Abkhaz is a North West Caucasian language related to Abaza, Adyghe, Kabardian and Ubykh. About 100,000 people speak Abkhaz in Abkhazia, an autonomous republic within Georgia. There are also Abkhaz speakers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, in Turkey, the republic of Adjara in Georgia, Syria, Jordan, Germany and the USA.
There are two main dialects of Abkhaz: the northern Bzâp dialect and the southern Abz'âwa dialect, upon which literary Abkhaz is based.
Abkhaz first appeared in writing in 1862/3 in the Cyrillic alphabet using a spelling system based on the Bzâp dialect and devised by the Russian soldier-linguist Baron Peter von Uslar. Other spelling systems using the Georgian, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets appeared during the 20th century. The current Cyrillic-based system, which has been in use since 1954, is considered somewhat cumbersome with its 14 extra letters for consonants and its inconsistencies. Recently there have been suggestions that a new Latin-based spelling system should be created.
The first ever novel in Abkhaz was written by Dârmit' Gulia (1874-1960), who is regarded as the Father of Abkhaz Literature. He also founded the first Abkhaz newspaper, wrote poety, plays, translations, historical and ethnographical writings and lectured on Abkhaz at Tbilisi University.