Tintin in Abkhazia

tintin-russia-abkhazia-sheet-5-tintin-animation-cartoon-dibujosAbkhazia is either a ruggedly independent state on the Black Sea or a renegade province of Georgia, depending on where you stand on Russian imperialism. It also issues Tintin stamps.

The country has been de facto independent since it split from Georgia in a bloody 1992 war. The Georgians treat Abkhazia (and fellow secessionists South Ossetia) as a bunch of misguided locals led astray by Moscow. Periodic attempts to bring Abkhazia back under Georgian control have resulted in bloodshed, war crimes, and finger wagging from the UN. Russia insists its troops are only there as peacekeepers. The Abkhaz insist they’re an independent state that needs all the friends it can get.

That may be why Tintin is on a set of Abkhazian stamps.

From Brussels to Sukhumi

The stamps are nicely done. There are 32 of them, all faces or an occasional three-quarter length image, cleanly printed on 4 sheets of 8 stamps each. Tintin and Snowy feature on all 4 sheets and the other stamps are an interesting mix of characters from the books: Captan Haddock, Professor Calculus, the Yeti. The text is in cyrillic and English. Each stamp has a value of 23 roubles.

Abkhazia’s Tintin collection was issued a few years back and is only available outside the country from specialist stamp dealers, which has raised suspicions. Hergé’s estate is unlikely to have authorised the images and renegade states have easier money makers than this. Are they official? Some campaign to win hearts and minds among foreign bandes dessinées fans? Or were they faked by an unscrupulous dealer, like the Tintin in Thailand book? No-one seems to know.

Tintin stamps seem to be attractive to countries fighting for recognition. Somaliand is another de facto independent state that everyone else seems to think is a province of Somalia. In 2007 a foreign dealers began selling a series of postcards, ostensibly originating from there, featuring a scene from The Black Island with a Tintin stamp attached to the upper right. The stamps are in Somaliland shillings, a currency not recognised outside the country.

Like the Abkhazia stamps, they are well made and cleanly printed. They’re also not available in Somaliland itself.

No-one knows if these are real either.

So if you want an independent state, you need years of nationalist agitation, a popular uprising, bloody civil war, and some Tintin stamps. That must be where Katanga went wrong.

For more warlike weirdness, you can buy my  books in paperback or ebook:

Lost Lions of Judah: Haile Selassie’s Mongrel Foreign Legion [or amazon.com]


Katanga 1960-63: Mercenaries, Spies and the African Nation that Waged War on the World  [or amazon.com]


Franco’s International Brigades: Adventurers, Fascists, and Christian Crusaders in the Spanish Civil War [or amazon.com]



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