“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely…”
John Acton (1834–1902)
In the section of “Politics” (see above), we have already noted that stability in the country is the main condition for its development. Stability is possible if the political system in the state contributes to the beneficial development of all three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial. In the case of Abkhazia, the leadership of our country has no political will and therefore all branches of government are in a bad condition.
On 2 July 2014, a model of the new political system of the Republic of Abkhazia was presented in the conference hall of the Atrium Victoria Hotel in Sukhum . The project was prepared by a public initiative group led by Alkhas Tkhagushev. In my opinion, it is necessary to return to the discussion of that project.
Almost everyone who takes the initiative to reform the Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia notes that under the Basic Law of the country the President of the Republic of Abkhazia has too much authority. At that time, it was explained by the realities that developed in the country in 1994, when the Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia was adopted.
I think that the absolute power guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia to the presidents in our time has become a great temptation for them and it is the main reason for the sad result that we have today.
However, I do not think that the Constitutional reform of the Republic of Abkhazia can solve all our problems. Changes in the external form will not give any results if they are not filled with the appropriate content.
Recently I have been asked what I think of changing the name of our country, instead of Russian “Abkhazia” (a name that etymologically dates back to the Georgian “Abkhazeti”), introduce the original Abkhazian “Apsny” or the European exonym “Abazgia”. I replied even if Abkhazia is called “Abkhazeti,” the main thing is that our country be truly independent. But speaking seriously, the name of the country and its attributes are also important. Even before the Patriotic war of Abkhazian people in 1992–93 at a meeting of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia, Deputy Zurab Achba took a similar initiative to rename the country. But the Chairman of the Supreme Council, V. G. Ardzinba considered such changes to be inappropriate and gave relevant historical arguments.
Constitution is not a Holy scripture that cannot be revised. I began my thoughts on the present and future of Abkhazia with the words of the German theologian Karl Barth (1886–1968) and again repeat them: “A true revision of the past is not a defeat, but a new beginning!”
Thus, taking into account all the ideas set forth in this work on reforming the political institutions of our state, government, etc., I propose to discuss the following changes, which, from my point of view, must be made in the Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia.
Article 4: “The Republic of Abkhazia consists of the historical lands of Sadz, Bzyp, Guma, Dal-Tsabal, Abzhua, Samyrzakan. Gagra, Gudauta, Sukhum, Gulrypsh, Ochamchyra, Tkuarchal, Gal Districts and Gagra, Gudauta, New Athos, Sukhum, Ochamchira, Tkuarchal and Gal cities are situated on these lands. The territory of the Republic of Abkhazia is integral, inviolable and inalienable.”
Edit: “The Republic of Abkhazia consists of the historical lands of Sadz, Bzyp, Guma, Dal-Tsabal, Abzhua, Samyrzakan. The following self-governing regions are located on these lands: Sukhum region – Central Abkhazia, Bzyp region – Western Abkhazia, Abzhua region – Eastern Abkhazia and the following cities: Gagra, Gudauta, New Athos, Sukhum, Ochamchira, Tkuarchal, Gal. The territory of the Republic of Abkhazia is integral, inviolable and inalienable.”
Article 5: “The land and other natural resources are the property of the people, are used and protected in the Republic of Abkhazia as the basis of the life and activity of its citizens. The issues of possession and use of natural resources are regulated by the laws of the Republic of Abkhazia.”
Edit: “The land and other natural resources are the property of the people, are used and protected in the Republic of Abkhazia as the basis of the life and activity of its citizens. Natural resources should be used wisely with all environmental requirements and for the benefit of each citizen of the country. All the proceeds from the extraction and sale of natural resources must be saved in People’s funds. The proceeds of funds are used to ensure the social rights of citizens.”
Article 37: “The Parliament of the Republic of Abkhazia consists of 35 deputies. Parliamentary elections are conducted in accordance with the principles of universal suffrage and equality of all citizens by secret ballot. The term of the Parliament is five years. The procedure for the election of deputies of the Parliament is established by the Constitutional Law.”
Edit: “The Parliament of the Republic of Abkhazia consists of 45 deputies (taking into account the reform on the territorial-administrative division of the territory of the Republic of Abkhazia into three regions) elected in accordance with party lists. Parliamentary elections are conducted in accordance with the principles of universal suffrage and equality of all citizens by secret ballot. The term of the National Assembly – the Parliament is five years. The procedure for the election of deputies of the Parliament is established by the Constitutional Law.”
