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Tourism in Contested Abkhazia: Internal Peace and External Challenges
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Social Sciences. (RCR)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7512-9066
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The demise of the Soviet Union brought fifteen new independent states, but also a number of ethno-territorial conflicts. One of those conflicts occured in Abkhazia, a former autonomous republic within the Georgian SSR and a popular tourist paradise. The war against Georgia in 1992-93 caused the displacement of most of the ethnic Georgians along with other non-Abkhaz minority groups, and infrastructure and tourism industry were heavily damaged.

 

The development of tourism industry in Abkhazia started after Russia conquered the Caucasus from the Ottoman Empire. Located on the Black Sea coast and the western end of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Ridge, Abkhazia offered both seaside and fresh mountain air to an increasing Russian middle class. Mountain camps, seaside resorts and spas were built to give imperial tourists a convenient introduction to the exotic Abkhazia. Many Russian intellectuals and politicians spent their summers in Akbhazia. This tradition continued during Soviet times; some of the prominent officials from the Communist Party had dachas on secluded spots along the coast. Intellectuals from different disciplines gathered in the capital Sukhumi during the warm season. Apart from the natural beauty of Abkhazia, Soviet era tourism in the region was furthermore focused on displaying a socialist paradise, a theme also depicted in both movies and litterature.

 

During the first ten years after the war against Georgia Abkhazia was under a world wide trade embargo that was lifted only by Russia in 2004. The lifting of the embargo along with Russia recognizing Abkhazian independence in 2008 brought along investments and a return of Russian tourists. Infrastructure and tourist attractions were restored, and opportunities for employment and small businesses improved. Due to the difficulties to access Abkhazia, the de facto government has also put an effort in developing opportunities for virtual tourism, where the beauty of the area can be experienced on distance through texts, photos and videos. Within this project Abkhazian pre-Soviet history is portayed as cosmopolitan, at the cross-roads of empires. An area where people from several ethnic groups lived and contributed to trade and culture. In the post-Soviet narrative however, the multiethnic society of current as well as Soviet days is rarely mentioned. Abkhazian space is highly politicized and focused on an inherent Abkhazianness. While the dachas of communist officials has been either privatized or turned into tourist attractions, the Soviet past is otherwise rarely present in current Abkhazian narratives. The restauration of tourism industry in Abkhazia has contributed to social development and thus to inner stability, and moreover also to resilience in relation to external threats. On the other hand, the current Abkhazian narrative reinforces a conflict oriented perspective promoting ethnic Abkhaz and omitting other ethnic groups. The aim of this presentation is to discuss the possibilities for Abkhazian tourism industry to contribute to a lasting stability and peaceful development in the region. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Tiberias, Israel, 2016.
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-27036OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-27036DiVA: diva2:903980
Conference
The 8th Kinneret International Tourism Conference: Tourism as a Peace Promoter among People and Countries: Vision or Reality?, January 12, 2016, Tiberias, Israel
Available from: 2016-02-17 Created: 2016-02-17 Last updated: 2016-02-19Bibliographically approved

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