Status: Secessionist Republic
Population: 245,000 (2020 est.)
Area: 3336 sq. miles
Currency: Russian Ruble (100 kopeck = 1 Ruble)
Abkhazia is a self-proclaimed republic on the Black Sea. It is about the size of Delaware, with about one-third of Delaware’s population. The Abkhaz people are ancient. Assyrian sources recorded their presence in the foothills of the Caucasus more than 3000 years ago. Throughout history, the Abkhaz have had close ties with their more numerous Georgian neighbors. Georgian became the language of the Abkhaz elite, though it never replaced Abkhazian as the language of the people.
Abkhazia Michel #1 and #3
Abkhazia Michel #46a.
In 1810, as part of its conquest of Transcaucasia, Russia made Abkhazia a protectorate and in 1864 it was formally annexed to the Russian empire. Under the Czars, the temperate Abkhaz coast was developed as part of “the Russian Riviera” – a role it continued to play under the Soviet Union with the Communist privileged replacing the Czarist elite on Abkhaz beaches and resorts.
Russia administered Abkhazia as part of Georgia and used the same stamps as the rest of Georgia: Russian (until 1918), Georgian (1918-23), Transcaucasian SSR (1923-24) and Russian (after 1924). When Stalin’s constitution of 1936 redrew the borders of the Soviet republics, Abkhazia became an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) within the Georgian SSR. Throughout the Communist period, purges and deportation reduced the Abkhaz population to a minority in their own land. Its lost population was replaced by Georgians, Russians and others. As a result, the last Soviet all-union census in 1989 listed the population of the Abkhaz ASSR as 537,000, only 17 percent of whom were Abkhaz. The overwhelming majority was Georgian and Russian.
1991 illegal issues with Cyrillic overprint
1991 illegal issues with Latin overprint
After 1986, the Gorbachev reforms unleashed independence movements throughout the Soviet republics. To undermine the independence-minded republics like Georgia, the Soviets used the KGB to support secessionist ethnic minorities. The Abkhaz provided fertile ground for the KGB efforts. On February 21, 1992, Georgia officially broke with the Soviet Union. In response, on July 23, 1992, the Abkhaz Supreme Council declared their sovereignty. A bitter war ensued with Georgia. Russian military support enabled the Abkhaz to prevail against the Georgian army. More than 200,000 ethnic Georgians fled from Abkhaz territory.
Russia recognized Abkhaz independence after the Russo-Georgian war of 2008. Only six other countries – Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, Syria, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, along with two Russian-backed secessionist states, Transnistria and South Ossetia – have recognized Abkhazia as an independent state. Tuvalu and Vanuatu subsequently withdrew their recognition. To most of the world Abkhazia is de jure a part of the Republic of Georgia. To Georgia, it is officially designated as Russian-occupied territory.
2019 souvenir sheet acknowledging the countries that recognize Abkhazia
Starting in late 1992, a variety of bogus stamps and souvenir sheets purporting to be from Abkhazia appeared in the philatelic market. All were privately produced, with no postal validity. Abkhazia does operate a modest postal service to meet domestic requirements. On June 25, 1993, Abkhazia issued its first postage stamps – four stamps in two designs. Abkhazia continues to issue a moderate number of stamps each year. Foreign mail is trucked to the Russian city of Solchi where it enters the international mail stream. One source says that Russian stamps are required on international mail, but international covers exist with Abkhaz stamps. It is uncertain which is correct.
Abkhazia Bogus Souvenir Sheet