Abkhazia 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.
In February 2001 two Belgian smugglers met their contacts in the town of Doornik. There was some small talk, a few jokes, then the smugglers showed off the merchandise. Copies of a comic book called Tintin in Thailand. The buyers flicked through a few pages and pulled out handcuffs. They were undercover police.
Shortly after, Antwerp police raided the home of the mastermind behind the operation: Baudouin de Duve, 50-year-old former expat and member of a prominent Belgian family. His uncle had won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
Tintin is a comic book hero created in Belgium but globally famous. Hergé (aka Georges Prosper Remi) first drew the adventurous boy detective for the kids’ section of Brussels newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle in 1929. For the next 54 years the Belgian cartoonist sent his creation exploring a ligne claire world, from the African jungle to outer space. Most readers encounter Tintin in the elegantly slim hardback versions of the comic strips. Tintin in the Congo, Tintin in Tibet, Tintin and the Picaros, and 21 more.
But Hergé never wrote a book called Tintin in Thailand.