The Ghosts of Abkhazia

Thomas de Waal 

I slept badly in the Hotel Ritsa in Abkhazia. I had an unsettling dream in which I walked through an old house with an elderly Stalin, muttering malevolently to himself. In the morning, wondering who had disturbed my sleep, I had a long list of suspects from the other world.

Many of Abkhazia’s numerous ghosts must live within the walls of this whitewashed hotel. A convalescent Trotsky lived here in 1924 and gave a valedictory speech for Lenin from the first-floor balcony on the day of his old comrade’s funeral. Or I could have slept in the room of another of Stalin’s victims, the poet Osip Mandelstam. In 1993 the hotel produced more ghosts when it was burned to the ground in Abkhaz-Georgian fighting. It has only recently been rebuilt.

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