Bridge across a river

History of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict

A full-scale war lasted just over a year and claimed the lives of at least 12,000 people before a ceasefire was signed in 1994. Nearly a quarter of a million ethnic Georgians fled their homes as a result of the war and Abkhazia broke away from Georgian control. It declared its independence in 1999, though it remained unrecognised.

War in 2008 

In 2008, war broke out involving Georgian and Russian forces in South Ossetia, another disputed area experiencing armed conflict in the early 1990s. The legacy of this short war – lasting just five days – had a profound impact also on the unresolved Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. In the aftermath, Russia and a small number of other states officially recognised both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Russia also stationed military bases in both territories. 

Many in Georgia have since then viewed the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as purely a Russian military occupation of Georgian territory and no longer acknowledge Abkhaz and South Ossetians as parties to the conflicts. The Abkhaz contest this, viewing increased military, economic and infrastructural support from Russia as necessary protection of their security. Ties were strengthened through the signing by Abkhazia and Russia of a treaty on ‘alliance and strategic partnership’ in November 2014, though on issues the Abkhaz perceive as challenging their sovereignty, there are signs of tension in the Abkhaz-Russian relationship. 


Deadlocked negotiations

The official talks on the conflict are now called the Geneva International Discussions. Talks were initially mediated by the UN, and since 2008 have been co-chaired by the European Union, United Nations and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). They include Georgian, Russian, Abkhaz, South Ossetian and US participants. Progress towards peace has so far been very slow, and ordinary people continue to suffer the consequences of unresolved conflict. 

Our work on the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict

Since 1997, we have been working with a wide range of local partner organisations and individuals to address the legacies of the Georgian–Abkhaz war and build confidence between different groups affected by conflict. We bring together Georgians and Abkhaz to exchange information and develop practical solutions to problems obstructing the peace process. We have facilitated informal discussions running alongside the formal peace discussions for the past 20 years.  This brings together civil society, officials and experts from both sides of the Georgian-Abkhaz divide to assess where progress can be made, and agree steps forward on areas of mutual interest. The discussions generate ideas and analysis that are shared with decision-makers, international actors and others who can bring about change.

Since 2013 we have supported local partners from both sides of the conflict divide to collect archival materials and record personal testimonies connected to the war. This ensures valuable historical records are kept for future generations. It also allows people to access and discuss diverse memories and perspectives. This aids deeper understanding of the recent violent past and how to prevent recurrence, challenging one-sided narratives of conflict and showing the human cost of war on all sides.

We reach out to young people and involve them in dialogue and other initiatives. We have also worked with a network of Georgians displaced from Abkhazia. We ensure that their views and experiences of conflict, and how it continues to impact their lives, reach officials and others.

Image credit: Ibragim Chkadua