Abkhazia. Territory located in the southwestern slope of the Caucasus mountain range, with coasts in the Black Sea, and whose capital is the city of Sukhumi. It is a de facto independent republic since 1992 ; however Georgia considers it an autonomous republic belonging to that country, as does a large part of the international community.


According to Franciscogardening, the first settlements in Abkhazia date back to the 4th millennium (BC). These first tribes of Aryan origin (known to archaeologists as Proto-Kartvelians), would have arrived in the region during the Neolithic period, settling on the shores of the Black Sea. They were established along with other lineages, which later evolved into the Apsuas, Chechens, Dagestanis, Armenians and Arameans.

Since the second millennium (BC), Abkhazia was ravaged by invasions of peoples from the steppes of Central Asia, such as the Hittites, Celts, Medes and Persians. During those years, the Proto-Kartvelians formed three distinct ethnic groups: the Svans, the Zans, and the Eastern Kartvelians. While the svans remained in Abkhazia, the Kartvelians settled in the center of present-day Georgia, and the zans were distributed in Samegrelo province and along the shores of the Black Sea, as far as Turkey.

Kingdom of Colchis

Between the 9th and 6th centuries (BC), the kingdom of Colchis was established, annexing a large part of the areas inhabited by svans and zans. Under Colchian rule, Abkhazia received large numbers of Greek immigrants, who settled in colonies in the coastal area. Some cities founded were Pitiys, Dioscurias and Phasis, corresponding to the current Pitsunda, Sukhumi and Poti.

Since 653 (BC), the Caucasian kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia had to face several invasion attempts by the Persian Empire. The Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great exerted an important influence on the Caucasus area, although it was never incorporated into it. Quickly, there was an emergence of Hellenistic culture in Abkhaz territory, even being considered the official language of Greek.

As Alexander’s Hellenistic Empire fell, a long period of chaos and confusion ensued. An example of this was the founding in 302 (BC), by Mithridates I, of the Kingdom of Pontus, on the Turkish shores of the Black Sea. At the beginning of the year 120 (BC), King Mithridates VI Eupator began the conquest of Colchis. During those years, Mithridates allied with the kingdom of Greater Armenia to fight the invading Roman Empire led by Pompey. The lands of Abkhazia would be the scene of bloody battles until the fall of Pontus, in 63 BC.

Kingdom of Abkhazia

In 767, an achrontos (governor of the [[Byzantine Empire | Byzantine Empire) drove out the established Byzantine troops and proclaimed the independence of the Kingdom of Egrisi-Abkhazia, assuming as king under the name of Leo I of Abkhazia. The capital was established in Kutaisi and although at first it mixed local and Byzantine characteristics, over the years, Abkhazia was destroying the reminiscences of the old Empire, replacing them with Georgian customs. An example of this was the break between King Leo I and the Patriarch of Constantinople, which led to the conversion of Abkhazia to the Georgian Orthodox Church by the Patriarch of Mtshketa.

The defeats suffered by the Arabs allowed the formation of new states in the Caucasus. At the end of the 10th century, the King of David of Tao-Klarjeti conquered the Principality of Kartli. In the year 975, David left his adopted son as king of Kartli under the name of Bagrat III. After the death of Theodosius III, the Blind in 978, the Abkhaz throne was handed over to Bagrat, in his capacity as successor and nephew of the late king. With the death of David in 1001, Bagrat III assumed as king in Tao-Klarjeti and, finally, in the year 1008, he annexed Kakheti and Ereti, crowning himself as king of unified Georgia. Only the lands of Tiflis under Arab rule and part of southern Tao ruled by Constantinople were not part of this new kingdom.

Kingdom of Georgia

From the middle of the 11th century, the Kingdom of Georgia was devastated by the invasions of the Seljuk Turks. The combined forces of Armenians, Byzantines, and Georgians were crushed by Islamic invaders at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, allowing most of the Kingdom of Georgia in 1081 to be conquered and devastated by the Seljuks. Only Abkhazia remained free from the invasion and served as a refuge for Georgians fleeing the disaster. At the same time, the chaos in the country caused the emergence of secessionist ideals in Svania that led to attacks against Abkhazia. Although King George II succeeded in quelling the rebellion, pressure from trying to keep the country unified led to his abdication in 1089.

His successor, David IV, managed to handle the invasions of the Arabs. During the First Crusade and using Abkhazia as his center of operations, David the Restorer managed to recapture part of Georgia, until he finally defeated the Seljuks at the Battle of Didgori on August 12, 1121. During his reign, David IV succeeded establish Georgia as a regional power and began the Golden Age of the kingdom. This period of splendor had its climax during the rule of Queen Tamar. Between the years 1194 and 1204, File: Georgia expanded southward, conquering lands in Armenia and present-day Iran, such as the city of Tabriz, and founded the Empire of Trebizond.

Literature and art were fully developed during these years and Abkhazia became a prosperous province of the great Kingdom of Georgia. However, the Golden Age ended with the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.

Under Mongol rule, Georgia fell into crisis, and her kingdom was fractured into various states. In 1260, under the reign of David VI Narin, the Kingdom of Imereti was founded, which still remained part of Georgia. Imereti concentrated the western part of Georgia, encompassing Abkhazia, Mingrelia and Guria. In 1455 its independence was officially declared, when Georgia was divided into three states, the remaining ones being: Kartli and Kakheti. From that date, Abkhazia was the battlefield of the struggles between the Georgians, Persia, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Between 1478 and 1483, a domination of Kakheti was established on Abkhazia, but it would soon be expelled. In 1578, the Ottomans entered the region and a vassal principality was established in Abkhazia. Although major attempts at Islamization were made in the region, Christianity continued to dominate, partly thanks to strong Russian influence from the 18th century onwards. During those years, the process of Islamization was strengthened, causing a division in the Abkhaz elites between the followers of Christianity and the converted Muslims.

Abkhazia, Georgia History 1

Abkhazia, Georgia History Part I
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