Abkhazian Separatism: Born in the Labyrinths of KGB


28.09.2009 11:37 - 29.04.2011 17:47

Levan Kiknadze





In the course of the last two decades the Georgian society has been continuously asking the following question: was it possible to avoid the civil war of the nineties, events of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that resulted in thousands of deaths, causing hostilities among people and destroying many in Georgia and the whole Caucasus? What was a cause of all this? Was it just whims and ambitions of a small group of people? Or was it assault and confrontation foisted on small nations by outside forces that had their own interests and agenda? Maybe it was an objective necessity of historical, social and geopolitical changes. It will take quite some time for historians, politicians and others to answer all these questions.

This is a modest attempt from "the Club of Experts" to help the Georgian society look into the maze of the Russian Security Services, underestimation of capabilities of which and non-consideration of historical lessons led to many false steps that itself brought disastrous results in the country.

Following the turbulent 20s of the last century the Bolshevik regime despite mass repressions, war and difficult material problems managed to weaken a spark of the Georgian protest and someway put it in the box. Later inner ebullition started again and it found a pretext for eruption in March 1956 when many in Georgia found insulting to their national pride personal insults and affront directed at Stalin’s personality who in the world for decades had been considered as a sparkle of the Georgian genius, as well as a mysterious physical elimination of Beria before that.

Speech of Nikita Khrushchev about the Personality Cult of Stalin was met as yet another unfair attempt to put the blame of century-old sins of Russian Empire on the brutality of the Georgian nature. Events of the 9th of March was the first unconscious protest of the Georgian youth against yet unrecognized evil that resulted again without realization in deaths of tens of boys and girls. But on the 9th of March awakening of the sleeping Georgian society started.

That day Georgian youths and Russian special divisions that were brought to Tbilisi especially for that event were facing each other. From the Communications Building the divisions opened fire at the unarmed column that was coming towards them and killed and shot hundreds of innocent people on the spot. Astonishment of witnesses was boundless – Russian soldiers sitting inside the tanks that were raging on Rustaveli Avenue were helpless in the face of youths who were enraged by deaths of their brothers and were riding their tanks.

Weapons were taken away from the Georgian police and security services. Georgian national armed forces were hurriedly dismantled. The full control was taken by the Military office.

There were rumors that Nikita Khrushchev intended to send the entire Georgian nation into exile in Siberia. Authorities of the Republic were very concerned.

Despite all this neither before that nor afterwards there were not a fact of negative attitude towards Russian citizens based on their ethnicity. Although there were plenty of attempts to receive such material that would have served as a pretext of defending the Russian citizens for carrying out repressions. Georgia could not tolerate dictate and the Russian boot but the latter was never been identified with the Russian people and the Russian culture.

Generations spent decades in struggling with themselves as it was difficult to reconsider old values in new ways. Information was lacking and most of the times they were denying each other. Aspiration towards the western values was gathering strength in a certain part of the Georgian intelligentsia and youth. Spread of anti-Soviet leaflets and publishing of the illegal magazines started. Georgian Helsinki Group of Human Rights was created. Actual formation of the Georgian National Movement commenced.

The Kremlin blamed everything on the Western propaganda and in response in 1967 created special so-called fifth operative direction within the State Security Committee, duty of which was to fight against ideological sabotages and anti-Soviet and nationalistic manifestations of the main rival.

Even later Moscow assessed Georgian and Baltic national liberation movements as the most dangerous carriers of the Western imperialist policy that were directed at weakening and destruction of the Soviet Union. With respect to such report the security services were given a task to take care and create permanent illegal agent positions in these republics. We suppose that this task was realized.

Hotspots of tensions were being created in the autonomies of the country and all along the sea coast considering historical, ethnic, geographic and psychological characteristics. Separatist forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia became more active and respectively their demands took more radical form. It is known that protest letters sent from time to time by the Abkhazian separatists to the Central Committee of the Soviet Union and organized protest demonstrations with anti-Georgian slogans and demands of secession from the Georgia was occasional occurrence since the creation of the first independent republic and more frequent one since 1957. As a rule, everything tend to finish "peacefully" with interference of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union and in many cases at the expense of unjustifiable concessions of the Georgian Central government.

To have a clear understanding of the events in Abkhazia in the last decade we should definitely mention a notorious large gathering of the Abkhazian separatists on the 18th of March 1989 in a village of Likhny of Gudauta district where all the Abkhazian Party elite was present. At that gathering an anti-Georgian goal – to detach Abkhazia from Georgia - was openly announced. A statement addressed to the Central Committee of KPSU approved at this gathering caused turmoil in the Georgian society. The separatists showed Georgians with this statement that only Abkhazians could decide a fate of Abkhazia and Georgians would not even be asked. Obedient Georgians were accustomed to such attitude over the years but the letter of Likhny was a last drop in the overflowing cup of Georgian patience and immediate protest followed. The Likhny gathering was like a thunder and spread through the whole of Georgia. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Sukhumi, Leselidze, Gulripsh and Gali were addressed with speeches about muny-century-old friendship of the two nations and were called not to align themselves with the separatists.

From the beginning of April protests started in Tbilisi in connection with the Likhny events and the demonstrations became permanent. Leaders of the national liberation movement made a demand of secession of Georgia from the Soviet Union.

Events that took place in Tbilisi on the 9th of April 1989 completely changed a vector of not only the development of Georgia but it also put a fat question mark on the existence of the Soviet Union. The Kremlin considered this too much and immediate reaction followed. The Russian security services put in motion those slow action mines – system of the country's national organization of those times - that were designed for extreme conditions.

As we mentioned above the Kremlin considered Georgia as well as the Baltic Republics to be unreliable regions and it was expecting that these republics would leave the Soviet Union. According to the plan made in KGB "Adamon Nikhas" and "Aidgilara", organizations supposedly formed by the local national forces started to actively operate in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. These organizations were given a task to counter the Georgian national liberation forces in the autonomies and to intervene in their fight for the Georgian independence.

