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Crumbling Buildings And Homemade Wine In Isolated Abkhazia

The breakaway region of Abkhazia has endured the chilling effects of a "frozen conflict" since the early 1990s, when it first sought to split from Georgia as that country was fighting for its own independence from the Soviet Union. Now guarded by Russian soldiers and recognized only by Russia and a handful of other states, the region is once again the source of renewed international tensions. Moscow has proposed a new treaty with Abkhazia, which Tbilisi views as a step toward full Russian annexation. Photographer Amos Chapple spent time in the region and captured these images of life in an isolated province.

An old sign shows the territory of Abkhazia at top left, with the rest of Georgia in the center.
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An old sign shows the territory of Abkhazia at top left, with the rest of Georgia in the center.

The former parliament building in the centre of Sukhumi still shows the damage from the war of the early 1990s.
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The former parliament building in the centre of Sukhumi still shows the damage from the war of the early 1990s.

The charred interior of the parliament building, damaged in 1992-93 as Abkhazian fighters battled Georgian troops
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The charred interior of the parliament building, damaged in 1992-93 as Abkhazian fighters battled Georgian troops

Sukhumi locals on a ruined pier. Abkhazia accounts for much of Georgia’s coastline and was a popular resort destination in the Soviet era.
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Sukhumi locals on a ruined pier. Abkhazia accounts for much of Georgia’s coastline and was a popular resort destination in the Soviet era.

Vladimir Salangin swims near Gagra beach. The 21-year-old works as a security guard in southern Russia and saw the sea for the first time the day before this picture was taken. The cheap resort town of Gagra is hugely popular with working-class Russians.
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Vladimir Salangin swims near Gagra beach. The 21-year-old works as a security guard in southern Russia and saw the sea for the first time the day before this picture was taken. The cheap resort town of Gagra is hugely popular with working-class Russians.

Lenin looms over young Russians at a Soviet-era sanitorium in Gagra. Staff here say the statue, installed in the foyer in 1953, is popular with nostalgic older Russian tourists.
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Lenin looms over young Russians at a Soviet-era sanitorium in Gagra. Staff here say the statue, installed in the foyer in 1953, is popular with nostalgic older Russian tourists.

Alkhaz Kurkunava, a sergeant in the Abkhazian army, takes part in a parade celebrating 21 years of de facto independence from Georgia.
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Alkhaz Kurkunava, a sergeant in the Abkhazian army, takes part in a parade celebrating 21 years of de facto independence from Georgia.

A man carries a gun at a wedding after saluting his newlywed friend with a volley of bullets. Weddings and the births of boys are heralded with gunfire in Abkhazia.
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A man carries a gun at a wedding after saluting his newlywed friend with a volley of bullets. Weddings and the births of boys are heralded with gunfire in Abkhazia.

A Russian soldier from the city of Smolensk spends time with his visiting family. Some 3,000 Russian soldiers are now stationed inside Abkhazia.
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A Russian soldier from the city of Smolensk spends time with his visiting family. Some 3,000 Russian soldiers are now stationed inside Abkhazia.

Swimming instructor Victor Zadarozhny demonstrates the backstroke to his young students on the beach in Sukhumi. In the Soviet days, he taught in a nearby swimming pool, but the war and subsequent economic collapse ruined the facility.
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Swimming instructor Victor Zadarozhny demonstrates the backstroke to his young students on the beach in Sukhumi. In the Soviet days, he taught in a nearby swimming pool, but the war and subsequent economic collapse ruined the facility.

Boxing trainer Lizbar Jalogua spars with a young student in a ruined Soviet-era resort in Gagra.
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Boxing trainer Lizbar Jalogua spars with a young student in a ruined Soviet-era resort in Gagra.

Tourists bask in Gagra. Some 70 percent of Abkhazia's budget comes from Russian aid, and most of the rest comes from tourism.
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Tourists bask in Gagra. Some 70 percent of Abkhazia's budget comes from Russian aid, and most of the rest comes from tourism.

A man raises a toast to God before polishing off his homemade wine. Abkhazia is one of the world's oldest wine-producing regions, but international isolation means the exports are almost completely limited to the Russian market.
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A man raises a toast to God before polishing off his homemade wine. Abkhazia is one of the world's oldest wine-producing regions, but international isolation means the exports are almost completely limited to the Russian market.

Laborers restore a building due to open as a hotel next year. Current laws in the territory forbid foreign citizens from buying property, but the Abkhaz government might open its markets.
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Laborers restore a building due to open as a hotel next year. Current laws in the territory forbid foreign citizens from buying property, but the Abkhaz government might open its markets.

An Abkhaz man returns home from a mission as a volunteer pro-Russian fighter in eastern Ukraine.
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An Abkhaz man returns home from a mission as a volunteer pro-Russian fighter in eastern Ukraine.

A Soviet-era bus stop near Ptsunda
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A Soviet-era bus stop near Ptsunda

In the hills above Sukhumi, a primate research facility that once trained monkeys for space travel is a macabre remnant of the Soviet era. The facility gained infamy for its experiments aiming to crossbreed humans with apes.
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In the hills above Sukhumi, a primate research facility that once trained monkeys for space travel is a macabre remnant of the Soviet era. The facility gained infamy for its experiments aiming to crossbreed humans with apes.

A ruined college in Gali, near the internal border with Georgia. Ethnic Georgians made up 96 percent of this district's pre-war population, but most fled or were driven out of their homes.
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A ruined college in Gali, near the internal border with Georgia. Ethnic Georgians made up 96 percent of this district's pre-war population, but most fled or were driven out of their homes.

A resident of Gali walks the bridge which separates the rest of Georgia from Abkhazia. The de facto border is manned by Russian security officers.
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A resident of Gali walks the bridge which separates the rest of Georgia from Abkhazia. The de facto border is manned by Russian security officers.

Near Gali, grass blankets the railway tracks in front of Tkvarcheli's abandoned train station.
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Near Gali, grass blankets the railway tracks in front of Tkvarcheli's abandoned train station.

A young Russian tourist at a viewpoint above Lake Ritsa
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A young Russian tourist at a viewpoint above Lake Ritsa

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