Thursday, January 1, 2015

Abkhazia - About

Our very first country is one of contention.  Abkhazia is not recognized by the UN.  It is considered an autonomous region inside of Georgia.  Russia and a few of her friends (Nicaragua, Venezuela) do recognize Abkhazia.  Prior to seeing Abkhazia on a list on Wikipedia, I had never heard of it before.  I'm also not quite sure how to pronouce it.  About 215,000 people live there, making it only a little bigger than Auora, which is a suburb of my fine city of Chicago.  But they do have their own language.  It's south of Russia and border the Black Sea.  It's a land of mountains, beaches, waterfalls and rivers.


It's also known as Abkhaz, Abkhasia and Apsny.  My co-worker, Oleg, who is from Russia went here as a child on a beach holiday.  He calls the area Abxazia.  He especially loved Gagra, a pretty little resort town on the Black Sea. 

This part of the world has been inhabited for a very, very long time. Between the 9th and 6th centuries BC this area was part of the Kolkha or Colchis Empire, which also included present-day Georgia and parts of modern Turkey and Russia, including the Olympics venue Sochi. Notably, wine making vessels dating back to 3000 BC were discovered. But apparently their wine and liquors aren't that great today although I'm sure the Abkhaz people would disagree.

The Greeks hung out in this area too.  The Colchis Empire was where Medea hailed from.  Jason and
his Argonauts came to this region in search of the Golden Fleece.  And of course, the Roman Empire sprawled out this way too.

Abkhazia remained tied to the Colchis Empire and its descendants until the 780s AD when the Kingdom of Abkhazia was created.  There are some disputes over why and how this formed.  Abkhaz people believe that it was a consolidation of Abkhaz tribes , but of course Georgian scholars disagree saying that it's always been part of Georgia.  At the end of the 10th century and into the start of the 11th the kingdom was overtaken by Georgia until the 16th century at which time the Georgian empire was broken up into smaller states and the Principality of Abkhazia was born.  Eventually Russia gobbled Abkhazia and Georgia up.  Abkhazia Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic existed within the Georgia SSR.  When Georgia broke off from Russia, taking Abkhazia with them, the Abkhaz people lost a lot of their autonomy.

Unfortunatly a very bloody war ensued, including ethnic cleansing of Georgians living within Abkhazia.  Now Georgia considers Abkhazia an autonomous part of Georgia, but Abkhazia considers itself a sovereign nation.

The food in Abkazia is very similar to Georgia, which isn't surprising seeing as how close/embedded they are with Georgia.  But, apparently Georgian food is considered one of the best foods in the region so that's not a bad thing.  Their favorite spices include coriander, savory, basil, mint, fennel, and parsley.  And they love walnuts, which is also big in Georgian foods.  Honey has also been cultivated and consumed in the area since ancient times.  But since I want to feed this to my 7-month-old, I will not be using honey.

Like many places, music is important in Abkaz culture.  The ap'hyartsa is a two-stringed instrument and the  ayumaa is a 14 string small harp.  They also have three flutes. the acharpyn has three to six holes, the abyk is a carved horn and the khtsvy is a pipe with three openings.  There are also various drums and clappers. Other than lullabies and songs of mourning all the folk singing is male.




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