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Abkhazia (Georgia)

Аҧсны - აფხაზეთ&

Last modified: 2014-02-01 by ivan sache
Keywords: abkhazia | apsny | stars: 7 (white) | hand (white) | sun | coat of arms: abkhazia | secessionist | constitution | sebastopol | crosses: 4 (red) | cross (red) | proposal |
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[Flag of Abkhazia]

Flag of Abkhazia - Image by Gvido Petersons, 15 April 2004


See also:


Presentation of Abkhazia

Full name: Republic of Abkhazia.
Location: Western region of Georgia.
Status: Disputed. Formerly a subdivision of Georgia, Abkhazia declared itself independent on 23 July 1992. Since then it has been at war with, and partially occupied by, Georgia.
Notes: The Abkhazians are a Caucasian people. There flag is similar to that of the self-styled Confederation of the Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, whose guerrillas have reported assisted the Abkhazians in their struggle.(It has also been claimed that the Russians has supported the Abkhazian separatists as part of their political disputes with Georgia.) The flag of Abkhazia appears to be based on that of the Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus.

Stuart Notholt, undated

The TV-magazine Thalassa recently showed a document on Abkhazia, called "The ghost country". The flag shown above was seen during celebrations of the fifth anniversary of victory on Georgia, as the ensign on the few still active fishing boats, and painted on tanks. Abkhazia is a "ghost country" because no country has recognized it. It is subjected to a terrestrial blockade by Russia and Georgia and to a naval blockade by the Russian Navy. Only a Turkish boat (of course without any ensign because she officially goes to Russia) is allowed to bring some food once a month. Abkhazian passports are not recognized, so Abkhazians are prisonners in their own country, which was once the "Soviet Riviera".

Ivan Sache, 25 April 1999

The 'Act of State Independence of the Republic of Abkahzia', signed on 12 October 1999 in Sukhum by the President of the Republic and the Deputees of Abkhazian Parliament states that:

The Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia, adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Abkhazia on 26th November 1994, became the legal basis for the independent State - the Republic of Abkhazia (Apsny), already created de facto.
[...]
On 3rd October 1999 a referendum was held to ascertain the citizens' attitude to the current Constitution. On the referendum day there lived on the territory of Abkhazia 219,534 citizens eligible to vote, i.e. 58.5% of the pre-war number of voters. 87.6% of the registered voters took part in the referendum, which comprised more than half of the pre-war number of voters. 97.7% of the voters approved the Constitution currently in force.
[...]
Proceeding from the above, we appeal to the United Nations Organization, to the Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe, and to all States of the world to recognise the independent State created by the people of Abkhazia on the basis of the right of nations to free self-determination.

Source: Official Abkhazian government website

Ivan Sache, 1 September 2001

Courrier International #573 (25 October 2001) gives an update on the political situation in Abkhazia.
Since the invasion of the territory by Georgia in April 1992, the Abkhazian separatists have seized the capital Sukhumi in September 1993. The Georgian troops have left and a peace-keeping force of 3,000 Russian soldiers was set up in June 1994 on the Georgian-Abkhazian border.
The Abkhazians received a significant help from Chechen soldiers durign the war against Georgia. However, the Abkhazian president Vladislav Ardzinba recently became closer to Moscow, and consequently the Chechens allied with the Georgian 'partisans' (the Georgians who were sent off from Abkhazia after the defeat of Georgia) and fought back against Abkhazia. The Georgian Parliament unanimuously required the Russian peace-keeping force to leave, and Georgia may want to leave the Community of Independent States.
The Russian president Vladimir Putin recently said the peace-keeping force will leave and Russia shall avoid any interference in the local situation. However, Russia strongly disapproved the presence of Chechen partisans in the Georgian valley of Pankisi, close to the Chechen border. To avoid a Russian attack of Georgian territory, Georgia asked the Chechens to flee from the country through Abkhazia, causing the wrath of Abkhazia and Russia.
On 11 October 2001, Abkhazian leaders said thay had launched air force raids against Georgian and Chechen troops. Short before, Georgia had sent troops in the few Abkhazian areas still controlled by Georgia.

Ivan Sache, 11 November 2001


Flag of Abkhazia

The flag was adopted by the Abkhazian Parliament in Sukhumi on 23 July 1992.

