this is not permitted under Russian Federation law.  Since 2006 relations have deteriorated between Georgia and the Russian Federation. Russia has suspended most transport links, postal services, trade and bank operations with Georgia.Homosexuality is legal in Georgia, but is not thought widely acceptable in society.  This has not transposed into violence against homosexuals.The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that there have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in wild swans in the Adjara region of Georgia, 300km from Tbilisi.  No human infections or deaths have been reported.The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low. As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.Take precautions when using public transport. Buses, trolleybuses, and the metro are often crowded and best avoided. Car rental companies do not offer self-drive vehicles. Car hire with a chauffeur is available. Use only officially marked taxis, pre-negotiate fares, and do not share rides with strangers.Drive defensively, as traffic accidents are a common cause of injury and death. Ethnic conflicts, criminal activity, and fuel shortages have limited the creation of adequate infrastructure. Poor road conditions and driving standards, insufficient road markings, and inadequate lighting create hazards. A right turn on a red traffic light is illegal. Mountainous roads can be dangerous, especially in winter, as heavy snowfall may make them impassable. Pedestrians do not have right of way.

Things To Do : Marchriutkas are minibuses that operate on fixed lines. After finding out the number of your route, flag down a Marchriutka at the street. In Tbilisi, they will take you most anywhere for under half a lari. There are also Marchriutka lines from city to city. These usually terminate at bus stations. Definitely try out Georgian wine. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to export home-bottled wine, which is often the best kind. Georgian wines are actually quite famous. It may be true that they are unknown in the West, but this does definitely not include some 280 million people. This is roughly the population of former USSR where Georgian wines used to be a welcomed drink at any dining table.Outside of Tblisi (where there are numerous options for 3 star plus accommodation thanks the the NGO presence in the country) private homes are always the cheapest and most enjoyable option. If you can master a little basic Russian (which everyone speaks) going to the central square or market will probably land you a place to sleep and a hot meal for an an agreed price.