Where are they located?
The Abkhaz people number approximately 150,000 and live in Abkhazia (a disputed territory near Georgia on the eastern coast of the Black Sea), Turkey, Russia, Georgia, and Ukraine. Their language is classified as belonging to the northwest Caucasian languages, which is distinct from the language groups of their neighbors in the areas where they live.
What are their lives like?
Agriculture and tourism are major focal points for Abkhazian life. Russian influences have deeply shaped their culture via political occupation and insertion of culture through educational control. Georgian influences formed the culture of some areas via similar processes.
What are their beliefs?
The Abkhaz people are divided primarily into two faith groups, Orthodox Christian and Sunni Muslim. Small numbers of Jews, Jehovah's Witness, and various other religions are also found. Abkhaz and Georgian law recognizes all religious practitioners as having equal rights.
The Christian church in Abkhazia was heavily influenced by the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church for many years.
What are their needs?
The Abkhazian people are a minority in their own native land. This minority status does not permit the expression or regeneration of their traditional culture or political beliefs. A sense of relationship with their past generations is likely difficult to maintain and possibly difficult to remember due to the forced culture and identity changes of the past.
After the fall of the USSR, there have been several instances of demonstrations by some Abkhazians against Georgia. New opportunities may exist to allow the Abkhaz people to restore ties to their heritage.
Text source: Wallace Revels
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