Russian Principality


Back to Georgia



Abkhazia, as a duchy (saeristavo) within Georgia, was ruled by the clan of Shervashidze (Sharvashidze, Chachba, or Sharashia) since the 12th century. The Genoese established their trading factories along the Abkhazian coastline in the 14th century, but they functioned for a short time. When the Georgian kingdom was embroiled in a bitter civil war in the 1450s, the Shervashidzes joined a major rebellion against King George VIII of Georgia, which saw him defeated at the hands of the rebels at Chikhori in 1463. As a result, Georgia split into three rival kingdoms and five principalities. The Abkhazian princes were the vassals of Mingrelia,


The Shirvashidze (Chachba) Dynasty [1]

Nine princes known

1040 - 1700

Jigetshi Shirvashidze

1700 - 1730

Hamid Bey Shirvashidze

1730 - 17xx

Mancha I Shirvashidze

17xx - 1757

H.H. Mancha II Shirvashidze

17xx - 1770

H.H. Zurab Shirvashidze

1770 - 1779

H.H. Levanti Shirvashidze

1779 - 1789

H.H. Kelesh-Ahmad Bey Shirvashidze

1789 - 1806

H.H. Prince Aslan Bey Shirvashidze

1806 - 1810

H.S.H. Prince Giorgi Shirvashidze

1810 - 1821

H.S.H. Prince Dimitri Giorgievitch Shirvashidze

1821 - 1822

H.S.H. Prince Mikhail Giorgievitch Shirvashidze

1822 - 1864

H.S.H. Prince Giorgi Mikhailovitch


Proclaimed Prince of Abkhazia. at Sukhumi, by the people after an uprising against the Russians, 29 July 1866. Arrested and deported to Orenburg.

which, in turn, was subordinated to the Kingdom of Imereti. In the 16th century, after the break-up of the Georgian Kingdom into small kingdoms and principalities, the Principality of Abkhazia (a vassal of the Kingdom of Imereti) emerged, ruled by the Shervashidze dynasty (also known as Sharvashidze, or Chachba). Since the 1570s, when the Ottoman navy occupied the fort of Tskhumi, Abkhazia came under the influence of the Ottoman Empire and the majority of Abkhazians were converted to Islam. The principality retained a degree of autonomy under Ottoman and then Russian rule, but it was eventually absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1864.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 led to the creation of an independent Georgia which included Abkhazia, in 1918. German support enabled the Georgians to repel the Bolshevik threat from Abkhazia in 1918. The 1921 constitution granted Abkhazia autonomy.

In 1921, the Red Army invaded Georgia and ended its short-lived independence. Abkhazia was made a Socialist Soviet Republic (SSR Abkhazia) with the ambiguous status of a treaty republic associated with the Georgian SSR. Abkhazia's ambiguous status of a "contractual republic" was written down into that republic’s April 1, 1925 Constitution which specified that "the SSR of Abkhazia, having united with the SSR of Georgia on the basis of a special treaty of union" was, through it, a part of the Transcaucasian SFSR and the USSR. However, the 1924 Soviet Constitution earlier referred to Abkhazia as an autonomous republic. On February 19, 1931, Abkhazia’s republican status was downgraded by Joseph Stalin, to that of an autonomous republic (the Abkhaz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic or in short Abkhaz ASSR) within the Georgian SSR, reputedly as punishment of the Abkhaz Communist leadership under Nestor Lakoba for their failure to overcome the peasants' resistance to collectivization

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the proclamation of Georgia’s independence, Georgia's ruling Military Council announced on 21 February 1992 that it was abolishing the Soviet-era constitution and restoring the 1921 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Many Abkhaz interpreted this as an abolition of their autonomous status, although the 1921 constitution contained a provision for the region's autonomy. On 23 July 1992, the Abkhaz faction in the republic's Supreme Council declared effective independence from Georgia. Helped by Russian forces this faction could oust the Georgians out of Abkhasia in August 2008. Its independence was recognised uniquely by Russia on 26 August following.

There are currently two entities claiming to be the government of Abkhazia, the partially recognised Republic of Abkhazia and the pro-Georgia Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia.




