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Now that Kosovo has declared independence, will Abkhazia follow?
February 21, 2008 11:33 PM   Subscribe

Now that Kosovo has declared independence, will Abkhazia follow? The Abkhazian "autonomy" within Georgia already has its own president and parliament, as well as an independent army that has managed to expel Georgian presence by 1993. They've even got their own flag. The only thing missing? Official recognition from the UN.

However, this insufficiency can be remedied. Reflecting on Kosovo's success in breaking free from Serbia, President Sergei Bapash pins his hopes on achieving a similar miracle in his own land. Declaring his intentions during a February 18th press conference held in Moscow, Bapash made it clear that he will turn to Russia and other former Soviet states for support in his quest to make Abkhazia officially independent.
posted by gregb1007 (28 comments total)

 
For all the wishful thinking rhetoric which proclaims that Kosovo is not a precedent, it is. Among the first few people to congratulate Kosovo was ETA, the Basque terrorist group (freedom fighters, anyone?).

For the EU, Kosovo may be unique. For everyone else, it's a precedent.
posted by adricv at 11:39 PM on February 21, 2008


This is pretty much why Russia was so opposed to Kosovo's independence in the first place -- nevermind all the nonsense about "traditional allies," helping their "little Slavic brothers" or any of that silly Marche Slave stuff.

The eXile recently ran a piece arguing that Russia should, as revenge, start recognizing the Lakota Nation. The more interesting question, for me, is what will happen with Bosnia's Republika Srpska. They were protesting in Banja Luka yesterday -- mostly hooligan stuff: chanting, burning American flags, throwing rocks at police. But there's always the chance that things will heat up. Or spin out of control.
posted by Ljubljana at 12:03 AM on February 22, 2008


Basque separatists, Corsican separatists, Iraqi and Turkish Kurds...

The recognition of Kosovo is the final straw in the total failure of Bush administration's foreign policy. Encouraging nations to divide based on ethnic and/or religious lines is "cutting and running" from pluralistic, liberal democracy that the United States of America is supposed to stand for.
posted by three blind mice at 12:36 AM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think they should reconsider the name, whatever they do. "Abkhazia" sounds like a disease.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:43 AM on February 22, 2008


Heh. Funnily enough, I talked to someone connected to the Georgian government who was extremely clear that they were annoyed over Kosovo..."the rules of international law we were given from the EU are a lie" was the phrase used.

They are indeed extremely worried that the Autonomous Republics will go independent, and that the EU and US will not be able to criticise this to any great extent...and since Russia militarily backed the original uprising, they certainly won't be hard-pressed to pick a side.
posted by jaduncan at 2:46 AM on February 22, 2008


I think they should reconsider the name, whatever they do. "Abkhazia" sounds like a disease.

Something along the lines of The Former Yoguslav Republic of Macedonia perhaps? This independence stuff is really tricky in detail.
posted by three blind mice at 3:41 AM on February 22, 2008


Nonsense, flapjax! "Abkhazia" is the name of a Genesis album.
posted by Dizzy at 5:15 AM on February 22, 2008


"Abkhazia" is the name of a Genesis album.

Oh, jeebus! That's even worse!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:19 AM on February 22, 2008


Although I don't know much about Kosovo, I don't see what's necessarily undemocratic or illiberal about secession, particularly if it's what the majority of the country want (unless there's a danger that there'll be rights abuses of the minority when separate government is obtained). I must say I see this as part-Scot part-Irish resident in the UK, who is considering strongly voting for the SNP.
posted by YouRebelScum at 5:24 AM on February 22, 2008


This has got to stop. Either that, or we need a Metafilter ban on geography quizzes.
posted by Killick at 5:38 AM on February 22, 2008


I was kinda hoping that "Heritageland" would split off from the USA next.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:42 AM on February 22, 2008


This is pretty much why Russia was so opposed to Kosovo's independence in the first place

