The Tale of Afro-Abkhazians
07 March, 2015
The Tale of Afro-Abkhazians
Black slavery was not limited to the America’s and Africa’s. Despite being outlawed in most of Europe, it still existed in peripheral areas linked to the Muslim world as well as Venice and Genoa. Apparently, one of slave trading hubs was located in the Georgian region of Abkhazia. Moreover, some medieval maps of the Black Sea have several towns located in what is today Abkhazia marked with a vertically crossed “S,” denoting a slave market. This sign is an abbreviation
of Venetian “sciavo,” meaning “slave.”


“Africans were brought to Abkhazia in XVII by a local count Sharvashidze, who purchased them at a slave market in Istanbul.”

Abkhazian black people were a very minor ethnic group in Abkhazia. Nicknamed “Shavi Katsebi” (black men) by the native population, they mainly inhabited the village of Adzyubzha and a few settlements near Kodori Gorge. According to historians’ estimates, they were brought to Abkhazia in XVII by the local Count Sharvashidze, who purchased them at a slave market in Istanbul to work the citrus plantations.
Another version, dismissed by many as a legend, tells of a slave merchant’s ship that sunk near the Abkhazian coast. It implies that so-called Afro-Abkhazians are descendants of slaves who survived the shipwreck.
Historian Mikheil Labadze shares his insight into what happened. According to him, Venetian chronicles confirm that ingeotv.ge the second part of XVII century, Abkhazian Count Sharvashidze purchased black slaves from Arab merchants. The payment involved both money and barter, with other slaves exchanged for black ones.
The fact that the settlement of “black men” was located at the mouth of Kodori Gorge implies that protection of Samegrelo’s border was included into the list of their duties. This is also confirmed by the fact that by the XIX century they were all largely assimilated into the local culture, having learned the Abkhazian language and adopted the local attire. It seems that local feudal lords saw little difference between local or foreign slaves, and cared little for both. This seems to be the main reason why the black slaves discarded their native language and culture so quickly.

“According to historian Bryan Sykes of the Oxford University, the gigantic remains of a woman discovered in a remote mountainous Abkhazian village are of Sub-Saharan African origin.”

Arab sources also tell of the slave trade that took place at the Black Sea Coast. One of the more interesting pieces of information on that subject is an anonymous manuscript that was written during the Mamluk rule in Egypt and kept in Paris since XVIII century. It describes the invasion of Ethiopia by Mamluks, their rounding up of the Falasha (Ethiopian Jews, who belong to the Congoid race and have little to do with Jews aside from religion) and selling many of them to an Ottoman Sultan.
geotv.geThe fact of Ottoman sultan owning Falasha slaves is confirmed by one of the Russian chroniclers, which describes a ship that carried them as a gift from the Ottoman Sultan to the Crimean Khan sinking at the Black Sea’s eastern coasts. Most of the slaves drowned, but the chronicler claims that some survived, managing to reach the lands of the Kasogs (Circassians) and the Ubykhs (extinct Caucasian ethnos that inhabited parts of modern-day Abkhazia). The locals captured the shipwreck survivors and again sold them as slaves.
Studying the history of Abkhazian Africans is important because it is yet another piece in the puzzle that is the Caucasus, despite them having been driven away and/or exterminated by communists in the 1930s. Not a trace of them remains in Adzybzha village or other settlements today, aside from a single archeological find. According to historian Bryan Sykes of the Oxford University, the gigantic remains of a woman discovered in a remote mountainous Abkhazian village are of Sub-Saharan African origin and do not belong to an unidentified relic hominid. Nicknamed “Zana,” this woman, who died of old age in 1890, most likely was a descendant of “Afro-Abkhazians.”

geotv.ge

“I was amazed by a purely tropical landscape before me. Straw-topped huts rose from a sea of immaculate green, with black-skinned children playing around them and black-skinned men clad in white attire going about their business. There was little difference between them and Abkhazians. They spoke the same language and followed the same religion,” Writes ethnographer Yevgeny Markov in the “Kavkaz” publication, 1913.









