Abkhazia

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Abkhazia (Abkhaz: Аҧсны Apsny, Georgian: აფხაზეთი Apkhazeti, Russian: Абха́зия Abkhazia) is a political entity on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and the south-western flank of the Caucasus whose status is disputed.

Abkhazia considers itself an independent state (the Republic of Abkhazia), but this status is recognised only by Russia and a few other UN members - and by South Ossetia and Transnistria, both of which are themselves in a situation similar to Abkhazia.

The government of Georgia and most of the world consider Abkhazia part of Georgia's territory. In Georgia's official subdivision it is an autonomous republic (whose government sits in exile in Tblisi). In 2008, the Parliament of Georgia passed a resolution declaring Abkhazia a "Russian-occupied territory".

In reality there is little likelihood of Abkhazia becoming a full part of Georgia in the near future.

For further background on this situation and its history see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abkhazia as a starting point.

The population is hard to estimate but sources suggest that it is around 160,000 - in the 2003 census it was over 200,000.

The capital is Sukhumi.

Abkhazia is divided into nine "raions" named after their centers: Gagra, Gudauta, Sukhumi, Ochamchira, Gulripsh, Tkvarcheli and Gali. These districts are the same as under the Soviet Union, except that the Tkvarcheli district was created only in 1995, from parts of the Ochamchira and Gali districts.

The demographics of Abkhazia were very strongly affected by recent wars, which saw the expulsion and flight of over half of the republic's population. The population of Abkhazia remains ethnically very diverse. At present the population seems mainly made up of ethnic Abkhaz, Georgians (mostly Mingrelians), Hamshemin Armenians, and Russians.

Most inhabitants (some say 60%) of Abkhazia are nominally Christian (Eastern Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox), Sunni Muslim or irreligious. The influence of traditional Abkhaz religion also remains strong among Christians, Muslims and non-believers. According to the constitutions of both Abkhazia and Georgia, the adherents of all religions (as well as atheists) have equal rights before the law.


Education

Children in Abkhazia begin their education at the age of 6, and graduate at 17. Education is under the control of the Ministry of Education and Culture.


Higher Education

The Abkhazian State University is the only university in Abkhazia. It was founded in 1979 on the basis of the Sukhumi Pedagogical Institute (which was founded in 1932 as the Sukhumi Agro-pedagogical Institute and one year later renamed the Maxim Gorky Pedagogical Institute). The university consists the departments of physics and mathematics, biology and geography, history, philology, economics, law; pedagogical and agro-engineering departments. There is further information (in Russian) at http://www.abkhaziagov.org/ru/state/culture/university.php



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