Coming from a simple logic if these organizations were really pursuing national liberating goals they would have fought alongside the Georgians for the secession from the Soviet Union not against them.

Based on common interests Russian and Armenian organizations "Ruski Dom" and "Krunk" were in close contact with "Aidgilara". These organizations like "Aidgilara" were formed and managed by the Soviet KGB. The top level of these organizations consisted mostly of those who during the previous years were registered by KGB for stirring up separatism in the population. Some of them were under investigation and some of them even were recruited.

The above mentioned organizations were forming branches in different districts without any resistance. Their representatives were actively working on the ideological treatment of non-Georgian population. By falsifying historical facts they were painting Georgians as occupiers and were constantly implanting into the minds of non-Georgians and especially Abkhazians an idea of necessity of cleansing Abkhazia of Georgians.

Another ideological front against Georgia was created as presented by the Northern Caucasian Republics. The Russian Security Services created so-called popular-national movements like "Aidgilara" and "Adamon Nikhas" there that were promising all the help to the Abkhazian separatists. Especially active was Kabardian national movement "Adaghe Khase". On the Abkhazian TV and Press the separatist leaders were constantly talking about unshakable brotherhood and unity of Abkhazian and Northern Caucasian nations. This period suspiciously coincided with the formation of "the Confederation of the Mountainous People" whose capital was announced to be Sukhumi. Meetings were held with Northern Caucasian representatives.

Publications of defamatory articles written by the organization "Ruski Dom" in the newspaper "Sovetskaya Abkhazia" about the facts of trafficking that supposedly Georgians were carrying out towards Russian persons became frequent.

Gradual intensification of the separatist ideas among the Abkhazian population and frequent displays of the anti-Georgian attitude in various forms had created conditions for strengthening of the Georgian national consciousness that transformed the National liberation movement into the united popular movement in Abkhazia. Naturally, in such conditions, every sensible Georgian, notwithstanding their past and party belonging started to unite under one idea.

Therefore, the national forces, notwithstanding their desire, were compelled not only to take into account but also to rely on the local Georgian party authorities.

It's hard to imagine what kind of means and forces should have been used in order to neutralize visible and invisible anti-Georgian forces in Georgia, and in particular in Abkhazia, that were subordinated to and nurtured and supported by KGB.

The Georgian national liberation movement had a big test ahead of them as apart from the Communist regime it was opposed by the separatisms in Abkhazia that was managed by KGB. It should also be noted that in Abkhazia separatism seemed much more dangerous to the Georgian national liberation movement than the Communist regime.

The Georgian national liberation movement and later the national authorities could not pass this test. Along with subjective there were objective factors as well that inexperienced Georgian authorities could not take into account as Russia put in action the entire arsenal of leverage in order to keep such strategically vital region in its sphere of influence. And although with full concentration of forces these attacks were temporarily averted but the young government was not ready to neutralize outbreaks caused by separatism and national rivalry. Furthermore, many fatal mistakes were made. As a result Russian security services managed to instigate bloody confrontation with Abkhazians and Ossetians with whom Georgian people were connected through history of brotherly co-existence, common culture and ties of relationship for centuries. These mistakes were so many that it will take us long to recite. We will try to present and analyze just some of them.

It should be noted that transfer of ethnic Russian security service personnel to work in the Security Committee of Georgia - both in structures of the central divisions and those of autonomies – under the pretext of exchange of personnel became customary from the 70s of the XX century. Even such person as General Alexi Inauri distinguished for his loyalty to the Communist regime at various times had Fedor Pilyugin, Vladimir Kazmin, Vladimir Arkhipov and Eduard Voitsitsky as first deputies. Even that was not enough for Moscow and they transferred Colonel Vitaly Novodnichy from Nalchiki and appointed him as Inauri's deputy in the matters of personnel.

There was a term – Moscow nomenklatura (bureaucratic establishment) – that meant appointment of a high rank functionary only after consulting with KGB authorities. A head of the republican KGB and his deputies used to be appointed with the consent of the organizational department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Apart from the above mentioned the Security Committee of the Soviet Union used to have curators in all directions of the operational activities who along with representatives of the central inspection were coming from time to time to regional organizations and under the pretence of assistance were giving recommendations that did not always correspond to existing reality.

Information coming from central and regional operational divisions used to be gathered in Information and Analytic Centre that was under subordination of the first deputy head. Also there were gathered data about cases of operational record-keeping and primary signals.

First deputy head used to carry out verification of all important signal information through representatives of local security services who were subordinated to central KGB and the Ministry of Defense.

To understand overall situation please see the following:

1. "Special department" ("Osobii Otdel") of the Security committee of the Soviet Union at the Transcaucasian Military District ("Zakvo") was under direct subordination of Moscow and was not in any way connected to the security services of Georgia.
"Special department" had its own agents with its own strict record-keeping sector. The abovementioned department was conducting agent and operational activities in military bases situated in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia and among personnel of large military facilities that amounted to several thousands and were subordinated directly to the General Staff of USSR and various armed forces. Not the smallest part of the personnel were local residents. Operational workers of "Special department" studied both personnel and their close circle (family members, personal and business contacts) and selection of right persons with a purpose of establishing secret relations with them.

"Special department" was noted for its strict regime of secrecy. Its relation with central and regional bodies of the security committee of the Republic was limited with so-called principle of coordination. The department in question used to send parallel and independent reports to Central Security Committee about operational situation and especially important events in the republic.

2. Transcaucasian Border Forces of the USSR Security Committee not only had huge number of military personnel and military equipment but they had separate intelligence and counter-intelligence bodies as well as a large agent network along the entire border perimeter of the country, and among others in Georgia as well. Intelligence divisions were working in the rear of the bordering countries. The main function of the counter-intelligence along with the provision of the border defense with counter-intelligence information (revealing of agents/agent networks of foreign countries) was getting information about important processes happening inside the country. Its special divisions in central and border regions of the country were carrying out agent and operational work inside personnel of the border forces, as well as their friends and relatives in places of their work and residence and in the 100 km section of the border along the entire country perimeter.

