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Abandoned Buildings And Idle Hands In Abkhazia

The region of Abkhazia, in Georgia's northwest, has fought to assert its identity since the collapse of the Soviet Union. A bloody war in 1992-1993 claimed the lives of at least 35,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians. Following the short Georgian-Russian War in August 2008, Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia, but that status has been recognized only by its chief sponsor, Russia, and a handful of other UN member states -- Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru. Since the 2008 conflict, Russia has donated at least $150 million to help support Abkhazia, but that has done little to improve the daily lives of some 240,000 residents who must endure the fallout of the so-called frozen conflict. (Text and photos by Anthony Georgieff)

In the Soviet era, the Sukhumi Pier hosted a restaurant and café, but it has stood abandoned on the Black Sea coast for the past 20 years.
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In the Soviet era, the Sukhumi Pier hosted a restaurant and café, but it has stood abandoned on the Black Sea coast for the past 20 years.

People take an evening stroll through the shell of the Sukhumi Pier.
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People take an evening stroll through the shell of the Sukhumi Pier.

Once the playground of the Soviet elite and a destination for Soviet workers, Sukhumi is littered with bombed-out buildings that have remained derelict since the 1992-1993 conflict.
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Once the playground of the Soviet elite and a destination for Soviet workers, Sukhumi is littered with bombed-out buildings that have remained derelict since the 1992-1993 conflict.

Men relax in Sukhumi. Precise statistics are not available, but locals claim unemployment reaches 80 percent in some parts of Abkhazia.
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Men relax in Sukhumi. Precise statistics are not available, but locals claim unemployment reaches 80 percent in some parts of Abkhazia.

A woman lays flowers at the grave of a relative killed in the 1992-1993 war. A square in central Sukhumi has been turned into a large cemetery.
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A woman lays flowers at the grave of a relative killed in the 1992-1993 war. A square in central Sukhumi has been turned into a large cemetery.

Seventy percent of Abkhazia's economy depends on tourism from Russia. About 1 million Russians visit the Black Sea coast of Abkhazia each year.
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Seventy percent of Abkhazia's economy depends on tourism from Russia. About 1 million Russians visit the Black Sea coast of Abkhazia each year.

An Abkhazian man waits at a bus stop in central Sukhumi.
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An Abkhazian man waits at a bus stop in central Sukhumi.

Women wait to ride a horse-drawn cart across the Inguri River bridge, separating Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia. The 15-minute ride costs about 40 cents.
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Women wait to ride a horse-drawn cart across the Inguri River bridge, separating Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia. The 15-minute ride costs about 40 cents.

Those unable to afford the trip walk across the bridge. Abkhazia's frontier with Georgia is patrolled by some 3,500 Russian security forces.
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Those unable to afford the trip walk across the bridge. Abkhazia's frontier with Georgia is patrolled by some 3,500 Russian security forces.

A shop advertises Western fashions, which few locals can afford.
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A shop advertises Western fashions, which few locals can afford.

An Apple dealership in Sukhumi
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An Apple dealership in Sukhumi

Men play chess in front of one of Sukhumi's abandoned piers.
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Men play chess in front of one of Sukhumi's abandoned piers.

Security forces outside the large market in the southern town of Gali
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Security forces outside the large market in the southern town of Gali

Marshrutkas, or shared taxis, are the preferred and sometimes the only available form of public transport in and out of Sukhumi.
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Marshrutkas, or shared taxis, are the preferred and sometimes the only available form of public transport in and out of Sukhumi.

Marshrutka drivers take a break. Drivers frequently hold strikes over work conditions and pay.
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Marshrutka drivers take a break. Drivers frequently hold strikes over work conditions and pay.

A woman sells Russian cigarettes in downtown Sukhumi. The Russian ruble is Abkhazia's de facto currency.
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A woman sells Russian cigarettes in downtown Sukhumi. The Russian ruble is Abkhazia's de facto currency.

No trains service operates at Sukhumi's Central Railway Station.
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No trains service operates at Sukhumi's Central Railway Station.

Two girls walk a dog in front of the abandoned Soviet-era government building in downtown Sukhumi. The area was the site of fierce battles in the 1992-1993 conflict.
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Two girls walk a dog in front of the abandoned Soviet-era government building in downtown Sukhumi. The area was the site of fierce battles in the 1992-1993 conflict.

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