1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Caucasia

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CAUCASIA, or Caucasus, a governor-generalship of Russia, occupying the isthmus between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov on the west and the Caspian Sea on the east, as well as portions of the Armenian highlands. Its northern boundary is the Kuma-Manych depression, a succession of narrow, half-desiccated lakes and river-beds, only temporarily filled with water and connecting the Manych, a tributary of the Don, with the Kuma, which flows into the Caspian. This depression is supposed to be a relic of the former post-Pliocene connexion between the Black Sea and the Caspian, and is accepted by most geographers as the natural frontier between Europe and Asia, while others make the dividing-line coincide with the principal water-parting of the Caucasus mountain system. The southern boundary of Caucasia is in part coincident with the river Aras (Araxes), in part purely conventional and political. It was shifted several times during the 19th century, but now runs from a point on the Black Sea, some 20 m. south of Batum, in a south-easterly and easterly direction to Mt. Ararat, and thence along the Aras to within 30 m. of its confluence with the Kura, where it once more turns south-east, and eventually strikes the Caspian at Astara (30° 35′ N.). This large territory, covering an area of 180,843 sq. m., and having in 1897 9,248,695 inhabitants (51 per sq. m.), may be divided into four natural zones or sections:—(i.) the plains north of the Caucasus mountains, comprising the administrative division of Northern Caucasia; (ii.) the Caucasus range and the highlands of Daghestan; (iii.) the valleys of the Rion and the Kura, between the Caucasus range and the highlands of Armenia; and (iv.) the highlands of Armenia.

(i.) The plains of Northern Caucasia, which include most of the provinces of Kubañ and Terek and of the government of Stavropol, slope gently downwards from the foot of the Caucasus range towards the Kuma-Manych depression. It is only in their centre that they reach altitudes of as much as 2000–2500 ft. e.g. in the Stavropol “plateau,” which stretches northwards, separating the tributaries of the Kubañ from those of the Terek and the Kuma. Towards the foothills of the Caucasus they are clothed with thick forests, while in the west they merge into the steppes of south Russia or end in marshy ground, choked with reeds and rushes, in the delta of the Kubañ. In the north and east they give place, as the Manych and the coasts of the Caspian are approached, to arid, sandy, stony steppes. The soil of these plains is generally very fertile and they support a population of nearly 2,800,000 Russians, composed of Cossacks and peasant immigrants, settled chiefly along the rivers and grouped in large, wealthy villages. They carry on agriculture—wheat-growing on a large scale—with the aid of modern agricultural machines, and breed cattle and horses. Vines are extensively cultivated on the low levels, and a variety of domestic trades are prosecuted in the villages. The higher parts of the plains, which are deeply trenched by the upper tributaries of the rivers, are inhabited by various Caucasian races—Kabardians and Cherkesses (Circassians) in the west, Ossetes in the middle, and several tribal elements from Daghestan, described under the general name of Chechens, in the east; while nomadic Nogai Tatars and Turkomans occupy the steppes.

(ii.) The Caucasus range runs from north-west to south-east from the Strait of Kerch to the Caspian Sea for a length of 900 m., with a varying breadth of 30 to 140 m., and covers a surface of 12,000 sq. m. The orographical characteristics of the Caucasus are described in detail under that heading.

(iii.) The combined valleys of the Rion and the Kura, which intervene between the Caucasus and the Armenian highlands, and stretch their axes north-west and south-east respectively, embrace the most populous and most fertile parts of Caucasia. They correspond roughly with the governments of Kutais, Tiflis, Elisavetpol and Baku, and have a population of nearly 3,650,000. The two valleys are separated by the low ridge of the Suram or Meskes mountains.

