NEWS

The history of the diaspora in Georgia

A consequence of the war was the shrinking of the once-flourishing Greek diaspora in Sukhumi, the Abkhazian capital. This happened despite the fact that Greeks were never persecuted by either side, but on the contrary were encouraged by both sides to remain in the area throughout the conflict, and were even offered high ministerial and administrative positions. Unfortunately, during the war, but also after the occupation of Sukhumi by the Abkhazians, there were up to one hundred casualties among the Greek diaspora. The years 1992 and 1993 marked the third great exodus of Greeks heading from Abkhazia toward Greece and Russia. Whereas more than 17,000 Greeks lived in that area before the war, it is questionable whether a mere 2,000 Greeks still reside in Abkhazia today. Prior to World War II, the city of Sukhumi, whose Greek population was then approximately 65,000, had been one of the important educational and cultural centers of Hellenism in the USSR. In Sukhumi, one could find Greek schools, theaters, newspapers and libraries, while at the same time Greek intellectuals participated in scientific debate. Between 1937 and 1940, as well as in 1948, this significant diaspora was exiled almost in its entirety to Central Asia and Siberia; only a small number of Greeks returned during Khrushchev’s liberalization period following Stalin’s death in 1953. The Greeks in Georgia are of various origins. Most of them immigrated from Anatolia and other parts of Turkey in the 19th century. Several thousands were forced to abandon their historic homeland, the Pontus, during 1917-1922 and take refuge in Georgia. Apart from Abkhazia, many Greeks also lived in the Tsalka and Tetritskaro regions of southeast Georgia: These are the so-called Anatolian Greeks, or Rums. Furthermore, those known as Pontian Greeks inhabited the area around the Black Sea shores in western Georgia, predominately the areas of Abkhazia and Ajara (Batumi and Cobuleti). After 1992 and especially after the Abkhazian war, there was a continuous flow of Greeks back to their mother country, notwithstanding the difficulties with finding employment and housing in Greece and although ties and relations with Georgia were often good.