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Abkhazia's Diaspora: Dreaming of Home

High atop a mountain chain in western Turkey stands Mezit village, a hamlet founded in the 19th century by Abkhaz rebels on the run from Tsarist Russian troops. More than 130 years later, Mezit's Abkhaz residents now have one goal -- to return to Abkhazia, where Russian troops are now a welcome presence.

"We would like to see this place with our own eyes, a place where our language is spoken," said Nalan Uran, a middle-aged Mezit homemaker, as she indicated a black-and-white photograph of her great-grandfather in the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi.

That is a desire the de facto Abkhaz government would like to encourage. Promoting the return of Diaspora members is seen as one way to strengthen efforts to secure the territory's independence from Georgia.

Thousands of Abkhaz, known as makhadjiri, fled Abkhazia for Turkey in the mid-19th century after resisting the Russian conquest of the Caucasus. Today, Turkey is home to the world's largest Abkhaz Diaspora community. Size estimates vary - Diaspora leaders say 1 million people; Abkhaz estimates range from 150,000 to 500,000.

To read the full story

Elizabeth Owen is the Caucasus news coordinator for EurasiaNet, based in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Abkhazia's Diaspora: Dreaming of Home

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