Spurs from the Caucasus and from the Armenian highlands fill up the broad latitudinal depression between them. Above (i.e. west of) Tiflis these spurs so far intrude into the valley that it is reduced to a narrow strip in breadth. But below that city it suddenly widens out, and the width gradually increases through the stretch of 350 m. to the Caspian, until in the Mugan steppe along that sea it measures 100 m. in width. The snow-clad peaks of the main Caucasus, descending by short, steep slopes, fringe the valley on the north, while an abrupt escarpment, having the characteristics of a border ridge of the Armenian highlands, fronts it on the south. The floor of the valley slopes gently eastwards, from 1200 ft. at Tiflis to 500 ft. in the middle, and to 85 ft. below normal sea-level beside the Caspian. But the uniformity of the slope is interrupted by a plateau (2000–3000 ft. in altitude) along the southern foothills of the east central Caucasus, in the region known as Kakhetia, drained by the Alazan, a left-hand tributary of the Kura. The deep, short gorges and glens which seam the southern slopes of the Caucasus are inhabited by Ossetes, Tushes, Pshavs and Khevsurs in the west, and by various tribes of Lesghians in the east. In these high and stony valleys every available patch of ground is utilized for the cultivation of barley, even up to altitudes of 7000 and 8000 ft. above the level of the sea; but cattle-breeding is the principal resource of the mountaineers, whose little communities are often separated from one another by passes, few of which are lower than 10,000 ft. The steppes along the bottom of the principal valley are for the most part too dry to be cultivated without irrigation. It is only in Kakhetia, where numerous mountain streams supply the fields and gardens of the plateau of Alazan, that wheat, millet and maize are grown, and orchards, vineyards and mulberry plantations are possible. Lower down the valley cattle-breeding is the chief source of wealth, while in the small towns and villages of the former Georgian kingdom various petty trades, exhibiting a high development of artistic taste and technical skill, are widely diffused. The slopes of the Armenian highlands are clothed with fine forests, and the vine is grown at their base, while on the wide-stretching steppes the Turko-Tatars pasture cattle, horses and sheep. The lower part of the Kura valley assumes the character of a dry steppe, the rainfall not reaching 14 in. annually at Baku, and it is still less in the Mugan steppe, though quite abundant in the adjacent region of Lenkoran. The vegetation of the steppe is on the whole scanty. Trees are generally absent, except for thickets of poplars, dwarf oaks and tamarisks along the course of the Kura, the delta of which is smothered under a jungle of reeds and rushes. The Mugan steppe is, however, in spite of its dryness, a more fertile region in virtue of the irrigation practised; but the Kura has excavated its bed too deeply to admit of that being done along its course. The Lenkoran district, sometimes called Talysh, on the western side of the Kizil-Agach bay, is blessed with a rich vegetation, a fertile soil, and a moist climate.

The inhabitants of the Kura valley consist principally of Iranian Tates and Talyshes, of Armenians and Lesghians, with Russians, Jews and Arabs. This conjoint valley of the Rion-Kura was in remote antiquity the site of several Greek colonial settlements, later the seat of successive kingdoms of the Georgians, and for centuries it has formed a bulwark against hostile invasions from the south and east. It is still inhabited chiefly by Georgian tribes—Gurians, Imeretians, Mingrelians, Svanetians—in the basin of the Rion, and by Georgians intermingled with Armenians in the valley of the Kura, while the steppes that stretch away from the lower course of the latter river are ranged over by Turko-Tatars. Mingrelia and Imeretia (valley of Rion) are the gardens of Caucasia, but the high valleys of Svanetia, farther north on the south slopes of the Caucasus mountains, are wild and difficult of access. In the cultivated parts the land is so exceedingly fertile and productive that it sells for almost fabulous prices, and its value is still further enhanced by the discovery of manganese and copper mines in the basin of the Rion, and of the almost inexhaustible supplies of naphtha and petroleum at Baku in the Apsheron peninsula. The principal products of the soil are mentioned lower down, while the general character of the vegetation is indicated under Caucasus: Western Caucasus. In the basin of the Rion, in that of the Chorokh (which runs off the Pontic highlands into the Black Sea south of Batura), and on the Black Sea littoral from Batum northwards to Sukhum-kaleh, and beyond, the climate is extremely hot and the rainfall heavy (see under Climate below). It is in this valley that the principal towns (except Vladikavkaz at the north foot of the Caucasus) of Caucasia are situated, namely, Baku (179,133 inhabitants in 1900), Tiflis (160,645 in 1897), Kutais (32,492), and the two Black Sea ports of Batum (28,512) and Poti (7666).

