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Sokhumi

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Sokhumi or Sukhumi, city in northwestern Georgia, in northwestern South Caucasus (a region encompassing Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan), capital of Abkhazia Autonomous Republic. Sokhumi is located on a wide bay of the eastern Black Sea coast, with nearby hills rising to 140 m (460 ft) above sea level. The city has some small industries, including fruit canneries, a tobacco-processing plant, and leather and footwear factories. It has a minor port handling limited cargo and passenger ferries. A major rail line and the Sokhumi Military Road connect the city with other cities of the South Caucasus and with Russia. Sokhumi’s semitropical climate, sandy beaches, mineral-water spas, and sanatoriums have long made it a popular resort. The center of Abkhazian culture, Sokhumi has many educational institutions, including the Abkhazian State University (founded in 1985), a teacher-training institute, and a medical research institute. It also has the State Museum of Abkhazia (founded in 1915), a drama theater, and a research institute of linguistics, literature, and history. One of the oldest botanical gardens in the entire former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is located here.

Greek merchants in the 6th century bc founded the colony of Dioscurias near what is now Sokhumi. The fortress of Sebastopolis was erected at the present-day city site in the 1st century ad, when the region was under the rule of the Roman Empire. In the 6th century the fortress belonged to the Byzantine Empire. Sokhumi was first mentioned in Georgian chronicles in 736 ad by the name of Tskhum. It was a medieval Genoese port and fell to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. The Russian Empire acquired Sokhumi in 1810, when Abkhazia became a protectorate; in 1847 Sokhumi acquired city status. In 1864 it became the administrative center of the Sokhumi Military District. The Red Army invaded the city in 1921 and established Bolshevik (Communist) rule. Incorporated into the USSR in 1922, the city was subsequently the capital of the Abkhazian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR). Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Sokhumi retained its status as the capital of Abkhazia within newly independent Georgia.

Long-held ethnic tensions between Georgians and Abkhazians escalated into a violent armed conflict in 1992. Much of Sokhumi was destroyed in fierce fighting in 1993. Georgian military units were driven from the city by Abkhazian forces that year, and Sokhumi became the capital of a de facto independent Abkhazia. Sokhumi’s population has decreased considerably since 1992, in large part because many Georgians fled the republic and have not been allowed to return by the Abkhazian nationalists. Population (2002) 112,000.



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