Maxim Gundjia

Recognition of Abkhazia

International recognition of Abkhazia became an immediate foreign policy agenda right after war with Georgia in 1993. The subsequent negotiation process and many (almost four Geneva processes) peace initiatives that swallowed most of the people’s romantic aspirations about conflict resolution and honest donors, had deepened mistrust in once so cherished idea that people can find understanding and stop fighting.

Looking back I realize that international mediators involved Abkhazia in all those failed processes too much to keep us from spending our efforts on a more active recognition lobbying. However we also were too much preoccupied with the negotiations with the enemy rather than looking for new friends. It was a hard time for Abkhazia which was isolated and ruined. Nevertheless the 90’s were so challenging and it felt like the world was going and actually was ready to cure all those horrible mistakes of the XX century. Could we do more or could we gain more recognitions if we concentrate all our efforts on recognition lobbying? It is a rhetoric question. We would never know if we did not try. And we did try, but those attempts were not persistent. There was a need for trigger, a country which would do the first step. At that time it could be any of the partially recognized state or even prospect member of the EU.

Fortunately Russian Federation was the first to make such justified and hard political step. I will not go into details though I foresee usual remarks from those who only operate with post August 2008 terminology. There is an immense attempt of the International propaganda to present the conflict as something that erupted only after August war of 2008, like nothing was before. There is a whole new dictionary of new terms and actually a language which many are trying to speak now at the negotiation tables or official Department of State, EU Foreign Policy or some EU parliaments’ statements. There was quite significant international expert community, who actually could easily clarify with simple English language the root and outcomes of the conflicts in the Caucasus and ambiguity of the International Law. However they all disappear. We see new faces and new experts who need to spend another 10 years in the conflict area to finally comprehend at least the geography of population in the Caucasus and what they really think of and desire. Post-communist states’ leaders usually keep the trend of saying that democracy needs foreign investment. Such statements are very much appreciated but democracy is something that is to be born from the nation – the nation which is wealthy and the nation that realizes that democracy is not about rioting in the streets against the neighbor, it is more about confidence in the future. The slogans of most of Colored Revolutions were not about social reforms – they had clear foreign policy meaning.      

The 90’s were good for lobbying also because there were around 5 people in Western Headquarters who knew where the Caucasus is and among them 2 who knew the word “Abkhazia” and that it is ruled by Islamic fundamentalists or some military junta. It was very handy to use Abkhazia as an example of puppet of Russia which concentrate all its policy on targeting small Caucasus states that aspire for democracy. Even today it is easier for public opinion shapers to use the scenario of bad guys and good guys. Why spending efforts on explanations when it is easier to label and leave it there.

Advocating and campaigning for Abkhazia is very exciting process. Young diplomat can learn a lot if involved in this as I did. There are many interesting facts and tricks beneath the surface of newly gained recognitions. Vastly it is not about Russia paying multimillion bills to those who recognize Abkhazia. Usually it is hard and challenging diplomatic process limited by durable economy class flights and time for gaining new contacts and supporters. There is a trick with so called paid recognitions also created by opponents to present Abkhazia as nonviable project or as attempt of Russia to buy of any state. It hampers a lot to negotiate good will recognition. Nobody mentions millions of dollars spent by US Administration for recognition campaign in Kosovo or political and financial pressure on Latin American, African or small Pacific States. You will never hear about bribing and blackmailing small countries politicians or oppositions leaders by the envoys of those countries that oppose recognition of Abkhazia.

There is no difference in diplomacy of recognized, partially recognized or unrecognized states. All is the same except code of conduct or methods that are used. I spent many years on lobbying for recognition of Abkhazia. Did I face financial constraints – yes, though it was solvable comparing to immense Western capitals’ pressures on those countries that I have visited and where I received a clear message that soon we will exchange diplomatic notes. I am thankful to all those kind politicians who only strengthened my confidence in my country’s future International wide recognition. And I am also honored to represent a tiny country that is advocating its recognition by small recognition campaigns which are so actively opposed by greater International actors. Thanks to Wikileaks one can confirm those facts that once observed but not believed.

No matter how, one day, when Abkhazia will proudly rise its flag on the first flagpole facing 1st Avenue in New York next to United Nations Headquarters, all this will vanish in abandoned archives. New Abkhazian diplomats will join others and possibly Abkhazia like many today will decline aspiration of other newly born country for recognition.

Maxim Gundjia
Former Foreign Minister of the Republic of ABKHAZIA

The Stalin-Beria Terror in Abkhazia, 1936-1953