Caucasus

Caucasus

[kaw-kuh-suhs]
Caucasus, Rus. Kavkaz, region and mountain system, SE European Russia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Armenia is not crossed by the Caucasus range but is considered part of the greater region. The mountain system extends c.750 mi (1,210 km) from the mouth of the Kuban River on the Black Sea SE to the Absheron peninsula on the Caspian Sea.

Geography

As a divide between Europe and Asia, the Caucasus has two major regions—North Caucasia and Transcaucasia. North Caucasia, in Russia and composed mainly of plain (steppe) areas, begins at the Manych Depression and rises to the south, where it runs into the main mountain range, the Caucasus Mts. This is a series of chains running northwest-southeast, including Mt. Elbrus (18,481 ft/5,633 m), the Dykh-Tau (17,050 ft/5,197 m), the Koshtan-Tau (16,850 ft/5,134 m), and Mt. Kazbek (16,541 ft/5,042 m). The Caucasus Mts. are crossed by several passes, notably the Mamison and the Daryal, and by the Georgian Military Road and the Ossetian Military Road, which connect North Caucasia with the second major section, Transcaucasia. This region includes the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mts. and the depressions that link them with the Armenian plateau. The beauty of the Caucasus is much celebrated in Russian literature, most notably in Pushkin's poem "Captive of the Caucasus," Lermontov's novel A Hero of Our Time, and Tolstoy's novels The Cossacks and Hadji Murad.

North Caucasia, part of Russia, includes the Adygey Republic, Chechnya, the Dagestan Republic, Ingushetia, the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, Krasnodar Territory, North Ossetia-Alania (see Ossetia), Stavropol Territory, and parts of Kalmykia and the Rostov region. Transcaucasia includes Georgia (including Abkhazia, the Adjarian Autonomous Republic, and South Ossetia), Azerbaijan (including the Nakhichivan Autonomous Republic and Nagorno-Karabakh), and Armenia.

Major cities in the Caucasus are Bakı, Yerevan, Grozny, Vladikavkaz (formerly Ordzhonikidze), Tbilisi, Krasnodar, Novorossiysk, Batumi, Ganja (formerly Kirovabad), and Kumayri (formerly Leninakan).

People and Economy

More than 40 languages are spoken by the ethnic groups of the entire region. The Ossetians, Kabards, Circassians, and Dagestanis are the major groups in North Caucasia. The Armenians, Georgians, and Azeris are the largest groups in Transcaucasia.

The Kura and Rion river valleys have traditionally been the main thoroughfares of the Caucasus. Now the Rostov-Makhachkala-Bakı RR links North Caucasia with Transcaucasia, and there is a line connecting Rostov-na-Donu and Armavir with the port of Batumi, beyond the Caucasus. In Transcaucasia the main line cuts through the center of the region from Bakı, Tbilisi, and Kutaisi, and there are lines along the Turkish border and the Caspian Sea.

Oil has been the major product in the Caucasus, with fields at Bakı, Grozny, and Maykop. There is an oil pipeline from Bakı, on the Caspian, through Tbilisi to Batumi, on the Black Sea, and pipelines from the fields at Grozny to the port of Makhachkala and to Rostov-na-Donu. Iron and steel are produced at Rustavi from the ores of Azerbaijan. Manganese is mined at Chiatura, and there are ferromanganese plants at Zestafoni. Power for these industries is produced at several large hydroelectric stations, notably at Kura.

On the mountain slopes, which are covered by pine and deciduous trees, there is stock raising. In the valleys, citrus fruits, tea, cotton, grain, and livestock are raised. Along the Black Sea coast between Anapa and Sochi there are many resorts and summer homes. Pyatigorsk and Kislovodsk are notable among the health and mineral resorts in North Caucasia.