(iv.) The highlands of Armenia are sometimes designated the Minor Caucasus, Little Caucasus and Anti-Caucasus. But to use such terms for what is not only an independent, but also an older, orographical formation than the Caucasus tends to perpetuate confusion in geographical nomenclature. The Armenian highlands, which run generally parallel to the Caucasus, though at much lower elevations (5000–6000 ft.), are a plateau region, sometimes quite flat, sometimes gently undulating, clothed with luxuriant meadows and mostly cultivable. From it rise double or triple ranges connected by cross-ridges and spined with outer spurs. These double and triple ranges, which have a general elevation of 8500–10,000 ft., stretch from the south-east angle of the Black Sea, 400 m. south-eastwards to the Kara-dagh and Salavat mountains in north Persia, and the latter link them on to the Elburz mountains that skirt the southern end of the Caspian Sea. Various names are given to the different parts of the constituent ranges, or, perhaps more correctly, elongated groups of mountains. The Ajar, Akhalt-sikh and Meskes or Trialety groups in the west are succeeded farther east by the Somkhet, Murguz, Ganji and Karabakh sections, forming the southern rim of the Kura basin, while parallel with them, but farther south, run the Mokry, Miskhan, Akmangan and Paltapin ranges, marking the northern edge of the Aras drainage area. These two sets of parallel ranges are linked together transversely by the cross-ridges of Bezobdal, Pambak, Shah-dagh and Gok-cha. From this last branches off the highest range in the entire series, namely, the Zangezur, which soars up to 10,000 ft. above the left bank of the Aras. From it again there shoot away at right angles, one on each side, the ranges of the Dar-alagöz and Bergushet. These highlands exhibit very considerable evidences of volcanic activity both in remote geological periods and also since the Tertiary epoch. Large areas are overlain with trachyte, basalt, obsidian, tuff and pumice. The most conspicuous features of the entire region, Mount Ararat (16,930 ft.) and Mount Alagöz (13,440 ft.), are both solid masses of trachyte; and both rise above the limits of perpetual snow. Extinct volcanoes are numerous in several of the ranges, e.g. Akmangan, Mokry, Karabakh and Egri-dagh (see below). It is in this region of the Armenian highlands that the largest lakes of Caucasia are situated, namely, the Gok-cha or Sevanga (540 sq. m. in area) at an altitude of 6340 ft., the Chaldir-gol (33 sq. m.) at 6520 ft., and several smaller ones, such as the gols of Khozapin, Khopchalu, Arpa, Toporavan and Tabiztskhur, all situated between 6500 and 7000 ft. above sea-level. The principal water-divide in this highland region is, however, the range of Egri-dagh (Ararat), which just south of 40° S. forms for 100 m. the boundary between Russian and Turkish Armenia, having Ararat at its eastern extremity and the extinct volcano of Kessa-dagh (11,260 ft.) at its western. Its importance lies in the fact that it divides the streams which flow into the Black Sea and Caspian from those which make their way into the Persian Gulf. The Egri-dagh possesses a sharply defined crest, ranges at a general elevation of 8000 ft., is bare of timber, scantily supplied with water, and rugged and deeply fissured.

The transverse water-parting between the Black Sea and the Caspian begins on the south side of the main range of the Caucasus, at Mount Zikara (12,560 ft.), a little south-west of Kasbek, and runs south-west along the sinuous crests of the Racha, Suram or Meskes (3000–5000 ft.), Vakhan (10,000–11,000 ft.), Arzyan (7000–10,000 ft.), and its continuation the Soganluk, thus linking the Caucasus ranges with those of the Armenian highlands. This line of heights separates the basins of the Chorokh and the Rion (Black Sea) from those of the Aras and the Kura (Caspian Sea). North of the Caucasus ranges the water-divide between these two seas descends from Mount Elbruz along the Sadyrlar Mountains (11,000 ft.), and finally sinks into the Stavropol “plateau” (1600 ft.). But the main axis of the transverse upheavals would appear to be continued in a north-eastern direction in the Andi and other parallel ranges of Daghestan, as stated under Caucasus.

The population in this region consists principally of Armenians, Tatars, Turks, Kurds, Ossetes, Greeks, with Persians, Tates and a few Russians (see particulars below).

Climate.—Owing in part to the great differences in altitude in different regions of Caucasia and in part to the directions in which the mountain ranges run, and consequently the quarters towards which their slopes face, the climate varies very greatly according to locality. Generally speaking, it may be characterized as a climate of extremes on the Armenian highlands, in the Kura valley and in northern Caucasia, and as maritime and genial in Lenkoran, on the Black Sea coastlands, and in the valley of the Rion. The greatest recorded range of temperature is at Erivan (altitude 3230 ft.), namely, of 64° between a January average of 14.9° and an August average of 78.8° F. At Sukhum-kaleh, on the Black Sea, the corresponding range is only 27.3°, between a January average of 48.8° and an August average of 76.1°. The highest mean temperatures for the whole year are those of Lenkoran (60.3°) and of Sukhum-kaleh and Poti (about 58°), and the lowest at Ardahan (5840 ft.), in the province of Kars, namely, 37.9°, and at Gudaur (7245 ft.), a few miles south of Kasbek, namely, 38.6°. The following table gives particulars of temperature averages at a few typical places:—