Author: Mikheil Labadze

Related story:

How black people came to Abkhazia


Print
Other Stories
What to take for a trip to Tbilisi – Tips from  New York Times
Lots of tourists arrive in Georgia, Tbilisi, especially in summer, when tourist season is in its peak. But not everyone knows which items to take with during the trip to Tbilisi.
Archeological artifacts found during rehabilitation works of Gudiashvili Square, Tbilisi
Recently a new discovery has been made in a historic Gudiashvili Square, located in the heart of Tbilisi, near Liberty Square.
Georgian specialists to rehabilitate abandoned Oshki dome in Tao-Klarjeti
A group of Georgian specialists and scientists have been sent to Tao-Klarjeti, a historic province that used to belong to Georgia
Discovery of the largest and oldest Basilica in Georgia
In Georgia, it was a sensation when an archeological expedition unearthed Doloshopi Basilica in Kakheti region, that is considered to be the oldest within the country.
Euronews advices travelers to visit spectacular Prometheus caves in Georgia
Summer season is the best time to travel in Georgia and explore some of the most distinguished sites. Fortunately, there are lots of places in Georgia to visit.
Horce race festival of Tusheti Region captured by Polish photographer
The Polish photographer Magdalena Konik is a frequent visitor of Georgia and is interested in exploring both traditions and sites of the country.
National Tourism Administration develops hiking trails in Georgia
Georgia is well known for it diverse nature and a plenty of places for hiking and camping.
Top 10 magical lakes to visit in Georgia
Summer is approaching, and everyone seeks for the places to chill out in the lap of nature far from the city noise and pollution.
The Guardian names Georgia as an alternative to the Alps
Georgia’s unique beauty and exotic wild nature has attracted the attention of the numerous international publications already.
Forbes: Why Georgia is the next great food and wine destination
Georgian culture, traditions and hospitality often attract the attention of the leading international media.
10 castle villages of Georgia’s Tusheti Region to be studied and rehabilitated
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced launching of inventory and study works in 10 castle villages of Tusheti,
From Georgia to Lebanon: exploring the best wines of the ancient world
As it is widely known, Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world.
National Geographic to cover stories about Georgia and promote tourism industry
Georgian National Tourism Administration of the Ministry of Economy and sustainable development of Georgia
How to Toast in Tbilisi: Georgian Food Is Nothing Without Supra
Georgian” supra” or so called tradition of feasting is not a novelty for foreigners
Most charming historic buildings of Tbilisi - A trip through the city’s past
Tbilisi, Georgia’s beautiful capital, is distinguished by a number of features making the city a unique
Story of Georgian oda houses in Samegrelo told through photos
Samegrelo, one of the richest and most beautiful regions of Georgia, is distinguished by many unique features
National Geographic explores Georgia’s ex-Soviet spa resorts
National Geographic has recently visited Georgia’s crumbling ex-Soviet spa resorts.
The Independent on Svaneti: How to hike through most remote region in Georgia
Svaneti, Georgia’s remote highland has always been quite an attractive place for the tourists and foreign visitors
Inaugural Experts name Tbilisi Best Emerging Destination 2018
Well-known travel website tripexpert.com has named Georgia’s capital Tbilisi Best Emerging Destination 2018.
Georgia’s Goderdzi resort turned into vanilla ice cream “wonderland” by pink snow
Recently Georgia’s latest ski resort Goderdzi was covered with pink snow creating the association of giant vanilla ice-cream.
Unknown medieval monastery ruins discovered in Georgia
Ruins of a previously unknown medieval monastery have been discovered in Georgia’s south.
National Geographic Traveler Names Batumi in Top 10 Tourist Cities in Europe
Georgia’s seaside city of Batumi, the capital of Adjara Region is becoming more and more attractive for the tourists
Georgia’s David Gareji complex among 7 most endangered heritage sites in Europe
Europa Nostra, the leading heritage organization in Europe, and the European Investment Bank Institute
Mesmerizing view of Ushba Mount captured in Georgia’s Svaneti Region
It is impossible to visit highlands of Georgia and stay unimpressed.
CENN gives recommendations to Georgian government on road constructions in remote highlands
CENN is a non-governmental organisation working to protect their environment fostering sustainable development throughout the South Caucuses.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Exchange Rates
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
21.07.2018
22.07.2018
USD
1
USD
2.4417
2.4417
EUR
1
EUR
2.8436
2.8436
GBP
1
GBP
3.1813
3.1813
RUB
100
RUB
3.8430
3.8430