The Border Forces structurally and operationally were under subordination of the central leadership of KGB and were connected through formal coordination with regional security services that were obliged to systematically supply them with information about operational situation in the region.

3. Main intelligence department of the general headquarters of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union (GRU) was represented in Georgia with a separate body in "ZAKVO" and had its positions in armies subordinated to the Transcaucasian Military District as well as in large military facilities that were under subordination of the General Headquarters of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR and different armed forces. According to our information, in case of necessity, the main intelligence department used to independently plan and realize various acts on the territory of the republic such as provoking confrontation, compromising undesirable high rank officials and so on.

4. Unofficial intelligence is the most secret and dangerous category of intelligence work. Such resident agents did not exist in Georgia up until the eighties of the XX century and there were no necessity of their existence. But after the eighties with connection to aggravation of the situation in the region KGB started to implant such agents in various bodies of interest (public organizations, political parties, different government bodies).

There were people sent from Russia not only in the Central Apparatus of the Security Committee of Georgia but also in the Security Committee of Abkhazia. G. Lichutin, M. Chulkov and F. Vasev served as deputy chairmen in various periods. In addition to the fact that it was in their job description to get to know operational materials and ask information on any operational source they also directly control and manage ideological direction of agent and operational activity. It should be noted that in order to strengthen its position even further Moscow appointed M. Chulkov as the Interior minister of Abkhazia and sent F. Vasev from Russia to replace him in the Abkhazian security committee. After aggravation of the situation in Abkhazia V. Chulkov had been urgently brought back to Moscow. He was directing provision of separatists with military ammunition from there.

In addition to the above there were at least two or three operational workers from Russia in the operational divisions. Information and analytical department was headed by Vladimir Lisovik, ethnic Russian and experienced operational worker. And, Oleg Smirnov who had also been sent from Russia was in charge of the archive where along with archive materials files of agents were stored.

Posts of various rank officials in the operational divisions were occupied by Popov, Kabanov, Skrilnikov, Stepanov, Tkachuk, Smirnov, Bondarev and others who by the beginning of the war had already been relocated back to Russia.

Holiday homes of the Soviet Politburo situated on the coastline of Bichvinta, Gagra, Miusera and New Athos, territory of which amounted in total to several hundreds of hectares and were serviced (and they never went away) by several thousand personnel of the so-called 9th department of Central KGB. The latters together with their families lived on adjacent territories. It is notable that because of the special importance of the facilities the entire personnel was brought from Russia. The 9th operational division that was stationed in Sochi was carrying out agent and operational activities in local population of the territories adjacent to the holiday residences.

Taking into account all the above today we can hardly imagine pressures and influences of what scale on the local population we had been dealing with over the years. As we mentioned in the previous article, public and political situation that existed in Georgia after the tragic events of April 9th, 1989 clearly showed the Kremlin that the very existence of the Soviet Union was becoming questioned. Therefore entire capacity of abovementioned security services as well as that of officers who were sent from Russia and were implanted into Georgian security services for "special period" was put in motion. With this regard the gravest situation was in Abkhazia as Abkhazian workers were in close contact with the above mentioned contingent.

Estrangement and reserve between Georgians and Abkhazians were obvious. Workers of other ethnic origins were also avoiding close relationships with Georgians. Georgian heads of the operational divisions had certain problems with Abkhazian operational workers. It was difficult to properly evaluate processes that were taking place among Abkhazian population as information supplied by Abkhazian workers did not objectively reflect operational reality. Majority of Abkhazian workers headed by Abkhazian deputy head G. Berulava were actively cooperating with the well-known anti-Georgian organization "Aidgilara".

The events that were taking place in Georgia made the Communist regime understand that its dismantlement was unavoidable. Governing elite both in the capital and in the regions had been losing its position step-by-step and without any pressure. Now their main worry was not preservation of their posts but self-preservation. So they did not shy away from laying all the blame on KGB and that made negative attitude of the National Movement towards this body even more aggressive. Another confirmation of fomentation of distrust towards Georgian KGB was that after resignation of Georgian KGB head and professional chekist Alexi Ianuri the head of the security committee of Georgia became party functionaries. First it was Givi Gumbaridze, and later, after the events of April 9 - Tariel Lortkipanidze. It should be noted that even workers themselves did not take appointment of party functionaries as heads of the security services well. The more so because it was the time of management of Tariel Lortkipanidze when national movement activists stormed into security committee building. And that gave Moscow an excuse to take away cases of agents and materials of operational records as well as archive materials and send them to Smolensk. It must be noted that absence of the mentioned materials is one of the reasons why the law about disclosure of personal files is not yet approved.

Exactly 20 years ago the newspaper "Literaturuli Sakartvelo" in its 21st July 1989 issue published a large article by George Hewitt, English scholar of Caucasian languages titled "Foreigner's observations on Abkhazian-Georgian tense relations – open letter to Georgians". The author specifically stressed that the article was written in England on 12th of May 1989.

This article was like adding fuel to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict that was already there. Everything was calculated in the article – time, circumstances, ethnicity of the author, his "scholarly competence", Georgian intelligentsia's loyal attitude towards him at that time and general emotional background.

Editorial staff of "Literaturuli Sakartvelo" and representatives of Georgian intelligentsia correctly evaluated objective and direction of the article as well as those possible outcomes for which this collective article published under Hewitt's name was intended. The article was immediately translated into Russian (although careful reading of the article makes it clear that the article originally was written in Russian) and was distributed in the form of leaflets all over Abkhazia. Neither American, European and, all the more, Russian journalists shied away from spreading this article.

