Abkhazian Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries

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The homeland of the Abkhazian (Abkhaz) people is on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. Their own name for themselves is Apswa. The Abkhaz language is written in a form of Cyrillic script and belongs to the Northwest Caucasian linguistic family.

At various times in their history they have asserted their independence. Today, Abkhazia struggles to gain recognition for its independence from the Republic of Georgia. I first learned about the Abkhazians in the context of their relationship with the Khazars. In the middle of the 7th century some Abkhazians went to battle on the side of the Khazars, and in the late 9th century King Leon II freed his country from the control of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) with help from Khazaria.

Major studies of Abkhazians

Ivan Nasidze, E. Y. S. Ling, D. Quinque, I. Dupanloup, R. Cordaux, S. Rychkov, O. Naumova, O. Zhukova, N. Sarraf-Zadegan, G. A. Naderi, S. Asgary, S. Sardas, D. D. Farhud, Tamara Sarkisian, C. Asadov, Azer Kerimov, and Mark Stoneking. "Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Variation in the Caucasus." Annals of Human Genetics 68 (2004): pages 205-221. This is a comprehensive collection of data on the peoples of the Caucasus Mountains region. Participating Abkhazians contributed 27 mtDNA samples and 12 Y-DNA samples. The researchers found 19 different mtDNA haplotypes among these Abkhazians. Table 3 shows the frequencies of Y-DNA haplogroups among the study's Abkhazian men: I* was found among 33.3 percent, R1a1* among 33 percent, J2* among 25 percent, and R1* among 8 percent.

Excerpt from the article:

"[Y] Haplogroup I* was at high frequency in Darginians (0.58), Abkhazians (0.33), and North Ossetians from Ardon (0.32). This haplogroup was found elsewhere in the Caucasus at a frequency of only 0.13 or less, although it was also at high frequency in the Turks (0.26) and Iranians from Tehran (0.34)."

S. Litvinov, Ildus A. Kutuev, Bayazit Yunusbayev, Rita Khusainova, R. Valiev, and Elza K. Khusnutdinova. "Alu Insertion Polymorphisms in Populations of the South Caucasus." Balkan Journal of Medical Genetics 11/2 (2008): pages 25-30. 196 Abkhazians were genetically tested.

Excerpts from the Introduction:

"The Alu family of short interspersed elements is a relatively stable autosomal polymorphic marker with a unique mutational mechanism, for which the ancestral state is the absence of Alu insertion. Because it reflects both maternal and paternal history, an Alu insertion polymorphism is a highly informative tool for studying the genetic structure of human populations [8]. We have analyzed three populations from the South Caucasus: Abkhazians (North-Caucasian language family, Abkhaz-Adyghe language subgroup), Georgians (Kartvelian language family) and Armenians (Indo-European language family) to assess the genetic diversity of linguistically and historically different, but related populations in this specific geographic region [9]. Because the Georgian nation includes multiple ethnic groups we examined the Mingrelian population inasmuch as it shares significant traits with Abkhazians from their centuries-old interaction. Armenians are a separate ethnic group, which originated from Neolithic tribes of the Armenian Uplands. In the 12th- 11th centuries BC, this group gained Hittite, Hurrite and partially Abkhaz-Adyghe and Kartvel elements. Later, in 8th-7th centuries BC, a Cimmerian-Scythian element was added to its gene pool. We also compared our results with those from other populations of Eurasia."

Excerpts from the Results section:

"The studied Abkhazian group is closer to the European rather than to Asian populations along the first axis. It is clearly separated from Siberian and Asian populations, but there are no visible correlations on plot with Volga-Ural and Dagestan populations according to their linguistic or geographic attributes. The Abkhazian population from the studied group appears closer to populations of Dagestan, who are placed together except Karanogays, positioned with Kazakhs and Uzbeks. This can be explained by an apparent Asian origin of Karanogays [19]."

Excerpts from the Discussion section:

"The Mingrelians are the descendants of Georgian tribes, which inhabited the central region and foothills of Colchis on the territory of present-day western Georgia and Abkhazia. Due to centuries-old neighborhoods and contacts with western Georgian ethnic groups, the Abkhazians gained common anthropological and cultural traits from them. Although anthropologically Abkhazians are most close to western Georgian groups, which are intermediate between Pontic and Armenoid types (while signs of Caucasian type are not expressed), Abkhazians are more culturally and linguistically close to North-Caucasian Adygs."

L. Bitadze. [Anthropological History of Abkhazians - title in Georgian.] Pages 276-311 in an unmentioned publication by Iv. Javakhishvily Institute of History and Ethnology, National Museum of Georgia, published in Tbilisi in 2008. Excerpts from the "Resume" (English summary of the Georgian article):

"In order to find out genetic links between Abkhazians and the other 50 populations the morphological distances were studied and component analysis was used by all systems. [...] Abkhazians (Ochamchire, Gudauta, Gagra) show very close morphological distances to Georgian ethnographic groups, as well as to the Northern Caucasians. The important fact is, that the distance to Georgian ethnographical groups twice less when that of Northern Caucasian groups. Component analysis of the same groups shows, that all the three Abkhazian populations with regard to the components, are always closer to Georgian ethnic groups, though with twice as more distances, than Georgian groups themselves (the present work, chapter III, figure 4-6). Description of dermatologocal [sic] patterns also reveals more similarity between Abkhazians and Western Caucasian populations. [...] Abkhazians show even more similarity with some Georgian groups, than within three Abkhazian groups themselves. [...] Considering all the given factual anthropological material we can conclude that Abkhazian anthropological appearance is similar to various Georgian ethnic groups. It means that Abkhazians' origin is in close relation with Western Georgian groups to a different extent."

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