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Vladislav Ardzinba : biography

May 14, 1945 - March 4, 2010

[Georgians] don't want to be part of our country, we will simply drive them out. Its their choice will it be willingly or by force ..." Conflict in the Caucasus: Georgia, Abkhazia, and the Russian Shadow (App Labour History Series; No. 3) by S. A. Chervonnaia and Svetlana Mikhailovna Chervonnaia The Conflict in Abkhazia: Dilemmas in Russian 'Peacekeeping' Policy By Dov Lynch, p 153]] --> Vladislav Ardzinba ( May 14, 1945 – March 4, 2010) was the first President of Abkhazia. A historian by education, Ardzinba led Abkhazia to de facto independence in the 1992-1993 War with Georgia, but its de jure independence from Georgia remained internationally unrecognised during Ardzinba's two terms as President from 1994 to 2005.

He was a member of the first parliament to be elected democratically in the Soviet Union in 1989.


After the hostilities ended in 1994 and the bulk of the Georgian population was forced out of Abkhazia, the Abkhazian parliament elected Ardzinba to the presidency, a move that was condemned by Georgia and the United Nations as illegal. He won the first direct polls on October 3, 1999, without an opponent and was re-elected as president of Abkhazia.The International Crisis Group. Abkhazia Today. Europe Report N°176, pp. 5, 12. 15 September 2006. He installed an autocratic regimeTunç Aybak (2001), Politics of the Black Sea: Dynamics of Cooperation and Conflict, p. 193. I.B. Tauris, ISBN 1-86064-454-6. and remained politically untouchable until his health seriously deteriorated in 2003. He once stated that independence from Georgia is not negotiable, and he has tried to align the state with Russia, whose political and economic support was essential to the republic. As a leader of the Abkhaz side he met the two successive Russian presidents, Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, as well as a President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze.

Under his rule, human rights records were extremely poor as most of the pre-war Georgian population of Abkhazia were deprived the right to return, and those who remained were subjected to systematic ethnic cleansing. Ardzinba aroused some further criticism from the international community after issuing a decree banning Jehovah's Witnesses in 1995.

During the last years of his presidency Ardzinba faced criticism for both failing to bring stability to Abkhazia and his increasingly low public profile. He had not appeared in public since 2002. As a result, the role of governing the state had been increasingly left to Prime Minister Raul Khajimba.

He had been in extremely poor health and underwent treatment in Moscow for some time. Despite increasing calls from the opposition (particularly the Amtsakhara movement) for him to resign he had stated that he would finish his term, which was supposed to end in October 2004, but in fact did not end until February 12, 2005, due to disputes over the election of his successor. There were also calls for him to be impeached. However, although the Abkhaz Constitution allows for impeachment, the process would likely have not been completed before the end of his term, so no serious steps were taken to bring it about. He was unable to run for a third term due to constitutional restrictions, and it is unlikely that his health would have enabled him to do so even if this was allowed.

He was replaced by the winner of the presidential election of 12 January 2005, Sergei Bagapsh. A previous election had been held in late 2004 after the murder of opposition leader Garri Aiba, but the result was controversial.

Early life and career

Vladislav Ardzinba was born in the village of Lower Eshera, Sukhumi District, Abkhaz ASSR, Georgian SSR, Soviet Union. After graduating from the Historical Department of the Sukhumi Pedagogical Institute, Ardzinba studied at the Tbilisi State University where he received a doctoral degree. He then worked for eighteen years in Moscow specialising in ancient Middle Eastern civilizations under Yevgeniy Primakov, then head of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow, and later Russian foreign and Prime Minister. He then returned to Sukhumi and he served there as the director of the Abkhazian Institute of Language, Literature and History from 1987 until 1989, when he was elected a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union from Gudauta. From there, he was involved closely with national issues, including Abkhazia, and quickly emerged as one of the most active proponents of the Abkhaz secessionist cause. While a deputy to the USSR Supreme Soviet, Ardzinba, himself an orthodox Communist,Emmanuel Karagiannis (2002), Energy and Security in the Caucasus, p. 76. Routledge, ISBN 0-7007-1481-2. forged close ties with the hardliners in Moscow, particularly with the parliamentary chairman Anatoly Lukyanov and other members of the hardline communist groups in Moscow that were responsible for the August 1991 coup attempt.Cornell, Svante E, Autonomy and Conflict: Ethnoterritoriality and Separatism in the South Caucasus – Case in Georgia, pp. 168, 180, 182. Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Report No. 61. Uppsala. ISBN 91-506-1600-5.

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