Among reasons that were "thrown in" from outside and provoked Georgian-Abkhazian war not the last place is occupied by Hewitt's "masterpiece". That's why it would be appropriate to analyze it in a new way and draw relevant conclusions from today's' perspective. Let us look at it more closely.

In the seventies of the last century there was an evident activization of scholars of history and languages of Caucasian peoples in the western countries.

Soviet security services considered them as ideological subversives who under the pretense of studying history and languages of people of this region were gathering materials on topics and problems that were tabooed by the Soviet censorship. One of such scholars is our character – Brian George Hewitt, a professor of the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London. He was born in 1949 in Lancaster, England. In 1975-76 he as a postgraduate student was studying at Tbilisi State University. He was brought to Tbilisi by a british professor of  Caucasian studies and who had been in Georgia since 1960. In 1963 he was recruited by the Security Committee of Georgia using so-called discreditable materials (facts of homosexuality). He was given an agent name of "Jimmy". His special "attitude" towards Hewitt was noted in both Tbilisi and London. Together with Georgian security services the First Main Directorate (intelligence) of Central KGB (PGU) was working with "Jimmy".

While in Tbilisi George Hewitt was perfecting his Georgian, went sightseeing and was getting to know famous faces of intelligentsia. He was enraptured with Georgian history and its culture. With help and support of Georgian scholars just another ordinary scholar of Caucasian studies from London became a well-known and authoritative scholar in Europe.

In 1976 George Hewitt married ethnic Abkhazian postgraduate student of Tbilisi State University Zaira Khiba. Her brother was Anatoly Khiba who was a criminal jailed eight times and they were members of a family that was notorious for its Georgianophobia. This marriage aroused many suspicions.

Notable is a comment of one of the agents in his personal KGB file with regards to this marriage: "Attention is drawn to the fact that the wife is five years senior and is not a very attractive woman". "Jimmy"'s friend George Hewitt was less interested in women. Marriage to Khiba was getting him closer to a more important goal. Hewitt started to frequent Abkhazia, his in-laws and Sukhumi Institute of Abkhazian Language, Literature and History that was a centre of anti-Georgian ideology and that once was headed by V. Ardzinba. The latter was also given a degree in Tbilisi with help and support of Georgian scholars and was later recommended by Georgian authorities for the post of the head of Abkhazia. These two persons who were directed by the same hand managed to easily find a common ground.

On March 18th 1989 at the notorious gathering of Likhny of Abkhazian separatists a statement was made about secession of Abkhazia from Georgia. This was followed by demonstrations of protest of Georgian population. After the tragic events of April 9th, 1989 in Tbilisi national movement raised an issue of secession of Georgia from the Soviet Union. Tensions in Georgia as well as in Abkhazia reached its climax. And, it was this time when notorious political libel by George Hewitt – "Open letter to Georgians" - was published.

This article devoid of all scholarly value was saturated with hatred towards Georgian people and their history and also it voiced Hewitt's interpretation and exaggerated existing and made-up negative events. It presented a terrifying account of supposed suppression and humiliation of Abkhazian people by Georgians over the centuries. Even discussion about the issue of origins of Georgian, Abkhazian, Mingrelian and Svan languages was directed towards aggravation of confrontation between these two people.

Certain forces tried to present this article as though Abkhazians who rebelled against Georgians were supported by Western countries along with North Caucasians, Turk and Arab voluntaries.

In these circumstances a "great defender" of Abkhazian people remained silence and had his head in the sand. Everything was being done to erase from people's memory as to who had driven thousands of Abkhazian Muhajirs out their homeland and who had almost sent this people to the brink of extinction. This two century-long part of Abkhazian history "slipped" even the mind of a great scholar of Abkhazian history - George Hewitt.

Fruitless was an attempt of one part of Georgian intelligentsia led by the head of Tbilisi State University Nodar Amaglobeli to send a letter to the British Embassy in Moscow about dishonest and provocative actions of their citizen. Only Moscow could prevent sending this letter of protest.

Hewitt's "activities" were not just limited to Georgian-Abkhazian relations. Towards the end of 1989 he together with his three English colleagues – scholars of Caucasian studies - traveled to Tskhinvali and Vladikavkaz in order to get information about Ossetians who were "suppressed" by Georgians and appropriately publicize this issue in the British media.

George Hewitt fulfilled tasks of all – that of London as well as of Moscow, and, at the same time, indulged Abkhazian separatists and received large reward from the above three parties at the expense of tens of thousands of dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees that were left homeless.

One thing is clear. A moor has done his deed and ... left. He left and now is reveling in results of his work together with his wife, his friends from Moscow and London. He is taking pleasure and maybe thinks that Georgians also are not totally displeased as he had taught them a bitter lesson of distinguishing an enemy from a friend. 

The Club of Experts always emphasized in its publications that since the declaration of Independence of Georgian independence when Georgia's strive towards western values became apparent the Kremlin was trying to retain its influence over Georgia with all methods in its possession. All this was clearly demonstrated by further development of the events and analysis of the materials that depict activities of the Russian security services.

We should start from the fact that after the collapse of the Soviet Union directions of the security services of the Soviet union that curated Georgia were subjected to reorganization and a common centre were formed that on the basis of analyzes of acquired information would develop relevant agent and operational measures in order to timely respond to and influence processes that were taking place in Georgia. A new body was created in the Transcaucasian Military District (ZAKVO) by the central KGB and it was subordinated directly to the above centre and was nominally included in the 4th sector of the ZAKVO (curator lieutenant colonel Tsurika). The body had branches in Yerevan and Baku. The main purpose of the division in the new reality was conduction of agent and operational activities in Transcaucasus and, in particular, in Georgia that implied infiltration into legislative and executive bodies, law enforcement agencies (interior ministry, security services, defense ministry, national guard), union of veteran of Afghan war, political parties and public organizations. For this purpose the following was deemed necessary:

- Restore connections with those agents that had been acquired by special divisions during compulsory military service in military units deployed in various parts of the Soviet Union and who lived in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

- Creation and conservation of agent positions between current and former military servicemen of the Zakvo for the time when Soviet troops would withdraw from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

- Special attention in agent and operational activities should have been paid to development of mechanisms through which contacts were to be established with those representatives of the national movement whose services in formation of national sentiment and creation of the independent republic was great but a certain part of which, due to various reasons, was in confrontation with Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Emphasis should have been made on persons that were offended at being removed from their positions and who had authority in the national movement and could influence certain processes. It was believed to be possible to determine and work on those persons in the circle of Zviad Gamsakhursia who were opposed to his politics and who could be used in favour of Russia through financial incentive.

