Orthodox Churches and the Transformation of the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict

  • Tomáš Hoch
  • Tato Khundadze
Keywords: conflict transformation, church organizations, peacebuilding, Track II diplomacy, de facto states, Georgia, Abkhazia

Abstract

The concept of conflict transformation places considerable emphasis on civil society, which – in its broader sense – includes church organizations. Representatives of churches have direct access to persons who are involved in conflicts, and thus they have the potential to influence public opinion and the ability to bring hostile parties together to engage in dialogue. The aim of this study is to identify the factors underlying the low level of engagement in the peacebuilding process by Orthodox religious institutions in Georgia and Abkhazia and which prevent these organizations from exercising a positive influence over conflict transformation. The field research for the article was conducted via interviews with representatives of Abkhazian and Georgian civil society, and this data is supplemented by the public declarations of church representatives with relevance to conflict transformation. The incompatibility of the views held by the two church communities (those of Georgia and Abkhazia) regarding the cause of the escalation of the conflict and the highly politicized nature of the respective church organizations, both of which overtly support and contribute to domestic nationalist discourses in their respective societies, have been identified as the main factors limiting the peacebuilding potential of the churches in the Georgian-Abkhaz peace process.

Author Biographies

Tomáš Hoch
who was born in 1980, has studied Political and Cultural Geography at the Department of Human Geography and Regional Development at the University of Ostrava in the Czech Republic, where he is currently working as an assistant professor. His research focuses on the unrecognised states of the Caucasus region, development cooperation and policies towards the countries of the Global South. His recent publications include articles in Europe-Asia Studies, Problems of Post-Communism and the Bulletin of Geography. He is the author of two monographs on the topic of the specifics of development in unrecognised states and on the Russian role in conflicts and peace processes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, respectively.
Tato Khundadze
who was born in 1987, has studied International Relations at the University of London, and Labor Relations and European Integration at the Georgian-American University in Tbilisi, Georgia. He is currently working as a head of the Analytical Division at the Georgian Public Broadcaster. His research focuses on the political and economic factors of the development of the South Caucasus, conflict transformation and social justice. He is the author of the monography Civil Diplomacy in the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict and the following analytical texts: ‘Challenges of Industrial Policy of Georgia’, and ‘Towards a New Paradigm of Development: The Case of Georgia’.