Religion in Abkhazia

Religion in Abkhazia

The population (including all ethnic groups) of Abkhazia is in majority Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslims. [ [ Flashpoints Site Directory. Abkhazia-Georgia] ] Most of the ethnic Armenians living in Abkhazia belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, though most who declare themselves Christian or Muslim do not attend religious services. There is also a very small number of Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses and the followers of new religions. [ Александр Крылов. ЕДИНАЯ ВЕРА АБХАЗСКИХ "ХРИСТИАН" И "МУСУЛЬМАН". Особенности религиозного сознания в современной Абхазии.] The Jehovah's Witnesses organization have officially been banned since 1995, though the decree is not currently enforced. [ Georgia: International Religious Freedom Report 2005.] The United States Department of State. Retrieved on May 24, 2007.]

According to the constitutions of Georgia and Abkhazia, the adherents of all religions (as well as atheists) have equal rights before the law. [ Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia, art. 12 _ru. First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea] [ EXTRACTS FROM THE SYRIAC MS. NO. 14528 IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM. WRITTEN A.D. 501. Names of Bishops] . Since the late 9th century, the Orthodox dioceses of Abkhazia were subordinated to the Georgian Orthodox Church, later functioning there as the Catholicosate of Abkhazia.

The orthodox church in Abkhazia is officially part of the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Tskhum-Apkhazeti Eparchy) with Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II as its head. [Witness through troubled times : a history of the Orthodox Church of Georgia, 1811 to the present, Abashidze, Zaza.] [The Eastern Orthodox churches: concise histories with chronological checklists of their primates, Burgess, Michael, London. ] [ [ Autocephalous Orthodox Churches centered at Constantinople ] ] After Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, the autocephalous church of Georgia lost the control and jurisdiction over its property in Abkhazia. However, all autocephalous churches of the orthodox faith, including Russian and Patriarchate of Constantinople, recognise Abkhazia as part of the Georgian autocephalous church. [A long walk to church: a contemporary history of Russian Orthodoxy, 2nd ed, Davis, Nathaniel ] Current head of orthodox church in Abkhazia is Archbishop Daniel of Tskhum-Apkhazeti Eparchy [ [ Autocephalous Orthodox Churches centered at Constantinople ] ] However, the Georgian Orthodox Church is unable to operate there and most of its clerics as well as the parish have been expelled during the Abkhazian war and in its aftermath.

After the war in Abkhazia, the only remaining Orthodox priest of the Georgian Church, ethnic Abkhaz Vissarion (Apliaa) headed the local Orthodox community. In the following years, the recently consecrated clerics from the neighbouring Russian Maykop Eparchy arrived in Abkhazia and soon engaged in a conflict with Vissarion. Through the mediation of Russian church officials, the two sides managed to reach a power-sharing agreement at Maikop in 2005, and organised themselves into the Eparchy of Abkhazia whose canonical status remains undefined. This failed, however, to settle the disagreement and the eparchy continues to straddle the division. Currently, there are a dozen or so Orthodox clerics in the region, most of whom belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, while the de facto head of the eparchy, Vissarion, nominally remains a subordinate to the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate. [ Вновь обострился конфликт внутри православной общины Абхазии] . "" May 15, 2006. Retrieved on June 26, 2007 ru icon] In April 2008, the last Georgian Orthodox priest remaining in the predominantly Georgian-populated Gali district was expelled, reportedly by the Abkhaz security officers, after a "special decree" of the canonically unrecognized Eparchy of Abkhazia, effectively leaving the local Georgian community without access to clergy. [ [ Abkhazia: Only Georgian Orthodox priest expelled.] . Forum 18 News service, April 23 2008.]

The Georgian church officials complain that the Russian church interferes in Abkhazia by training and sending in priests loyal to Moscow. The Russian church officials published translations of the Gospels in Abkhazian, which drew protests from the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church as a violation of Orthodox Church canon law, constituting a meddling in the internal affairs of another Orthodox church and annexation of Georgian Orthodox property in Abkhazia. [ [ The Georgian Times on the Web: Comprehensive news site, daily international, national and local news coverage , breaking news updates, sports, reviews ] ] The Russian Orthodox Church claims that the clerics of Maykop eparchy serve in Abkhazia only temporarily as the local Orthodox believers do not have contacts with the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The two remaining monasteries of Georgian Orthodox monks and nuns in the Upper Kodori Gorge, captured by the Abkhaz forces during the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008, are being pressured by the Abkhaz authorities to submit to the de facto Abkhaz Orthodox authorities or leave Abkhazia. The Abkhaz Deputy Foreign Minister Maxim Gvinjia said the Abkhaz authorities did not plan to defend Georgian monks and nuns. [ [,,,,GEO,,48c0e2302,0.html ABKHAZIA: "Of course" authorities won't defend Georgian monks and nuns] . Forum 18/UNHCR. September 4 2008.]


Islam spread in Abkhazia in the times of Ottoman domination in the region in the 16th-18th centuries. [ _ru. Muhajirs] in the 1870s.

A spiritual leader of the Abkhaz Muslims and imam of Gudauta Mosque, Hamzat (Rokki) Gitsba, was assassinated in Gudauta on August 18, 2007. [ [ Muslim leader in Abkhazia slain - source] . Interfax. August 18, 2007.] The death of Gitsba, who had fought against Georgians in 1992-3 and was among pro-Chechen hijackers of a Turkish passenger ship Avrasia in 1996, as well as other facts of alleged anti-Muslim discrimination led to serious concerns by the Abkhaz Muslim community about their security issues. [ [ ДУХОВНОЕ УПРАВЛЕНИЕ МУСУЛЬМАН АБХАЗИИ ОБЕСПОКОЕНО СИТУАЦИЕЙ, СЛОЖИВШЕЙСЯ ВОКРУГ МУСУЛЬМАНСКОЙ ОБЩИНЫ РЕСПУБЛИКИ] . Apsnypress. August 27, 2007.]

ee also

*Religion in Georgia (country)
*Religion in present-day nations and states


External links

* [ Official site of the Abkhazian eparchy (unrecognised)]

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