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Adjara
აჭარა (Georgian)
Autonomous Republic of Adjara
აჭარის ავტონომიური რესპუბლიკა (Georgian)
Sovereign stateGeorgia
Part of unified
Georgian Kingdom

9th century
Conquered by
Ottoman Empire

1614
Ceded to Russian Empire1878
Adjar ASSR1921
Autonomous republic
within Georgia

1991
CapitalBatumi
41°39′N 42°0′E / 41.650°N 42.000°E / 41.650; 42.000
Official languagesGeorgian
Ethnic groups
(2014[1])
GovernmentDevolved parliamentary autonomous republic

Tornike Rizhvadze
LegislatureSupreme Council
Area
• Total
2,880 km2 (1,110 sq mi)
• Water (%)
negligible
Population
• 2023 estimate
361,400[2]
• 2014 census
336,077
• Density
124.6/km2 (322.7/sq mi)
HDI (2021)0.806[3]
very high
CurrencyGeorgian lari (GEL)
Time zoneUTC+4 (UTC)
 • Summer (DST)
not observed

Adjara (Georgian: აჭარა Ach’ara [at͡ʃʼara] ) or Achara, officially known as the Autonomous Republic of Adjara (Georgian: აჭარის ავტონომიური რესპუბლიკა Ach’aris Avt’onomiuri Resp’ublik’a [atʃʼaris avtʼonomiuri respʼublikʼa] ), is a political-administrative region of Georgia. It is in the country's southwestern corner, on the coast of the Black Sea, near the foot of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, north of Turkey. It is an important tourist destination and includes Georgia's second most populous city of Batumi as its capital. About 350,000 people live on its 2,880 km2 (1,110 sq mi).

Adjara is home to the Adjarians, a regional subgroup of Georgians. The name can be spelled in a number of ways: Ajara, Ajaria, Adjaria, Adzharia, Atchara and Achara. Under the Soviet Union, Adjara was part of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic as the Adjarian ASSR.[4] The autonomous status of Adjara is guaranteed under article 6 of the Treaty of Kars.[5]

History

Main article: History of Adjara

Adjara was a part of Georgian polities, Colchis and Caucasian Iberia, since ancient times.[6][7]Colonized by Greeks in the 5th century BC, the region fell under Rome in the 2nd century BC. It became part of the Lazica before being incorporated into the Kingdom of Abkhazia in the 8th century AD, the latter led unification of Georgian monarchy in the 11th century.[citation needed]

Adjaria was occupied by several empires: the First Persian Empire (500 BC), Seljuks (11th century), Mongols (13th century), and Timurids (14th century).[8]

Ottoman period

The Ottomans conquered the area in 1614. Although, the Ottoman millet system allowed its subjects extensive self-governance and religious freedom, many Adjarians gradually chose to convert to Islam during the 200 years of Ottoman presence.[9][10] The nobility converted first.[11] Adjarians were fully Islamized by the end of the eighteenth century.[11] This conversion marked a differentiation from the Georgian cultural identity, which strongly identifies as Orthodox Christian.[9]

Russian Empire

The Ottomans were forced to cede Adjara to the expanding Russian Empire in 1878 under the Treaty of Berlin.[12] The Berlin Treaty allowed Adjarians to leave for Turkey, keeping a provision of Section 6, article 21 of the Treaty of San Stefano.[13][12] Many Adjarians emigrated to Turkey.[13][12] This was followed by an influx of Christians from Kakheti, resulting in a change of demographics.[13] Orthodox Christian missionaries also started to proselytize in Adjara.[12] While the Russian authorities supported the Russian Orthodox Church's missionary efforts, they also tried to win the loyalty of Adjarians by building mosques and madrassas and supporting the local Muslim clergy.[12] As a result, many Adjarians emigrants, called Muhacir, came back to Adjara.[12]