Article 47: add to the powers of the Parliament of the Republic of Abkhazia (after the third paragraph): “4) the parliamentary majority forms the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Abkhazia.”
From Article 53, delete the 16th paragraph on the powers of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia: “The President appoints and dismisses the heads of administrations in the cities and regions of the Republic of Abkhazia (taking into account three self-governing regions led by the heads of regions, deputies of regional assemblies, heads of cities, as well as judges and heads of local police departments will be elected by direct vote of the regions’ residents in accordance with party lists).”
Delete Article 54 and 55, concerning the Vice-President of the Republic of Abkhazia, because this position should be abolished (President and Prime Minister are more than enough for the Republic of Abkhazia).
From Article 56, delete the following paragraph: “The Cabinet of Ministers is formed by the President of the Republic of Abkhazia” (this authority should be transferred to the People’s Assembly – Parliament of the Republic of Abkhazia).
From Article 66, delete paragraphs relating to the Vice-President of the Republic of Abkhazia, due to the abolition of this position.
From Article 79, delete the paragraph: “The heads of the executive power of cities and regions of the Republic of Abkhazia are appointed by the President of the Republic of Abkhazia from the local government (as we have already noted, the heads of the executive power of cities and three self-governing regions are elected by direct vote of residents of cities and regions of the Republic of Abkhazia).”
It may seem to the reader of my thoughts that there is a lot of criticism in them. It is true. But we must draw conclusions from previous mistakes and criticize the present ones. Society is not capable of moving forward without it.
I noticed that self-criticism is inherent in the peoples of the Mediterranean (for example, Greeks and Italians). Perhaps this is one of the signs of belonging to ancient civilizations and cultures. There is nothing worse than self-praise for the development of the country! From my point of view, excessive self-criticism of the Abkhazians (I am among them) is a positive factor, if it doesn’t go beyond the norm.
At the same time, there are a few reasons which explain the failures of the post-war period in Abkhazia.
A terrible economic blockade after the war of 1992–93 and the war between Russia and Chechnya (its consequences) hindered the development of our country a lot.
After the war, one could go from Sukhum to Trabzon by sea. But then the sea border was closed for us and it has been closed for 25 years. The air transportation and the air connection with the world are also impossible. Therefore, it is clear why we were not able to achieve the desired development: we did not have equal conditions for development, equal with the rest of the world!
I will give a few examples. Young people from Russia and Georgia can go to study anywhere in the world, whether they have a wish and opportunities. Young people from Abkhazia, including me, had to and have to make their way to high-quality education through incredible barriers.
Sometimes it leads to success, but in most cases it is a failure.
Education is one of the aspects. The same thing goes for all other issues.
It is impossible to demand from Abkhazia the same results which the neighboring countries have achieved! For 25 years we have never had equal opportunities. In Soviet times, this equality existed and that’s why in Abkhaz villages at that time people lived the same way as today people live in elite suburbs of Moscow and St.Petersburg.
One more example. For 25 years there were no equal conditions at all for the revival of church life. On the contrary, all these years we have been greatly hindered. However, we have achieved much and even more than in neighboring Orthodox countries. And what results would we achieve if the Abkhazian Church had equal conditions with the GOC and the ROC?
In addition, when we discuss our recent history, I would like to recall one very important fact: the population of our country is only 250,000 people but we managed to build an independent state. Do you know another autonomous republic of the former USSR, which today is an independent state?
We can be self-critical and complain that we have the wrong Government, the wrong Parliament, the wrong Academy of Sciences, the wrong university, the wrong theaters, the wrong schools and kindergartens, etc. But we have them and they are functioning!
Was not Vladislav Ardzinba a world-class politician and Fazil Iskander an outstanding writer of world literature? Is not Khibla Gerzmava the world famous opera singer and wrestler Denis Tsargush is the pride of world sports?You can remember many other famous names.
Our achievements in culture, science, politics and in other fields are incredible for such a small country with such a small population. Don’t forget about this!
Let’s remember how many difficulties Abkhazian people had to overcome after the unequal Russo-Caucasian war, which lasted almost half a century: Deportation (amkhajira) of the majority of the population of Abkhazia to the territory of the Ottoman Empire, after the leadership of the Russian Empire declared the rest of our people “guilty,” for nearly a quarter of a century this “guilt” turned into harsh discriminatory conditions for Abkhazians and our people were completely powerless in their own land. Then the First World War, the February and October Revolutions, the Civil War and the intervention of the Georgian Mensheviks, terrible repressions in the 30s, when our entire national elite was shot. Then World War II, when we lost a substantial part of the male population. And after that in the XX century Abkhazians restored their independent state twice!