The Abkhazians call their state Аҧсны (Apsny), which means “a Country of Soul”. The Russian Абхазия (Abkhazia) is adapted from the Georgian აფხაზეთი (Apkhazeti). In Mingrelian, Abkhazia is known as აბჟუა (Abzhua) or სააფხაზო (saapkhazo).


The classical christian symbols of the square cross and the latin cross were also used in Abkhazia. A square cross of Georgian fashion is known from the region from the 11th century. With it is a tamgha, or Royal cypher of the style common in the Kumenian empire of the time.


Square cross and tamgha of King George II (1072-’89)  [2]


In the 14th century Book of Knowledge is written:

“I departed from the Sea of Letana and proceeded along the shores of the eastern side of the Mare Mayor for a very long distance, passing by Aruasaxia, and Pesonta in the empire of Uxleto, and arrived in the kingdom of Sant Estropoli wich is inhabited by Comanes Christians. Here there are many people who have Jewish descent, but all perform the works of Christians in the sacrifices, more after the Greek than the Latin church. The King has for his flag - gules a hand argent.” [3]



White hand flag.

From the Book of Knowledge

On the portolan of Guillem Soler, 1385

L.: savaſtopolli


This flag may have been the ensign of the Abkasians in the 13th or 14th century but cannot be connected with any ruler because after the death of Dardan Shirvarhidze in 1243 sources keep silent about Abkhazia for a long time. It should be noted in this context that a hand occured in the Roman Empire as a crest on army standards an was later adopted by the Arabs who developed it into the “Hamza” or “Hand of Fatima” symbolizing the five muslim principles of faith.

So, probably, the Abkhasia hand was the ensign of the Muslim armed forces in Abkhazia. This flag disappeared before the end of the 14th century in the time of the campaigns of Timur Lenk (1395).

From the 14th century, however, when the Genoese established trading factories along the Abkhasian coastline, other flags are known showing the Armenian cross and a bendy Vert and Argent. This, for sure, has been the ensign of the forces of Armenian creed.

According to the sea-charts known, this flag was used until the middle of the 15th century when the Georgian Kingdom had been partitioned between the sons of Alexander I in 1424.[4]




Angelino Dulcerta, 1329-1350

L.: ſavaſtopoli

Angelino Dulcerta 1339

L.: ſavaſtopoli

Gabriel Valseca, 1439

L.: ſavaſtopoli


After 1463 the Abkhasian rulers became governors of Mingrelia as Imeretian vassals and after 1570 when the Ottoman Empire established its influence in Abkhazia a flag of Mingrelia is seen consisting of a green split cloth charged with a silver crescent and three golden horse-shoes.


Flag of “Mengralia” on the map of the Black Sea by Diego Homem, 1559

L.: ſavaſtopoli


This is the flag of the Eyâlet Abhaz, Sohumkale or Gürcistan which was nominally annexed but never properly conquered by the Ottomans. It consisted of Mingrelia and Imereti. This Eyâlet disappeared before 1609. [5]

Emblem of Abkhazeti, middle of the 18th century

From the work of  Prince Vakhusth  [6]


This emblem, consisting of a billy goat on a green field and three crescents in chief, dates from the time that Abkhazeti was brought for a short time more closely within the Ottoman sphere.


Russian Principality



Abkhazia came under Russian protection 17 February 1810 through Prince Giorgi Shirvashidze (1810-’21). His son Michael was was deposed by the Russians and his principality annexed to the Russian Empire, on 24 June 1864. Michael himself was deported to Voronezh where he died in 1866. The territory was again occupied by the Ottomans in 1877.

Achievement of H.S.H. Giorgi, Prince of Abkhazia.


Arms: Azure, two caps crested with eight-pointed sun-emblems Or

Crest: A crown of three leaves and three ostrich-feathers Azure-Or and Azure.

Supporters: Two griffins Or.

Mantle: Gules, lined ermine, fringed and tasseled Or, and ducally crowned.


By decree of 1883 of Tsar Alexander the Abkhaz, Samurzakan and Tsebeldu regions (oblasts) were united into the Kutais Governorate General. No coat of arms of the Abkhaz region with its capital Suchumi is known.


