Sochi, the city in which the 2014 Winter Olympics are being held, used to be part of Georgia and Abkhazia…kinda. It belongs to a region which is occasionally called Lesser Abkhazia (Russian: Малая Абхазия), Jiketi (Georgian: ჯიქეთი), or Sadzen, after the Sadz Abkhazians who used to live there. They don’t live there anymore, because they, along with most of the Northwest Caucasian peoples, were exterminated or expelled to Turkey by the Russian Empire about 150 years ago. Indeed, Sochi was originally built as a fort during Russia’s initial incursion into then-independent Circassia (or Cherkessia).
In 1918, amidst the chaos of the Russian Civil War, the newly-established Democratic Republic of Georgia captured Sochi. Ostensibly this action was taken to secure the area from Bolshevik takeover, but one can’t help think that the Georgians were also motivated by the following thoughts: 1) you can never control too much of the Black Sea coast, and 2) if you already have Abkhazia, why not also have Lesser Abkhazia?
Unfortunately, Georgia’s fledgling dreams of imperialism were dashed when, mere months later, the White Army captured Sochi for itself. The Georgians had evidently assumed that the Whites would join them as allies against the Reds, but they neglected the fact that the stated aim of the Whites was to reestablish the full extent of Tsarist dominion (of which Georgia itself was a part). After several counteroffensives back and forth, the river Psou (rhymes with “hoe”, not “how”) was eventually established as the (short-lived) border between Georgian Abkhazia and Russia.
Personally, I don’t get the big deal about the Black Sea. I’ve been to the beach in Yalta and I’ve been to the beach in Batumi (cities roughly equidistant from Sochi) and it really just wasn’t that great. The beaches are rocky, the water is both freezing and salty, and the boardwalks and hotels are run-down and weird. On the other hand, there are dolphins. That’s something.