SUKHUM / AQW'A — Raul Khajimba, the former president of the Republic of Abkhazia, has voiced staunch opposition to the proposed 'Apartment Law.' This legislation was first proposed by current Abkhazian leader, Aslan Bzhania.
Khajimba drew parallels with Abkhazia's historical experiences in his opposition, stating, "Our history has witnessed similar concepts of 'apartments.' Each of us interprets this differently. Back in the 30s and 40s, the Communist Party and the Georgian leadership erected apartments in various Abkhazian villages, ushering in a wave of people who initially had no significant impact on Abkhazia."
He continued, "They were essentially disenfranchised people, practically raised from the lands where they lived, given a kick in the backside, and sent here. Apart from rakes and pitchforks, they practically had nothing more. But over time, their number grew, and they began to influence many processes in Abkhazia."
Expressing concerns about the proposed legislation, Khajimba warned, "History could repeat itself. Regardless of how enticing the narrative, the influx of people purchasing these apartments could significantly shape political processes. Any assurances to the contrary are false."
The initially sporadic process of migration, which began following the Russian-Caucasian and Russian-Turkish wars, reached its peak between 1937 and 1953. See: The Stalin-Beria Terror in Abkhazia, 1936-1953, by Stephen D. Shenfield. In accordance with a decree of the Communist Party’s Central Committee of 27 May 1939, land was set aside and domiciles specially constructed to house the collective farmers and their families transported into Abkhazia from various regions of Western Georgia (principally Mingrelia). The film-clip (from a 30-minute documentary on Abkhazia shot in 1941) talks of settlements having been created in the Gagra, Gudauta and Ochamchira districts and shows incomers travelling on carts, the building of their homes, and one family actually moving in. The scale of the population-movement can be seen by comparing the census-data for 1939 vs 1959, which demonstrates that the number of Kartvelians (viz. Mingrelians, Georgians, Svans, Laz, but chiefly Mingrelians) resident in tiny Abkhazia shot up by some 66,000, with extremely damaging demographic consequence for the native Abkhazian percentage of the overall population. See: Resettlement to Abkhazia.
The proposed law defines an 'apartment' as a non-residential, commercial space, at least 20 square meters in size, comprising one or more rooms with a sleeping area and a kitchen zone, and intended for temporary residence. The legislation asserts that an apartment can be owned by an individual or a legal entity.
The bill further clarifies that an "apartment does not qualify as a residential dwelling and is not intended for permanent residency."
The legislation restricts the purchase of apartments to those who respect Abkhazia's independence and sovereignty. Those involved in hostilities against Abkhazia would be barred from ownership, as would individuals who have committed crimes against Abkhaz citizens on the grounds of political or national hatred or enmity.
The document also declares that foreign or stateless individuals owning an apartment in Abkhazia do not thereby qualify for a residence permit or Abkhaz citizenship.
Critics of the bill argue that it is a veiled mechanism for the sale of property. They warn that the legislation could potentially enable the settlement of up to 100,000 people in Abkhazia. Leuan Mikaa, Chairman of the Committee for the Protection of the Sovereignty of Abkhazia, expressed concerns about the demographic implications of the bill, stating, "Abkhazia's population could surge to 340,000, while the indigenous Abkhaz population would stagnate at 100,000 - effectively representing less than 30% of the total."