Soviet rule

After a temporary occupation by Ottoman and British (with the entrance of the British warship HMS Liverpool) troops in 1918–1920, Adjara became part of the Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1920,[citation needed] and was granted autonomy under the Georgian constitution adopted in February 1921 when the Red Army invaded Georgia.[14] After a brief military conflict in March 1921, Ankara's government ceded the territory to Georgia under Article VI of Treaty of Kars on the condition that autonomy be provided for the Muslim population, while Turkish commodities were guaranteed free transit through the port of Batumi.[15][16][17] The Soviets established in 1921 the Adjarian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in accord with this clause, thus Adjara remained part of Georgia. Until 1937, it had the name Ajaristan. The autonomous republic was the only autonomous unit in the USSR based solely on religion.[a][18] However, Stalin's definition of what constituted a nation was based on language. Without their own language, Adjars did not develop a strong sense of national identity, separate from Georgian.[19] Moreover, the Soviet atheist ideology dampened religious practice.[16] In the 1920s, the Achars rebelled against the Soviet anti-Islamic activities, as well as against the collectivization reforms.[16] Still, Soviet authorities never accepted to politicize the term “Muslim Georgian”.[20] So that, over time, the Acharan population began again to identify with their Georgian ethnic forebears, whose language they spoke, instead of identifying with Turks.[16]

Independent Georgia

There was a resurgence of the Acharan religious identity during the dissolution of the USSR.[21] Islamic religious practice became the cultural norm, madrassas reopened and the call to prayer sounded from mosques.[21] After the Georgian independence, the first president, Georgian nationalist Zviad Gamsakhurdia, had an anti-federal policy that targeted Adjara.[22] According to his Foreign Minister, Giorgi Khoshtaria, Gamsakhurdia considered that it was just as he saw Adjarians as Christian Georgians polluted by years of Ottoman rule.[23] Adjarians protested in Batumi in 1991, after Gamsakhurdia announced he would end Adjara's autonomy.[23] To appease the situation, Gamsakhurdia appointed Aslan Abashidze, from a local powerful family, as Chairman of the Acharan Supreme Soviet.[23] Abashidze leveraged the ongoing Islamic revival to advance his political goals.[21] He organized Muslim rallies in Batumi in 1992, demanding political, economic, and cultural autonomy for the Ajar region.[21][23] Taking advantage of the turmoil caused by the wars with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he unilaterally took power without formal agreement and started to withhold tax revenue and capture Adjara's considerable wealth.[21][24] The Head Mufti of Achara, Haji Mahmud Kamashidze, supported Abashidze in his power struggled against the central Georgian government led by Gamsakhurdia.[25] However, after Abashidze reached his goals, he stopped using the Muslim movement and gradually erased Adjara's cultural characteristics.[21][26] He built churches, promoted conversion to Christianity and asserted that Adjara wasn't separatist.[21][26]

Abashidze avoided being dragged into the chaos of the civil war, successfully maintained order in Adjara and made it one of the country's most prosperous regions, while enriching himself thanks to smuggling. The central government in Tbilisi had very little say in what went on in Adjara during the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze.[citation needed] Elections in Adjara were not free and fair, Abashidze controlled the media and captured customs revenue for his personal enrichment.[27][28] Even though Shevardnadze often complained about Abashidze's aggressive autonomous strategy, they had good relationships and supported each other when they needed public support.[27][29]

This changed following the Rose Revolution of 2003 when Shevardnadze was deposed in favour of the reformist opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili, who pledged to restore the country's territorial integrity.[30] Soon after his inauguration as president in January 2004, Saakashvili took aim at Abashidze with strong anticorruption reforms.[31][32] In spring 2004, a major crisis in Adjara erupted as the central government sought to reimpose its authority on the region. It led to several encounters between Adjaran paramilitaries and the Georgian army.[25] However, Saakashvili's ultimata and mass protests against Abashidze's autocratic rule forced the Adjaran leader to resign in May 2004. Facing charges of embezzlement and murder, Abashidze destroyed the bridges between Adjara and the rest of Georgia to delay the advance of Georgian troops in Batumi and then fled to Moscow.[25]

After Abashidze's ousting, Acharan separatism declined.[25] Muslims did not support Abashidze during the crisis.[25] Even Abashidze's former ally, Haji Mahmud Kamashidze, sided with Saakashvili.[25] Saakashvili wanted Adjara to keep a significant autonomy.[33] The Turkish government, guarantor of Adjaran autonomy under Article 6 of the Treaty of Kars, also spoke out against calls for Adjarian autonomy dissolution by certain opposition parties.[34] A new law was therefore introduced to redefine the terms of Adjara's autonomy. Levan Varshalomidze succeeded Abashidze as the chairman of the government.[35]

In July 2007, the seat of the Georgian Constitutional Court was moved from Tbilisi to Batumi.[36] In November 2007 Russia ended its two-century military presence in Georgia by withdrawing from the 12th Military Base (the former 145th Motor Rifle Division) in Batumi.[37]

Turkey still has noticeable economic and religious influence in Adjara.[38][39][40]

Law and government

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Logo of the Cabinet of Ministers.
Government building in Batumi.

