The domino effect

Abkhazia wants independence. Could an ancient game help?

Oliver Bullough

Every one of the 277 players who visited Abkhazia for the three-day domino world championships in October was a criminal. By crossing the border from Russia, they were immediately liable to at least two years in a Georgian prison.

Abkhazia’s quarter of a million people live on a narrow strip of land between the Caucasus mountains and the Black Sea. The territory is called an independent country by Moscow, but part of Georgia by every other country in the world, bar five. During the Cold War, it was part of the Soviet Republic of Georgia, and today the Georgians, who lost a vicious war for control in the early 1990s, maintain that visiting without their permission is illegal.

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