A fire in Abkhazia, the Russian-backed breakaway region of Georgia, destroyed thousands of paintings early Sunday morning, destroying a collection that locals cherished as a national treasure — even though it is a country recognized as such only by Russia. And some of its allies. Including Syria and Venezuela.
Nearly 4,000 paintings belonging to the National Gallery of Abkhazia were destroyed when a fire swept through the exhibition hall in central Sukhumi, the region's capital. The Acting Minister of Culture of Abkhazia said in a statement.
Minister Dinara Samir said that these works include 300 works by Alexander Chachba Sharvashidze, a famous Abkhaz artist and theater designer, who worked with famous artists and theaters in Russia and France. “This is an irreparable loss for the national culture of Abkhazia,” she said. However, the National Gallery is more of a storage space than a museum.
Residents rushed to the scene on Sunday to rescue the paintings, but only 200 artworks were removed from the burning building. Pictures from the scene of the accident, published by the local news agency Absnipress, It showed people holding framed canvasesSome are charred and burned.
Local law enforcement officials said they were investigating all possible causes, including arson. Exhibition director Suram Scania attributed the fire to an electrical short circuit, according to the news agency.
Abkhazia is a mountainous region on the Black Sea with a population of about 245,000 people, and is internationally recognized as part of Georgia. Since the late 1980s, its status has been disputed, and the moribund Soviet Union raised tensions between the ethnic Abkhazians and Georgians who inhabited the region at the time. In 1994, after a bloody separatist war against Georgian forces, Abkhazia enacted a constitution declaring itself a sovereign state.
Decades of crises, underfunding and neglect followed. Many of the area's resorts, which were famous throughout the Soviet Union, have been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. The local authorities promised to build a building dedicated to the exhibition, so that the art could be displayed on a regular basis, but this never materialized. The National Gallery had to store its entire collection crammed together in a few rooms at the top of the exhibition hall used by the local Union of Artists. The fire destroyed the roof of the building and the entire floor where the works were stored.
In 2008, after a five-day war with Georgia, Russia recognized Abkhazia as an independent state. Moscow has established an entire military base in the region, and it controls politics and finance in Abkhazia. Georgia considers Abkhazia to be under Russian occupation.
In 2016, he spoke about the state of the exhibition in Interview With a local news site, Mr. Sakaniyeh, the director, described his organization's premises as “unsuitable for storing paintings or displaying them in any way.”
In a statement issued Monday, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili blamed the fire in Abkhazia on “the neglect of cultural identity by the de facto leadership and the Russian occupiers.”
Ms Zurabishvili said the fire was “a tragedy for all of us”. a permit On X.
Founded in 1963 as part of the State Regional Museum, the National Gallery of Abkhazia collects works by local and Russian artists. Russian Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova promised this To send Russian specialists to help restore the remaining paintings.
But Mr. Saknia, the gallery's director, told Abkhazia that the damage would severely damage Abkhazia's sense of itself. “It is impossible to assess the damage to Abkhaz culture,” he said. “I walk around and cry.”
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