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•Andersen- Ethnic Makeup of Abkhazia




Andrew Andersen (Ed.)








Leaving aside dramatic changes of  Abkhazia’s population during the periods of Ottoman and Russian expansion, as well as the complicated ethnic composition of the Apsua people that included Adygh, Georgian and other elements, we would like to offer you here an outline of Abkhazian ethnic history of the 20th century only.

According to the 1897 census, the ethnic makeup of the district of Sukhum and the district of Sochi (that included a part of modern Abkhazia and historically was often incorporated into it) looked as follows:


The below excerpt from the ethnic map of the South Caucasus by Andrew Andersen and George Partskhaladze based on the variety of Russian statistics of the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries depicts rather complicated ethnic palette of Abkhazia where predominantly Georgian settlements are lemon-colored and predominantly Apsuan settlements are ghost-greenish. Pink color goes for Armenians, golden for Greeks, light brown for Russians, and light blue for the settlements with German and Estonian majorities.



Please keep in mind that the above map does not show the variations of population density which was much higher, for example, around Sukhum and lower near Lykhny or Tamysh.

The population of the towns of Sochi and Sukhum also increased dramatically but there are no data regarding its exact ethnic composition prior to the beginning of the First World War.

(NB: Here we use the old turkified and russified names of some towns like, for example, “Sukhum” or “Tamysh” because those were official place names in 1901-1918)



Almost three years of Georgia’s independence and 58 years of Soviet domination that followed, resulted in some changes in the ethnic makeup of the  province



The below map shows ethnic composition of Abkhazia and surrounding districts of Georgia, as of 1989.

Please click on it for better resolution


The next map below (unfortunately, in Russian) shows ethnic composition of Abkhazia’s 6 districts and two major cities before ethnic cleansing.

The “pies” clearly show that Georgians (red section) formed the largest ethnic group except Gagra, Gudauta and Tkwarcheli districts. In Gagra ethnic majority was shared almost equally between Georgians an Armenians (yellow section) whereas Apsua (green section) were dominant in Gudauta and Tkwarcheli. In the district of Gali, Georgians formed almost 100% of total population.





The below results of 1997 census  demonstrate the shocking decrease of Abkhazia’s population from 535 061 in 1992, to 145 986 in 1997. That leaves Abkhazia with the total loss of 71% of its pre-war population in spite of the fact that right after ethnic cleansing, Abkhazia accepted thousands of immigrants from Russia, Turkey and Arab countries.

More than half of Abkhazia’s pre-war population was massacred or forced to flee to Georgia, Russia, Greece, Israel and other countries, their property confiscated, re-sold or destroyed.

In many cases Georgians were slaughtered not only for their ethnic background but for Georgian last names or “Georgian appearance”





The below map shows ethnic composition of Abkhazia’s 6 districts and two major cities after ethnic cleansing.

The “pies” now show that Apsua (green section) became dominant in 4 out of 6 districts  except Gulripshi and Gali where Georgians are still the largest group (red section) and in both the cities of Sukhumi and Ochamchire formed the largest ethnic group except Gagra, Gudauta and Tkwarcheli districts.





 Brook, S. –  Population of the World, (Rus.), Moscow, Nauka, 1986

 Nadareishvili, T. –  Plot against Georgia, (Rus.), Tbilisi, Pirveli Stamba, 2002

One Response to “•Andersen- Ethnic Makeup of Abkhazia”

  1. Tanna Mcmaster said

    Great read. Thanks for the info!


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