This work is of particular importance because the Abkhaz state archive was burnt down during the Georgian-Abkhaz war of 1992-3, as a result of which many archival materials were lost. In dialogue meetings and discussions facilitated by Conciliation Resources over a number of years, Abkhaz and Georgian partners expressed a need and interest in filling the gaps, and in finding and securing materials essential for a deeper understanding of the recent violent past and reflection upon it.
In recent history, as a result of the conflict, strongly divergent narratives have developed on either side; emphasis is placed differently on key events, while others are omitted or brushed over. Different versions of history have emerged for what is, essentially, the same period of time. Restoring a more objective picture of the past is an essential task for both societies.
Memory Project Participant
“Many materials were lost during the war. Moreover, when we began this work to find and collate historical documents and media materials for the Memory Project, we found that the materials that had, by some miracle, survived were in a terrible condition. Any loss of this kind results in the disappearance of history and the emergence of myths in its place.”
The aim of the Memory Project is to collate and systematise as broad as possible a digital archive of the fragmented materials that currently exist and generate new oral testimonies relating to Georgian-Abkhaz relations from the point at which the conflict began to escalate. The core principles of this work have been authenticity, paying attention to every story and storyteller, and respect for human life. Our overarching aim for the project is to provide current and future populations with a starting point for understanding and learning from the past in order to prevent a possible return to violent conflict and to facilitate the building of a fair and long-lasting peace.
Memory Project Participant
“It is our duty to preserve people’s memories in a fair and objective way. By doing this, we can protect distortions and myths of these memories in the future.”
The archives, which are arranged in two separate parts, consist of official documents, personal photographs, material from private archives, eyewitness accounts from ordinary people and public figures, newspaper reports, film clips and other media materials. Accounts from those that took part in events of this period are given special importance.
The Memory Project addresses many questions, including those of a technical, legal, practical, political and moral nature. Representatives of many organisations have lent great support to our work by taking part in seminars and dialogue meetings. The peace research institute swisspeace, with its expertise in the practice of archiving, has made an enormous contribution to our work.
As of today, a huge amount of work has been done and there has been significant progress in gathering archive materials. The project is now focused on the next stage – how archive materials will be used and accessed, including through public exhibitions or presentations.