Operational workers of the subdivision used to carry out especially intense work with recruitment of non-Georgian workers of the security committee and this was partially achieved. In short time they formed new structure divisions (of intelligence, operational-technical, etc). Informational and analytical group that had the latest computer technology of the time was fully formed and started to work. the above group analyzed information received from operational and open (media) sources and regularly transferred it to the centre where based on the received information relevant active measures were planned that promoted artificial tension of the political situation in Georgia, deepening of the existing confrontations, fomentation of ethnic rivalry, compromising of authorities and so on.

As we mentioned above this subdivision was directly subordinated to Moscow and was accountable to it. One of its functions were also to coordinate agent-operational activities in the Georgian autonomies (Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Ajara), as well as in other Transcaucasian republics.

As the Club of Experts noted in one of its articles Georgia's national but inexperienced and too self-confident and ambitious authorities failed to relevantly assess and analyze extremely grave situation, its causes. And what is more important, abilities of the Russian security services - heir to very dangerous Soviet KGB that were actively influencing through their agents on processes in Georgia. More, many irreparable mistakes were made as a result of which Russian security services easily managed to overthrow the Gamsakhurdia government.

As it later became apparent the Kremlin was not that enamoured with Shevardnadze either. But probably at that tine it was difficult to bet on anybody as an alternative to Zviad Gamsakhurdia. So they followed the principle of the "accustomed evil" and made their choice in favour of the old comrade of Yeltsin. "National" forces that overthrew Zviad Gamskhurdia did not allow Shevardnadze who came with the wave of the state coup to enter the CIS. Offended Russia provoked the war in Abkhazia and dragged Georgia in unequal war for the period of more than a year. ... Yes, it started it and defeated us. Nobody should have an illusion that at the time Georgia had any chance of victory in this war, even a slight chance of emerging from this war with dignity. We present here a small account how events were unfolding.

As we know, on the basis of a bilateral agreement there should have been 65 members in the Supreme Council of Abkhazia. 28 of them should have been Abkhazians, 26 -Georgians, and 11 - representatives of other nationalities. How fair was such proportion that is another matter. But even in this unfavourable situation it was possible to find a solution if we had managed to elect 26 persons in the first round and to find 7 persons out of those 11 non-Georgians and non-Abkhazians who were loyal to Georgians. The fact that in a situation when every voice in the Supreme Council were be crucial, the Georgian side should have been more responsible. First, we failed to choose those 26 people in the first round, when Abkhazians have selected all 28. And then, although, we managed to push through 6 out of those 11 persons of other nationalities but... except for Eteri Astemirova and Olga Nagarnina, other four - one Russian and three Armenians betrayed us at the first session and moved to Abkhazian side. Was it negligence of the Georgian side or treachery? We believe it was both.

The reality was that in the second half of the eighties gradual strengthening of the separatist sentiment and anti-Georgian radical manifestations of different form created conditions for strengthening of Georgian national charge that transformed the national liberation movement in Abkhazia into a united national movement. Naturally, in this situation, every sensible Georgian, despite its party affiliation and past, began to unite under a single idea. Therefore national forces, voluntarily or involuntarily, have fallen under the influence of local Georgian party or other high-rank functionaries. And among them there were many who had the only goal - to please Zviad Gamsakhurdia in order to maintain the position or obtain the desired one. (One of them even accompanied Gamsakhurdia into the bunker but after realizing that his defeat was inevitable, betrayed him and fled and later was assuring Shevardnadze of his loyalty). Moreover, as we know, the circle of Zviad Gamsakhurdia consisted of opposing groups that were trying separately to impose their own opinions on the president. The decision depended on which group was quicker to do this. Therefore, often there were inadequate and, in certain cases, contradictory decisions. The same happened with regards to the question of Abkhazia...

This is the time when the national forces that came to power in Georgia and were still in euphoria treated the Abkhazian issue rather too lightly and were not taking our advice into account. Neither leaders of the Abkhazian separatists who were instigated by the Russian security services intended to yield.

When they were selecting those 11 persons of non-Georgian and non-Abkhazian origin they did not allowed us, security services, close. In addition, not only did not they consider persons that we suggested they did not even allow us to study who their chosen candidates were.

Those people not only did not take responsibility for what happened which was not just negligence but something tantamount to betrayal, but did not even express regret. It was the majority that we granted them as a result of our spinelessness that allowed Ardzinba to pass laws unacceptable for the Georgians side.

The situation was aggravated by the fact that representatives of the Georgians side often did not have a common position with regards to certain issues. And this was used by the separatists in their favour. To confirm this we just need to recall a stir that was raised around the issue of appointment of the chairman of the council of the ministers of Abkhazia. As we know it was agreed with the Abkhazian side that prime minister should have been Georgian and that it should have been presented by the Georgian side. In addition, in order to avoid any possible misunderstanding candidates for posts of prime minister and chairman of the supreme council should have been passed in a package. The Georgian side failed to agree on a candidate for prime minister. There were many who wished to get this post and they were lobbied by various groups of the Zviad Gamsakhurdia circle. The time expired and as Georgians failed to reach an agreement on the candidate for prime minister they were compelled to make concessions. Ardzinba was almost unanimously elected as the chairman of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia. Struggle for the post of the prime minister continued and there seemed no end to it. Ardzinba was promoting this in every possible way. In the end he violated the agreement and made the Parliament to appoint prime minister.