Place. Altitude.  Annual 
Mean.
 January 
Mean.
July
 Mean. 
 Stavropol   2030   47.0°   24.0°   70.0°
 Vladikavkaz    2345   47.3°   23.4°   68.0°
 Gudaur   7245   38.6°   20.3°   57.2°
 Baku   on Caspian   58.0°   38.0°   80.0°
 Tiflis   1490   55.0°   32.0°   76.5°
 Batum   on Black Sea    59.0°   42.0°   75.0°
 Sochi   on Black Sea   56.3°   40.3°   76.1°
 Lenkoran   on Caspian   60.3°   39.0°   80.6°
 Erivan   3170   51.0°   51.0°   75.0°


In respect of precipitation the entire region of Caucasia may be divided into two strikingly contrasted regions, a wet and a dry. To the former belong the Black Sea littoral, where the rainfall averages 59 to 93 in. annually, and the valleys that open upon it or are exposed to winds blowing off it, in which the rainfall varies, however, from 20 in. (Abbas-tuman, Borzhom) to 60 (Kutais). In Lenkoran also the rainfall averages 40 to 50 in. in the year. Between 16 and 40 in. fall as a rule at the northern foot of the Caucasus (Mozdok, Pyatigorsk) and in the Kura valley (Tiflis, Novo-bayazet). On the Armenian highlands and on the steppes north of Pyatigorsk the rainfall is less than 12 in. annually, and even in some places less than 8 in., e.g. at the foot of Ararat. Most rain falls at Batum and at Lenkoran in the autumn, in northern Caucasia and in Transcaucasia in spring and summer, but in the vicinity of the Sea of Azov in winter.

Flora and Fauna.—Plant-life, in such a mountainous country as Caucasia, being intimately dependent upon aspect and altitude, is treated under Caucasus. The wild animals of Caucasia are for the most part the same as those which frequent the mountainous parts of central Europe, though there is also an irruption of Asiatic forms, e.g. the tiger (in Lenkoran only), panther, hyaena and jackal. The more important of the carnivores which haunt the forests, valleys and mountain slopes are the bear (Ursus arctos), wolf, lynx, wild cat and fox (Vulpes melanotus). The wild boar occurs around Borzhom. The aurochs (Bos urus) appears to exist still in the forests of the western Caucasus. Of interest for sportsmen, as well as serving as prey for the carnivores, are red deer, goats (Capra pallasit and C. aegagrus), chamois, roebuck, moufflon (Ovis musimon), argali or Asiatic wild sheep (O. Amman), another species of sheep in O. gmelini, and fallow deer (Capreolus pigargns) in northern Caucasus only. Rodents are numerous, the mouse (Mus sylvaticus) is very destructive, and beavers are met with in places. The birds of prey are the same as these of central Europe, and include the sea eagle, alpine vulture (Gyps fulvus), buzzard, kites (Gypaëtus barbatus and Milvus ater), hawks (e.g. Astur nisus), goshawk (A. palumbarius), fish-hawk (Pandion haliaëtus) and owls. Among the smaller birds may be enumerated finches, the siskin, bullfinch, pipit, titmouse, wagtail, lark, fine-crested wren, hedge-sparrow, corn-wren, nut-hatch, starling, swallow, martin, swift, thrush, butcher bird, shrike, dipper, yellow-hammer, ortolan and a warbler (Accentor alpinus). The game birds consist of grouse, blackcock, moorhen, quail and partridge. The pheasant derives its name from the ancient name (Phasis) of the Rion.

In the seas and rivers about 190 species of fishes have been enumerated. Of these, 115 species are Mediterranean, 30 are common to the Caspian Sea, and the remaining species are peculiar to the Black Sea. The most useful economically are several species of sturgeon and of herring, trout, barbel, chubb, bream, ray, sea-dace, carp, anchovy. Insects abound, especially Coleoptera. Flies, lice, gadflies and mosquitoes are the worst of the insect plagues. There are several snakes, including the viper (Pelias berus).

