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Principality of Abkhazia

Principality of Abkhazia
აფხაზეთის სამთავრო
Vassal of Imeretia

Coat of arms of Abkhazia (according to Prince Vakhushti)

Capital Not specified
Government Principality
Historical era Early Modern Period
 •  Established 1463[1]
 •  Disestablished 1570s
b. ...

The Principality of Ottoman, and then the Russian rule, but was eventually absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1864.


  • Background 1
  • The 16th-18th centuries 2
  • Between the Ottoman and Russian empires 3
  • Aftermath 4
  • Rulers 5
  • See also 6
  • Footnotes 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9


Abkhazia, as a duchy (saeristavo) within Georgia, was ruled by the clan of Kingdom of Kartli, Imereti, which Abkhazia was theoretically part of, and Kakheti.[2]

The 16th-18th centuries

In the 1570s, the Ottoman navy occupied the fort of Tskhumi, turning it into the Turkish fortress of Suhum-Kale (hence, the modern name Sukhumi). Abkhazia came under the influence of Turkey and Islam, although Christianity was but slowly replaced and it was not until the second half of the 18th century that the ruling Shervashidze family embraced Islam. Until then, Abkhazia, secured from large-scale invasions by its mountainous location and impassable forests, had retained independence and profitted from commerce in traditional Caucasian commodities, that of slaves not excepted.

Throughout the 16th–18th centuries, the Abkhazian lords were involved in the incessant border conflicts with the Mingrelian princes. As a result, the Shervashidze potentates were able to expand their possessions in the east, first to the river Sochi, and was run by the Gechba clan. These polities included also several minor fiefdoms governed by the representatives of the Shervashidze-Chachba house or other noble families such as Achba (Anchabadze), Emhaa (Emukhvari), Ziapsh-Ipa, Inal-Ipa, Chabalurkhua and Chkhotua. All these princedoms were more or less dependent on the princes of Abkhazia proper.

Between the Ottoman and Russian empires

George. Abkhazia joined the Russian empire as an autonomous principality.

However, George's rule, as well of his successors, was limited to the neighbourhood of Suhum-Kale and the Bzyb area garrisoned by the Russians while the other parts had remained under the rule of the Muslim nobles. The next Russo-Turkish war strongly enhanced the Russian positions, leading to a further split in the Abkhaz elite, mainly along religious divisions. During the Crimean War (1853–1856), Russian forces had to evacuate Abkhazia and Prince Michael (1822–1864) seemingly switched to the Ottomans. Later on, the Russian presence strengthened and the highlanders of Western Caucasia were finally subjugated by Russia in 1864. The autonomy of Abkhazia, which had functioned as a pro-Russian "buffer zone" in this troublesome region, was no more needed to the Tsarist government and the rule of the Shervashidze came to an end; in November 1864, Prince Michael was forced to renounce his rights and resettle in Voronezh. Abkhazia was incorporated in the Russian Empire as a special military province of Suhum-Kale which was transformed, in 1883, into an okrug as part of the Kutais Guberniya.


In July 1866 an attempt made by the Russian authorities to collect information concerning the economic conditions of the Abkhaz, for the purpose of taxation, led to a revolt. The rebels proclaimed Michael Shervashidze's son Suhum-Kale. Only the strong Russian reinforcements led by General Dmitry Ivanovich Svyatopolk-Mirsky were able to suppress the revolt by the same August. The harsh Russian reaction led, subsequently, to a considerable emigration of the Abkhaz muhajirs to the Ottoman Empire, especially after the locals took part in the rebellion of the Caucasian mountaineers incited by the landing of Turkish troops in 1877. As a result many areas became virtually deserted and the population of Abkhazia was reduced threefold.


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Hoiberg, Dale H. (2010)
  2. ^ Rayfield (2012), p 162


  • Gigineishvili, Levan (April 2003), Conflicting Narratives in Abkhazia and Georgia: Different Visions of the same History and the Quest for Objectivity 
  • Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abkhazia". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. p. 33.  
  • Kitagawa, Seiichi (1996). The Role of Historiography in the Abkhazo-Georgian Conflict. SRC Winter Symposium Socio-Cultural Dimensions of the Changes in the Slavic-Eurasian World. 
  • Mirsky, Georgiy I.; Mirskii, G. I. (1997). On Ruins of Empire: Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Former Soviet Union (Contributions in Political Science). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.  
  • Rayfield, Donald (2012). Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia. London, UK: Reaktion Books Ltd.  
  • Smith, Graham; Allworth, Edward A.; Law, Vivien A.; Bohr, Annette; Wilson, Andrew (1998). Nation-Building in the Post-Soviet Borderlands: The Politics of National Identities. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.  
  • Suny, Ronald Grigor (1994). The Making of the Georgian Nation (2nd ed.). Indiana University Press.  
  • Zverev, Alexei (1996). "Ethnic Conflicts in the Caucasus 1988-1994". In Coppieters, B. Contested Borders in the Caucasus. Brussels: Vub Pr.  

Further reading

  • "Historical Documents on Abkhazia". Our Abkhazia. 
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