History

The Caucasus figured greatly in the legends of ancient Greece; Prometheus was chained on a Caucasian mountain, and Jason and his Argonauts sought the Golden Fleece at Colchis. Persians, Khazars, Arabs, Huns, Turko-Mongols, and Russians have invaded and migrated into the Caucasus and have given the region its ethnic and linguistic complexity. The Russians assumed control in the 19th cent. after a series of wars with Persia and Turkey. The people of Georgia and Armenia, then predominantly Christian, accepted Russian hegemony as protection from Turkish persecution. In Azerbaijan, Dagestan, and the historic region of Circassia, the people were largely Muslim. They bitterly fought Russian penetration and were pacified only after the Shamyl uprising. In World War II the invading German forces launched (July, 1942) a major drive to seize or neutralize the vast oil resources of the Caucasus. They penetrated deeply, but in Jan., 1943, the Soviets launched a winter offensive and by October had driven the Germans from the region. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, demands for smaller, ethnically based nations in the Caucasus, both in Russian North Caucasia and in the newly independent nations of Transcaucasia, have given rise to a number of disturbances and armed rebellions. Largely Muslim areas (Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan) in the region have also suffered from Muslim extremist violence; Chechnya was devastated in the 1990s as a result of civil war.

or Caucasia

Mountainous region, between the Black and Caspian seas. Occupying roughly 170,000 sq mi (440,000 sq km), it is divided among Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia and forms part of the traditional dividing line between Europe and Asia. It is bisected by the Caucasus Mountains; the area north of the Greater Caucasus range is called Ciscaucasia and the region to the south Transcaucasia. Inhabited from ancient times, it was under nominal Persian and Turkish suzerainty until conquered by Russia in the 18th–19th centuries.

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The Caucasus (also referred to as North Caucasus ) is a geopolitical region located between Europe, Asia & Middle East. It is one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse regions on Earth, home to Europe's highest mountains (Mount Elbrus, Mount Kazbek ). Caucasian culture & languages are considered to be some of the oldest in the world, often featured in ancient Greek mythology (Prometheus, Argonauts ) and represented in the Ancient Olympics. The region gave its name to the Caucasian race, where Europeans are thought to have originated.

Historically, the region has been fiercely independent, resisting invasions of Roman, Arab, Persian, Mongol and Russian armies, contributing to a formation of legendary warrior culture among the Caucasian highlanders symbolized by the Dzhigit warrior. The term Caucasus usually refers to the region and peoples of modern North Caucasus, but is also applied to the nations south of the Caucasus mountains.

North Caucasus comprises of:

South Caucasus comprises of:

Etymology

Caucasians are descendants of Caucas, who was a son of Targamos, grandson of Biblical Noah's third son Japheth. According to legend, after the fall of the Tower of Babel and the division of humanity into different languages, Targamos settled with his 12 sons between two inaccessible mountains. Caucas was Targamos's seventh son.

Geography

The Caucasus Mountains are generally perceived to be a dividing line between Asia and Europe, and territories in Caucasia are alternately considered to be in one or both continents. The highest peak in the Caucasus is Mount Elbrus (5,642 m) which, in the western Ciscaucasus in Russia, is generally considered the highest point in Europe.

The Caucasus is one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse regions on Earth. The nation-states that comprise the Caucasus today are the post-Soviet states Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The Russian divisions include Krasnodar Krai, Stavropol Krai, and the autonomous republics of Adygea, Kalmykia, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan. Three territories in the region claim independence but are not acknowledged as nation-states by the international community: Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia.

The Caucasus is an area of great ecological importance. It harbors some 6,400 species of higher plants, 1,600 of which are endemic to the region. Its native animals include leopards, brown bears, wolves, European bisons, marals and golden eagles. Among invertebrates, some 1,000 spider species are recorded in the Caucasus. The natural landscape is one of mixed forest, with substantial areas of rocky ground above the treeline. The Caucasus Mountains are also famous for a dog breed, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Ovcharka).

The northern portion of the Caucasus is known as the Ciscaucasus and the southern portion as the Transcaucasus.

The Ciscaucasus contains the larger majority of the Greater Caucasus Mountain range, also known as the Major Caucasus mountains. It includes Southwestern Russia and northern parts of Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The Transcaucasus is bordered on the north by Russia, on the west by the Black Sea, on the east by the Caspian Sea, on the south by Turkey and Iran. It includes the Caucasus Mountains and surrounding lowlands. All of Armenia, Azerbaijan (excluding the northern parts) and Georgia (excluding the northern parts) are in South Caucasus.