Ethnology.—The population of Caucasia is increasing rapidly. In 1897 it numbered 9,291,090, of whom 4,886,230 were males and 4,404,867 were females. The most densely-peopled provinces were Kutais and Tiflis, each with 80 inhabitants to the square mile; the thinnest the Black Sea government (20½ per sq. m.), Terek (31), and Kars (39). Of the total population 3,725,543 lived in northern Caucasia and 5,564,547 in Transcaucasia (including Daghestan). In the latter territorial division there exists a great disproportion between the sexes, namely, to every 100 males only 86 females; indeed in the Black Sea government there are only 65.5 females to every 100 males. Ethnologically the population belongs to a great variety of races. The older authorities asserted that these numbered as many as 150, or even 300; the more recent researches of Baron P. V. Uslar, F. Anton, von Schiefner, Zagursky, and others have greatly reduced this number; but even then there are not less than fifty represented.

According to the languages spoken the populations of Caucasia admit of being classified as follows,[1] according to Senator N. Trointsky, president of the Russian Census Committee for 1897.

Aryans 4,901,412    
Slavs   3,183,870  
  Great Russians     1,829,793
  Little Russians     1,305,463
  White Russians     19,642
  Poles     25,117
Germans   47,391  
Greeks   100,299  
Rumanians   7,232  
French and Italians   1,435  
Lithuanians   6,687  
  Lithuanians proper     5,121
  Letts     1,511
Iranians   315,695  
  Persians     13,929
  Talyshes     34,994
  Tates     95,056
  Ossetes     171,716
Kurds   99,836  
Armenians   1,116,461  
Gypsies   3,041  
Semites 46,739    
Jews   40,498  
Chaldaeans (Aisors)   5,353  
Ural-altaians 1,902,142    
Finns   7,422  
  Esthonians     4,281
Turko-Tatars   1,879,908  
  Tatars     1,509,785
  Osmanli Turks     139,419
  Nogai Tatars     64,048
  Turkomans     24,522
  Bashkirs     953
  Chuvashes     411
  Kirghiz     98
  Sarts     158
  Karachais     27,222
  Kumyks     83,408
  Kara-papaks     29,902
  Kalmucks     14,409
Caucasians 2,439,071    
Georgians (including Imeretians, Gurians,
   Svanetians, Lazes, Mingrelians, &c.)
  1,352,455  
Circassians      
  Cherkesses (Adigheh) and Kabardians     144,847
  Abkhasians     72,103
Chechens   274,318  
 &ememsp;Chechens proper     226,496
  Ingushes[2]     47,409
  Kistines     413
Lesghians   600,514  
  Avaro-Andians     212,692
  Darghis     130,209
  Kurins     159,213
  Udins     7,100
  Others     91,300

Religion.—Most of the Russians and the Georgians belong to the Orthodox Greek Church (over 4,000,000 in all); but considerable numbers (estimated at nearly 122,000, though in reality probably a good many more) are Nonconformists of different denominations. The Georgian Lazes are, however, Mussulmans. The Armenians are Christians, mostly of the national Gregorian Church (979,566), though 34,000 are Roman Catholics. The Caucasian races (except the Gregorians), together with the Turks and Tatars, are Mussulmans of the Sunnite sect (2,021,300), and the Iranian races mostly Mussulmans of the Shiite sect (884,100). The Kalmucks and other Mongolic tribes are Lamaists (20,300), and some of the Kurds profess the peculiar tenets of the Yezids.

Industries.—The principal occupation of the settled inhabitants is agriculture and of the nomadic the breeding of live stock, including camels. The cultivation of the soil is, however, attended in many parts with great difficulties owing to the scanty rainfall and the very primitive implements still in use, and in the valley of the Kura heavy losses are frequently incurred from depredations by locusts. But where irrigation is employed the yield of crops is excellent. Rye and wheat are the most important crops harvested in northern Caucasia, but oats, barley and maize are also cultivated, whereas in Transcaucasia the principal crops are maize, rice, tobacco and cotton. The rice is grown chiefly in the valley of the Kura and in Lenkoran; the tobacco in the Rion valley and on the Black Sea coastlands, also to some extent in Kubañ; and the cotton in the eastern provinces. Various kinds of fodder crops are grown in Transcaucasia, such as hay, rye-grass and lucerne. It is estimated that nearly 54,000 acres are under vineyards in northern Caucasia and some 278,000 acres in Transcaucasia, the aggregate yield of wine being 30 million gallons annually. The best wine grows in Kakhetia, a district lying north-east and east of Tiflis; this district alone yields nearly 8 million gallons annually. Large numbers of mulberry trees are planted for rearing silkworms, especially in Kutais, Erivan, Elisavetpol (Nukha) and Baku (Shemakha); the groves occupy nearly 150,000 acres, and the winding of the silk gives employment to large numbers of the population. Melons and water-melons are also important objects of cultivation. Sunflowers are very extensively grown for oil in the government of Kubañ and elsewhere, and also some flax. Liquorice is an article of export. Many varieties of fruit are grown, especially good being the apricots, peaches, walnuts and hazel nuts. A limited area (not more than 1150 acres) of the Black Sea coast between Sukhum-kaleh and Batum is planted with the tea-shrub, which succeeds very well. In the same district bamboos, ramie-fibre and attar (otto) of roses are cultivated.

