Neal Ascherson

Abkhazia shores

The sea is Abkhazia’s destiny – the Black Sea. It is only by turning its back on continental inland powers – vast like Russia, smaller like Georgia - that this small country can rejoin the world on its own terms.

The way to make a reality of Abkhazian independence is to develop – or to renew after so long - the trade routes and passenger routes which once connected Sukhum, Gagra, Ochamchira to Trabzon and all the ports of northern Anatolia, to Istanbul and through the Bosporus to the Aegean and the Mediterranean, to cosmopolitan Odessa and to Constanza.

If the independence of 2008 is to be completed, to become a reality which the outside world recognises de facto if not yet de jure, then the Abkhazian government must pluck up its courage and open the regular ferry connection to Trabzon and the air route to Istanbul and Athens. From those connections will come not only trade and tourism but education and culture, the exchange of ideas and skills. The European Union is too timid to take a real initiative here. But evidence that a government at Sukhum is not a mere protectorate administration (as Tbilisi pretends) and can take bold initiatives to break the ancient blockade – that will change minds in Brussels.

Neal Ascherson
Scottish journalist, author of "Black Sea: The Birthplace of Civilisation and Barbarism". UK

The Stalin-Beria Terror in Abkhazia, 1936-1953