Georgian Displaced Still Long for a Home
The death of an IDP has reopened the debate on the dire conditions people originally from Abkhazia have been enduring for decades.
All photographs by David Mdzinarishvili, 29 January 2022.
Zurab Kiria was in his 20s when he arrived in Tbilisi in September 1993. He had fled Abkhazia, the Georgia’s separatist region on the Black Sea, together with hundreds of thousands of others as Sukhumi, the capital city, fell to Abkhazian forces.
For the next three decades, he lived in a 14-square-metre small room in Kartli, a crumbling Soviet-era sanatorium in the outskirts of Tbilisi. On January 16, 2002, the man, who a few years ago changed his surname to Chichoshvili, took his own life.
His death shook his neighbours and the country, reopening the debate about the conditions in which the hundreds of thousands Georgians displaced from Abkhazia have been living in for decades.
Following wars in the early 1990s, about a quarter of a million Georgians fled the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The government responded to the sudden influx of displaced people by allocating public buildings as temporary shelters – sanatoriums, schools and hotels.
It was stopgap solution, with no long-term strategy, in the belief that the displaced would be able to go back home. As the years passed, the temporary became permanent and the buildings allocated to them slowly deteriorated.
IDPs living in the Kartli complex have been protesting for years about the conditions and the state of disrepair of the building, asking for an alternative location – to no avail.
This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.