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Abkhazia (Georgia)

Аҧсны - აფხაზეთ&

Last modified: 2014-05-29 by ivan sache
Keywords: abkhazia |
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[Flag of Abkhazia]

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

See also:

Presentation of Abkhazia

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.
The "Act of State Independence of the Republic of Abkahzia", signed on 12 October 1999 in Sukhumi by the President of the Republic and the Representatives at the Abkhazian Parliament, states that:

The Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia, adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Abkhazia on 26 November 1994, became the legal basis for the independent State - the Republic of Abkhazia (Apsny), already created de facto.[...]
On 3 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, that is, 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.

Following the invasion of the territory by Georgia in April 1992, the Abkhazian separatists seized the capital, Sukhumi, in September 1993. The Georgian troops 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 support from Chechen soldiers during the war against Georgia. However, the Abkhazian president, Vladislav Ardzinba, subsequently became closer to Moscow; 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.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, recently said the peace-keeping force would leave and Russia should 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 the 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.

[Courrier International, No. 73, 25 October 2001]

Ivan Sache, 11 November 2001

Legal prescription of the flag of Abkhazia

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

The flag is prescribed in Chapter 1, Article 10 of the Constitution, as folows:

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

The flag law describes the flag as rectangular, in proportions 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), in length 0.38 the flag's length and in height three bars. In center of the purple field shall be placed an open hand in white color. Above the hand shall be placed seven white five-pointed stars in a semi-circular pattern.

Ivan Sache & Gvido Petersons, 15 April 2004

Meaning of the flag of Abkhazia

The canton is the symbol of Abkhazian statehood. While the Abkhazian Kingdom first emerged about 700-900 AD, the hand symbol appears on Genoese portolanos from the 13th-14th centuries. In the Middle Ages a dark red flag with a hand flew over Sabastopol at the site of the current capital of Abkhazia, Sukumi.

The stars represent the seven main regions of historical Abkhazia: Sadzen (Dzhigetia), Bzyp, Gomaa, Abzhwa, Samurzaq'an, Dal-Ts'abal, and Pshoy-Aybga. These incorporated the ethnic territory of the Abkhazians from river Xost (border with the Ubykhs) down to river Ingur (border with Mingrelia) and from the Black Sea to the Caucasus Mountains. Apart from this, the number seven is viewed by Abkhazians (as by many other peoples) as sacred and is widely attested in their religion, mythology and traditional culture. Also endowed with esteem is the constellation known commonly as "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 1st-2nd centuries AD.

The green and white stripes (also seven in all) are an indication of religious tolerance and 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, Chechenia, Ingushetia, Ossetia, Abkhazia, Kabardia, Adygeya, and Karachay-Balkaria. On the flag of the North Caucasus Republic the Christian Republic of Abkhazia was represented by a white stripe, as were Ossetia and Kabardia. 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:

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], No. 148, erroneously reported the flag with blue stripes instead of green. The error was replicated in a book on Islamic flags [lux01], which further claims that 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.

Ivan Sache, 11 November 2001

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 of Abkhazia placed in the middle.

Jens Pattke, 20 October 2005

The coat of arms of Abkhazia is vertically divided white-green and charged with golden devices outlined in black. At the base of the shield is placed an 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 represented a horseman, flying on the fabulous steed called Arash, and shooting an arrow towards the stars. This scene is from the heroic epos 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

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