Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia as an independent state may have fired speculation about military bases and trade ties, but one interesting question has been generally overlooked so far: what it means for Sukhumi’s monkeys.
Set on a mountaintop overlooking the Black Sea, Sukhumi’s Scientific Research Institute for Experimental Pathology and Therapy -- commonly known as "the monkey station" [pitomnik obezyan] -- was legendary in Soviet times. In bygone times, it was one of the world’s leading primate research centers, with a guest list ranging from North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh to Soviet World War II hero Marshal Giorgi Zhukov.
That legend fell on hard times after the 1992-1994 Georgian-Abkhaz war, which caused the loss of monkeys, staff and money. Now, with fresh research pursuits and a recent monkey baby boom, institute scientists hope that official recognition of Abkhazia will let their 81-year-old center make a comeback.
"I won’t say that as of tomorrow everything will be different, but the tempo [of work] will become faster," said Institute Director Tamaz Kubrava in a recent interview with EurasiaNet.
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Elizabeth Owen is EurasiaNet’s Caucasus news editor in Tbilisi. Sophia Mizante is a freelance photographer also based in Tbilisi.