The Caucasus region is separated into two parts, which fall into two continents, the North Caucasus
(Ciscaucasia) in Europe, and the South Caucasus
(Transcaucasia) in Asia
, respectively. The Greater Caucasus mountain range
in the north is mostly shared by Russia
and Georgia, as well as the northernmost parts of Azerbaijan. The Lesser Caucasus
mountain range in the south is occupied by several independent states, namely, mostly by Armenia
, and Georgia
, but also extending to parts of northeastern Turkey
, northern Iran
and the unrecognised Artsakh Republic
Origin of the name
The term Caucasus is derived from Caucas
: კავკასოსი Kawḳasosi
) the son of the Biblical Togarmah
and legendary forefather of Nakh
According to Leonti Mroveli
, the 11th-century Georgian chronicler, the word Caucasian is derived from the Vainakh
"The Vainakhs are the ancient natives of the Caucasus. It is noteworthy, that according to the genealogical table drawn up by Leonti Mroveli
, the legendary forefather of the Vainakhs was "Kavkas", hence the name Kavkasians, one of the ethnicons met in the ancient Georgian written sources, signifying the ancestors of the Chechens
. As appears from the above, the Vainakhs, at least by name, are presented as the most "Caucasian" people of all the Caucasians (Caucasus - Kavkas - Kavkasians) in the Georgian historical tradition."
In the Tale of Past Years
(1113 AD), it is stated that Old East Slavic
Кавкасийскыѣ горы (Kavkasijskyě gory
) came from Ancient Greek
; later Greek pronunciation Káfkasos
which, according to M. A. Yuyukin, is a compound word that can be interpreted as the "Seagull's Mountain" (καύ-: καύαξ, καύηξ, ηκος ο, κήξ, κηϋξ "a kind of seagull" + the reconstructed *κάσος η "mountain" or "rock" richly attested both in place and personal names).
region and Dagestan
were the furthest points of Parthian
and later Sasanian
expansions, with areas to the north of the Greater Caucasus
range practically impregnable. The mythological Mount Qaf
, the world's highest mountain that ancient Iranian lore shrouded in mystery, was said to be situated in this region. The region is also one of the candidates for the location of Airyanem Vaejah
, the apparent homeland of the Iranians of Zoroaster
. In Middle Persian
sources of the Sasanian era, the Caucasus range was referred to as Kaf Kof
The term resurfaced in Iranian tradition later on in a variant form when Ferdowsi
, in his Shahnameh
, referred to the Caucasus mountains as Kōh-i Kāf
"Most of the modern names of the Caucasus originate from the Greek Kaukasos
) and the Middle Persian Kaf Kof
"The earliest etymon" of the name Caucasus comes from Kaz-kaz
, the Hittite
designation of the "inhabitants of the southern coast of the Black Sea
It was also noted that in Nakh
Ков гас (Kov gas
) means "gateway to steppe".
Endonyms and exonyms
The modern name for the region is usually similar in many languages, and is generally between Kavkaz and Kawkaz.
Map of the Caucasus in 2021
borders the Greater Caucasus range and Southern Russia
to its north, the Black Sea and Turkey
to its west, the Caspian Sea to its east, and Iran
to its south. It contains the Lesser Caucasus
mountain range and surrounding lowlands. All of Armenia
, Azerbaijan (excluding the northernmost parts) and Georgia (excluding the northernmost parts) are in the South Caucasus.
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 (including Adjara
), Azerbaijan (including Nakhchivan
, and the Russian Federation. The Russian divisions include Dagestan
, North Ossetia–Alania
, Krasnodar Krai
and Stavropol Krai
, in clockwise order.
Three territories in the region claim independence but are recognized as such by only a handful of entities: Artsakh
and South Ossetia
. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are largely recognized by the world community as part of Georgia,
and Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan.