The status of the Adjaran Autonomous Republic is defined by Georgia's law on Adjara and the region's new constitution, adopted following the ousting of Aslan Abashidze. The local legislative body is the Supreme Council. The head of the region's government—the Council of Ministers of Adjara—is nominated by the President of Georgia who also has powers to dissolve the assembly and government and to overrule local authorities on issues where the constitution of Georgia is contravened. Tornike Rizhvadze is the current head of the Adjaran government.[41]

Administrative divisions

Adjara is subdivided into six administrative units:[42]

Name Area (km2) Population
Census
(17 Jan 2002)
Census
(2014)
City of Batumi 64.9 121,806 152,839
Keda Municipality 452 20,024 16,760
Kobuleti Municipality 720 88,063 74,794
Khelvachauri Municipality 410 90,843 51,189
Shuakhevi Municipality 588 21,850 15,044
Khulo Municipality 710 33,430 23,327

Geography and climate

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Black Sea coast near the resort of Kvariati.

Adjara is on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea and extends into the wooded foothills and mountains of the Lesser Caucasus. It has borders with the region of Guria to the north, Samtskhe-Javakheti to the east and Turkey to the south. Most of Adjara's territory either consists of hills or mountains. The highest mountains rise more than 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) above sea level. Around 60% of Adjara is covered by forests. Many parts of the Meskheti Range (the west-facing slopes) are covered by temperate rain forests.

Adjara is traversed by the northeasterly line of equal latitude and longitude.

Climate

Adjara is well known for its humid climate (especially along the coastal regions) and prolonged rainy weather, although there is plentiful sunshine during the spring and summer months. Adjara receives the highest amounts of precipitation both in Georgia and in the Caucasus. It is also one of the wettest temperate regions in the northern hemisphere. No region along Adjara's coast receives less than 2,200 mm (86.6 in) of precipitation per year. The west-facing (windward) slopes of the Meskheti Range receive upwards of 4,500 mm (177.2 in) of precipitation per year. The coastal lowlands receive most of the precipitation in the form of rain (due to the area's subtropical climate). September and October are usually the wettest months. Batumi's average monthly rainfall for the month of September is 410 mm (16.14 in). The interior parts of Adjara are considerably drier than the coastal mountains and lowlands. Winter usually brings significant snowfall to the higher regions of Adjara, where snowfall often reaches several meters. Average summer temperatures are between 22–24 degrees Celsius in the lowland areas and 17–21 degrees Celsius in the highlands. The highest areas of Adjara have lower temperatures. Average winter temperatures are between 4–6 degrees Celsius along the coast while the interior areas and mountains average around -3–2 degrees Celsius. Some of the highest mountains of Adjara have average winter temperatures of -8–(-7) degrees Celsius.

Economy

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Adjara has good land for growing tea, citrus fruits and tobacco. Mountainous and forested, the region has a subtropical climate, and there are many health resorts. Tobacco, tea, citrus fruits, and avocados are leading crops; livestock raising is also important. Industries include tea packing, tobacco processing, fruit and fish canning, oil refining, and shipbuilding.

The regional capital, Batumi, is an important gateway for the shipment of goods heading into Georgia, Azerbaijan and landlocked Armenia. The port of Batumi is used for the shipment of oil from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.[43] Its oil refinery handles Caspian oil from Azerbaijan which arrives by pipeline to Supsa port and is transported from there to Batumi by rail. The Adjaran capital is a centre for shipbuilding and manufacturing.

Adjara is the main center of Georgia's coastal tourism industry, having displaced the northwestern province of Abkhazia since that region's de facto secession from Georgia in 1993.[44]

Demographics

According to the 2014 census, the population of Adjara is 333,953.[45]

Ethnic groups

  Georgians (96%)
  Armenians (1.6%)
  Russians (1.1%)
  other (1.3%)

The Adjarians (Ajars) are an ethnographic group of the Georgian people who speak a group of local dialects known collectively as Adjarian. The written language is Georgian.[citation needed] Adjarians have been known as "Muslim Georgians".[46] They were officially referred as such until the 1926 Soviet census which listed them as "Ajars" and counted 71,000 of them. Later, they were simply classified under a broader category of Georgians as no official Soviet census asked about religion.[47] In independent Georgia, censuses do not include an "Adjarian" category, nor do they distinguish between ethnic Georgian Muslims and other Muslims, such as Azerbaijanis.[48]

