- Demographics of Abkhazia
This article is about the demographic features of the population of Abkhazia, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health, socioeconomic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.
The demographics of Abkhazia were very strongly affected by the 1992-1993 War with Georgia, which saw the expulsion and flight of over half of the republic's population, measuring 525,061 in the 1989 census. The ethnic composition of Abkhazia in past and current times plays a central role in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.
The exact present size of Abkhazia's population is unclear. According to the census carried out in 2003 it measured 215,972 people, but this is contested by Georgian authorities. The Department of Statistics of Georgia estimated Abkhazia's population to be approximately 179,000 in 2003, and 178,000 in 2005 (the last year when such estimates were published in Georgia).
Encyclopædia Britannica estimates the population in 2007 at 180,000 and the International Crisis Group estimates Abkhazia's total population in 2006 to be between 157,000 and 190,000 (or between 180,000 and 220,000 as estimated by UNDP in 1998).
The size of Abkhazia's population more than halved due to the 1992-1993 war - at the time of the 1989 census it had measured 525,061.
The population of Abkhazia remains ethnically very diverse, even after the 1992-1993 War. At present the population of Abkhazia is mainly made up of ethnic Abkhaz, Georgians (mostly Mingrelians), Hamshemin Armenians, and Russians. Prior to the war, ethnic Georgians made up 45.7% of Abkhazia's population, however, by 1993, most Georgians and some Russians and Armenians had fled Abkhazia or had been ethnically cleansed.
The earliest reliable records for Abkhazia are the Family Lists compiled in 1886 (published 1893 in Tbilisi), according to which the Sukhumi District's population was 68,773, of which 30,640 were Samurzaq'anoans, 28,323 Abkhaz, 3,558 Georgians, 2,757 Greeks, 1,090 Armenians, 1,090 Russians, 637 Estonians. Samurzaq'ano is a present-day Gali district of Abkhazia. The ethnicity of Samurzaq'anoans is disputed. The Family Lists compile additional summary tables, and in these, Samurzaq’anoans are not listed, but the number of Abkhaz in Kutaisi province is given as 60,432. In Batumi district (which was part of Kutaisi province) 1,469 Abkhaz were listed. Thus 58,963 remain—clearly, these are the Abkhaz plus the Samurzaq’anoans in Sukhum district. Nowadays Samurzaq'anoans are assimilated with Mingrelians.[original research?]
According to the 1897 census there were 58,697 people in Abkhazia who listed Abkhaz as their mother tongue, 23,810 people listed Mingrelian as their mother tongue, 1,971 people listed Georgian (including Imeretian dialect) as their mother tongue. The population of the Sukhumi district (Abkhazia) was about 100,000 at that time. Greeks, Russians and Armenians composed 3.5%, 2% and 1.5% of the district's population. By the end of the nineteenth century, Abkhazians made up slightly more than 53% of the population of Abkhazia.  According to the 1917 agricultural census organized by the Russian Provisional Government, Georgians and Abkhaz composed 41.7% (54,760) and 30,4% (39,915) of the rural population of Abkhazia respectively. At that time Gagra and its vicinity were not part of Abkhazia.
During the Soviet Union, the Russian, Armenian, Greek and Georgian population grew faster than the Abkhaz, due to the large-scale migration enforced especially under the rule of Stalin and Lavrenty Beria, who himself was a Georgian born in Abkhazia.
In 2008 almost all of the circa 2000 Svans in the upper Kodori Valley fled Abkhazia when this tract of land was conquered by the Abkhazian army during the August war. The Abkhazian authorities have appealed for the Svan refugees to return, but by late March 2009 only 130 people continued to live in the upper Kodori Valley.
The Abkhazian government has been trying to attract members of Abkhaz diaspora (mainly in Turkey). Abkhaz officials claim about 2,000 people returned to Abkhazia since the early 1990s.
The following tables summarise the results of the censuses carried out in Abkhazia.
Year Samurzaq’anoans Abkhaz Mingrelians Greeks Armenians Russians Estonians Georgians Total 1886 Family Lists 44.6%
68,773 Year Georgians Abkhaz Russians Armenians Greeks Total 1926 Census 33.6%
201,016 1939 Census 29.5%
311,885 1959 Census 39.1%
404,738 1970 Census 41.0%
486,959 1979 Census 43.9%
486,082 1989 Census 45.7%
525,061 2003 Census 21.3%
- ^ a b c Population censuses in Abkhazia: 1886, 1926, 1939, 1959, 1970, 1979, 1989, 2003 (Russian) Georgian and Mingrelian figures have been conflated, as most of the "Georgians" were ethnically Mingrelian.
- ^ a b Statistical Yearbook of Georgia 2005: Population, Table 2.1, p. 33, Department for Statistics, Tbilisi (2005)
- ^ a b "Abkhazia." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online 09 Sep. 2008.
- ^ Abkhazia Today. The International Crisis Group Europe Report N°176, 15 September 2006, page 9. Free registration needed to view full report
- ^ Ethno-demographic history of Abkhazia, 1886–1989, by Daniel Müller. P. 5
- ^ Ethno-demographic history of Abkhazia, 1886–1989, by Daniel Müller. P. 6
- ^ Demoscope, Distribution of the population by the mother tongue and uyezds per 1897 census, Sukhumi district
- ^ http://demoscope.ru/weekly/ssp/emp_lan_97_uezd.php?reg=470
- ^ Sukhumi in Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (Russian)
- ^ Roman Szporluk, National identity and ethnicity in Russia and the new states of Eurasia, M.E. Sharpe, 1994, page 283.
- ^ Ментешашвили А.М. Исторические предпосылки современного сепаратизма в Грузии. - Тбилиси, 1998.
- ^ JRL RESEARCH & ANALYTICAL SUPPLEMENT ~ JRL 8226, Issue No. 24 • May 2004. SPECIAL ISSUE; THE GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ CONFLICT: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
- ^ Choladze, Irma; Natia Kuprashvili (2009-01-22). "Kodori Gorge Refugees in Limbo" (in English). Institute for War and Peace Reporting. http://www.iwpr.net/?p=crs&s=f&o=349387&apc_state=henicrs200901. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
- ^ "Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolutions 1808 (2008), 1839 (2008) and 1866 (2009)" (in English). United Nations Security Council. 18 May 2009. pp. 7. http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N09/333/74/PDF/N0933374.pdf?OpenElement. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
- ^ New York TimesAbkhazia Lures Its Expatriates, Welcoming Them One by One, 7.5.2009
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