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Free Abkhazia: art of winning03.10.2011 | 14:13
September 30 is a Victory Day in Abkhazia, the main festive event in the republic outshining Independence Day on August 26 that has been celebrated since 2008. 18 years ago Abkhaz troops came to the Georgian border ending the liberating war and heralding the start of Abkhazia's new history.
Last days of the war passed flash-like. On September 27 the Abkhaz troops liberated Sukhum with half of the country's territory still controlled by Georgians. Yet, on September 30 the troops approached the Ingur. Exhausted by the war and the civil conflict with supporters of overthrown president Zviad Gamsakhurdia at home, the Georgian troops were unable to resist.
The victorious march was preceded by a painstaking offensive on the capital that started on September 16 taking lives of several hundreds of soldiers attempting to regain control over the native city that hadn't been to for over a year.
People who believe that Georgians are not good at war-making are wrong. Blocked inside the city, having absolutely no possibility to get in touch with their commandment and leaders of Georgia, they had been holding the line for ten days. Even when it became clear the failure was inevitable, street fights in Sukhumi did not stop.
Nonetheless, the victory on September 30 was so unexpected that many believed it was a tactical success. There were people who simply got scared thinking that infuriated Georgians would gather force and take revenge. Yet, this year it's 18th anniversary of the victory.
The incredible victory over a much stronger adversary was the result of serious mobilization and a deep desire to win. It seemed heavenly powers were helping Abkhazia too. All circumstances - outside and inside the country, were most favorable. It was the time when the Supreme Council issue was to be solved. Yeltsin and his team were focused on other things and they didn't pay attention to Abkhazia and its unplanned victory. Only defense minister Pavel Grachev once phoned the leader of the republic Vladislav Ardzhinba demanding that troops be returned to their initial positions. It is clear nobody would have done that. Another fact: admiral Baltin organized an operation to take Edward Shevarnadze out of the burning Sukhum.
The situation in the southern direction was even better. Western Georgia was emerged in a civil war between supporters of Shevarndaze and Gamsakhurdia. Governmental forces had no chance to control two fronts at the same time. Besides, they could not get to Abkhazia though western districts of Georgia managed by Zviad Gamsakhurdia's troops. That is why Georgia made no attempt to take revenge.
The liberated districts looked scary. Sukhum was devastated with fires burning in every street and corpses of Georgian soldiers lying about. Refugees were finding their ways back to what remained of their homes through debris. A few days earlier the town was full of local Georgians packing their suits to flee to the east. Some were lucky to reach Georgia by sea or by air, but the majority had to leave Abkhazia via Svanetia's passovers. It was unusually cold there with the risk of avalanches. People dressed in summer clothes died of cold and hunger. Criminals from Svani villages came out to rob refugees taking their cars and valuables. That was the end of Georgia's Abkhazia.
In the meantime, Sukhum was welcoming those who became refugees 13 months before seeking protection from Georgian troops that invaded the city. They hardly recognized their homes, ransacked and brought to ruin. Yet, people's faces were shining. Finally they were back in their native town.
Hostilities in Easter Abkhazia went on for several weeks more. Troops were followed by pillaging gangs returning in their pick-ups filled with other people's property. Yet, life was gradually getting better.
September 30 became a point of reference for new Abkhazia. Today the Abkhaz state celebrates adulthood. People who celebrated victory on the first days of October 1993 could not imagine what a difficult future is in store for their country. People were naïve. It seemed freedom would solve all problems and when the war was over, prosperity would begin taking all bad things away. In reality, freedom was a much heavier test than the war. While Abkhazia was struggling for independence, the Soviet Union collapsed and a completely new life began. There was nobody to support Abkhazia's freedom and the wounded country faced the blockade.
Besides, breaking is not making. The post-war reconstruction was slow. Everything that Soviet Abkhazia depended on was not needed any more. Tourists refused to go to the "hot spot", tea and tobacco were not sold, and for many years tangerines became the only source of money making with the bridge across the Psou river the only route of life. Dragging barrows with sacks, thousands of Abkhaz women ruined their youth and beauty. Their men were sitting home at that time - not allowed to cross the border.