General statistics of South Caucasian states
Population pyramids of the Caucasian countries
Population pyramid of Armenia, 2016
Population pyramid of Georgia, 2016
Population pyramid of Azerbaijan, 2016
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 Qajar Iran
The site yields the earliest unequivocal evidence for the presence of early humans outside the African continent;
and the Dmanisi skulls are the five oldest hominins
ever found outside Africa
from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km, and mostly encompassed, on modern-day territories, the Southern Caucasus (except western Georgia), northwestern Iran, the northeastern Caucasus, eastern Turkey, and as far as Syria.
(669–627 BC), the boundaries of the Assyrian Empire
reached as far as the Caucasus Mountains. Later ancient kingdoms of the region included Armenia
, among others. These kingdoms were later incorporated into various Iranian
empires, including Media
, the Achaemenid Empire
, and the Sassanid Empire
, who would altogether rule the Caucasus for many hundreds of years. In 95–55 BC, under the reign of Armenian king Tigranes the Great
, the Kingdom of Armenia
included Kingdom of Armenia, vassals Iberia, Albania, Parthia, Atropatene
, Nabataean kingdom
, and Judea
. By the time of the first century BC, Zoroastrianism
had become the dominant religion of the region; however, the region would go through two other religious transformations. Owing to the strong rivalry between Persia and Rome
, and later Byzantium
. The Romans first arrived in the region in the 1st century BC with the annexation of the kingdom of Colchis, which was later turned into the province of Lazicum
The next 600 years was marked by a conflict
between Rome and Sassanid Empire
for the control of the region. In western Georgia the eastern Roman rule lasted until the Middle Ages.
In the 12th century, the Georgian king David the Builder
drove the Muslims out from Caucasus and made the Kingdom of Georgia
a strong regional power. In 1194–1204 Georgian Queen Tamar
's armies crushed new Seljuk Turkish invasions from the south-east and south and launched several successful campaigns into Seljuk Turkish-controlled Southern Armenia. The Georgian Kingdom continued military campaigns in the Caucasus region. As a result of her military campaigns and the temporary fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1204, Georgia became the strongest Christian state in the whole Near East
area, encompassing most of the Caucasus stretching from Northern Iran and Northeastern Turkey to the North Caucasus.
The Caucasus region was conquered by the Ottomans
, local kingdoms and khanates, as well as, once again, Iran
strike on a Russian military fort in the Caucasus, 1840
In the second half of the 19th century, the Russian Empire also conquered the Northern Caucasus. In the aftermath of the Caucasian Wars
, an ethnic cleansing of Circassians
was performed by Russia in which the indigenous peoples of this region, mostly Circassians
, were expelled from their homeland and forced to move primarily to the Ottoman Empire.
Having killed and deported most of Armenians of Western Armenia during the Armenian Genocide
, the Turks intended to eliminate the Armenian population of Eastern Armenia
During the 1920 Turkish–Armenian War
, 60,000 to 98,000 Armenian civilians were estimated to have been killed by the Turkish army.
In Greek mythology
, the Caucasus, or Kaukasos, was one of the pillars supporting the world.
After presenting man with the gift of fire, Prometheus
in the Georgian version
) was chained there by Zeus
, to have his liver eaten daily by an eagle as punishment for defying Zeus' wish to keep the "secret of fire" from humans.
placed the 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 Medea
, a daughter of King Aeëtes
The Caucasus has a rich folklore tradition.
This tradition has been preserved orally—necessitated by the fact that for most of the languages involved there was no alphabet until the early twentieth century—and only began to be written down in the late nineteenth century.
One important tradition is that of the Nart sagas
, which tell stories of a race of ancient heroes called the Narts. These sagas include such figures as Satanaya
, the mother of the Narts, Sosruquo
a shape changer and trickster, Tlepsh
a blacksmith god, and Batradz
, a mighty hero.
The folklore of the Caucasus shows ancient Iranian Zoroastrian
influence, involve battles with ancient Goths
, and contain many connections with ancient Indian
, Norse Scandinavian
, and Greek cultures.
