By Katy Cowan
When American photographer Robert Walton Cooper travelled to Abkhazia, he didn’t quite know what to expect. Once known as a holiday hotspot for the Soviet elite, it’s a region that has seen a lot of action in recent decades, and is only partially recognised as a state.
The ‘ghost nation’ fought and won a war of secession with Georgia in 1992-93 and formally declared independence in 1999. After the Georgian-Russian war in 2008, Moscow recognised Abkhazia as an independent state. But Georgia responded by declaring the region “occupied” by Russia. As you can imagine, the sovereign status of Abkhazia remains an extremely hot-button issue on both sides of the border.
Fascinated by its history and ongoing cultural dilemma, Robert decided to document his trip to Abkhazia – revealing a hidden side to a country that doesn’t yet enjoy full official status. From abandoned railway stations and former seaside resorts to vacant homes and overgrown pathways – it’s a beautiful series of photographs that demonstrates just how delicate the world can really be.
Born and raised in America, Robert now lives and works in the Caucasus region. He started a book and board game publishing business in Tbilisi in 2014. And occasionally writes and takes photos for the Georgian Journal. Special thanks to Robert for sharing his work with Creative Boom.
Main image: An abandoned train station in New Athos
Duke Smetzkoi was told that if he wanted to heal his wife, she had to sleep every night in a new place free from bacillus. So, he built a palace of 365 rooms, a different room for every night of the year. Around the house he made a beautiful garden full of unique flowers and trees so that she would see the beauty through the windows. Here is what remains.
Duke Smetzkoi’s palace
On the seaside in the center of Sukhumi.
The former parliament building
Train station in Zugdidi, Georgia. The final city before the Georgian-Abkhazian border.
Some friends from Tbilisi were nice enough to see me off at the border.