No, this is Russia's little demonstration of why Kosovo's independence is a Bad Thing. "Autonomous Abkhazia" is purely and simply a Russian creation, and if it declares independence it will be a Russian action to spite 1) its enemy Georgia (of which Abkhazia is a part) and 2) the international community that has taken the Kosovars' side over Russia's allies the Serbs. Important point: the Abkhaz historically made up about 18% of the population of Abkhazia, which was an autonomous region because of the Soviet divide-and-rule policy. There's a good even-handed analysis here; an excerpt:
The political leadership in Tbilisi did not see any reason why the Soviet hierarchical system should not be preserved and even enforced after the achievement of independence. The politically privileged position of the Abkhaz minority was unacceptable to them. The leaders of the Abkhaz national movement refused to acknowledge the authority of the Georgian political leadership in Tbilisi and before the dissolution of the USSR had already striven to upgrade Abkhazia’s status from autonomous republic to union republic. After its dissolution they demanded equal status with Georgia in a loose federative framework. This form of withdrawal from the authority of the Georgian state would, in the view of the Georgians and of Abkhaz radicals, have paved the way for full secession and the establishment of an independent Abkhaz state.The conflict over political status reached its climax with the war of 1992–93 when Georgian troops, consisting mainly of paramilitaries, intervened in the political conflict between the two main nationalities of Abkhazia. They were driven out by Abkhaz troops supported by nationalist movements from the North Caucasus and by the Russian military. As a consequence of this victory the Abkhaz authorities attempted to consolidate their position by changing the demographic situation. The majority of the Georgian inhabitants of Abkhazia fled to Georgia and these internally displaced persons (IDPs) were not allowed to return. To date no solution has been found to the political and humanitarian dilemmas at the heart of the conflict.
Just keep that figure in mind: 18%. That's comparable to the Serbs in Kosovo, not the Albanian Kosovars.
posted by languagehat at 5:44 AM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and that "changing the demographic situation" is what we call ethnic cleansing. It's as if the Serbs were driving the Albanians out of Kosovo so they could claim majority status.
posted by languagehat at 5:46 AM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's as if the Serbs were driving the Albanians out of Kosovo so they could claim majority status.

Tough job, if this is accurate (which is an if I, for one, am not going to touch).
posted by IndigoJones at 6:28 AM on February 22, 2008


languagehat has it exactly right. Some claims to independence, secession, and international recognition are more legitimate than others, and Russia's "Abkhazia Revenge" is not about principle. It's about undermining the Georgian state.

There's a good analysis here.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:31 AM on February 22, 2008


Best thing about Abkhazia -- their postage stamps.

all hail. . .
posted by Herodios at 7:17 AM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let me see. Kosovo has a majority of Albanians. Does Abkhazia have a majority of Russians?

Funny how Russia is against Kosovo folks deciding their destiny but are happy to meddle in the affairs of Sakartvelo.
posted by tarvuz at 7:21 AM on February 22, 2008


Russia's "Abkhazia Revenge" is not about principle. It's about undermining the Georgian state.

But doesn't every independence movement undermine the state to some extent? At the very least, punative actions taken to squash independence movements are invariably justified as a defense of state integrity.

I don't see what's necessarily undemocratic or illiberal about secession,

Balkanisation should not be necessary where individual liberties are protected. When countries divide among ethnic or religious lines, it is a sign that democracy is not working.

The problem is where does it end? What if the Serb majority in the Mitrovica region of northern Kosovo secede from the newly independent Kosovo and call on their kinsmen in Serbia to protect them? Will Kosovars have a right to defend the borders of their new state?
posted by three blind mice at 7:52 AM on February 22, 2008


Funny how Russia is against Kosovo folks deciding their destiny but are happy to meddle in the affairs of Sakartvelo.

Funny? Actually, I think it's called "revenge".
posted by mr_roboto at 9:06 AM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem is where does it end? What if the Serb majority in the Mitrovica region of northern Kosovo secede from the newly independent Kosovo and call on their kinsmen in Serbia to protect them? Will Kosovars have a right to defend the borders of their new state?

The situation seems strangely familiar, doesn't it?
posted by mr_roboto at 9:07 AM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just hope they don't let security lapse at the wizard's prison in all the confusion.
posted by gnosys at 9:24 AM on February 22, 2008


Call me old fashioned, but I don't think a Harry Potter book should get to be an independent country, no matter how popular it is.
posted by electroboy at 9:50 AM on February 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


Best thing about Abkhazia -- their postage stamps.Great... for the rest of the afternoon:

"And while Lennon read a book on Marx
the quartet practised in the park
and we sang dirges in the dark,
The day the music died."


Ah well... there are worse earworms.
posted by Mike D at 11:22 AM on February 22, 2008


I liked it when we still believed in international law. Anyone else up for giving that a go again?
posted by greytape at 11:25 AM on February 22, 2008


Lennon read a book on Marx. . .

I was thinking more Firesign Theatre than Don McLean.
posted by Herodios at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2008


. . . contemporaneous though they may be.
posted by Herodios at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2008


OH! Lennon and Marx!

Took me a bit, there. Cute.
posted by gc at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2008


The stamps, apparently issued soon after Abkhazia declared independence, may not be quite what they appear. The Universal Postal Union does not recognize them as valid for postage. As such they are apparently referred to by philatelists as cinderellas.

They do show up on ebay and such from time to time.

Does this count as a derail? Sorry. I'm just glad someone in Abkha-land at some point had a sense of humour about self-determination.
posted by Herodios at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2008


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