republic in Georgia
. It is on the Black Sea
, on the border with Turkey
, and the capital is the important port of Batumi
. The area is 2880 km2
and the population about 400 000.
The Georgian name for Ajaria is Ach'ara, and the adjective of it is Ach'areli. The usual romanization in Soviet Union days was Adzharia, representing the Russian spelling. The people are closely allied with the Laz people; in fact the English-language sources I've been looking at seem to regard Ajaria as a Laz entity; however in Georgian the name Lazi also exists, different from Ach'areli. Perhaps Ajarians are Georgian-speaking Muslims, while the Laz are Laz-speaking Muslims, Laz being closely related to Georgian.
Ajaria was established in 1921 as an ASSR, an autonomous region within Georgia, partly to diminish ethnic Georgian control over the port of Batumi. The small Georgian principalities have had a complex history and I can't make out Ajaria's from the noise. The Ottoman Empire invaded Georgia, then part of Russia, in the First World War. British troops occupied Batumi. There was a very short-lived Republic of Batumi in 1920.
The two other autonomous ethnic regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, have attempted to secede, and much violence has occurred, but Ajaria seems to have been fairly happy with its status as long as they get considerable autonomy. The Ajarian solution may lead to a federal Georgia in which the other regions can be accommodated.
In 2000 they adopted a flag, blue, with twelve gold stars in the canton, arranged in three rows numbering 3, 5, and 4. It was designed by Aslan Abashidze, chair of the Supreme Council, and one of the leading opposition leaders to Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze.
In November 2003 Shevardnadze was forced out of office after disputed elections, and subsequently the young reformist Mikhail Saakashvili became president of Georgia. This touched off a much more serious deterioration of relations with Ajaria, whose leader Abashidze was an old-style apparatchik allied with Russia. Abashidze banned Saakashvili from entering the province, refusing to recognize his election, and his armed followers threatened violence against national authorities. President Saakashvili imposed sanctions on the province.
In early May 2004 popular protests within Ajaria against the dictator Abashidze were put down with violence, Ajarian authorities destroyed bridges connecting the two territories, and in reply Saakashvili declared direct presidential rule. Abashidze has now resigned, ordering his militia to lay down their arms, and gone into exile in Moscow.