Adjara (აჭარა — ach'ara), officially the Autonomous Republic of Adjara (აჭარის ავტონომიური რესპუბლიკა — ach'aris avtonomiuri respublika), is an autonomous republic of Georgia. Adjara is also spelt Ajara or Adzhara, and is also known as Ajaria/Adjaria/Adzharia, or as Achara. Adjara is located in the southwestern corner of Georgia, bordered by Turkey to the south and the eastern end of the Black Sea. Adjara is the region identified with the Adjar ethnic group.
After a temporary occupation by Turkish and British troops in 1918–1920, Ajaria became part of the Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1920. After a brief military conflict in March 1921, Ankara's government ceded the territory to Georgia due to Article VI of Treaty of Kars on condition that autonomy is provided for the Muslim population. The Soviet Union established the Adjar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921 in accord with this clause. Thus, Adjara was still a component part of Georgia, but with considerable local autonomy. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ajaria became part of a newly independent but politically divided Republic of Georgia. It avoided being dragged into the chaos and civil war that afflicted the rest of the country between 1991–1993 due largely to the authoritarian rule of its leader Aslan Abashidze. Although he successfully maintained order in Adjara and made it one of the country's most prosperous regions, he was accused of involvement in organised crime – notably large-scale smuggling to fund his government and enrich himself personally – as well as human rights violations. The central government in Tbilisi had very little say in what went on in Adjara; during the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze, it seemed convenient to turn a blind eye to events in Adjara.
This changed following the Rose Revolution of 2003 when Shevardnadze was deposed in favour of the reformist opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili, who pledged to crack down on separatism within Georgia. In the spring of 2004, a major crisis in Ajaria erupted as the central government sought to reimpose its authority on the region. It threatened to develop into an armed confrontation. However, Saakashvili's ultimatums and mass protests against Abashidze's autocratic rule forced the Adjaran leader to resign in May 2004, following which he went into exile in Russia. After Abashidze's ousting, a new law was introduced to redefine the terms of Ajaria's autonomy.
For many years, Russia maintained the 12th Military Base (the former 145th Motor Rifle Division) in Batumi. This was a source of great tension with Georgia, which had threatened to block access to the facility. Following talks in March 2005, the Russian government proposed to begin the process of withdrawal later the same year; Russia returned the base to Georgia on November 17, 2007, more than a year ahead of schedule.
Adjara is subdivided into six administrative units:
Adjara is well-known for its humid climate (especially along the coastal regions) and prolonged rainy weather, although there is plentiful sunshine during the Spring and Summer months. Ajaria receives the highest amounts of precipitation both in Georgia and in the Caucasus. It is also one of the wettest temperate regions in the northern hemisphere. No region along Adjara's coast receives less than 2,200mm (86.6 inches) of precipitation per year. The west-facing (windward) slopes of the Meskheti Range receive upwards of 4,500mm (177 inches) of precipitation per year. The coastal lowlands receive most of the precipitation in the form of rain (due to the area's subtropical climate). September and October are usually the wettest months. Batumi's average monthly rainfall for the month of September is 410mm (16.14 inches). The interior parts of Adjara are considerably drier than the coastal mountains and lowlands. Winter usually brings significant snowfall to the higher regions of Ajaria, where snowfall often reaches several meters. Average summer temperatures are between 22-24 degrees Celsius in the lowland areas and 17-21 degrees Celsius in the highlands. The highest areas of Ajaria have lower temperatures. Average winter temperatures are between 4-6 degrees Celsius along the coast while the interior areas and mountains average around -3-2 degrees Celsius. Some of the highest mountains of Ajaria have average winter temperatures of -8-(-7) degrees Celsius.
The regional capital, Batumi, is an important gateway for the shipment of goods heading into Georgia, Azerbaijan and landlocked Armenia. The port of Batumi is used for the shipment of oil from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Its oil refinery handles Caspian oil from Azerbaijan which arrives by pipeline to Supsa port and is transported from there to Batumi by rail. The Ajarian capital is a centre for shipbuilding and manufacturing.
Adjara is the main center of Georgia's coastal tourism industry, having displaced the northwestern province of Abkhazia since that region's de facto secession from Georgia in 1993.
According to the 2002 census, the population of Adjara is 376,016. The Adjarians (Ajars) are an ethnographic group of the Georgian people who speak a group of local dialects known collectively as Adjaran. The written language is Georgian.
The Georgian population of Adjara had been generally known as "Muslim Georgians" until the 1926 Soviet census which listed them as "Ajars" and counted 71,000 of them. Later, they were simply classified under a broader category of Georgians as no official Soviet census asked about religion. Today, calling them "Muslim Georgians" would be a misnomer in any case as Adjarans are now about half Christian (see below).