Oops, Abkhazia Spoofed Itself


In 1994, officials in the self-styled Republic of Abkhazia in the Caucasus issued two postage stamps depicting John Lennon and Groucho Marx. A spoof it was, of Abkahzia's soviet past, and good riddance to it. The stamp design appears below. (Apologies for the low resolution of the image.) Notice that the peace symbol in the background on the right is inaccurately represented as something closer to the coveted Mercedes Benz hood ornament.

Sadly, the joke is on the philatelists of Abkhazia, an aspiring ministate that has fought to seceed from the equally benighted Republic of Georgia. In decades past, Abkhazia was officialy an Autonomous Soviet Social Republic within the Georgian SSR. Ethnic Georgians made up a plurality of the relatively prosperous population. With the dawn of "Freedom, Independence and Democracy" for Georgia, however, the new leaders in Tiblisi, bigots or opportunists all, found themselves confronted with Abkhazian secessionists. From 1992 to 2009, the secessionists "cleansed" some 250,000 ethnic Georgians from Abkhazia, and more than 15,000 Georgians, Abkhazians, and others have been killed. We leave it up to the philatelists to determine for themselves how much Peace and Love have proliferated in the Transcaucasus since the Captive Nations acheived their celebrated freedom. In any case, many people in the Transcaucasus have come to regret that they cannot go "Back to the USSR."

The philatelists' ridicule turns against itself like an especially curvaceous banana. It turns out that the entertainers that the stamp commemorates held views closer to Soviet-style "Friendship of Peoples" than to post-Soviet chauvinism. "Groucho's political views were left-wing," Wikipedia confirms. With cutting quips, honking horns, and a well-aimed cream pie or two, the Marx brothers advanced the class war against stodgy tycoons and jewel-bedecked dowagers.

And as for Lennon, yes he dissed the Great Helmsman of Red China in the rockin' but trepidatious ditty "Revolution"; but since then he increasingly acted the part of a fellow traveler. This, at least is the impression one gets from the 2006 Lions Gate documentary, "The US versus John Lennon." The British intelligence agency MI5 accused Lennon of providing money to the Irish Republican Army, and the Beatle opposed the U.S. war in Vietnam. For the latter sin among others, he was a target of intensive FBI surveillance, as well as a protracted attempt on the part of the Nixon administration to deport him. Later, when he beat the deportation rap, a reporter asked Lennon if he harbored any ill will towards members of the Nixon Administration. "Time wounds all heels," he retorted.

So here, for the edification of those Transcaucasian philatelists who have managed to remain unaware of it so far, is a taste of Lennon's lyricizing:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the peolple
Living life in peace

Imagine no possession
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one.

This is extreme-left communist propaganda of the "Infantile Disorder" variety. Lenin himself would never have endorsed recruiting slogans as wild as Lennon's.

What, then, does the doubly ironic Abkhazian stamp commemorate? The ignorance and occluded imaginations of anticommunist bureaucrats in a previously prosperous corner of the Transcaucasus that they themselves have reduced to misery? Or two talented entertainers with sympathies much closer to the Bolshevik leader than to the belicose nationalists of the Transcaucasus?


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