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Fire Destroys Thousands of Artworks at Abkhazian Exhibition Hall

By Liza Mchedlidze
Tuesday, January 23, 2024
A fire broke out in the building of the Central Exhibition Hall of the Union of Artists of Abkhazia, and thousands of works preserved in the fund were destroyed.

As reported by local media, only a small portion of paintings from the National Art Gallery's collection survived the overnight fire. The gallery was home to over four thousand works, including approximately 300 pieces by Alexander Chachba-Shervashidze.

Minister of Culture of the self-proclaimed Republic of Abkhazia, Dinara Smir, said that the fire that broke out in the central exhibition hall is an "irreparable loss for national culture".

"It can be said that everything was burnt. Over 4,000 copies were stored in the funds of the National Art Gallery's exhibition hall, including about 300 works by Alexander Chachba-Shervashidze. This represents an irreparable loss for the national culture of Abkhazia," said Smir.

In response to the fire that broke out in the art gallery in Sokhumi, President Salome Zourabichvili urged the international community to prioritize the protection of Georgia's cultural heritage in the occupied territory.

"The fire that destroyed Sokhumi's National Gallery in occupied Abkhazia is a tragedy for us all. I deplore what is a direct consequence of the neglect of cultural identity both by the de facto leadership and the Russian occupants

I call on the international community to revive its attention to the protection of our cultural heritage in the occupied territories," Zourabichvili wrote on X.

Gia Volski, the first vice-speaker of the parliament and a member of Georgian Dream, asserted that the fire in the central exhibition hall of the Union of Artists of Abkhazia in Sokhumi was deliberately started.

Volski suggested that the noticeable trend of developing positive relations in Sokhumi in the recent period may be connected to the fire.

"I apologize to my fellow Abkhazian citizens, but I firmly believe that this is a deliberately planned negative decision. The Ministry of Culture has no involvement; I believe this is a political issue. I have regular contact with Sokhumi, and I want to convey that the society's attitude has significantly shifted towards the positive. In my opinion, this is related to the fire that occurred at this exhibition.

While it may have occurred by chance, I am more inclined to consider the negative, given the noticeable trend of developing positive relationships lately," Volski said.