Sukhumi (Georgian: სოხუმი, Sokhumi; Abkhaz: Аҟәа, Aqwa; Russian: Сухум, Sukhum); is the capital of Abkhazia, a disputed region on the Black Sea coast. The city suffered heavily during the Georgian–Abkhazian conflict in the early 1990s.
The history of the city began in the mid-6th century BC when an earlier settlement of the second and early first millennia BC, frequented by local Colchian tribes, was replaced by the Milesian Greek colony of Dioscurias (Greek: Διοσκουριάς), geographically the remotest that Miletus ever established. The city is said to have been so named for the Dioscuri, the twins Castor and Pollux of classical mythology. It became busily engaged in the commerce between Greece and the indigenous tribes, importing wares from many parts of Greece, and exporting local salt and Caucasian timber, linen, and hemp. It was also a prime center of slave trade in Colchis. The city and its surroundings were remarkable for the multitude of languages spoken in its bazaars.
Although the sea made serious inroads upon the territory of Dioscurias, it continued to flourish until its conquest by Mithridates VI Eupator of Pontus in the later 2nd century. Under the Roman emperor Augustus the city assumed the name of Sebastopolis  (Greek: Σεβαστούπολις). But its prosperity was past, and in the 1st century Pliny the Elder described the place as virtually deserted though the town still continued to exist during the times of Arrian in the 130s. The remains of towers and walls of Sebastopolis have been found underwater; on land the lowest levels so far reached by archaeologists are of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. In 542 the Romans evacuated the town and demolished its citadel to prevent it from being captured by Sassanid Iran. In 565, however, the emperor Justinian I restored the fort and Sebastopolis continued to remain one of the Byzantine strongholds in Colchis until being sacked by the Arab conqueror Marwan II in 736.
Afterwards, the town came to be known as Tskhumi. Restored by the kings of Abkhazia from the Arab devastation, it particularly flourished during Georgia’s «golden age» in the 12th–13th centuries, when Tskhumi became a center of traffic with the European maritime powers, particularly with the Republic of Genoa. The Genoese established their short-lived trading factory at Tskhumi early in the 14th century.
The Ottoman navy occupied the town in 1451, but for a short time. Later contested between the princes of Abkhazia and Mingrelia, Tskhumi finally fell to the Turks in the 1570s. The new masters heavily fortified the town and called it Sohumkale, with kale meaning «fort» but the first part of the name of disputed origin. It may represent Turkish su, «water», and kum, «sand», but is more likely to be an alteration of its earlier Georgian name. At the request of the pro-Russian Abkhazian prince, the town was stormed by the Russian Marines in 1810 and turned, subsequently, into their major outpost in the North West Caucasus. Sukhumi was declared the seaport in 1847 and was directly annexed to the Russian Empire after the ruling Shervashidze princely dynasty was ousted by the Russian authorities in 1864. During the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878, the town was temporarily controlled by the Ottoman forces and Abkhaz-Adyghe rebels.
Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the town and Abkhazia in general were engulfed in the chaos of the Russian Civil War. A short-lived Bolshevik government was suppressed in May 1918 and Sukhum was incorporated into the Democratic Republic of Georgia as a residence of the autonomous People’s Council of Abkhazia and the headquarters of the Georgian governor-general. The Red Army and the local revolutionaries took the city from the Georgian forces on March 4, 1921, and declared Soviet rule. Sukhum functioned as the capital of the «Union treaty» Abkhaz Soviet Socialist Republic associated with the Georgian SSR from 1921 until 1931, when it became the capital of the Abkhazian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Georgian SSR. By 1989, Sukhum had 110,000 inhabitants and was one of the most prosperous cities of Georgia. Many holiday dachas for Soviet leaders were situated there.
Beginning with the 1989 riots, Sukhum was a centre of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, and the city was severely damaged during the 1992–1993 War. During the Georgian-Abkhaz war (1992–1993), the city and its environs suffered almost daily air strikes and artillery shellings, with heavy civilian casualties. On September 27, 1993 the battle for Sukhum was concluded by a full-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing against its majority Georgian population (see Sukhumi Massacre), including members of the Abkhazian government (Zhiuli Shartava, Raul Eshba and others) and mayor of Sukhum Guram Gabiskiria. Although the city has been relatively peaceful and partially rebuilt, it is still suffering the after-effects of the war, and it has not regained its earlier ethnic diversity. Its population in 2003 was 43,716, compared to about 120,000 in 1989.