Ethnic minorities include Laz, Russians, Armenians, Pontic Greeks, and Abkhaz.[49]

Religion

Religion in Adjara[50]

  Orthodox Christian (54.5%)
  Sunni Islam (39.8%)
  Others (5.3%)

After Adjara was ceded to the Russian Empire in 1878 under the Treaty of Berlin, Adjarians, who were Muslims, were allowed to leave for Turkey.[13] This was followed by an influx of Christians from Kakheti, resulting in a change of the religious landscape.[13]

Although Adjara's political and religious autonomy was guaranteed by the 1921 Treaty of Kars,[16][15] the Soviet atheist ideology dampened religious practice in the region.[16]

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the re-establishment of Georgia's independence first led to an Islamic revival.[21] However, after Abashidze took control of the region he erased Adjara's Muslim identity and promoted conversion to Christianity.[21][26] Since then, Christianity has experienced a strong growth in Adjara, especially among the young.[51][52] However, there still remain Sunni Muslim communities in Adjara, mainly in the Khulo district.[51] The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs is active in Adjara.[53] According to Ghia Nodia, "most Acharans are Muslims but they consider themselves ethnic Georgians".[54]

According to the 2014 Georgian national census, 54.5% of the population of Adjara was Georgian Orthodox, 39.8% Muslim, 0.3% Armenian Apostolic, and 5.3% others.[b][50]

Traditional public festivals

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Selimoba

Selimoba is held in the village of Bako, Khulo Municipality on June 3 and commemorates the life of Selim Khimshiashvili. A concert with the participation of local amateur groups of a folk handicraft products exhibition is held during the festival. It is supported by Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of Adjara.[55]

Shuamtoba

Shuamtoba ("inter-mountain festival") is a traditional festival, which is held on the summer mountain pastures of two municipalities (Khulo and Shuakhevi), during the first weekend of every August. Horse racing, a folk handicraft exhibition and a concert involving folk ensembles are held as well.

Machakhloba

Machakhloba is a Machakhela gorge festivity, held in the second half of September. It is a traditional holiday celebrated in Machakhela gorge, Khelvachauri Municipality. The festival begins at the Machakhela rifle monument (at the point of convergence of the rivers Machakhela and Chorokhi), continues in the village Machakhispiri and ends in the village Zeda Chkhutuneti.[56]

Kolkhoba

Kolkhoba is an ancient Laz festival. It is held at the end of August or at the beginning of September in Sarpi village, Khelvachauri District. The story of the Argonauts is performed on stage during the festival.[57]

Notable people

Batumi in the 1900s.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The other autonomous unit based on an ethnoreligious factor was the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.
  2. ^ The census includes non-Adjarian Georgians as well.

