To Sukhumi with Love!
17 February, 2011
To Sukhumi with Love!

Giorgi Baramia is a career diplomat and a high-ranking Georgian official, currently at the head of the Apkhazeti (Abkhazia) Government – the only legitimate administration of the Apkhazeti Autonomous Republic of Georgia, de jure but occupied by Russia, de facto. Giorgi (Gya) was born and brought up in Sukhumi and was forced into leaving his beloved native town as a result of one of the most outrageous fratricidal conflicts the world has ever known instigated by Russia and inspired by the

cynical adage – ‘Divide and Rule!’ The Georgian Journal has landed this unique interview with Mr. Baramia to present it for the judgment of those who genuinely want to get the gist of what the Georgian-Abkhazian relationship is all about in its most transparent actuality.

GJ – What is the main function of the current legitimate government of Apkhazeti (Abkhazia)?
GB – The Apkhazeti government is part of the Georgian Government just like Apkhazeti is part of Georgia as its autonomous unit in the form of a democratic republic, administered by the constitutions of Georgia and Apkhazeti accordingly. Our government’s main function is a complete involvement of Apkhazeti into social, political and economic life of the entire Georgia, inspired by the idea of reinstatement of Georgia’s territorial integrity. Speaking about social aspect of our work, it is our ultimate goal to improve the quality of life of all forcefully displaced persons. In actual practice, the job is being done by our ministries and various departments.
GJ – How successful do you think the government is in achieving its main goal?  In other words, what is the percentage of fulfillment of the task?
GB – Based on the limited opportunity given to our government, we are doing our possible best. Percentage-wise, let our refugees evaluate our efforts.
GJ – If I may ask, how big is the annual budget of the Apkhazeti legitimate Government?
GB – The total budget constitutes 11,330,000 GELS, out of which 6,922,000 GELS is allocated for pay-roll purposes; social programs and all kinds of subsidies take 1,803,000 GELS; goods and services consume 1,840 GELS. 
GJ – I hate to ask you any indiscreet questions, but when did you last visit Apkhazeti?
GB – Naturally, I have never stopped dreaming of going back home. I last went to Sukhumi in the middle of June of 2006 as a member of the delegation of “Friends of Georgia Nations’ ambassadors under the aegis of the United Nations.
GJ – What was the feeling like?
GB – I was overwhelmed by two radically different sensations: a) I felt extremely happy to have flown back to Sukhumi, and b) I was very unhappy to have found myself in the occupied Sukhumi. Tears of bitterness welled to my eyes. Going down the streets of the town, I saw my alma mater, the Akaki Tsereteli Georgian comprehensive school No. 6 – ruined and dilapidated, and across the street there was the Chekhov Russian School which looked perfect – clean, refurbished and well-maintained. I wanted to die on the spot having seen that picture. The separatists did not even allow me to see my house.
GJ – Giorgi, I am sincerely sorry. Does your family have any property in Sukhumi?
GB – We certainly have. It is the house where I grew up. There are the Abkhaz living in it right now, unlawfully occupying the building.
GJ – How big is the house and what is its ballpark market price currently?
GB – Its living space is about 400 square meters, and it shouldn’t be less than 300 thousand dollars at the present moment, but for me personally it is just priceless.
GJ – How about your parents?
GB– They got stuck in Apkhazeti for six months after the 1993 war, but the Abkhaz gave them sanctuary. The times were truly scary: the separatist leader Ardzinba had ordered to shoot any ethnic Georgian and any person of the Abkhaz nationality who would shelter Georgians. Notwithstanding the harshness of the situation, my local friends promised me to get them out for me at any price.  It was my good fortune that my parents managed to escape safely in March of 1994 thanks to those fearless and heroic Abkhaz friends of mine. Dad died in 1998. Mom is still around, thank God. My dream is to rebury him next to his parents in Sukhumi. His casket is furnished with special gear made of chains for easy handling in case of possible reburial in the future. By the way, all our refugees are behaving that way when interring their relatives. We call it ‘temporary burial’ (reddening tears moistened my respondent’s eyes).
GJ – I am incisively impressed, Gya. What a nerve you and your mother must have had to go through that ordeal! Shall we continue? What is it that your government has already achieved as a result of those famous Geneva talks?
GB – We are working in two directions: the new concept of security and the dignified return of the displaced persons. Return seems to be possible but profiling of refugees suggested by the Abkhaz side is merely unacceptable. The best result of our mutual efforts is that we have made considerable progress on the way to creating the document guaranteeing the fulfillment of the above. On top of all that, there is a certain positive result in place. For example, on the 14th of October the Russian troops retreated from the occupied Perevi towards Akhalgori. The Geneva talks are proceeding with difficulty, but finally the document will be signed thanks to the efforts of international community.
GJ – What is Georgia’s general position in terms of solving the territorial problems?
GB – Having made good use of international platform, President of Georgia has sent open and clear message to Russians about Georgia’s readiness to enter renewed talks on the problem and to never use military force for resolving the conflict. Thus the ball is on Russia’s side right now, but they are silent. I am quite confident that the occupied territories of Georgia will soon be free from the Russian occupation. 
GJ – Do you sincerely believe in peaceful resolution of the conflict?
GB – Yes, I do! Only peaceful! And . . . to Sukhumi with love! My own formula consists of three components: Straight dialogue with the Abkhaz, breaking of information vacuum, and deployment of international peace-keepers on the now occupied territory.
GJ – What else could be helpful when Georgia and Russia are at non-speaking terms?
GB – There is a paucity of choice here because Russia is adamant about her military and political interests in the region. Duress of international community on Russia and economic sanctions against the occupants seem to be most practical of possible measures. 
GJ – How is your grass-roots diplomacy proceeding, which you made a statement about the day you had embarked on your new job of the head of the Apkhazeti (Abkhazia) Government?
GB – It is in active operation all right. Plenty of Georgian-Abkhazian friendships were made. Even a mixed marriage took place. As many as ten Abkhaz families moved to Georgia, one of them having made a statement about the readiness of the Abkhazs to be in closer touch with Georgians provided the Russian special service were not stuck in between. 500 ethnic Abkhaz persons regained Georgia’s citizenship. We are also trying to restore the Council of Elders, which at one time had a huge clout on separatists. The process of reintegration is certainly on.
GJ – So the broken bridge is being repaired step by step, isn’t it?
GB – It certainly is!

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