Abkhazia declared its independence from Georgia in 1999 following a period of conflict that began with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It is recognized as an independent state by Russia and several other countries, though not by the United Nations and, importantly, not by Georgia.
Railways arrived late in the country. In 1930, at a time when the entire Caucasus region was part of the Soviet Union, a line was opened from Senaki in Georgia to Gali, entering Abkhazia by a bridge over the Inguri river. Like other railways in Georgia, it was built to the Russian standard gauge of 1520mm. The line was extended to the regional capital, Sukhumi, in 1940 and a branch from Ochamchira to Tkvarcheli opened 2 years later. During World War II work began extending the line north from Sukhumi to the Russian border, where it would connect with the existing Russian network. The connection opened in 1949, completing the present day Abkhazian railway network. The total length of route comprising the network is about 220km.
The bridge across the Inguri river was destroyed in 1992 when Georgian troops entered Abkhazia at the start of the period of conflict. The rest of the network suffered considerable damage in subsequent years. During the conflict, Russia closed its borders and the Abkhazian Railway was effectively isolated. The link to Russia was restored in 2002 and through trains began to operate between Sukhumi and Moscow. Attempts were made to reactivate internal traffic and some freight movements may still operate, but local passenger services were discontinued in 2007. In 2009, Abkhazian Railways were placed under the management of Russian Railways for a period of at least 10 years.
In 2019, summer passenger services on the line consist of daily overnight trains from Sukhumi (Russian Сухум) to Moscow or St Petersburg and return. In spring and autumn services are reduced to 2 or 3 times weekly, and there are no winter services.
Proposals have been put forward for restoration of the rail link southward into Georgia, but this is unlikely to take place in the foreseeable future owing the opposition from the government of Georgia.
The Novy Afon Metro was opened in 1975 and remains an important adjunct to a major Abkhazian tourist attraction.
Photo image by Yakudza