Saturday, May 31, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Abkhazia Shows What Happens When a Region Gets ‘Hooked’ on Russian Money, Latynina Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 31 – The events in Abkhazia have a simple explanation, Yuliya Latynina says. “The unrecognized republic lived on Moscow’s money, but now the money has run out.”  As such, its “fate is the best illustration of what happens to regions which fall into the zone of Russian influence.”

            In a commentary in today’s “Novaya gazeta,” Latynina says that Abkhazia had counte on receiving 12 billion Russian rubles (400 million US dollars) this year but to date has received only two (65 million).  That may be enough for the republic’s president, but it isn’t for the Abkhazian people (

            Earlier, Abkhazia was a wonderful place, but the blessings it enjoyed have come to naught under the Kremlin, Latynina says. Instead, there has been “collapse and destruction.” Agricultural production has collapsed, tourism has as well, the forests have been cut down with the food exported to Turkey.

            Under Russia, there are no property rights in Abkhazia at all. Instead, former field commanders are given the use of land but not its ownership. They “take in 100 tourists and take 100 rubles from each, and then give the government three kopeks,” Ankvab told the “Novaya” commentator.

            The only real source of income – and Latynina recalls that Moscow excluded Abkhazia from making any money from  the Sochi Olympiad – are subsidies from the Russian government that are handed out by the government or more specifically by its nominal head. The amounts of money have never been large, but stability depended on the flow continuing.

            No Abkhaz leader could behave otherwise under the circumstances, and Ankvab like his predecessors – and successors when they come – has had to play Moscow so as to keep himself or herself in power and the situation stable because of course they are going to think “not about the interests of Moscow but about the interests of Abkhazia.”

            Latynina adds that she is “personally completely certain that the Russian-Georgian war should have been launched in May with Abkhazia and that the Abkha leadership did everything to prevent precisely that scenario.”  And that is “the saddest lesson which one can extract from Abkhazia’s fate.”

            “The Kremlin,” the Moscow commentator says, “has done everything in order that there will not be any money in Abkhazia apart from Russian subsidies.” 

            But when the economic crisis hit, and Moscow had to economize, “the Kremlin simply decided” to save money by cutting its funding for Abkhazia.  The money stream began to dry up.  There was still enough for Ankvab but not for the people.  And that development allowed the opposition to gather thousands for a meeting to demand that they and not he get the funds.

            The way to understand all this, Latynina concludes, is that Moscow “hooked a region on heroin and then didn’t supply it.  And this was still before Ukraine and the future economic crisis.”  She thus implies that if Moscow cuts back further in Abkhazia and elsewhere, it will face even more troubles ahead.

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