Konstantin Kovach (1911–1939) noted in ethnographic records of Abkhaz folk songs: “Abkhazians live in such a legendary beautiful area, where even someone who has never been a creator wants to create something. But the Abkhazian’s path to culture, full of obstacles, is not a financial situation, but a stick of “conquerors” … There were so many obstacles but Abkhazians continue singing.”
I hope that the Almighty bless our people and we will continue to glorify His name and the land he gave us in our songs, as our ancestors did.
What we need for implementation of our dream to live, work and develop in a free and prosperous country was told by N.P. Ignatiev (1832–1908) in a lecture delivered by him in the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Army, 1852.
I complete my thoughts on the present and future of Abkhazia with his words.
“Domestic internecine strife,” says N.P. Ignatiev, “between aristocratic surnames (Abkhazia), rivalry between Christians and Mohammedans (nowadays it is the relationship between indigenous Abkhazians and the diaspora living in Islamic countries), continuous quarrels between princes for the right to inherit (today it is the unlimited power of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia and the struggle for the seat of the head of state) – all these historical reasons have left significant scars. If the habit of strife and parasitism had not taken root among the people, then Abkhazia could become one of the most prosperous and richest countries.”
On 20 March 2019, on my Facebook page, I put a post entitled “I do not intend to be engaged in political games and say “οχι””, which was immediately reprinted by various media.
This post will be an afterword to the book with changes and additions.
In the past six months, the name of Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar) as a possible participant in the upcoming presidential elections in our country has been often mentioned in various media and social networks. But I have never publicly expressed such an intention.
In January 2018, I had a meeting with a group of deputies of the National Assembly in the New Athos Monastery, who tried to convince me to engage in politics and participate in the elections of the President of Abkhazia in 2019. But I refused.
However, it was precisely this meeting that prompted me to write thoughts about the present situation in Abkhazia and what we, citizens of the country, need to do to change the situation. At first I thought that it would be a small article, but in the process of work the amount of collected materials grew and I have written several articles. At the moment, six major parts of these reflections, perceived by readers with great interest, have already been written and published. I hope soon I will complete this work (it remains to write three more sections), and it will be published in the form of a book.
In the summer of 2018, the same deputies of our first Parliament and a number of other young politicians returned to the conversation about the prospects for my candidacy for the presidency of Abkhazia in 2019. From that moment, in view of my Abkhaz upbringing, Christian convictions, personal respect for elders and respectful perception of their opinions, I have ceased to be so categorical in my refusal.
When, in December 2018, the “Общее дело” (Common business) socio-political movement was created, rumors appeared that it was allegedly being created “under Archimandrite Dorotheos”. However, I did not attend any meetings of this organization and did not participate in the work of the movement and do not accept it. There are reasons why I do not intend to engage in politics with the majority of the participants of this movement. However, I have the same attitude towards any other active political parties, social movements and individual political figures.
In order to engage in politics, to think out and draw up a program of reforms and the future development of Abkhazia, I have enough knowledge, experience, strength and recommendations of my two employees in HMA – Germain Marchand and Akhra Smyr, online resources available for the transmission of ideas and communication with various representatives of our society.
By the end of 2018, I made a decision: if I stand for the presidential election, I will do it exclusively as an independent candidate.
Of course, it would be right if the implementation of the ideas, outlined in this book, were undertaken by politicians and not me, the clergyman. But, unfortunately, there are no people who could at least define the necessary reforms in the life of the Abkhaz state (I’m not talking about the ability to implement them!), neither I, nor the overwhelming majority of politicians in Abkhazia.
Most of the rumors about my possible participation in the presidential election are connected with the above. In this case, many people have a question: can a clergyman participate in the Presidential election of the Republic of Abkhazia?
Alexander Skakov in his analytical article “Abkhazia in 2018: prospects for the “Abkhazian project, challenges and opportunities”noted, that the Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia“ does not prohibit to take part in the presidential elections for the cleric ”. Others began to look for similar examples in the political life of other countries. They remembered the Archbishop of the Cyprus Orthodox Church Makarios III (Mouskos), who was elected in December 1959 as the first President of the Republic of Cyprus; President of Paraguay Fernando Lugo Mendez (elected in April 2008), bishop of the Catholic Church, whom the Vatican allowed to become a layman again (according to the Constitution of Paraguay, a clergyman cannot be the president of the country), German pastor Joachim Gauck, elected in 2012 as President of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Let me remind you that in various periods of our history the Abkhaz clergy took an active part in the political life of the country.
