Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region between Eastern Europe and Western Asia that contains two disputed territories, namely Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Abkhazia is located in the northwestern part of Georgia, south of the Greater Caucasus. The territory has been a source of conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia, as well as between Georgia and Russia. Abkhazia encompasses an area of 3,344 sq mi and has an estimated population of 240,000. The territory is subdivided into seven administrative districts, called raions, which are named after their largest respective cities. The largest cities in Abkhazia in terms of population are highlighted below.
The Five Most Populous Cities in Abkhazia
Sukhumi is the capital and largest city in Abkhazia, with an estimated population of 39,000. The city is situated on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and has become a popular port and holiday destination known for its beaches, salt-water spas, sanatorium, and semitropical climate. The history of Sukhumi dates back to about the 6th century BC, when the Greeks settled the region and named it Dioscurias. However, much of the city later disappeared under the sea. Sukhumi was a major site of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict in 1989 and ethnic cleansing against the Georgian population in 1993. The majority of Sukhumi's population are Abkhaz people, while the ethnic Georgian population accounts for about 2.8%.
Tkvarcheli is the second-largest city in Abkhazi, with an estimated population of 17,000. Located on the Aaldzga River and connected to the town of Ochamchire by railroad, the town grew as a result of coal mining in the area, and was granted city status in 1942. The Akarmara settlement within the city became a ghost town after it was abandoned following the War in Abkhazi. In terms of demographics, Tkvarcheli contains the following population groups: Abkhazi (42%), Russian (25%), and Georgian (23%).
The seaside city of Ochamchire is the center of Ochamchire District. The city is located on the bank of the Ghalidzga River, about 33 mi from Sukhumi. Ochamchire developed as a small maritime settlement, and had an estimated population of 14,300 in 2010, the majority of which are Abkhazi. Following the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, Ochamchire experienced a rapid population decline.
The town of Gali is located approximately 48 mi southeast of Abkhazia’s capital, Sukhumi, and is the center of Gali District. Gali is the fourth largest city in Abkhazia, with an estimated population of 10,800, and attained town status in 1932. According to the local newspaper (Izvestia), the town of Gali was founded by Tlabgan Ketsba in the nineteenth century. Prior to Russia's veto of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNIMOG) in 2009, the town was in the United Nations security zone.
Gudauta is a town in Gudauta District, located about 30 mi northwest of Sukhumi. This town was home to a Soviet Air Defense Forces base until 1982, and later home to a unit of the Soviet Airborne Forces. The base has always played a significant role in the Abkhaz conflict. Gudauta is one of the largest towns in Abkhazia, with an estimated population of 10,800.
Demographics of Abkhazia
According to the 2011 census, Abkhazia had an estimated population of 240,700, although this figure has been contested by the Georgian government. The population of Abkhazia was significantly affected by the War in Abkhazia (1992-1993), which led to the expulsion of almost half of the population. Although the remaining population is ethnically diverse, the Abkhaz people account for more than half of the population. Other ethnic population groups in Abkhazia include Georgian, Russian, and Hemshin Armenian.