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Ghost towns of Abkhazia



“Tourists are taken here as on an excursion, they say our city is a ghost town, that no one lives here. Then I’m a ghost, too, is that it?” Said one of the local residents of the city of Tkuarchal, whom we met when we were waiting for a bus to Sukhum in the evening.

On my birthday, I decided to go hitchhiking with friends to visit both the city of Tkuarchal and the village nearby, called Akarmara.

Tkuarchal city, Abkhazia, Georgia-June 2021. By the way, a bus from Sukhum even comes to Tkuarchal, although its schedule is strange and it rarely goes. The last flight to Sukhum is at 17: 00, we just managed to catch it. The most interesting thing is that even the indigenous people do not know the bus schedule, so we got to Tkuarchala from Sukhum hitchhiking, changing 5 cars, and the journey time took 3 hours. But I didn’t have to give 1800-3000 rubles per person to a travel company for an excursion. I’ll tell you from myself. Most, in my opinion, excursions are an attempt to profit from tourists.

The echoes of the Georgian-Abkhazian war (August 1992-September 1993) are here at every turn.

Akarmara was a former mining village in Abkhazia, which was formed in 1938. In the early 1990s, the population was about 5 thousand people. This village was badly damaged by the war. The artillery siege of Akarmara lasted 413 days. At this time, the locals were starving, and many of them were killed. Those people who fled the war have not returned to their homeland. During the war, almost all industrial infrastructure was destroyed, many structures were destroyed by shelling, and roads were damaged by bombs. At the moment, we have been informed that there are now 8 families living in Akarmar, about 30 people.

Tkuarchal city, Abkhazia, Georgia-June 2021. We arrived in the city at lunchtime, there were a lot of people on the street. The war may have destroyed this city, but there is still life here and we saw happiness in the eyes of people. Children come back happy from school, old people are standing and smoking near the store, laughing. One pensioner complained that there was no work in the city at all and all his children had left for Moscow. Our dialogue was brief. -Why don’t you want to go to the children then? -Yes, how can you leave here? There is such beauty around.

In Tkuarchal, the situation is better, we observed that there are at least some signs of life there.

A local resident said that now the city is home to about 3,500 people (in Soviet times, there were about 40 thousand). The city of Tkuarchal was also under siege throughout the war, and most of the buildings were destroyed. In 2008, the city of Tkuarchal was awarded the title of hero city.

As soon as the driver took us to the city (he grew up in Tkuarchal, then moved to Sukhum with his family), the city met us with a dilapidated industrial zone on both sides. Before this trip, I watched a lot of pictures from this place, and dreamed of being here. Photos and videos are quite different, you just need to see with your own eyes in reality to admire the majestic overgrown abandoned buildings against the backdrop of mountain ranges.

Tkuarchal city, Abkhazia, Georgia-June 2021. And this man can be understood. Having seen everything with your own eyes, you definitely can’t call this city abandoned. Now there is a polyclinic, a maternity hospital, a cafe, a market, a school, a bus station, a freight railway to the city of Ochamchira has been restored, various small enterprises are operating. Even if everything is not the same as in the late 1980s,but it works.
Tkuarchal city, Abkhazia, Georgia-June 2021. We looked into the courtyards, and indeed. Happy children are running around, playing football. The girls were afraid of my camera and ran away. If you look closely, you can see in the window that someone was given a beautiful bouquet of roses. Romantic, isn’t it?
Tkuarchal city, Abkhazia, Georgia-June 2021.After Tkuarchal, we took another car to Akarmara. On the way, we saw such beautiful landscapes that it is impossible to forget. Especially this colorful bridge laid in Akarmara. By the way, the unique and only bridge with a bend in the USSR.
Tkuarchal city, Abkhazia, Georgia-June 2021. As soon as we arrived in Akarmara, I felt a little uneasy. As mentioned earlier, only 8 families, about 30 people, live here. All day I had a question in my head: why didn’t people leave this place after the war for a better existence? I have a completely different mindset and I strive for the best all my conscious life. But as I was told, everything is completely different for the Abkhazians. In this place they were born – in this place they will die, because here their loved ones died during the war. They have a special attitude to the death of their loved ones, to the ancestral cemeteries. This is very important for them. My friend, who has lived all her life in Abkhazia, said that mothers mourn their dead sons and 40 years. Can you imagine going into mourning for 40 years and wearing only black clothes… After that, everything becomes clear.
Tkuarchal city, Abkhazia, Georgia-June 2021. For example, one man lives in this house. I wouldn’t be surprised if in twenty or thirty years they will shoot horror films here.
Tkuarchal city, Abkhazia, Georgia-June 2021. When they wanted to sell us an excursion tour here, they said that we would be pioneers and hung a lot of noodles on our ears. But on the contrary, this place is “teeming” with tourists, it was even difficult to take photos without them. Akarmara is gradually losing its attractiveness and the title of a “ghost town”, as it seems to me.
Tkuarchal city, Abkhazia, Georgia-June 2021. By the way, this village was built after the Second World War by the hands of captured Germans according to the projects of captured German engineers and architects. Therefore, it turned out to be an atypical Caucasian village, but in a European style. Many Germans have remained here to live.
Tkuarchal city, Abkhazia, Georgia-June 2021. The inscription on the door “Tourists! Stay out of the house! People live. We go straight through…Down.” I think that the tourists are already tired of the locals. Okay, we are adequate people who came just to see. But there are those who still get into the home of the locals, steal something there. Therefore, travelers here and disliked.
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Anna Panteleeva

My name is Anna. I live in Russia and I want as many people as possible to learn about my country.

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