Working Paper
Between victory and statehood

Armed violence in post-war Abkhazia

What accounts for armed violence in the aftermath of civil war? Efforts to develop a comprehensive framework to understand this phenomenon have been made in the literature. Yet existing studies have in general looked at distinct pre-war, wartime, and post-war sources of violence in the aftermath of war.

This paper focuses on organized political violence after war and argues that such violence is shaped by a combination of pre-war, wartime, and post-war dynamics. Post-war contexts, however, vary in the form, location, and timing of violence and the combination of drivers will differ from case to case.

Drawing on the case of Abkhazia after the Georgian–Abkhaz war of 1992–93, the paper shows that Abkhaz participants understood irregular and regular violence that emerged after the war in Abkhazia as part of the overall Abkhaz struggle that started before the war. Collective identities that formed before the war and transformed in its course underpinned participation in violence.

But wartime and post-war developments, particularly efforts of the sides to defend and challenge war outcomes and external influence, affected where and when violence took place. This violence further transformed armed actors and their activities. It culminated with the perceived ‘liberation’ of the territory of Abkhazia and its recognition as an independent state by Russia and a few other states. Despite the Abkhaz hopes of sovereign statehood, deepening dependence on Russia positioned Abkhazia in a grey area between victory and statehood.

This paper demonstrates the importance of case-specific analysis for our understanding of armed violence in the aftermath of civil war.