The Russian annexation of two major Georgian kingdoms between 1801 and 1810 facilitated the empire’s expansion far into the Caucasus region. During the Russo-Turkish War, 1806-1812, in 1810, a Russian force took hold of Suhum-kale and installed their protégé Sefer Bey (Georgi), who agreed to incorporate Abkhazia as a vassal principality within the Russian empire, as a prince. Initially, the Russian control hardly extended beyond Suhum-kale and the Bzyb area, with the rest of the region chiefly dominated by the pro-Turkish Muslim nobility.
History of Abkhazia
The text which is used in this section is based on numerous primary and secondary sources taken from the well know western scholars of Caucasian studies such as William Edward David Allen, David Marshal Lang, Sir John Oliver and Marjory Scott Wardrop, Cyril Toumanoff, Ronald Grigor Sunny, Svante E. Cornell, etc. The text also uses medieval Georgian and Armenian annals by various authors.
In the 1570s, the Ottoman navy occupied the fort of Tskhumi on the Abkhazian coastline, turning it into the Turkish fortress of Suhum-Kale (hence, the modern name of the city of Sukhumi). In 1555, Georgia and the whole South Caucasus was divided between the Ottoman and Safavid Persian empires, with Abkhazia, along with all of western Georgia, remaining in the hands of the Ottomans. As a result, Abkhazia came under the increasing influence of Turkey and Islam, gradually losing its cultural and religious ties with the rest of Georgia.
As the Abasgi grew in relative strength, the name Abasgia came to denote a larger area populated by various ethnic groups including Mingrelian- and Svan-speaking South Caucasian tribes, and subordinated to the Byzantine-appointed princes (Greek: archon, Georgian: eristavi) who resided in Anacopia and were viewed as major champions of the empire’s political and cultural influence in the western Caucasus. The Arabs penetrated the area in the 730s, but did not subdue it; about then the term Abkhazeti ("the land of the Abkhazians") first appeared in the Georgian annals, giving rise to the name Abkhazia, which is used today in most foreign languages.
Along with the rest of Colchis, Abkhazia was conquered by Mithridates VI Eupator of Pontus between c. 110 and 63 BC, and then taken by the Roman commander Pompey. With the downfall of the Roman Empire, the tribes living in the region gained some independence, nominating their rulers who were to be confirmed by Rome. In the 3rd century AD, the Lazi tribe came to dominate most of Colchis, establishing the kingdom of Lazica, locally known as Egrisi. According to Procopius, the Abasgi chieftains were also subdued by the Lazic kings.
The written history of Abkhazia largely begins with the coming of the Milesian Greeks to the coastal Colchis in the 6th-5th centuries BC. They founded their maritime colonies along the eastern shore of the Black Sea, with Dioscurias being one of the most important principal centers of trade with the neighboring tribes, that of slaves not excluded. This city, said to be so named for the Dioscuri, the twins Castor and Pollux of classical mythology, is presumed to have subsequently developed into the modern-day Sukhumi. Other notable colonies were Gyenos, Triglitis, and later Pityus, arguably near the modern-day coastal towns of Ochamchire, Gagra, and Pitsunda, respectively.