Links with Greek mythology
Caucasian folklore contains many links with the myths of the ancient Greeks. There are resemblances between the mother goddess Satanaya and the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite
The story of how the trickster Nart Sosruquo, became invulnerable parallels that of the Greek hero Achilles
The ancient Greek Amazons
may be connected to a Caucasian "warrior Forest-Mother, Amaz-an".
Caucasian legends include stories involving giants similar to Homer
In these stories, the giant is almost always a shepherd
and he is variously a one-eyed rock-throwing cannibal, who lives in a cave (the exit of which is often blocked by a stone), kills the hero's companions, is blinded by a hot stake, and whose flock of animals is stolen by the hero and his men, all motifs which (along with still others) are also found in the Polyphemus story.
In one example from Georgia
, two brothers, who are being held prisoner by a giant one-eyed shepherd called "One-eye", take a spit, heat it up, stab it into the giant's eye, and escape.
There are also links with the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus
Many legends, widespread in the Caucasus, contain motifs shared with the Prometheus
These motifs include: a giant hero, his conflict with God or gods, the stealing of fire and giving it to men, being chained, and being tormented by a bird who pecks at his liver (or heart).
the Chechen Pkharmat
and the Abkhazian Abrskil
are examples of such Prometheus-like figures.
View of the Caucasus Mountains in Dagestan
The region has a high level of endemism and a number of relict
animals and plants, the fact reflecting presence of refugial forests, which survived the Ice Age
in the Caucasus Mountains. The Caucasus forest refugium is the largest throughout the Western Asian (near Eastern) region.
The area has multiple representatives of disjunct
relict groups of plants with the closest relatives in Eastern Asia, southern Europe, and even North America.
Over 70 species of forest snails of the region are endemic.
Some relict species of vertebrates are Caucasian parsley frog
, Caucasian salamander
, Robert's snow vole
, and Caucasian grouse
, and there are almost entirely endemic groups of animals such as lizards of genus Darevskia
. In general, species composition of this refugium is quite distinct and differs from that of the other Western Eurasian refugia.
Energy and mineral resources
The Caucasus has many economically important minerals
resources, such as alunite
, iron ore
, natural gas
, and coal
Mountain-skiing complexes include:
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- ^ Suny, page 64
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- ^ Memoirs of Miliutin, "the plan of action decided upon for 1860 was to cleanse [ochistit'] the mountain zone of its indigenous population", per Richmond, W. The Northwest Caucasus: Past, Present, and Future. Routledge. 2008.
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- ^ a b Rashidvash, pp. 33–34.
- ^ Mayor, p. xx; Hunt, p. 9.
- ^ Rashidvash, pp. 33–34; for connections found in the Nart sagas, see Colarusso, pp. 5–7.
- ^ Rashidvash, p. 33; Colarusso, pp. 6, 44, 53, 399.
- ^ When Sosruquo was born burning in flames, the blacksmith god Tlepsh, grabbed Sosruquo and plunged him into water, making him invulnerable except where he was held by tongs, see Rashidvash, pp. 33–34; Colarusso, pp. 52–54 (Circassian Saga 8: Lady Setenaya and the Shepherd: The Birth of Sawseruquo), 185–186 (Abaza Saga 47: How Sosruquo Was Born), 387–394 (Ubykh Saga 86: The Birth of Soseruquo), cf. pp. 323–328 (Abkhaz Saga 75: The Mother of Heroes).
- ^ Rashidvash, p. 34; Colarusso, pp. 130, 318.
- ^ Hunt, pp. 9, 13, 201, 210–229; Bachvarova, p. 106; Mayor, pp. xxi; Rashidvash, p. 34; Colarusso. pp. 6–7, 170 (Circassian Saga 37: A Cyclops Bound atop Was'hamakhwa), 200–202 (Abaza Saga 52: How Sosruquo Brought Fire to His Troops).
- ^ Hunt, p. 13.
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- ^ Hunt, pp. 218–222 (45. The Story of One-eye (Georgian)).
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- ^ Hunt, pp. 332–337, 351–355; Colarusso, p. 169.
- ^ Hunt, pp. 332, 339–344.
- ^ Hunt, pp. 333, 347–351.
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