During the 1980s, the tension between the two ethnic groups began to escalate rapidly, due to Georgia’s wishes for independence from the Soviet Union. Fearing that a probable emancipation of the Tbilisi government could lead to a complete georgization of Abkhazia, the Abkhaz gathered more than 30,000 signatures for the Moscow government to declare Abkhazeti’s RSSA a full member of the Union.
The tension exploded 16 of July of 1989, when he tried to install a branch of the Tbilisi State University in Sukhumi. Violence against Georgians, unleashed by apsuas extremists, ended with 16 dead and 137 wounded. After several days of violence, the Red Army intervened to restore order in the city.
The 23 of August of 1990, before the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia SSR and its inclusion as a full member of the USSR. Legislators of Georgian origin, who had been ordered from Tbilisi to boycott this declaration, were prevented from entering the session.
Finally, Georgia declared its independence on April 9, 1991. However, the government of Zviad Gamsakhurdia won the rejection of the Georgians, and was deposed in January 1992, by General Tengiz Kitovani. The successor in the presidency would be Eduard Shevardnadze, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union. Although Shevardnadze was not a nationalist, the government he inherited from Gamsakhurdia was riddled with politicians who were, so he had to act under his criteria to avoid a fall of his newly assumed government.
The 22 of February of 1992 was abolished the Constitution of the Georgian SSR, and reinstated the former Republic of Georgia in 1921. For the Abkhazians, it invalidates the level of autonomy, so in response thereto declared their independence, on July 23, 1992. Taking advantage of this situation, many Gamsakhurdia supporters (Zviadists) took refuge in Abkhazia.
Under the pretext that the Zviadists had kidnapped the Georgian Minister of the Interior and held him captive in Abkhazia, the government of Tbilisi sent more than 3,000 soldiers to the rebel province to restore order, starting the war on August 14.. Heavy fighting broke out between the Georgian army and the Abkhaz militias in the vicinity of Sukhumi, which did not prevent the Georgian Army from entering the capital on the 18th, controlling much of the territory and causing the Abkhaz government to flee to Gudauta.
The defeat of the rebels caused, in the first instance, the formation of a Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus: a paramilitary group of different pro-Russian peoples (Ossetians, Cossacks, Chechens, etc.) in the area. Hundreds of volunteers from Russia, like Shamil Basayev, joined the Abkhaz separatist cause. Although a cessation of hostilities plan was negotiated in Moscow on 3 September, during the first days of October Gagra was attacked by Abkhazians and CPMC troops. After their victory many Georgians were killed, while others fled the city or were evacuated by the Russian Navy.
Although Russia declared itself neutral in the conflict, there are many testimonies of bombing of Georgian troops by Russian planes. Shevardnadze accused Russia of waging an undeclared war against Georgia, a theory that was reinforced when Russian soldiers were captured among the separatists, prompting that on March 11, 1993, Georgian troops shot down a Russian military plane that was flying over Abkhaz territory.
According to shopareview.com, the paramilitaries gave a strong offensive to capture Sukhumi, but were repelled. At that time, an ethnic genocide began against Georgians by rebels and Abkhazians in Army-controlled territories. It is estimated that more than 6,000 people perished as part of these ethnic cleansing methods.
On July 2, the fighting resumed after the rebels, with Russian air support, reached the village of Tamishi and approached Sukhumi, being repelled again after a violent battle. However, Sukhumi was surrounded by rebels. On the 27th a ceasefire agreement was signed in Sochi, which was again broken in a couple of months. During a visit by President Shevardnadze to Sukhumi, secessionist troops launched a definitive attack on the city on September 16. Faced with the imminent fall of Sukhumi and the arson attack on the hotel where he was residing and from which he was almost miraculously saved, Shevardnadze had to flee the city on a Russian ship.
Sukhumi fell on September 27 and with this fact, the separatist forces quickly managed to control the rest of the territory of Abkhazia and expelled most of the communities of Georgian origin. It is estimated that more than 10,000 died during the conflict and that between 250 and 300,000 had to flee Abkhazia. These exiles went mainly to the Samegrelo area, the epicenter of the Civil War against the Zviadists.
In December 1993, Georgian and Abkhaz leaders signed a peace agreement after mediation by the United Nations and Russia. The 4 of April of 1994 was signed in Moscow the “Declaration of Policies for Conflict Georgian-Abkhaz”. In turn, in June 1994, the peacekeepers of the Commonwealth of Independent States composed only of Russian soldiers entered Abkhazia and months later the United Nations Observation Mission in Georgia did.
However, the atrocities against ethnic Georgians did not end. An estimated 1,500 Georgians were exterminated after the peace agreement. The 14 of September of 1994, through television, the leaders of Abkhazia ordered the expulsion of all Georgians before the 27th anniversary of the fall of Sukhumi. On November 30 A new Constitution was signed reaffirming the independence of Abkhazia, which even so was not recognized by any other nation and was even repudiated by the United States, on December 15. On March 21, 1995, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees charged Abkhaz militias with the murder and torture of dozens of refugees in the Gali area. Meanwhile, and despite the embargo that weighed on the region, Russia supported the new Abkhaz government militarily and economically.
In April 1998, hundreds of Abkhaz forces entered the Gali district, killing several Georgians who were still in the area. Eduard Shevardnadze, however, refused to send troops to the conflict zone and signed a new ceasefire on May 20. This new escalation ended with hundreds of deaths and more than 20,000 new Georgian refugees.