The Abkhazia Real Estate “Boom”


Another attack happened in the occupied Abkhazia when the car of a local MP was blown up in Sokhumi. The Toyota was remotely detonated when Almas Japua had already left the vehicle, yet the explosion lead to protests throughout Sokhumi with local ethnic Abkhazians rallying against the draft law on giving permission to foreigners to purchase real estate in occupied Abkhazia, the adoption of which was opposed by the car-bomber’s intended victim, MP Japua in the de facto Parliament. The protesters won again and the de facto government blocked the law.

The problem of selling and buying real estate in occupied Abkhazia was raised as early as the war in 1992-93, when, following the ethnic cleansing, the local Abkhazians took over the property of ethnic Georgians. Each Abkhazian got 5-6 “trophy” properties. The victorious Abkhazians believed that by renting out the houses of Georgians during the holiday season they would get fabulous profits. Their illusions quickly disappeared and they realized that Abkhazia would not become an American Florida anytime soon. This is when the issue of selling the so-called “trophy” apartments to non-Abkhazians was raised for the first time. However, they had to face another dilemma in this case as well, as it was possible and likely that the same Georgians would purchase back their seized property, meaning that Abkhazians were selling back the victory they had gained in the war at the expense of their blood. Therefore, they introduced various regulations, practically apartheid laws, according to which purchasing real estate was forbidden to ethnic Georgians.

These regulations were realized as ineffective, as it did not matter who purchased the property of those 250 thousand Georgians, be it ethnic Georgians, Russians or Armenians, as Abkhazians would once again become a demographical minority in Abkhazia. The only solution was to give the apartments to the ethnic Abkhazians who had immigrated to Turkey some two centuries ago. However, at that time, the de facto leader Sergei Bagapsh got a refusal from the Kremlin for this and was even ‘sacrificed’ to his own initiative. The issue of selling to foreigners was raised once again in Sokhumi following 2008, when Russia recognized the ‘independence’ of Abkhazia and decided it was the right time for some money to be spent in Abkhazia, urging Russian businessmen to become more active.

The result? The price for a three-room apartment by the sea in the center of Sokhumi rose to USD 150 thousand. This is when the representatives of the de facto government got scared and introduced a law prohibiting foreigners from purchasing real estate. But in 2011 they talk of the Law arose yet again when an MP from the United Russia party, Konstantin Zatulin, demanded legalization of a summer house in New Atoni. Even Zatulin, being an ideologist of the separatist Abkhazians, made anxious statements about not being able to own a summer house. Abkhazians were able to defend the existing law at the time. However, now, when there are numerous Russian military troops in Abkhazia, the Kremlin has demanded the marionette government allow purchase of real estate by foreigners. And so the next wave of controversy begins.

Today, those supporting the law allowing the selling of real estate to foreigners appear even within the occupied territory, made up in part by ethnic Armenians, whose population almost equals that of the ethnic Abkhazians. The Armenian lobby in the occupied Abkhazia is already a power worth considering. Yet the population is against the law, fearing that property will be snapped up by Russians. And the situation there suggests that the Armenians are creating problems even for the Russians living in Abkhazia. This is probably why Moscow told their “Abkhaz friends:” “We recognized your independence, but not because you are really independent, nor in order to see the formation of a full-fledged state neighboring the separatist North Caucasus and formed by the people (Apsuas) related to them. We recognized your independence in order for you to become a part of Russia. This will be arranged in future. But before that, everything in Abkhazia should be controlled by Russia: the borders, railway, resorts, money flow, civic space...”

Zaza Jgarkava

21 April 2016 21:07