References

  1. ^ "census - Demographic and social characteristics". census.ge. Archived from the original on 2019-08-15. Retrieved 2021-02-14.
  2. ^ Circle. "Population - National Statistics Office of Georgia". www.geostat.ge. Retrieved 2021-02-14.
  3. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". hdi.globaldatalab.org. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  4. ^ "1936 Constitution of the USSR, Part I". bucknell.edu.
  5. ^ Nazaroff, Alexander (1922-11-01). "Russia's Treaty with Turkey". Current History. 17 (2): 276–279. doi:10.1525/curh.1922.17.2.276. ISSN 0011-3530. S2CID 251524942.
  6. ^ Morritt, Robert D. (2017). Stones that Speak. Cambridge Scholars Publisher. ISBN 9781443821766 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Ronald G. Suny - The Making of the Georgian Nation. Indiana University Press. Page 8
  8. ^ George 2009, p. 99.
  9. ^ a b George 2009, pp. 99–100.
  10. ^ Bennigsen, Alexandre; Wimbush, S. Enders (1986). Muslims of the Soviet Empire: A Guide. Indiana University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-253-33958-4.
  11. ^ a b Sanikidze 2018, p. 249.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Sanikidze 2018, p. 250.
  13. ^ a b c d e Hoch & Kopeček 2011, p. 7.
  14. ^ "Constitution Of Georgia (1921), Article 107". Matiane. 4 September 2012. Retrieved 2022-09-05.
  15. ^ a b George 2009, p. 100.
  16. ^ a b c d e f George 2009, p. 105.
  17. ^ "Treaty of Kars (Treaty of Friendship between Turkey, the Socialist Soviet Republic of Armenia, the Azerbaijan Socialist Soviet Republic, and the Socialist Soviet Republic of Georgia)" (PDF). 1921-10-23. Retrieved 2022-03-03.
  18. ^ Coene, Frederik (2010). The Caucasus, an introduction (1st ed.). London: Routledge. p. 162. ISBN 9780415666831. Retrieved 2022-09-05.
  19. ^ Kaufman 2001, p. 124.
  20. ^ Derluguian 1998, p. 262.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i George 2009, p. 121.
  22. ^ George 2009, pp. 121–122.
  23. ^ a b c d George 2009, p. 122.
  24. ^ George 2009, p. 123.
  25. ^ a b c d e f George 2009, p. 175.
  26. ^ a b c George 2009, pp. 122–123.
  27. ^ a b George 2009, p. 129.
  28. ^ George 2009, p. 137.
  29. ^ George 2009, p. 141.
  30. ^ "Saakashvili's Vows Improvements with Drastic Measures". Civil Georgia. 2004-01-25. Retrieved 2022-09-05.
  31. ^ George 2009, pp. 172–173.
  32. ^ "Georgia Has a New President". Civil Georgia. 2004-01-25. Retrieved 2022-09-05.
  33. ^ George 2009, p. 176.
  34. ^ George 2009, pp. 175–176.
  35. ^ Saakashvili's Ajara Success: Repeatable Elsewhere in Georgia? (Report). International Crisis Group. 2004-08-18. pp. 6–11. ICG Europe Briefing 34. Retrieved 2022-09-05.
  36. ^ "Constitutional Court of Georgia - Brief History". constcourt.ge. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21.
  37. ^ "Russia closes last military base in Georgia". Reuters. 13 November 2007. Archived from the original on 16 October 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  38. ^ "Georgians Wary of Turkey's Rising Influence in Batumi". Eurasianet. 2017-03-09. While the government does not release figures on the levels of Turkish investment in Ajara, it represents roughly 80-90 percent of the total foreign investment in the region, a former regional government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
  39. ^ Balci, Bayram (18 June 2014). "Strengths and Constraints of Turkish Policy in the South Caucasus". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Turkish religious influence is notable, not only in Azerbaijan but also in the Muslim regions of Georgia (in the region of Adjara and the border areas of Azerbaijan).
  40. ^ "Islam in Georgia" (Word document). gov.uk. Government of the United Kingdom. Turkey's influence in the region remains strong, in part through funding provided by Ankara for local mosques
  41. ^ "CHAIRMAN OF GOVERNMENT". adjara.gov.ge. Archived from the original on 2023-12-25. Retrieved 2023-12-25.
  42. ^ "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for the Forestry Sector of Adjara Autonomous Republic, Georgia" (PDF). teebweb.org. December 2016. p. 15. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  43. ^ "Description". www.batumioilterminal.com. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  44. ^ "Inbound Tourism Statistics in Georgia (I-Quarter, 2023-year)" (PDF). geostat.ge. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  45. ^ "census - 2014 General Population Census Results". census.ge. Archived from the original on 2020-02-14. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  46. ^ George 2009, p. 23.
  47. ^ Toft, Monica Duffy (2003). The Geography of Ethnic Violence: Identity, Interests, and the Indivisibility of Territory (PDF). Princeton University Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-691-12383-7.
  48. ^ George 2009, pp. 101–102.
  49. ^ "Autonomous Republic of Adjara, Department of Statistics".[permanent dead link]
  50. ^ a b "census - Demographic and social characteristics". census.ge. Archived from the original on 2016-08-09. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  51. ^ a b Sanikidze 2018, p. 255.
  52. ^ Köksal, Pınar; Aydıngün, Ayşegül; Gürsoy, Hazar Ege (2019). "Religious Revival and Deprivatization in Post-Soviet Georgia: Reculturation of Orthodox Christianity and Deculturation of Islam". Politics and Religion. 12 (2): 317–345. doi:10.1017/S1755048318000585. ISSN 1755-0483. S2CID 150339133.
  53. ^ Sanikidze 2018, p. 256.
  54. ^ Nodia, Ghia; Scholtbach, Álvaro Pinto (2006). The Political Landscape of Georgia: Political Parties: Achievements, Challenges and Prospects (PDF). Eburon Uitgeverij B.V. p. 10. ISBN 978-90-5972-113-5.
  55. ^ "Selimoba". gobatumi.com. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  56. ^ "Machahloba". www.gobatumi.com. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  57. ^ "Kolkhoba". gobatumi.com. Retrieved 2023-12-28.

Sources