Caspian Region

Abkhazia’s Dacha Giveaway Uproar

The Caspian Post
It's not hard to see the attraction of the resort town of Pitsunda, Abkhazia. Image: Alexander_Kuzmin/Shutterstock

In Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia, trouble continues to rumble on over a proposed gift to Russia. The present is not a barrel of fine Abkhaz brandy, nor a collection of the region’s unusual paper-wicker baskets, but something far more controversial. Over 160 hectares[1] of parkland containing stands of rare pines and one of Abkhazia’s most historically significant buildings is on the table - a grand state ‘dacha’ (holiday residence).


Krushchev (furthest right) at the Pitsunda Datcha in 1962

It was at this seaside getaway in the resort town of Pitsunda that the Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev was staying in 1964 when Leonid Brezhnev and colleagues arranged the de-facto coup that led to his fall from power.[2] Ten years later, Brezhnev himself used the dacha to host visiting French President Georges Pompidou. And in August 2017, reportedly while staying there, Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged military support to Abkhazia. Perhaps that’s what has led Abkhazian leaders to offer the place to Russia as a present.


In truth, the gift would be a bit of a token gesture in that the dacha has been leased ‘in perpetuity’ to Russia since 1995 anyway.[3] However, in the aftermath of Russia launching its offensive into Ukraine, the question of any sort of territorial concessions to Abkhazia’s northern neighbour are political dynamite. When South Ossetia, also a breakaway region of Georgia, floated the idea of a referendum on joining the Russian Federation in April 2022, Abkhazia was swift to deny having any such plans. Indeed it was suggested that anyone even proposing such a move could be considered ‘persona non grata.’


So when news of the proposed dacha land gift emerged, it felt like a symbolic betrayal. Journalists discovered that the gift had been proposed back in January, but the need to have it ratified by Abkhazia’s de facto parliament led to more widespread awareness of the situation.


Since then, the de facto president of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhaniya, has been on the back foot, saying that “Abkhazia will not be able to ensure its prosperity and peace without the support of Russia” – a thinly veiled reference to the dacha scandal. He has since become more specific, saying in Gutauta on July 22 that “It is necessary to turn over the dacha, otherwise, Russia will turn its back on Abkhazia.” More interesting still, he let slip at a July 20 meeting in Ochamchira that “Putin has personally asked me to transfer the property to his ownership.” An offer which he clearly felt he couldn’t refuse.


Many in the Abkhazian opposition disagree and consider it highly improbable that the issue of a seaside dacha could swing the whole geopolitical status of their wannabe nation-state. And the issue went as far as to cause scuffles when another of Bzhaniya’s meetings was brought to an early end by angry protesters dissatisfied with his approach.


Judging the angry public mood, the Abkhazian parliament dodged ratification of the gift and instead passed on the decision for examination by the constitutional court. That could take some time and allow tempers to cool.


The dacha issue is discussed in some detail on this Russian-language podcast.

Abkhazia is a separatist state that broke from Georgia following the implosion of the USSR. Very simplistically, from 1989, Georgia had wanted to leave the Soviet Union, but ethnic Abkhazians – then a fairly small minority in their historic lands – wanted to stay Soviet. Following a 1992-3 war that killed as many as 30,000 people,  most of the region’s ethnic Georgian population was driven out by Abkhazian separatists aided by Russian fighters mainly from the North Caucasus. Till 1989 Georgians had been a considerable majority in Abkhazia, so the result of the war was a much-depopulated Abkhazian Republic left in economic and geopolitical limbo. It declared independence in 1999. Like South Ossetia, Abkhazia was flooded with Russian soldiers during the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, after which Russia recognized Abkhazia’s self-declared independence. Only a handful of other countries have followed suit. Seen from the Georgian perspective, Russia is essentially an occupying force. Seen from the viewpoint of Abkhazian separatists, Russia is a protector.


[1] Different sources give the area as 162, 182 or 184 hectares.

[2] Officially Krushchev ‘resigned,’ but in reality he had no choice.

[3] Reports suggest that the place needs substantial restoration that the local authorities simply can’t afford, but Russia could.