Young Pioneer Tours

The Ghost City of Tkvarcheli, Abkhazia

Where is Tkvarcheli?

ocated on the river Ghalidzga in the war-torn Southern region of Abkhazia, Tkvarcheli stands as a ghost town lost in time. Inside the town is Akarmara, full to the brim with abandoned apartments, factories, burnt out Ladas and debris. The town became mostly devoid of people due to the brutal civil war that raged in Abkhazia during the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s.

History of Tkvarcheli

The area was given town status in 1942 during the height of the second world war and became heavily industrialized with mining activity due to the Soviets losing the mining heartland of Donbass to the Nazis during the first phase of Operation Barbarossa. At the height of the Soviet Union, the town was home to over 40,000 people and almost all of them employed in the mining industry.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, ethnic tensions began to boil over, and the Abkhazian civil war erupted between Abkhaz separatists, various militias and the Georgian military. The conflict was defined by widespread destruction and ethnic cleansing. Tkvarcheli, located not far from the Georgian border, was besieged by Georgian forces and the city was effectively cut off from the rest of Abkhazia for 413 days and only survived due to supplies being helicoptered in by Russian and separatist forces. In 2008, Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh honoured Tkvarcheli with the title of Hero City.

Whilst once the lifeblood of the Tkvarcheli, the Soviet mines are now closed and replaced with a Turkish company called Tamsaş who uses an open-pit mining method. Tamsaş make up over 75% of the Tkvarcheli budget but Georgia, who refuse to recognize Abkhazia and treat it as an enemy state, regards their investment as illegal and in the past has arrested several boats full of coal from Tkvarcheli, in Georgian waters, this has naturally brought Tamsaş to the verge of bankruptcy.

What is the city like today?

Today, the population is only a few hundred people spread out across a massive area. The brutalist Soviet apartment blocks reaching 6 or 7 stories high, only have 1 or 2 families left in them. The streets are rotting away and slowly being taken over by the tropical flora that defines Abkhazia. In summer, the town is a popular destination for Russian tourists who visit from Sukhumi on day trips. There are rumours of restoring the area into a grand resort, but in an unstable country mostly unrecognized by the rest of the world, it’s, unfortunately, an extremely far fetched idea.

Is it possible to visit?

To visit Tkvarcheli and explore the fascinating time warp of Abkhazia, get in touch with us today to arrange a private tour!

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