Gali: Abkhazia's frontier with Georgia
The Gali district of Abkhazia lies in the South East of the territory on the border with Georgia Proper. Home to the only remaining Mingrelian Georgian people in Abkhazia, the region feels like a buffer zone between the two sides. Extremely neglected and under populated, compared to pre-war figures, one feels like they are going back in time as they cross the disputed border from the left bank of the Ingury River into Abkhazia's most impoverished district.
Scattered throughout an intricate network of remote villages, connected by often impassible roads, people in Gali have to be almost entirely self sufficient in order to survive. In truth they have always had to be like this but the difference is that these days there is very little opportunity for anything more than mere existence.
Previously a rich agricultural area for oranges, tea and hazelnuts many of the plantations and groves have been destroyed by war and neglect. Those who are still producing do so on a very small scale, earning barely enough money to send their children to school. The tightening of the border with Georgia by Russian troops also means that the flow of goods and produce has slowed due to the heavy taxes imposed. Instead farmers are now forced to sell locally in Gali market where inflation and the taxes levied by the by local Mafia mean that prices are severely lower than before.
The Mingrelian people of Gali feel abandoned by both sides of the conflict. They have been left hanging in a state of limbo, acutely aware that they are living on the frontline of a dispute that has yet to be fully resolved. Their future is by no means clear but for now they get on with life, happy because they have returned to their homeland but sad because it will never be the same again.
© Ivor Prickett