Article 10 of Chapter 1 of the Constitution states that:

The Republic of Abkhazia shall have its own symbols, i.e., a national flag, a national emblem, and a national anthem, the description of which shall be established by constitutional laws.

Source: Official Abkhazian government website (page no longer online)

Ivan Sache, 1 September 2001

According to the flag law (page no longer online), the proportions of the flag shall be 1:2. The flag shall have seven equal horizontal bars - four green and three white, the uppermost bar being green. The canton shall be red (purple), of length 0.38 the flag length and height 3 bars. In center of the purple field shall be placed an open hand in white color. Above the hand shall be seven five-pointed stars in semicircle and in white color.

Gvido Petersons, 15 April 2004

Some points about the symbolism of the flag:

  • The canton: Open white palm on red with an arch of seven stars over it.
    This is a symbol of Abkhazian statehood. The Abkhazian Kingdom first emerged about 700-900 AD. The symbol appears on Genoese portolanos from the 13th-14th centuries. In the Middle Ages a dark red flag with a hand flew over Sabastopol [not to be confused with the Ukrainian town of Sebastopol, but see below] at the site of the current capital of Abkhazia, Sukhum. The stars represent the seven main regions of historical Abkhazia: Sadzen (Dzhigetia), Bzyp, Gomaa, Abzhwa, Samurzaq'an, Dal-Ts'abal, Pshoy-Aybga. These incorporated the ethnic territory of the Abkhazians from the River Xost (frontier with the Ubykhs) down to the River Ingur (frontier with Mingrelia) and from the Black Sea to the Caucasus Mountains.
    Apart from this, the number 'seven' for Abkhazians (as for many other peoples) is viewed as sacred and is widely attested in their religion, mythology and traditional culture. Also endowed with esteem is the constellation known commonly by the title 'The Seven Brothers'.
    The five-pointed star is widespread among the Abkhazians as an ancient astrological symbol. It is found, moreover, on the antique amphors of the Apsilians, the ancestors of the Abkhazians, mentioned by Graeco-Roman authors in the Ist-IInd centuries AD.

  • The green and white stripes (also seven in all) is an indication of religious tolerance, the peaceful coexistence of Islam and Christianity. Moreover, the pattern also connects to the historical flag of the North Caucasus Republic (also known as the Mountain Republic), independent for one year from the proclamation on 11 May 1918 onwards. The republic consisted of seven republics: Daghestan, Chechnya, Ingushia, Ossetia, Abkhazia, Kabarda, Adygheia, and Karacay-Balkaria. On the flag of the North Caucasus Republic the Christian Republic of Abkhazia was represented by a white stripe, as were Ossetia and Kabarda. The North Caucasus Republic was occupied by Georgian forces, and later annexed by Soviet Georgia.

Jan Oskar Engene, based on the newspaper Central Asian Survey, 1994, 13 (3), 1994, 435-436

This flag appears in the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart [eba94], #112, with the following caption:

ABKHAZIA (APSNY)
Abkhazians
North West Georgia

Ivan Sache, 15 September 1999


Erroneous reports of the flag of Abkhazia

[Erroneous Abkhazian flag]

Erroneous Abkhazian flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 11 November 2001

The Flag Bulletin [tfb], # 148, reports:

The new flag, flying over the parliament building in Sukhumi when it was seized by Georgia, consists of seven equal horizontal stripes of blue and white. The red canton bears a white hand below an arc of seven white (or, according to one report, yellow) stars.

The Flag Bulletin is usually most precise in checking its sources, however one cannot help wondering if maybe they've got it wrong on this occasion, particularly as there seems to be some dispute over the colour of the stars. Or maybe the shade of blue/green was simply ambiguous.

Stuart Notholt, undated

I had some excellent material on the flag of Abkhazia from Dr George Hewitt, its honorary consul in London. First let me assert that the stripes are green, and never were blue. If they were depicted as blue that was an error, of which I was just as guilty as anyone else. I think Dr Hewitt was the author of the article quoted by Jan Oskar Engene, as I have a copy herewhich seems to follow it word for word. Dr Hewitt is Reader in Caucasian Languages at the University of London. He tells me that the hand and stars emblem is associated with the Abkhazian National Forum, and it is often the case that a national flag is based on the flag or emblem of the political movement dominant at the time independence is secured.

