In this part of the world geography is destiny. The Greater Caucasus Range, with its spectacular peaks including Mt.
Red Army invasion of Georgia
Elbrus at 18, feet, divides the region into the North Caucasus and the South Caucasus; other mountains split the area further. The Caucasus is culturally diverse. A glance at a political map of the region suggests that simple borders separate the political entities in the Caucasus, but in fact crossing from, say, Georgia to Chechnya involves traversing high mountain passes that are open only part of the year or using one of a few strategic tunnels.
Such natural barriers mean that many groups in the region have existed in isolation for millennia. In fact, this compact region with its population of around 20 million includes upwards of 50 ethnic groups, and its linguistic variety is second only to that of New Guinea. A few languages like Azerbaijani are members of the Turkic language family, and others like Armenian and Ossetian are part of the Indo-European language family which includes Russian and English.
Most, including Chechen and Dagestani, are part of three distinct language families found nowhere else in the world.
This linguistic diversity is accompanied by religious and political variation. The focus on Islam in current discussions of the Caucasus might leave the impression that the entire region is Muslim, and to be sure there are many Muslims there. But many in nominally Muslim regions such as Azerbaijan are quite secular, and Armenia and Georgia have been Christian since the fourth century.
There are deep historical roots for just about everything in the Caucasus. When discussing Chechnya and Dagestan, Western commentators often refer to conflicts that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union in People from the region find this superficial, almost humorous, and instead tend to see things from a much longer historical perspective. And for the past two centuries Russia has been the major player in the region.
CAUCASUS UNDER RUSSIA AND THE SOVIET UNION
The peoples of the Caucasus have a reputation of being fiercely independent, and some highland groups were never conquered—or even discovered—by invading powers. The result is a set of competing national narratives that extend much further back in time than what we are accustomed to. In some cases the hostilities are between local groups.
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Just two decades ago, for example, more than 30, people died in a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. But most major hostilities since have grown out of Russian efforts to subjugate the region, especially the North Caucasus. Today, hardly a week goes by without bombings or shootings that kill a dozen people in Dagestan, and in the s a brutal war in Chechnya between militants and Russian forces left well over 70, dead.
Authors like Lev Tolstoy and Alexandre Dumas described both the romantic and brutal sides of the Caucasus War, which dragged on from to In many respects, it is a war that continues to this day. Russian suppression of national resistance in the Caucasus has encouraged fundamentalist movements.
The Caucasus Under Soviet Rule - Enlighten: Publications
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