History

Located on the peripheries of Turkey, and Russia, the region has been an arena for political, military, religious, and cultural rivalries and expansionism for centuries. Throughout its history, the Caucasus was usually incorporated into the Iranian world. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Russian Empire conquered the territory from the Qajars.

Ancient kingdoms of the region included Armenia, Albania, Colchis and Iberia, among others. These kingdoms were later incorporated into various empires, including Media, Achaemenid Empire, Parthian Empire, and Sassanid Empire. By this time, Zoroastrianism had become the dominant religion of the region; however, the region would go through two other religious transformations. Owing to the rivalry between Persia and Rome, and later Byzantium, the latter would invade the region several times, although never being able to hold it. However, because Armenia and Georgia had become a Christian entity, Christianity began to overtake Zoroastrianism. With the Islamic conquest of Persia, the region came under the rule of the Arabs and Islam spread throughout the region. The region would later be conquered by the Seljuks, Mongols, local kingdoms and khanates, as well as, once again, Persia, until its conquest by Russia.

The region was unified as a single political entity twice – during the Russian Civil War (Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic) from 9 April 1918 to 26 May 1918, and under the Soviet rule (Transcaucasian SFSR) from 12 March 1922 to 5 December 1936.

The Northern Caucasus has been under Scythian influence in antiquity, while the Southern Caucasus (Caucasian Albania, Colchis) was absorbed into the Persian Empire.

In modern times, the Caucasus became a region of war between the Ottoman Empire, Iran and Russia, and was eventually conquered by the latter (see Caucasian Wars)

Following the end of the Soviet Union, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia became independent in 1991. The Caucasus region is subject to various territorial disputes since the collapse of the Soviet Union, leading to the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988-1994), the Ossetian-Ingush conflict (1989-1991), the War in Abkhazia (1992–1993), the First Chechen War, 1994–1996, the Second Chechen War (1999–present), and the 2008 South Ossetia War.

Demographics

The largest peoples of the Caucasian language family are Georgians (4,600,000), Chechens (800,000), and Avars (500,000). Georgians are the only Caucasian language speaking people that have their own independent state - Georgia, while some other of those peoples possess their republics within the Russian Federation: Adyghe (Adygea), Cherkes (Karachay-Cherkessia), Kabardins (Kabardino-Balkaria), Ingush (Ingushetia), Chechens (Chechnya), while Northeast Caucasian peoples mostly live in Dagestan. Abkhazians live in Abkhazia, which is de facto independent, but de jure is an autonomous republic within Georgia.

Today the peoples of the Northern and Southern Caucasus tend to be either Orthodox Christians or Sunni Muslims. There is also a very strong historic presence of Shia Islam in Azerbaijan, to the east of the region.

In mythology

In Greek mythology, the Caucasus or Kaukasos was one of the pillars supporting the world. Prometheus was chained there by Zeus after Prometheus had presented man with the gift of fire.

The Roman poet Ovid placed Caucasus in Scythia and depicted it as a cold and stony mountain which was the abode of personified hunger. The Greek hero Jason sailed to the west coast of the Caucasus in pursuit of the Golden Fleece, and there met the famed Medea.

Energy and mineral resources

Caucasus has many economically important minerals and energy resources, such as: alunite, gold, chromium, copper, iron ore, mercury, manganese, molybdenum, lead, tungsten, uranium, zinc, oil, natural gas, and coal (both hard and brown).

See also

References

  • Caucasus: A Journey to the Land Between Christianity and Islam By Nicholas Griffin
  • Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus By Svante E. Cornell
  • The Caucasus By Ivan Golovin
  • * *

External links

  • Ethnographic map of Caucasus
  • (Caucasian Review of International Affairs - an academic journal on the South Caucasus)
  • BBC News: North Caucasus at a glance, September 8, 2005
  • United Nations Environment Programme map: Landcover of the Caucasus
  • United Nations Environment Programme map: Population density of the Caucasus
  • Caucasus and Iran entry in Encyclopaedia Iranica
  • University of Turin-Observatory on Caucasus

  • Kaukasus

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