William Crampton, undated

The error has been replicated in the book on Islamic flags [lux01], the source being very probably the eroneous report in Flag Bulletin described above.
Moreover, the book says the hand shows on the flag is the so-called Hand of Fatima, also shown on some Muslim flags such as the flag of Anjouan. According to Victor Lomantsov, that hand on the flag is, however, not an Islamic symbol, but was taken from an ancient flag of Sebastopolis pictured in El Libro del conoscimiento de todos los Reynos [f0fXX] (1345-1350). The meaning of this hand is unknown to modern people.

Ivan Sache, 11 November 2001


In The Abkhazians, edited by George Hewitt (1999), the Abkhazian flag is shown with a small white fimbriation between the canton and the green and white stripes in the fly.

Jarig Bakker, 9 February 2001


Georgian flag proposals

[Flag proposal]

Georgian flag proposal - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 16 March 2009

The flag of what appears as "The Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia in-exile" is similar to the flag of Ajaria, only longer with green stripes.
It is very unlikely that flag will ever flutter over Sukhumi.

[Flag proposal]     [Flag proposal]     [Flag proposal]     [Flag proposal]

Other flag proposals were found on the semi-official website of the Abkhazian Government in-exile.

Chrystian Kretowicz, 21 March 2009


Coat of arms of Abkhazia

The coat of arms of Abkhazia is a shield divided vertically into white and green. On this are placed devices outlined in gold:

  • At the base eight-pointed star, in the upper part of both the white and the green field are set two eight-pointed stars.
  • At the centre of the shield is a horseman, flying on the fabulous steed called Arash, and shooting an arrow towards the stars. This scene is from the heroic epic Narts.

Green symbolizes youth and life, while white symbolizes spirituality. The stars represent the sun, as well as the union of the East and West.

Jan Oskar Engene, based on the newspaper Central Asian Survey, 1994, 13 (3), 1994, 435-436


Flag of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia

President's flag

Flag of the President of Abkhazia - Image by Jens Pattke, 20 October 2005

According to a colour picture showing the President standing nearby the flag, the flag of the President of Abkhazia is the national flag with the coat of arms placed in the middle.

Jens Pattke, 20 October 2005


SSR of Abkhazia (1989)

1989 flag

Flag used in Abkhazia in 1989 - Image by Mark Sensen & António Martins, 4 July 2006


Flag of "Sebastopol" in the "Book of All Kingdoms"

[Flag of Sebastopol]

Flag of "Sebastopol" - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 14 January 2010

The "Book of All Kingdoms" [f0fXX], of 1350, tells the voyages of an anonymous Castilian friar and is illustrated with 113 flag images, referred to (though seldom described) in the text.
The 100th flag mentioned and illustrated in the "Book" is attributed to the Eastern Christian Kingdom of "San Estrópoli", which is identified as Sebastopol (the one near or under current Sukhumi).
The 2005 Spanish illustrated transcription of the "Book" [f0f05] shows a red flag with a white hand, palm front, parallel fingers, pricked thumb, sinister hoisted side showing a left hand; the flag is shown in the ogival default shape of this source.
The anonymous author of the "Book" describes the flag thusly: El rey dende ha por señales un pendón bermejo con una mano blanca tal (The king has for his flag gules a hand argent - translation as provided in the Hakluyt Society edition (1912) [f0f12] of the "Book").
The Hakluyt Society edition shows this flag as #84 (on plate 18 between p. 56-57), quoting manuscript "S" [f0fXXs], image just like shown above.

António Martins, 3 November 2007

Based on an excerpt from the November 1917 National Geographic article [gmc17] I suspect that it was actually intended for the Sebastopol in the Crimea instead of the one in Georgia (assuming our author wasn't conflating reports of both): "...the Kingdom of Sant Estropoli which is inhabited by Comanes Christians. Here there are many who have Jewish descent but all perform the works of Christians in their sacrifices, more after the Greek than the Latin Church."
The Cumans (aka Kipchaks) were a nomadic Turkic people who inhabited the steppes north of the Black Sea for a century or so before the Mongol invasions. After the Mongol invasions some fled to Hungary and Moldavia-Wallachia, other refugees held out in the Crimea. Also in the Crimea at that time were descendants of the Khazars, an earlier Turkic people, who had adopted Judaism. Neither group had substantial settlements near Sukhumi as far as I know.
On the other hand, if there were a Sebastopol near Moldavia that could be a candidate also- there was a Christianized specifically Cuman kingdom there at one time.

Ned Smith, 26 December 2007