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Saturday, 22 February 2014


Abkhazia: farewell to Soviet passport!

2011-02-01 15:12

12957.jpegFebruary 1, 2011 will definitely be a memorable day in post-Soviet space since passports of USSR citizens will be no longer in force on the Russian-Abkhaz border, the last spot of the former USSR map where an ordinary Soviet passport was valid for border-crossing. Several thousand residents of Abkhazia that remain part of the great, albeit no more existent country, will again find themselves locked from the outside world.

Today is the last day when one can take a USSR passport out of wide trouser legs on Psou checkpoint on Russian-Abkhaz border and cross it proudly showing the document to a border guard. Over the past few years this place was unique in the former Union where passports of non-existent state were considered a proof of identity.

But validity of Soviet passports was not an exotic trick for nostalgic tourists, but a forced measure. There are still people in Abkhazia whose only identity card is a USSR passport issued twenty or thirty years ago. In today's situation they don't know what to do.

Zurik Jenia is one of citizens of the "great country". He does not know what he will do on February 1 when he is denied to cross the border. This resident of the capital of Abkhazia works on a construction site in Adler. Once a week he goes home for a weekend and on Monday he gets back to work. Now Jenia is in Adler facing a choice: either stay here and have a job or go home forever. Or at least for a long time.

Zurik Jenia has to pay for his own laziness. He had chances to get Russian citizenship and an Abkhaz passport but he didn't want to stand in queues. Besides, he did not need any passport before he started working for construction companies in Adler. Inside Abkhazia many live without any documents at all.

Zurik says that Russian border guards have no more sympathy for the Abkhaz that cross the border with Soviet passports. Several times he was not allowed in Russia and had to try again and again. Now Jenia's only hope is to make arrangements with the border guards and try and forget his passport problem.

Abkhazia's passport and visa service provided no information to GeorgiaTimes correspondent on at least approximate number of people who use Soviet passports as an identification assuming that with termination of their validity the "black list" will comprise 2-3 thousand people. According to the staff, these are mostly elderly people who had no chance of acquiring new documents. Still, people like Zurik Jdania who simply forgot or didn't want to have a new passport, will be quite a number.

These people won't be able to get Russian citizenship - time's up. But they can first get an internal Abkhaz passport and then a travelling passport to travel to Russia. The entire process, however, will take two or three months.

The times when residents of Abkhazia could show any document with their photo on it to cross the border, are gone. A passport with greasy pages was not the only document that could be presented on the Russian border. There is a so-called Form № 9: a piece of carton (not always cut out well) with a photo and passport data of the owner inscribed in it. There was a short period of time when this "document" was enough to cross the border. Termination of Soviet passports on Russian-Abkhaz border is not the only problem on Psou checkpoint. The last high-ranking guest who saw this chaos was Sergey Stepashin, head of Russia's Accounts Chamber. He, as well his colleagues just couldn't pass by. He got out of the car and promised to find out where the money allocated for fitting out of the Russian part of the checkpoint is spent.

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