Abkhazkaya S.S.R. / C.C.P. Aбхазии





Arms: Gules, a hammer and a sickle in saltire Or.

Garland: Ears of Wheat, Or


Legend: Сов[етская] Соц[иалистическая] Республика Абхазии


This achievement is identical with the first achievement of the Russian Federation with a changed legend.



Arms: The Black Sea coast and a mountain range respresenting the Caucasus, charged in base with a hammer and sickle in saltire Or, in chief the inistials C.C.P.  and in base the name АҦСНЫ

Crest: A five-pointed star Or, voided Gules.

Garland: A golden circlet surrounded by dexter flowering maize, and sinister tobacco. In chief a sun radiant Or and in base a bunch of grapes and wine leaves proper.

Motto: АПРОΛЕТАРЦА  АtѴΛАУҚА  ЗЕȓѴ  РҼѴ  ЇϥОУ  ЩҼЇДѴЩКѴΛ!  (Proletarians of all Nations Unite! in abkasian) in golden scripts on a birdure Gules.


Black-and-white version


Аҧснытәи A.C.C.P. / afxazeoix axxrAA



In full: Аҧснытәи Автономтә Советтә Социалисттә Республика / Абхазская Автономная Советская Социалистическая Республика




Arms: The Black Sea coast and a mountain range respresenting the Caucasus, charged in base with a hammer and sickle in saltire Or.

Crest: A five-pointed star Or, voided Gules.

Garland: A golden circlet surrounded by dexter flowering maize, and sinister tobacco. In chief a sun radiant Or and in base a bunch of grapes and wine leaves proper.

Motto:                     afxazeTis  AAAAAAAs.s.R. AA/ S.S.R. AѰSNƏ / C.C.P. AБХAЗИЯ

proletarebo yvela qveynisa unerTdiT!



(Abkhaz S.S.R. and Proletarians of all Countries Unite! in Abkhazian, Georgian and Russian) in golden lettering on a bordure Gules.

By Constitution, 27th of October 1926. Art. 101.[7]


1931 Black-and-white version




Arms: Gules, a mountainridge representing the Caucasus proper, charged with a hammer and a sickle in saltire Or, in chief a five-pointed star also Gules, radiant Argent.

Garland: On the dexter ears of wheat and on the sinister a bunch of grapes and wine-leaves, proper.

Motto: Proletarians of all Nations Unite! in Georgian, Abkhasian and Russian, engraved on a bordure Argent.

Bordure: A seven-pointed star decorated in Georgian ornamental style, Or, Azure and Gules.




Arms: Gules, a mountainridge representing the Caucasus proper, charged with a hammer and a sickle in saltire Or, in chief a five-pointed star also Gules, radiant Argent.

Garland: On the dexter ears of wheat and on the sinister a bunch of grapes and wine-leaves, proper.

Motto: Proletarians of all Nations Unite! in Georgian, Abkhasian and Russian, separated by three five-pointed stars Or, engraved on a bordure Argent.

Bordure: A seven-pointed star decorated in Georgian ornamental style, Or, Azure and Gules.




Achievement: The achievement of the Georgian S.S.R. augmented with the letters xab. xxr / Aa  ACCP.


Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia



The Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia has recently (2013) been granted arms by the State Council of Heraldry. These arms are quartered and depict an image of St George in the first quarter, the seven green and white stripes from the Abkhazia flag in the second and third quarters and the arms of Prince Giorgi Mikhailovitch in the fourth.



Arms: Quarterly: 1. Gules, St. George slaying the dragon Argent; 2&4: Barry of seven Vert and Argent; 4. Two caps crested with an eight-pointed sun, Or.


Government Emblem

The Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia has also adopted a logo which carries the name of the autonomous republic in Georgian and Abkhaz and depicts the House of the Government in Sukhumi.




The flag is inspired by the flag as on 14th century Catalan portolans.


Republic of Abkhasia



The emblem of the Republic of Abkhazia was adopted by the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia on 23 July 1992, after it declared its secession from Georgia.

The emblem of the Republic of Abkhazia is a shield divided vertically into white and green. On this are placed devices outlined in gold:

At the base eight-pointed star, in the upper part of both the white and the green field are set two eight-pointed stars.

