The contested region of Abkhazia is struggling to balance its hopes for independence from Georgia with its links to Russia, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
A secessionist movement led by ethnic Abkhazians declared independence from Georgia in 1994, leading to war and more than a decade of unrest.
Abkhazia sided with Russia when it invaded Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia in August, and in September signed a treaty strengthening economic and military ties with the former communist superpower.
Russia’s new military presence offers Abkhazians security, but may come with the price tag of economic dependency.
Russians are buying up property abandoned during the secessionist strife, raising concerns about inflated home prices.
Russian businesses provide most of Abkhazia’s goods and operate with the same legal freedom as domestic businesses, leading to calls for greater investment in the regional economy.
Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister said that Russia could eventually absorb the region, unless other European nations recognize its independence, according to the newspaper.
“After summer war, identity crisis grips Abkhazia”
The Christian Science Monitor, October 20, 2008