Let's not forget that he did not go to open confrontation and appointed as prime minister not Abkhazian but his loyal, but still ethnic Georgian Zarandia. This indicated that not all was lost yet. I must repeat that it is clear today when we know what we know. But then everything was perceived very emotionally and mistakes were made one after another. The entire country lived in euphoria. Our long-wished freedom and independence that we got in the end made us lose our carefulness and we were easily caught in the trap set up by our enemy.

The Club of Experts already described extremely difficult public and political situation that was in Abkhazia prior to the beginning of the war actions. The situation was even more aggravated by illegal decisions of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia (Abkhazian wing) and its presidium that were under the dictate of Ardzinba that were mainly directed at detaching Abkhazia from the juridical space of Georgia. Any attempts of Zviad Gamsakhurdia to regulate the situation were fritless.

After the overthrow of the Zviad Gamsakhurdia government active supporters of Zviad Gamsakhurdia that were expelled from Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Zugdidi and other regions of Georgia poured into Abkhazia which never lacked supporters of the first president. On the other hand, Russian security services were conducting undermining activities in Abkhazian and Russian-language population. Abkhazian Aidgilara, as well as Armenian and Russian organizations Krunk and Slavyansky Dom respectively were especially known for their anti-Georgian sentiments and were adding fuel to the fire. All of them were created and governed by Russian security services (even before heads of these organizations were listed on operational records of the security services for fomentation of separatism in the population).

At the same time North Caucasian "confederates" were occupying resort facilities of Gagra, Gudauta, Sukhumi and others. Chechen militants were also stationed on the Eshera base. Back in the spring of 1991, at the request of Ardzinba and direct assistance and support of Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union Anatoly Lukyanov the 50th special Airborne Division of the Staff of Generals of the Russian Defence Ministry was redeployed in the Bombora aerodrome. Resort facilities such as MBO, PVO as well as special purpose facilities lighthouse, laboratory of Eshera, tourist site that were situated in Sukhumi and were still subordinated to the Russian Defence Ministry were strengthened by armoured vehicles, armament and manpower. And this was done at the pretext of necessity of additional defence measures because of special circumstances in the republic. Among the personnel there were a lot of officers of special departments of GRU and FSB.

Vladyslav Ardzinba and its circle understood well that discord of the Georgian national forces were in their interests. And it should be noted that they used to manage to aggravate the situation in this direction. And the situation was becoming highly expolsive. Representatives of the Gamsakhurdia government were holding rallies in the centre of Sukhumi on the daily basis. Speakers at the rallies demanded from local Georgian authorities not to obey to the Military Council that itself practically further aggravated already existing confrontation between Georgians and Abkhazians in offices and enterprises. And this added to division of the personnel along the ethnic lines. Naturally all this was playing in the hands of the separatists. Existing situation clearly threatened the territorial integrity of Georgia and made it easy for Russian security services to achieve their goal. An attempt of Eduard Shevardnadze to show a united front against unrestrained actions of the separatists did not have a desirable effect. The reason for this was that those antagonisms, that existed, were impossible to overcome. They were, on one hand, between supporters of Shevardnadze and Gamsakhurdia and, on the other hand, between those Georgian leaders of Abkhazia who made a fight for posts as an end in itself and who were not paying any attention as to how Ardzinba was using confrontation between Georgians and simultaneously was usurping the power.

The presidium of the Ardzinba Supreme Council declared those members of the National Guard that were expelled from Tbilisi and who accumulated in Abkhazia in large numbers as illegal armed formations. So called internal troops of Abkhazia were charged with disarmament and fight against them. And confrontation between those two forces was taking quite dangerous forms. All this had negative effects on criminogenic situation. Efforts of law enforcers had no desirable effects. Facts of robbery, attack, kidnapping of holding high-rank officials as hostages were frequent. Explosions carried out by gangs on the Achigvara-Gali, Tamishi-Ochamchire, Adziuzhba-Tamishi Railway stages were blamed on supporters of Gamsakhurdia. Besides, the latters were also blamed for attacks on Railway stations in Gagra, Bzip, Gantiadi, Gudauta, Eshera, Sukhumi, Dranda, Ochamchire, Achigvara and Gali. High voltage electric cables on the railway were robbed. All this was causing delays in movement of both passenger and cargo trains. Cargo carriages that were stuck in stations were also robbed.

In the existing grave situation the Ardzinba regime was very passive. It is true that there were discussions about the existing situation on various levels of the government but no one was in a hurry to take active steps in the direction of stabilization of the situation. Decisions that were made remained just on a paper. A view that Ardzinba and his circle benefited from the aggravation of the situation was gaining ground.

As to the difficult situation regarding the railway at the initiative of the Information and Intelligence Service (former security service of Abkhazia) a complex plan of defence of the Abkhazian section of the railway was drawn up. Together with security service the ministry of internal affairs were to be also involved in it. Divisions of district security services were in charge of the coordination of measures in places while overall management was carried out by the information and intelligence service of the security service. Apart from organisational issues the plan described in details all railway stages, bridges and tunnels that were to be subject to protection. Necessary manpowered and armament was calculated. In this situation necessary actions would only be possible after joint, cooperated actions. If Tbilisi were to help us, but only sensibly and in the format of the plan, and with low expenses crimonogenic situation would have improved significantly, robbery of electric cables and cargo carriages on the railway would have stopped. The above-mentioned plan was introduced to Ardzinba by head of the security service of the time Avtandil Ioseliani. Ardzinba charged deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of Abkhazia Kapba with studying the issue and making decision in cooperation with us.

