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Introducing Abkhazia

The greatest tragedy to befall Georgia since its independence is the secession of Abkhazia and the bloodshed and misery that this has brought about.

Once the jewel of the ‘Soviet Riviera’ along the Black Sea coast, today this de facto independent republic is still struggling to recover from the devastation of the 1992–93 war, unrecognised by any country and with only about one-third of its prewar population of 535, 000.

Russian tourism in Abkhazia, however, has grown fast and by 2007 it was also possible for other travellers to venture into the region, although the British Foreign Office (www.fco.gov.uk) and the US State Department (travel.state.gov) were still advising against it.

If you’re tempted to visit, be aware that tensions, kidnappings and violence have flared up repeatedly over the years, especially in the border region between Zugdidi (Samegrelo) and Gali (Abkhazia). Backpackers have been known to be arrested and interrogated at Sukhumi police headquarters. There is useful Abkhazia travel information on the Thorn Tree message board on the Lonely Planet website (www.lonelyplanet.com).