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The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay “A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
Jan 2015 back issue
Abkhazia on the Black Sea
by Rob Hornstra
In Empty land, Promised land, Forbidden land, we (photographer Rob Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen) explore the unknown country of Abkhazia on the Black Sea. Abkhazia broke away from Georgia after a short, violent civil war in ’92-’93 and was recognised as independent in 2008 by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the atoll of Nauru. We have spent the last four years travelling through the country, seeing how it is slowly trying to claw its way out of isolation. We visited the refugees in Georgia and described the attempts made by the Abkhazian government to repopulate the empty, war-ravaged country with new immigrants. © Rob Hornstra / The Sochi Project
Sukhumi, ABKHAZIA, 2009 - Interior of Dom Kultury in Sukhumi. Director Lubov Ivanovna Ashuba tells that the whole building was destroyed after the war. With the help of many volunteers they made some necessary repairs. Now the cinema is running again and some dancing, music and sewing lessons are given. There is no central heating.
Eshera, ABKHAZIA, 2009 - Mikhail Yefremovich Zetunyan (88) sits in his living room with a magnificent view of the Black Sea. Despite the subtropical climate and stunning location most of the houses in Eshera are empty. During the war with Georgia in 1993, all the ethnic Georgians were driven out. Young village residents were killed in the fighting. Only a quarter of the village's population remains. There are simply not enough people to keep the village going, leaving everything to fall into further disrepair. Mikhail Yefremovich doesn't care. He feels his time has come and is busy making his own coffin.
Pitsunda, ABKHAZIA, 2009 - Pitsunda is a resort town in the Gagra district of Abkhazia. It is situated on the shore of the Black Sea 25 km south from Gagra. In October 1964 Nikita Khrushchev was vacationing in Pitsunda when he was deposed from power. There are many hotels for Russian tourists, who frequent the area in summertime.
Sukhum, ABKHAZIA, 2009 - Suzanna Kaldzhan (35) works at the post office in Sukhum, the capitol of Abkhazia.
Kuabchara, ABKHAZIA, 2009 - Zashrikwa and Edrese showing their Kalashnikov's in their home in the completely abandoned village of Kuabchara in the Kodori Valley. According to their uncle they're not children anymore, they are fighters. That's the reason why they are allowed to have a gun. The Kodori Valley (also known as the Kodori Gorge) is a river valley in Abkhazia, Georgia's breakaway autonomous republic. The valley's upper part, populated by Svans, was the only corner of the post-1993 Abkhazia, directly controlled by the central Georgian government, which officially styles the area as Upper Abkhazia. On August 12, 2008, Abkhazian forces gained control of most of the Kodori Valley, previously controlled by Georgia.
Sukhum, ABKHAZIA, 2010 - House in the suburbs of Sukhum, which is offered by the Abkhazian government to Turkish repatriant Faruk Karcaa (55) and his family. Faruk doesn't have money to repair the house. So he is still renting a small apartment in the center of Sukhum.
Sukhum, ABKHAZIA, 2010 - House in the suburbs of Sukhum, which is offered by the Abkhazian government to Turkish repatriant Faruk Karcaa (55) and his family.
Found photograph.
Ochamchire, ABKHAZIA, 2010 - Former waiting room at the train station of Ochamchire.
Sukhum, ABKHAZIA, 2010 - Milana Vozba is student at the university of Sukhum. She works as a freelance translator.
The Sukhum Primate Center in Abkhazia is the oldest primate research laboratory in the world. Founded in the 1920s, the institute now strives for relevance amid Abkhazia's struggle for independence from Georgia, dwindling funds, and the loss of a large portion of its animals to a modern lab in neighboring Russia.
Tkuarchal, ABKHAZIA, 2010 - During the War in Abkhazia (1992-3), Tkuarchal withheld, through Russian humanitarian and military aid, an uneasy siege by the Georgian forces. Since 1995 it is the centre of the newly-formed Tkvarcheli district.The town's population was 21,744 in 1989. The three main ethnic groups were Abkhaz (42.3%), Russians (24.5%) and Georgians (23.4%).  As a result of the War in Abkhazia the town's industries all but stopped and its population decreased greatly and according to the 2003 census data its population was 4,786.
Tbilisi, GEORGIA, 2010 - Ketevan Gamisonia (26) with her daughter Ana (2) in their room in a former student complex in Tbilisi. She lives there with her husband Kakhaber (29) and their son Dimitri (5). The huge building has been a shelter for refugees from Abkhazia since the war in 1992 - 1993. It is estimated that some 250,000 ethnic Georgians have fled during the war from Abkhazia. They often stay in miserable conditions in old hotels or former student buildings.
Tbilisi, GEORGIA, 2010 - Young girl in the corridor of a refugee kommunalka in Tbilisi. A kommunalka is a apartment building in which dwellers share facilities like toilet and kitchen. Until the early nineties this building was used for students housing. After the Georgian - Abkhazian war in 92-93 the building was occupied by Georgian refugees from Abkhazia.
Eshera, ABKHAZIA, 2010 - The second time we visit Mikhail Yefremovich Zetunyan (88) in his house with a magnificent view of the Black Sea. Building his own coffin.
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