ABKHASIA, an Autonomous S.S.R. under the protection of the Georgian S.S.R. (q.v.), comprising six districts of the for mer Sukhum province. Area 8,172sq.km. Pop. (1926) 199,175; urban 30,617, rural 168,558. Its boundaries are, on the north, the north Caucasian area and Karachaev autonomous area, on the south and east, the Georgian S.S.R., on the west, the Black sea. It is divided into the following districts for administrative purposes, 1926 population given in parentheses. Gagrinsk (995o; urban 3,659, rural 6,291), Galsk (50,071 ; entirely rural), Gy daytsk (30,740; urban 3,536, rural 27,204), Kodorsk (33,043 urban 3,39o, rural 29,653) and Sukhum (75,371 ; urban 20,032, rural 55,339)•The area is mainly mountainous and densely forested (especially oak and walnut). The Black sea coastal belt from Sukhum-Kaleh southwards is an evergreen vegetation area, with citrus fruits (oranges, mandarins, lemons), camellias and even palms. It has hot, sunny summers and winter rains of the western coast Mediterranean type, but in winter low pressure systems form on the Black sea, with south and south-ea,st winds bringing rain. Average temperature at Sukhum-Kaleh is in January 48°.8 F., August 76°• F. Oranges ripen in December and spring begins in February. The area is never frozen, and snow rarely falls and never lies ; malaria is a perpetual scourge. The chief products are tobacco and maize, with wheat, grapes, figs, pomegranates, citrus fruits and wine (vines hang from walnut trees). Tea and mulber ries (for silk) are produced. On higher land, cattle and horses are bred and bees kept. The chief town is Sukhum-Kaleh on the Black sea coast (site of ancient Greek Dioskurias). Pop. (1926) 17,426. The town is noted for manufacture of saddlery. Other coastal towns are Pitsunda and Ochemchiri. A coastal railway is being constructed. There are extensive coal deposits, practically unworked at present.
Abkhasia became Christian under Justinian (c.' 55o), later Mohammedan (after its conquest by the Turks in the 15th cen tury) and definitely Russian after 1864. It includes part of the former Mingrelia, the Colchis of antiquity. The people are of Cir cassian stock, related to Cherkesses and Kabardians, and speak ing, like them, a distinct non-Aryan dialect ; there are apparently both tall and fair groups, and short, dark groups, with Tatar inter mixture. In the Kodor district small groups of negroes have settled and intermarried.