A guide to the New East

Off the beaten track: the abandoned land of Abkhazia

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With billions of dollars lavished on Sochi to transform it into a gleaming venue for next month’s Winter Olympics, the difference with nearby Abkhazia couldn’t be more marked. As Sochi prepares to host hundreds of thousands of visitors, Abkhazia, a breakaway territory which declared independence from Georgia in 1999, lies empty. In January, Moscow photographers Sasha Mademuaselle and Sergey Kostromin travelled to the disputed region, where conflict with Georgia has led to dwindling tourism numbers. Their photos show sanatoriums, hotels and beaches without a soul in sight. "Abkhazia has a breathtaking Soviet imperial grandeur,” says Mademuaselle. "Soviet leaders’ dachas, sanatoriums built to host up to a thousand visitors and train stations built before the 1917 revolution. Now it’s all empty. The only inhabitants are stray dogs and dolphins. It’s a beautiful country of wine, persimmon fruit and mountains. The trip to the mountains is a rare chance to swim in a waterfall, stroke an owl and see the beauty of the Caucasus.”

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