My fellow villager, priest Vasily Agrba (1889-1938), he served in the church of Elijah the Prophet in Mgudzirkhua, Gudauta district. He was one of the most active participants in the Congress of clergy and laity of the Abkhaz Orthodox population in the Sukhum district. The autocephaly of the Abkhazian Church was declared at that Congress. This event took place in May 1917.
The chairman of the Congress was Simon Basaria (1884–1941), priest Vasily Agrba was the vice-chairman, Mikhail Tarnava (1895–1941) and Samson Chanba (1886–1937) were elected as secretaries of the Congress.
We do not know the reasons why the Church Congress was not headed by any of the oldest clergymen and more educated among the Abkhaz clergy, for example, by Archpriest Dimitry Maan (1866-1948) or priests Nikolay Ladaria (1866–1924) and Nikolay Pateypa (1877–1941). None of them was even presented as a vice-chairman of the Congress.
In June 1918, after the occupation of the territory of Abkhazia by the troops of the Georgian Democratic Republic and the creation of the Tskhumo-Abkhaz diocese of the GOC by the Georgian autocephalists, Abkhazian clergy and laity who took an active part in the Congress (the independence of the Abkhaz Church was proclaimed at that Congress), unable to withstand the pressure from the Georgian Mensheviks and autocephalists, joined the community of Abkhazian communists (priests Vasily Agrba and Simon Basaria). Some representatives of the Abkhazian Church became clerics of the Tskhumo – Abkhaz diocese of the GOC (archpriest Dimitry Maan and priest Elizbar Achba).
In 1918, Vasily Agrba was arrested by the Menshevik government and spent 8 months in the Sukhum prison. In 1920, he was again arrested and sent to Batumi prison. After the establishment of Soviet power in Abkhazia in 1921, he became a chairman of the revolutionary committee and chairman of the executive committee of the Gudauta district. Since 1924, he was appointed to various responsible positions up to the People’s Commissar of Light Industry of the Abkhaz SSR. In 1938 he was repressed and executed.
Priest Georgy Akhanipa – Tumanov (1880–1920) was considered one of the best representatives of the pre-revolutionary Abkhaz clergy and intelligentsia, he also took an active part in the political life of Abkhazia.
He was from the traditional Abkhazian village of Otkhara, Gudauta District, a student of the New Athos Monastery School, a student of the Physics and Mathematics Department of St. Petersburg University and a graduate of theological seminary, a speaker with knowledge of several languages, at the same time he was merciful and hardworking, emotional and passionate (a participant in a car race in Gagra, 1911).
Priest Georgy Akhanipa – Tumanov did a lot for his short life to enlighten Abkhazian people. Being a clergyman of the Gagra Church, which was under the care of the richest Prince A.P. Oldenburgsky at that time, Fr. George spent his savings on the maintenance of pupils and students from Abkhaz villages, as well as on the purchase of grain for the poorest people of Abkhazia.
He took part in the First World War. After the war he continued to defend interests of Abkhazian people so he was arrested by Georgian mensheviks.
Priest Georgy Akhanipa – Tumanov provided financial support for the publication of the first democratic newspaper in the Abkhaz language “Apsny” and gave a large amount of money for the purchase of weapons for the revolutionary peasant movement.
Until the end of his days, Georgy Akhanipa – Tumanov defended Abkhazians and believed in God, while many of his church colleagues changed their robes to revolutionary proletarian clothing. He died under mysterious circumstances in 1920. Many people think that he was poisoned.
Priest Georgy Akhanipa – Tumanov gained a very good authority among people. He was distinguished by a fair attitude towards people, regardless of their nationality and social status. But there were people among democrats, members of the Abkhazian People’s Council, the Abkhazian government, the Georgian government (they occupied Abkhazia at that moment) and Abkhazian communists who didn’t like him. Tit Khasaya, a peasant from the village of Lykhny, in May 1919, a year before the death of Fr. Georgy, said: “To be honest, Georgy Tumanov is the only man who can kick out both the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks, he is very clever and does not distinguish between all of them…”
Another representative of the Abkhaz clergy, priest Elizbar Achba (1887–1944), from the village of Paquash, Ochamchyra region. He took an active part in the political life of Abkhazia and at the same time remained the clergyman but in the 30-s he had to compromise and became the cleric of Tskhumo-Abkhazian Diocese of GOC.
