Laura Šakaja gave a presentation at the scientific conference, entitled the 9th Meeting of European Geographers of Religion: International Colloquia on Changing Religious Landscape of Europe. Development and Transformation of Religious Landscape in the New European Context (Zadar, 4 -5 September 2015). The title of her presentation was “Contesting Canonical Territory: the Case of Abkhazia”.
Summary of the presentation (published in the summary book):
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the issue of canonical territories pertaining to the Orthodox Churches was raised. Significant in this respect was the connection between canonical and political territories. This paper will deal with the case of Abkhazia. As a result of the Georgian-Abkhazian war, the canonical territory of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) extends now beyond the political territory effectively controlled by the Republic of Georgia. With the self-proclamation of Abkhazian independence, the jurisdictional authority of GOC was revoked, which brought about ecclesiastical confusion and the creation of “uncanonical” situations. Although Abkhazia officially still continues to fall under the jurisdiction of the GOC, an Independent Church of Abkhazia was proclaimed in 2009 and, two years later, a group within the clergy announced the establishment of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia, which contributed to the complexity of the problem of church jurisdiction. By reviewing the processes of contestation and negotiation, which have accompanied the resulting ecclesiastic conflict and schism, this paper aims to reveal the complicated matrix of political and church relations involved in the struggle of the Abkhazian clergy for the autocephalous status of the “national church”.