Restoration of the archival collections
of the State Archives of Abkhazia
THE DOWNFALL AND THE DEGENERATION OF A NATION BEGIN WHEN IT TO ITS GREAT MISFORTUNE, FORGETS ITS OWN HISTORY. ILIA CHAVCHAVADZE
Coordinator: Doctor of history, Professor Rezo Khutsishvili
Brief overview of the problem
It is common knowledge that for centuries the Georgians and Abkhazians were living peacefully in Georgia, but in 1992 between them a severe military conflict began. As a historian professor Mariam Lordkipanidze writes: “The war in Abkhazia is not one between the Georgians and Abkhazians. It is a war of the ruling Apsua elite, backed by the reactionary circles of Russia”, (Essays on Georgian History, Tbilisi 1994, p. 209).
We are credibly informed that the war resulted in significant damage to the state archives and archival materials in Abkhazia (The Archives of Georgia, Tbilisi 2000, p. 69). Archivists from the capital city of Abkhazia pointed out that the Central State Archive in Sokhumi was entirely destroyed and the archival collections were annihilated by fire in 1992. It had been impossible to evacuate the archival documents, partly because of the scale of the problem and partly because transport conveys were liable to attack.
Thus, during the severe military conflict in Abkhazia part of our nation’s written heritage was almost totally destroyed.
The State Archival Department of Abkhazia was in charge the central state archive of Sokhumi, which was founded in 1929 and also of Gagra, Gali, Gudautha, Gulripshi, Ochamchire and Tkvarcheli regional state archives. In the central state archive of Sokhumi there were kept documents dating from 1840 to 1990. The archive held the paper collections and photo documents which contained historical acts, collections of the state institutions. Industrial associations, military bodies, factories, scientific, cultural and research institutions, private collections, etc. 679 collections of the archive held about 176 000 items.
The goals and tasks of the project
The immediate goal of this project is to restore the archival collections of the Central State Archive of Abkhazia, as much as possible, through of copies from the central state archives of Georgia. Georgia’s rich archival collections include different records providing very significant information on history of Abkhazia. The records make an incomparable source for restoring not only the documents of destroyed Abkhazian archival collections, but also allow us to re-establish the central state archive in Sokhumi in the future.
In order to better understand the importance of the above-mentioned goals, we must keep in mind the fact that about ten years ago the State Archival Service of Russia conducted such kind of work in Russia. That is how spoke about this action official representative of the Russian Archives V. Tarasov in Beijing for the XIII-th International Congress on Arcgives in 1996: “The effectiveness of such co-operation – he spoke on international actions to save archives – was demonstrated by the efforts to restore the archival fonds of the State Historical Archives of Abkhazia, which were almost totally destroyed by fire in October 1992. The administration of the archival authority of Abkhazia turned to the State Archival Service of Russia with a request to restore, even if only partially, the fonds destroyed by fire. In response, the federal archival institutions of Russia identified archival materials in their holdings relating to Abkhazia. Such documents were located in virtually all federal archives and centers of preservation of documentation in Russia. The matter of copying these materials is being presently considered with a view to restoring the archival fonds of Abkhazia at least in part, though the provision of copies. Also scientific and methodological aids, needed by Abkhazia archivists, have been identified for delivery to Abkhazia”, (Archivum, Vol. XLIII, K. A. Saur Munchen 1997, p. 95).
This quotation demonstrates and we think that such a work needs to be done without fail in the State Archives of Georgia as well, because here are comparatively rich and reliable documents about history of Abkhazia. Of course it is impossible to imagine the State Archives of Abkhazia without Georgian sources on history of this part of our country. Also, we suppose that these works should be of great interest to the Abkhazian refugees, because of they will be able to find out in this archive their genealogical records, references on their places of work, certificates about property of their lands, houses, rights and so on, which will be necessary for the refugees to restore the legal rights in Abkhazia in the future.
For execution the aforesaid work the first task of the project staff will be identification of the archival collections in the Central State Archives of Georgia. We should know which of archival holdings might contain information on peoples genealogy or history of Abkhazia. Classifying the collections, which we need for our topic, without such previous analysis would be both difficult and inadequate.
The second task is the definition of files and consequently the documents because of there are no clear definition or regulations covering the records. We think that there are three fundamental ways for the works to use:
1. To study the different archival documentary series in order to access their value as evidence for the genealogy or history of Abkhazia;
2. To make a list of files concerned with the topic with the aim of discern these from the rest of the archival documents;
3. To provide the records with a title, because many of them haven’t the titles at all and which have, those are not proper or incompetent.
The third important task to be accomplished by our project staff working with the archival records of Abkhazia is the question of their classification or grouping thematically and chronological. The point is that thematic and chronologies are the bread and butter for making the archival inventories.
The fourth task is a copying all the researched documents (including audio-visual documents on CD), binding and putting them in the containers (boxes) to keep them in a fixed order in the repository of the Georgian State Archives in Tbilisi until the collections are returned to Abkhazia. We think that the latter action will take place after completion the conflict in Abkhazia and restoration there the Central State Archive.
Project staff, budget and terms
Coordinator Professor Rezo Khutsishvili--------------------$400 x 12
Scholar-Consultant Professor G. Shengelia------------------$350 x 12
Researcher from archive of Abkhazia N. Berulava---------$200 x 12
Computer specialist George Kakabadze-----------------------$600
Translator for inventories---------------------------------------$1.000
Boxes production for the holdings-----------------------------$500
Total project costs--------------$14.300
Given such a staff, equipment and budget, we suppose the work could take one year to complete.