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Caucasus

Geopolitical map
A 1994 map of the Caucasus region, including the locations of valuable resources shared by the many states in the area: alunite, gold, chromium, copper, iron ore, mercury, manganese, molybdenum, lead, tungsten, zinc, oil, natural gas, and coal.

The Caucasus or Caucas (also referred to as Caucasia,[1]Adyghe: Къэфкъас;Russian: Кавка́з) is a geopolitical region between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, including Europe's highest mountain (Mount Elbrus).

North Caucasus comprises:

  • Russia (Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Adyghea, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachai-Cherkessia, North Ossetia, Krasnodar Krai, Stavropol Krai)

South Caucasus comprises:

  • Georgia (plus disputed Abkhazia and South Ossetia)
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan (plus disputed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic)
  • Iran

Contents

Etymology

The word Caucasus derives from Caucas, the ancestor of the North Caucasians.[2] He was a son of Togarmah, grandson of Biblical Noah's third son Japheth. According to Leonti Mroveli after the fall of the Tower of Babel and the division of humanity into different languages, Togarmah settled with his sons: Kartlos, Haik (Georgian:ჰაოს, Haos), Movakos, Lekos (Lak people), Heros (Kindgom of Hereti), Kavkas, and Egros (Kingdom of Egrisi) between two inaccessible mountains, presumably Mount Ararat and Mount Elbrus.

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, 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.[3] 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[4]. 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 and Turkey, on the east by the Caspian Sea, and on the south by 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

Administrative map of Caucasus in USSR, 1952-1991.
Rock engravings in Gobustan, Azerbaijan dating back to 10,000 BC.

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.[5]

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 it was never able to hold the region. 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. Armenia and the majority of Georgia maintained Christianity and drove the Muslims out. The region would later be conquered by the Seljuks, Ottomans, 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 among the Ottoman Empire, Iran and Russia, and was eventually conquered by the latter (see Caucasian Wars).

In the 1940s, the Chechens and Ingush (480,000 altogether), along with the Balkars, Karachays, Meskhetian Turks (120,000), Kurds and Caucasus Germans (almost 200,000) were deported en masse to Central Asia and Siberia.

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

Ethno-Linguistic groups in the Caucasus region

The region has many different languages and languages families. There are more than 50 ethnic groups living in the region.[6] No less than three language families are unique to the area, but also Indo-European languages such Armenian and Ossetic, and the Altaic language Azerbaijani are local to the area.

The most numerous 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 who have their own independent state - Georgia. Others 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. Shia Islam has had many adherents historically in Azerbaijan, located in the eastern part of the region.

In mythology

In Greek mythology the Caucasus, or Kaukasos, was one of the pillars supporting the world. After presenting man with the gift of fire, Prometheus was chained there by Zeus, to have his liver eaten daily by an eagle.

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.

The Indian Book Ramayana stated that the second wife of King Dasharath and step mother of Lord Ram belong to country Kekaye (Caucasus), thats why she was called as Queen Kekai.

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

  • Peoples of the Caucasus
  • History of the Caucasus
  • Transcontinental nations
  • South Caucasus
  • Languages of the Caucasus
  • Islam in Russia
  • Culture of Georgia
  • Culture of Armenia
  • Culture of Azerbaijan
  • Russian-Circassian War
  • Prometheism
  • Ural mountains

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
  1. ^ http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caucasia Merriam-Webster
  2. ^ G.Qoranashvili (1995), Questions of Ethnic Identity According to Leonti Mroveli's Historical Chronicles, Studies, Vol. 1, Tbilisi.
  3. ^ Endemic Species of the Caucasus
  4. ^ Caucasian Spiders » CHECKLISTS & MAPS
  5. ^ Thorez, Pierre. "Caucasus." Encyclopaedia Iranica - 2 June 2007
  6. ^ Caucasian peoples, Encyclopædia Britannica

External links