At the special meeting that was attended by me, as Ioseliani's deputy (At the time Ioseliani was in Tbilisi), and Minister of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia General Lominadze, the plan was approved by Enver Kapba. But the plan was not destined to be fulfilled as establishment of order was not in the interests of Ardzinba. It is impossible to understand reasons but neither Lomindze made great efforts to implement that plan. The fact is that efforts of security service ended without results. Despite this, Ioseliani spared no efforts and visited Tbilisi many times to solve this extremely important issue. But everything was in vain. Once he even said to me: "Levan, Tbilisi has no time for us. If we do not take care of Abkhazia everything will end much worse than anyone can imagine". Everyone was engaged in political clashes and nobody had time for such vital for the country problems as stopping lawlessness of criminals and protection of railway communications. To say more, firm request to take strict measures for the protection of the railway on the place, was perceived as wrong-timed and as a caprice.

Later it was exactly the reason of protection of the railway that armed formations of Tengiz Kitovani entered Abkhazia, a decision which was made by the Military Council and which was strongly opposed by Avtandil Ioseliani. This opposition was caused by knowledge what could have followed arrival of although very patriotic but untrained and devoid of all military discipline Georgian armed forces into Abkhazia. It was clearly a well-planned provocation against Georgia but due to the existing situation it was impossible to prevent it. Notwithstanding the fact that Georgian authorities had a full right to make decisions about movement of armed forces around its territory they were still obliged to calculate all possible complications in Abkhazia. All the more that from operational data provided by us it was clear that Ardzinba did not intend to make concessions and movement of Georgian armed forces would give him a pretext for fomentation of a fratricidal war.

Everyone believes that August of 1992 was the beginning of the tragedy in Abkhazia but in the spring of the same year there already were almost all prerequisites that an armed confrontation between Georgians and Abkhazians was to become inevitable.

Then head of the Abkhazian security services Avtandil Ioseliani knew this better than anyone. He saw this and used to take very unpopular for that time decisions. What is more important, and despite the pressure of local Georgian leaders he managed and preserved a unified core of the security service. Although Ardzinba tried to form an alternative security service that was created under the name of state protection service subordinated to the Supreme Council of Abkhazia but he could not manage to win any of valuable workers over, just several backward workers. First of all, it was due to the fact that no one in the security committee of Abkhazia of the time dared to get openly involved in political processes on either side as everyone saw how Avtandil Ioseliani himself was trying to avert a bloody confrontation. No matter whether some like it or not, we should also note that the following was true: Despite a mixed attitude towards us (which unfortunately continues until today) it was us who controlled better than any one else processes that were going on in various layers of the society. The only difference was that unfortunately we did not have leverage for influence. I say unfortunately because we were the information service and those who could have reacted they either did not believe our information or, worse, did not have time for it. This happened even when the Abkhazian University became divided. We can say it with some assurance that that was a day when a bridge was broken between Georgians and Abkhazians as this was the first armed confrontation that was organized by the Abkhazian side and for which Abkhazians were very well organized.

To this day neither party mentions real reasons for the tragedy in Sukhumi that happened on July 15-16th, 1989 a victim of which, along with other Georgian youths, became a prominent leader of the nationalist movement Vova Vekua. Nobody mentions because personal, mercantile interests prevailed over national ones in the actions of some leaders of both Georgian and Abkhazian part of the university. Unfortunately, provocative appeals of Georgian leaders of secession were supported by a significant part of professors and student body - although, despite this, no one can doubt even for an iota their patriotism and love for their people. But at the time refusal to support this kind of appeal was seen in the Georgian society as a betrayal. therefore many often refrained from expressing a reasonable opinion and were forced to go with the flow.

We also negatively assessed division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs already in the conditions of existence of independent Georgia. I understand very well that Ardzinba illegally, without coordination with the centre dismissed Minister Lominadze from the post, and just as illegally appointed Ankvab to this position. But, in retrospect, it is obvious that if we had the foresight and patience and had not separated from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, then – I am sure - it would have been easy to find common ground with Ankvab for constructive cooperation.

Nothing good for the Georgian side came out of the division of the Supreme Council either. As it was mentioned above, we had presented Ardzinba with majority on a silver platter and this enabled him to take unlawful decisions one after another. Georgian members of the parliament could not come up with anything but to divide the parliament - and this fact also played into the hands of separatists. I do not want to say that the Georgian parliamentarians did not resist to those unlawful decisions. On the contrary, they, of course, resisted, and we, Georgians, were proud watching their persistent struggle. This charge of the parliamentary struggle was passing on to the population, and it was to be followed by something. I do not know whose decision it was about the division, but in my opinion, Georgian members of the parliament was not supposed to refuse to participate in plenary sessions and they should not have left the parliament. This should be regarded as a retreat on the battlefield. Elected representatives of the people had no right to do so - they were to fight to the end.

The above-mentioned issues have been constantly discussed, there always were disputes and even quarrels, but within acceptable limits. I am not trying to convince anyone that we supposedly had no problems with Abkhazian and Russian workers. On the contrary, it was difficult to assess processes occurring among the Abkhazian population, as information provided by Abkhazian workers did not reflect the real situation. But despite this, the security services still were managing to retain unity. And Ioseliani used to call other leaders to this kind of unity and that, as it was already noted, irritated many Georgian leaders.


