The Lesser Known Abkhaz
Luka Pamba awaits with excitement his after-school evening classes. Twice a week the 14-year-old joins similarly thrilled students between seven and 70 years of age, to learn his ancestral language — Abkhaz. The course started in January 2017 and is the only one of its kind in the area of Feria, a remote village, which is part of the wider Adjara region in southwestern Georgia.
Luka’s native Feria has been populated by both Georgians and Abkhaz for the past 150 years. The teenager longs for a homeland he has never put foot into — Abkhazia, a lush strip of territory on the Black Sea which seceded from, and went to war against, Georgia in the early 1990s. Luka grew hanging on his grandmother’s chronicles — until her death in 2014 Tinatin Pamba retold the stories of her parents. In the early 19th century, her family, alongside thousands of Abkhaz, was forcibly displaced from Abkhazia to Turkey following the Russian Empire’s takeover. Luka’s ancestors thus became Muhajirs — an Arabic word for displacement.
At different times after the exile, part of the displaced Abkhaz moved to the Adjara region. The migration resulted in a few Abkhaz-populated villages: Feizi – today’s Feria, Silibauri – today’s Salibauri, Ankisi – today’s Angisa. The territory is still densely populated by the descendents of Abkhaz Muhajirs. Today, an estimated 1,600 Abkhaz Muhajirs live in the Adjara region.