Adjara ( Turkish: acaristan), officially the Autonomous Republic of Adjara,
is an autonomous republic of Georgia.
Adjara is located in the southwestern corner of Georgia, bordered by
Turkey to the south and the eastern end of the Black Sea. Adjara is a
home to the Adjar ethnic subgroup of Georgians.
Adjara is also known as Ajara, Adzhara, Ajaria, Adjaria, Adzharia, or
as Achara. Formerly Adjara was known as Acara under Ottoman rule and Adjarian
Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Adjar ASSR) under the Soviet Union.
Adjara has been part of Colchis and Caucasian Iberia since ancient times.
Colonized by Greeks in the 5th century BC, the region fell under Rome
in the 2nd century BC. It became part of the region of Egrisi before being
incorporated into the unified Georgian Kingdom in the 9th century AD.
The Ottomans conquered the area in 1614. The people of Adjara converted
to Islam in this period. The Ottomans were forced to cede Adjara to the
expanding Russian Empire in 1878.
After a temporary occupation by Turkish and British troops in 1918–1920,
Adjara became part of the Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1920. After
a brief military conflict in March 1921, Ankara's government ceded the
territory to Georgia due to Article VI of Treaty of Kars on condition
that autonomy is provided for the muslim population. The Soviet Union
established the Adjar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921 in
accord with this clause. Thus, Adjara was still a component part of Georgia,
but with considerable local autonomy.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Adjara became part
of a newly independent but politically divided Republic of Georgia. It
avoided being dragged into the chaos and civil war that afflicted the
rest of the country between 1991–1993 due largely to the authoritarian
rule of its leader Aslan Abashidze. Although he successfully maintained
order in Adjara and made it one of the country's most prosperous regions,
he was accused of involvement in organised crime—notably large-scale
smuggling to fund his government and enrich himself personally—as
well as human rights violations. The central government
in Tbilisi had very little say in what went on in Adjara; during the presidency
of Eduard Shevardnadze, it seemed convenient to turn a blind eye to events
This changed following the Rose Revolution of 2003 when Shevardnadze
was deposed in favour of the reformist opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili,
who pledged to crack down on separatism within Georgia. In the spring
of 2004, a major crisis in Adjara erupted as the central government sought
to reimpose its authority on the region. It threatened to develop into
an armed confrontation. However, Saakashvili's ultimatums and mass protests
against Abashidze's autocratic rule forced the Adjaran leader to resign
in May 2004, following which he went into exile in Russia. After Abashidze's
ousting, a new law was introduced to redefine the terms of Adjara's autonomy.
Levan Varshalomidze succeeded Abashidze as the chairman of the government.
For many years, Russia maintained the 12th Military Base (the former
145th Motor Rifle Division) in Batumi. This was a source of great tension
with Georgia, which had threatened to block access to the facility. Following
talks in March 2005, the Russian government proposed to begin the process
of withdrawal later the same year; Russia returned the base to Georgia
on November 17, 2007, more than a year ahead of schedule.
In July 2007, the seat of the Georgian Constitutional Court was moved
from Tbilisi to Batumi.
Adjara is well-known for its humid climate (especially along the coastal
regions) and prolonged rainy weather, although there is plentiful sunshine
during the Spring and Summer months. Adjara receives the highest amounts
of precipitation both in Georgia and in the Caucasus. It is also one of
the wettest temperate regions in the northern hemisphere. No region along
Adjara's coast receives less than 2,200mm (86.6 inches) of precipitation
per year. The west-facing (windward) slopes of the Meskheti Range receive
upwards of 4,500mm (177 inches) of precipitation per year. The coastal
lowlands receive most of the precipitation in the form of rain (due to
the area's subtropical climate). September and October are usually the
wettest months. Batumi's average monthly rainfall for the month of September
is 410mm (16.14 inches). The interior parts of Adjara are considerably
drier than the coastal mountains and lowlands. Winter usually brings significant
snowfall to the higher regions of Adjara, where snowfall often reaches
several meters. Average summer temperatures are between 22–24 degrees
Celsius in the lowland areas and 17–21 degrees Celsius in the highlands.
The highest areas of Adjara have lower temperatures. Average winter temperatures
are between 4–6 degrees Celsius along the coast while the interior
areas and mountains average around -3–2 degrees Celsius. Some of
the highest mountains of Adjara have average winter temperatures of -8–(-7)