Abkhazian path: from dominoes to national idea
Yulia Yakusheva exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza
A Sukhumi hotel welcomes guests with a bright banner: “Welcome participants of Domino Championships of Abkhazia!” In fact it is a national-scale event, and domino players from all over the country come to the championships. Dominoes is especially rewarded here because the only international organization which has accepted Abkhazia is the International Domino Federation.
For many years Abkhazia was in a situation of internal mobilization; step by step it has been building its independent socio-economic and political system and tried to achieve international recognition. Years of war and economic isolation weakened the Abkhazian budget and slowed the pace of economic development of the country. According to President Ankvab, in the war of 1992-1993 more than three thousand Abkhazians were killed. Industrial and agricultural facilities, social institutions were destroyed. According to some estimates, the Abkhazian budget lost about $13 billion in the period. Sanctions launched against Abkhazia in 1996 by the CIS countries negatively influenced the economic system of the republic. Worsening of the socio-economic fund influenced the demographic situation: Abkhazia’s population reduced from 525 thousand people (in 1989) to 241 thousand people (in 2011).
Russia played a leading role in overcoming the heavy heritage of the 1990-2000s by Abkhazia. This aspect has been discussed by Russian experts and politicians over recent years. Abkhazia is often compared to “a black hole” where Russian billions disappear. At the same time, the problem of social misunderstanding rests on the absence of a clear answer in the Russian information space: why does Russia need this? The reality is always more complicated than the views of Russian experts on Russian-Abkhazian relations, in which one country is a sponsor and another is a recipient.
First of all, in difficult geopolitical conditions in the Caucasus and Central Asia due to events in the Middle East, Abkhazia is an important ring in the system of security on the southern borders of Russia. This problem gains special significance in the context of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, which has strategic importance for Russia.
From the point of view of economic priorities, Abkhazia’s potential can be used within the framework of modernization of the Russian economy. The republic possesses obvious advantages in the tourist and financial spheres; it can be a platform for development of innovative spheres and Russian economic sectors.
Finally, the successful development of Abkhazia will be perceived as a political success of Moscow, and the positive image will be beneficial to Russia.
As for Abkhazia, the republic still needs strategic cooperation with the Russian Federation very much, as it is the main supporter of the young state in modernizing the socio-economic sphere. According to Alexander Ankvab, Russia has been providing humanitarian aid to Abkhazia since 2005. Due to Russian support, socio-cultural, educational and sporting facilities are being reconstructed. The authorities decided to reconstruct social facilities first, rather than industrial objects. Abkhazia counts on the young generation, trying to form a qualitative human capital. As the state is small, even one person can be an important resource for the country.
In the economic sphere, even the financial support of Russia hasn’t helped settle the difficult complicated problems of Abkhazia. At the current stage, economic cooperation between Russia and Abkhazia is directed at establishing a competitive economy of Abkhazia which will enable the republic to extend its foreign economic partners (at the moment Abkhazia has trade contacts with Russia, Turkey, Romania, and some other states).
To be continued