The renowned French leftist monthly Le Monde Diplomatique has just published (in its September 2023 issue) a review of the memoirs of former Abkhazian fighter Bekir Ashuba, released by Editions du Cygne last March.
The reviewer, Loïc Ramirez, pays tribute to this work of memory, noting it as “an opportunity to learn more about the relationships within the Circassian families (...) and to discover a conflict largely unknown in Europe.”
Abkhazia is not well-known in France, and yet, in many ways, its history should resonate with the French people. A victim of massive deportation by the Russian Empire in 1864, followed by forced assimilation into Georgia during Stalin's time, it has all the hallmarks of the Gaulish village from Asterix, the famous comic known across the whole world. After achieving a historic military victory in 1992 against the nationalist militias of the Tbilisi government, this country of fewer than 300,000 inhabitants managed to maintain de facto independence for 16 years, until 2008, under an international embargo, without assistance from anyone (since no country dared to recognise Abkhazian independence). This is an absolutely unique case in modern history.
At a time when many people around the world feel increasingly enslaved by a supranational oligarchy that, through cutting-edge technologies, intends to control not only individual actions (as seen during the Covid-19 crisis) but even their DNA (through digital identity) and their thoughts (due to global media uniformity), all the while undermining the traditional anthropological foundations of living together, the Abkhazians' ability to resist international dictates has become a model for anyone still hoping to escape the global steamroller.
In 2008, the audacious endeavour undertaken by the Georgian president, an ally of American neo-conservatives, Mikheil Saakashvili, convinced Russia to officially recognise Abkhazia and support it financially.
Since then, another threat looms over this people: the risk of seeing their uniqueness erased amidst the confrontation between Russia and NATO. This threat became particularly pronounced after the Russian intervention in the Ukraine in 2022. The danger is all the more real since Abkhazia is militarily vulnerable to the surrounding military powers. Additionally, a certain thirst for economic profit might lead some sectors of this country to undermine its own historical heritage. Thus, this summer, a bill proposing to authorise the sale of 30,000 apartments to foreigners sparked legitimate outrage in Abkhazia and among the diaspora. Selling 30,000 homes to foreigners in a modest-sized country poses the risk of further marginalising the inheritors of its culture on their own territory. We know that the policy of implanting external populations is a cunning tool of ethnocide, employed at various points in human history, especially in the 20th century in diverse regions like the former USSR, or in Western areas like the Spanish Basque Country or Corsican France.
It would be tragic if Abkhazia were to self-destruct, allowing the pursuit of material enrichment to jeopardise its cultural heritage. The power of money would thus achieve what the Georgians' use of force in 1992-1993 could not.
We must hope that the Abkhazian people will be able to react to the danger, and they will be all the more able to do so if they feel supported by sympathisers of their cause in the four corners of the world. I believe that Bekir Ashuba's book can contribute to this, because it brings to life from the inside the fight of the volunteers of 1992, people who had pure hearts and who made sacrifices without expecting any advantage in return other than the satisfaction of having paid part of their moral debt towards their ancestors. This example of "re-rooting" in history, mixed with selfless heroism, in the face of a capitalist globalism which deprives people of what they are, by playing on their base instincts (fear, the desire for small pleasures, etc.) is a model for many people on all continents which can help them rediscover the meaning of taking back control of their individual and collective destiny. And this is why we must hope that after the publication in French, there will be others in English, in Spanish, in Chinese, in Arabic. The reason is that, once again, the fight to which he bears witness, the legacy he draws from its ashes, potentially concerns everyone.
I will also add a word to finish. Bekir Ashuba in his book recounts how his patriotic war had a happy turning point when his cousin was inspired to carry out the sacrifice of a goat in a village whose history had been marked by the massacre of the Circassians in the 19th century. He thereby shows that those who lead a just fight are supported by spiritual forces whose manifestations will not fail, one day or another, to surprise them. This is also a snub to all those who want to make people believe that they are alone and abandoned by God. This supernatural action, the mysterious manifestation of which was noted by Bekir Ashuba, can still act in the future for the benefit of Abkhazia and all those who will act for those who are interested in it to inspire their own action. As it is written in the Bible: “For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.” (Psalm 37:28). Those who stand with the Abkhazian people when they are threatened will receive a just divine reward.
Frédéric Delorca was born in 1970 in the Southwest of France. He is a jurist and holds a doctorate in sociology. He has published essays on international relations and philosophy (especially on Stoicism), travel narratives, and a novel. In 2009, he participated in an electoral monitoring mission in Abkhazia, and based on this experience, wrote a book titled “Abkhazia, Discovering a Republic of Survivors”,; which was published in Paris by Éditions du Cygne.
This article was originally written in French and translated into English.