In 1919, priest Elizbar Achba in the “Apsny” newspaper (No. 13) published a small article in the Abkhazian language, entitled «Иамҩоузеи иҟаҳҵаразы ҳара аԥсацәа?».
In the article, he gives statistics regarding the number of Abkhazians, talks about the split of our people, about the absence of certain actions to choose a solution to the tasks which rise before the Abkhazian people at that period. In the end of the article, Elizbar notes that it is necessary to establish an “Abkhazian National Council” in order to focus on the needs of the Abkhazian people.
In other issues of the Apsny newspaper, priest Elizbar Achba published several more articles on socio-political life in Abkhazia at that time. One of them was entitled in the following way: «Аԥсуа жәларыи демократреи».
In November 1937, according to the decree of the “troika” under the NKVD GSSR (The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union) father Elizbar was repressed and died in exile in January 1944.
However, return to our topic. In the end of 2018, I took a decision if I took part in the Presidential elections only as an independent candidate and I determined the following necessary conditions which should be implemented:
Regarding the nomination of an independent candidate: in accordance with the RA Constitutional Law “On the Election of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia”, the right to nominate presidential candidates belongs to political parties and groups of voters. If a group of voters nominates a candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Abkhazia, then an initiative group of at least 10 people should be created, which in turn should collect signatures of at least 2,000 potential voters in support of its candidate. So, in the case of my participation in the presidential election, I would represent the collection of signatures as follows: I would intend personally to meet with each of my 2000 voters who support me, to talk with each of them to find out what motivated them to support my candidacy.
The submission of a declaration on the income and property of a candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Abkhazia is mandatory, even if this is not required by the RA Law on the Presidential Election of the Republic of Abkhazia. I can do it now. The source of my income is the monthly salary (with the payment of the relevant taxes) plus cash bonuses. As a chairman of the HMA Council and head of the HMA publishing department, I get 22,500 rubles per month. As a senior researcher of Abkhazian Institute named after D. Gulia – 5 200 rubles. Plus annual cash bonuses: for four holiday services (3,000 rubles each) – 12,000 rubles and for holding free lectures at the Theological Lecture Center of the New Athos Monastery – 30,000 rubles per year. My annual income is 374,400 rubles. 26,928 rubles are withdrawn as income tax and deductions to the Pension Fund (HMA) and 6,792 rubles (Abkhazian Institute). I don’t have property (due to the fact that I have a monastic way of life and constantly live in the New Athos Monastery) (except for a bicycle bought on my personal funds in 2015, its cost is about 20,000 rubles).
Summarizing what I said, if I participated in the presidential elections of the Republic of Abkhazia in 2019, I would follow the following principles: “Honesty is the best policy” (George Washington), “Fewer words, more deeds” (Emmeline Pankhurst) and “Freedom and power bring responsibility” (Julius Robert Oppenheimer).
In March 2019, I began to notice that people who tried to convince me to take part in the presidential election began to distance. I don’t know why it has happened.
I have never been “fluffy and obedient”! I always follow my principles and beliefs (even if they are wrong)! And I never played backstage games! Never intrigued! But everyone who tried to convince me to engage in politics knew my personality well.
Recently, I found out that our Parliament seriously intends to discuss the issue of depriving representatives of the Abkhaz diaspora in the elections of the President of Abkhazia. That is, Abkhazians, in fact, permanently residing outside Abkhazia, may lose the right to vote on the elections for the President of Abkhazia. I think this is an insult for our brothers and sisters who live outside Abkhazia, including against their will!
All of the above, as well as my own conviction that was finally formed during the two weeks of Lent, prompted me to take a decision:
I do not intend to be engaged in political games and say “όχι” (“no”) to my participation in the election of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia in 2019 as a candidate. To tell the truth, I didn’t have a desire to get involved in the presidential race.
At the presidential elections of 2019, I will vote against all candidates. This is my decision. I will continue to vote “against all”, until the current political elite of Abkhazia is forced to retire and we will see the new political figures.
I will continue to work over the book “Abkhazia in the modern days. What to do?”. I hope that my view on things, my proposals will change something in the minds of modern Abkhaz politicians and voters. And today’s article will be an afterword for this book.
I apologize if I led someone into temptation with my publications, speeches and commentaries. I wish all of you happy Easter!
Great Lent 2019.