Unknown details of the war in Abkhazia - Part I

August 14th, 1992 is one of the most tragic days in the long history of Georgian-Abkhazian relations. It was that day when a fratricidal war started which probably could have been avoided if any of the parties had the slightest idea of its heavy, devastating results. And though Ardzinba almost did not leave us a chance and he did everything to take Abkhazia out of the legal space of Georgia, the State Council made no less a mistake, almost a crime, when it decided to enter Abkhazia to restore order on the railway. But the Georgian side's argument that the situation at the Abkhazian section of the railway at that time required establishing order by use of force and that is why in Abkhazia military forces were introduced seems quite weak. The country's leadership was obliged to analyze possible difficulties. All the more that as written or verbal intelligence presented by us showed that Ardzinba was searching for a reason to unleash a fratricidal war. In addition, no special knowledge of military affairs was necessary to calculate that it was impossible to reach a stated goal by using armed formations of unskilled, collected in a matter of urgency volunteers. All the more that most of their commanders, not to mention ordinary soldiers, had no idea about the purpose of their introduction into Abkhazia. A main goal of the Russian security services was to make the Georgian side yield to provocation and to lure its armed forces into Abkhazia (even a time was chosen precisely to transfer armoured vehicles from Akhaltsikhe military base to Georgia). And events that unfolded afterwards did not demand from them any development plan or special effort of mind. Ardzinba also reacted instantly and drew Georgian armed formations into the fratricidal war.

Over the entire period after the war a lot has been said about the war in Abkhazia. In Georgia, it is difficult to meet a person who does not have his/her own view on the Georgian-Abkhazian confrontation and in particular on the war. But objectivity and impartiality of this view depends on who approaches and how one approaches this question, how deep their knowledge of the real situation that existed at that time in Georgia, and, in particular, in Abkhazia is. Surprisingly, assessment also depends on what political faith people had at that time, etc. But everything was obscure, and many are confused and cannot understand what exactly caused the war or our defeat.

One gets an impression that it is not in us that one should seek causes of our defeat, which are not that small. It is well known that during the war decisive importance is given to coordinated, organized activities that are strictly subordinated to unified military command, which the Georgian military formations not just lacked but they were completely absent in the beginning of the war. Those armed formations consisted mainly of volunteers, imbued with patriotic feelings. But, unfortunately, among them were more than enough criminal elements that went to war for "profit". More than 18 years have passed since the end of the war and until today reasons for our defeat have not been reviewed and investigated at the professional level. And this should be done not only to punish the guilty, but primarily in order to prevent repeat of similar mistakes. Instead, given the political reality that emerged in Georgia in the post-war period, it was considered bad taste to even talk about any error on our part. Otherwise where it is heard that the losing side in the war to be handing out awards. And this is not about those brave young men who died and whose heroic actions became known later, or they were not awarded at the time due to some reasons. Also no one disputes that memory of those killed or maimed in this war must have been properly honoured. We are certain what everything is done for them and their families is far from enough.

For obvious reasons, the role of the state security service in the war in Abkhazia is a closed subject. No one is interested and it is not seen anywhere what we were doing in that period, or whether we were doing anything at all. The Club of Experts decided to partially touch upon topics that we hope will be of interest to readers. We allow ourselves also to talk about shortcomings which interfered into or prevented implementation of operative-investigative activities.

Let's start with the fact that Eduard Shevardnadze, who came in the wake of the state coup, saw clearly that he had been held hostage by the forces that overthrew Zviad Gamsakhurdia and some of their adventurous leaders. That is why many decisions were made based on populism and a desire to please the agitated society rather than in favour of state interests. One of such decisions was to rename the state security service and its transformation into information and intelligence service that actually meant leaving the country without security services. The Zviad Gamsakhurdia government also believed that it was necessary and right to put the former KGB in the service of the country but they did not know how to accomplish this (and how could they know). Top rank officials have changed, but the core of operational workers remained almost unchanged, unless one counts those who had clear anti-national position and were forced to leave the security service voluntarily or under pressure. And among the existing staff, of course, were officers deeply implanted by the Soviet KGB and this was confirmed by later events. Unfortunately, reform of the security services did not go further than that. It should also be noted that irreconcilable confrontation, which arose between the Zviad Gamsakhurdia government and the opposition, not only contributed to the division of Georgian society into two hostile camps but also had a negative impact on activities of employees of the security service. At that, the nearest circle of Zviad Gamsakhurdia by putting constant pressure tried to use the security services and its resources as a weapon against the opposition. And it was very painful for the public, when they managed to achieve this, especially when it came to operational record-keeping. A significant part of society which was in anticipation of disclosure of personal files and gripped with "agentmania" was overwhelmed by chaos and uncertainty. The situation was further aggravated by the Russian security services, which through deeply implanted workers and their agents exercised relevant influence on the situation (see "Abkhazian separatism was born in the labyrinths of the KGB - Part I-II). Naturally, reform of the security service was impossible in this situation.

As we noted above, the State Council under the leadership of Eduard Shevardnadze indeed renamed the security service into the information and intelligence service, but no reforms were carried out there, except a few personnel changes. Meanwhile radical reorganization of the state security service was crucial for the young independent state. I cannot say whose idea it was to deprive the security service of all functions, except for intelligence, but realization of what was in this idea, especially in Abkhazia, would have been tantamount to treason. We can assume that one of the leaders of the national movement Irakli Batiashvili agreed to head the service provided that the KGB changed its name and its function were to be reduced. But after he, already in capacity of chairman of service, familiarized himself with functions and resources of the security service, its operational cases, he probably understood that then Georgia needed strong state security service, staffed with experienced and loyal workers. So he did the right thing, when he decided to maintain its functions. On this basis, after consultation with the centre and by decision of Avtandil Ioseliani who at the time was chairman of the security service of Abkhazia, gathering of intelligence information remained our main task. But no one was going to give up old functions either, especially, as we noted in a previous articles, by order of Ardzinba security service of the separatist government was already in operation and on its basis it was planned to create an alternative security service subordinated directly to the Ardzinba. As the course of the war showed later internal threats posed no less danger to the country.

Levan Kiknadze (born in 1946) is major general of the security forces. Before the Abkhazian war and during the period of 1992-1993, served as an Assistant Chairman of the Security Service of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia.

After the war he continued his service in Tbilisi where he served as an Assistant Chairman of Georgian Intelligence Department and later – as a Minister for State Security of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (government-in-exile). In 2009, together with a few other veterans of Security Service, he found an NGO known as ”The Club of Experts”, which performs research in the field of Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts.


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