At the centre of the shield is a horseman, flying on the fabulous steed called Arash, and shooting an arrow towards the stars. This scene is from the heroic epic Narts.

Green symbolizes youth and life, while white symbolizes spirituality. The stars represent the sun, as well as the union of the East and West.


Æ See illustration in the head of this essay


The Flag.



The flag of the Republic of Abkhazia is inspired by the flags on the Catalan portolans. It is explained on an Abkhazian site as follows:


“The open white palm on the red background is a symbol of Abkhazian statehood, which was formed at the time of the Abkhazian Kingdom (VIII-X centuries) and encompasses twelve centuries. Such a representation is attested on the coloured Genoese portalans (sea-charts) of the XIII-XIV centuries. A dark-red flag with white palm flew in the Middle Ages above the town of Sebastopolis (otherwise San-Sebastian and the classical Dioskuria, which was founded by the ancient Greeks in the VI-V centuries BC), on which site stands today's capital of Abkhazia, the city of Sukhum.

The seven 5-pointed stars above the palm are the seven main regions of historical Abkhazia: Sadzen (Dzhigetia), Bzyp, Gomaa, Abzhwa, Samurzaq'an, Dal-Ts'abal, Pshoy-Aybga. These incorporated the ethnic territory of the Abkhazians from the River Xost (frontier with the Ubykhs) down to the River Ingur (frontier with Mingrelia) and from the Black Sea to the Caucasus Mountains. Apart from this, the number '7' for Abkhazians (as for many other peoples) is viewed as sacred and is widely attested in their religion, mythology and traditional culture. Also endowed with esteem is the constellation known commonly by the title 'The Seven Brothers'.

The 5-pointed star is widespread among the Abkhazians as an ancient astrological symbol. It is found, moreover, on the antique amphors of the Apsilians, the ancestors of the Abkhazians, mentioned by Graeco-Roman authors in the I-II centuries AD.

At the same time the proportions of the flag, the number of stars and the sequence of green-white stripes reflect the fundamental look of the historical flag of the independent North Caucasus Republic (known in the literature as the Mountain Republic), which was proclaimed on 11 May 1918 and which existed for one year. At that period seven states were included in the composition of the Mountain Republic: Daghestan, Chechen-Ingushia, Ossetia, Abkhazia, Kabarda, Adygheia, Karachay-Balkaria. However, already in the second half of June l918 Abkhazia, though part of the Mountain Republic, was occupied (and remained occupied until February l921) by the military forces of the Georgian Democratic Republic; in February l931, with the active participation of Stalin and Beria, Abkhazia was annexed by Soviet Georgia.

The green-white sequence of seven stripes (four green, three white) is an indication of the religious tolerance of the Caucasian peoples in the minds of whom Islam (the green) peacefully coexists with Christianity (the white). Abkhazia, as an ancient Christian land from the IV century, together with two others (Ossetia and Kabarda), was represented on the flag of the Mountain Republic by a white stripe.

The modern flag of the Republic of Abkhazia, was approved by the Parliament in Sukhum on 23 July l992.”


The presidential flag bears the arms of the Republic in the middle:


Abkhazia, Presidential Flag



Back to Main Page



© Hubert de Vries 2014-04-10


[1] From: Royal Ark. Christopher Buyers, March 2003 - August 2008

[2] National Museum Abchazia, Sukhum.

[3] Book of the Knowledge of all the kingdoms, lands, and lordships that are in the world. (ca 1350) Works issued by the Hakluyt Society. 2nd series N° XXIX. 1912. P. 57. fig 84

[4] Bibliothèque Nationale Paris. Guillem Soler

[5] Pitcher, Donald Edgar: A Historical Geography of the Ottoman Empire from earliest times to the end of the sixteenth century. Leiden, 1972. P. 128

[6] The work of  Prince Vakhusth  has been published by Brosset, F. ed.: Description géographique de la Georgie. St. Petersburg 1842. A newer edition (in georgean) is edited by Lomouri, T. & N. Berdzenisvili and has been published in Tblisi, 1941. The arms are on an engraving in this work. (Vadbolski, 1975). 

[7] Neubecker, 1930, p. 386. Länderwappen n° 102