The mining industry is growing rapidly in importance in spite of costly and deficient means of communication, want of capital, and lack of general initiative. So far the principal developments of the industry have been in the governments of Kutais, Batum, Elisavetpol and Kubañ. Copper ore is extracted above the Murgul river (some 30 m. south of Batum), at Akhtala south of Tiflis, and at Kedabek in Elisavetpol; manganese to a considerably greater extent (over 400,000 tons annually) at Chiaturi in the Kvirila valley in Kutais. Steam coal of good quality is reported to exist about 30 m. inland from the open roadstead of Ochemchiri in Kutais, but it is not mined. About 50,000 tons of coal of very poor quality are, however, extracted annually, and the same quantity of salt in the Armenian highlands and in Kubañ. Small quantities of quicksilver, sulphur and iron are obtained. But all these are insignificant in comparison with the mineral oil industry of Baku, which in normal times yields annually between ten and eleven million tons of crude oil (naphtha). A good deal of this is transported by gravitation from Baku to Batum on the Black Sea by means of a pipe laid overland. The refined oil is exported as kerosene or petroleum, the heavier refuse (mazut) is used as fuel. Naphtha is also obtained, though in much smaller quantities, in Terek and Kubañ, in Tiflis and Daghestan. Numerous mineral springs (chalybeate and sulphurous) exist both north and south of the Caucasus ranges, e.g. at Pyatigorsk, Zhelesnovodsk, Essentuki, and Kislovodsk in Terek, and at Tiflis, Abbas-tuman and Borzhom in the government of Tiflis.

Manufacturing industry is confined to a few articles and commodities, such as cement, tea, tin cans (for oil), cotton goods, oil refineries, tobacco factories, flour-mills, silk-winding mills (especially at Shusha and Jebrail in the south of Elisavetpol), distilleries and breweries. On the other hand, the domestic industries are extensively carried on and exhibit a high degree of technical skill and artistic taste. Carpets (especially at Shusha), silk, cotton and woollen goods, felts and fur cloaks are made, and small arms in Daghestan and at Tiflis, Nukha and Sukhum-kaleh; silversmiths’ work at Tiflis, Akhaltsikh and Kutais; pottery at Elisavetpol and Shusha; leather shoe-making at Alexandropol, Nukha, Elisavetpol, Shusha and Tiflis; saddlery at Sukhum-kaleh and Ochemchiri on the Black Sea and at Temirkhan-shura in Daghestan; and copper work at Derbent and Alexandropol. But industries of every description were most seriously crippled by the spirit of turbulence and disorder which manifested itself throughout Transcaucasia in the years 1904–1906, accentuated as they were further by the outbreak of the long-rooted racial enmities between the Armenians and the Tatars, especially at Baku in 1905.

Commerce.—The exports through the Black Sea ports of Batum, Poti and Novo-rossiysk average in value a little over £10,000,000 annually, though showing a tendency to increase slightly. By far the most important commodity is petroleum, fully one-half of the total value. In addition large quantities are shipped at Baku direct for the Volga and the Transcaspian port of Krasnovodsk. The export that comes next in value is silk, and after it may be named wheat, barley, manganese ore, maize, wool, oilcake, carpets, rye, oats, liquorice and timber. The import trade reaches nothing like the same value, and what there is is confined almost entirely to Batum. The annual average vahie may be put at not quite £2,000,000, machinery and tin-plate being a long way the most important items. There is further a small transit trade through Transcaucasia from Persia to the value of less than half a million sterling annually, and chiefly in carpets, cocoons and silk, wool, rice and boxwood; and further a sea-borne trade between Persia and Caucasian ports (Baku and Petrovsk) to the value of over 1½ millions sterling in all. The very extensive internal trade with Russia can only be mentioned.

Railways.—The principal approach to Caucasia from Russia by rail is the line that runs from Rostov-on-Don to Vladikavkaz at the foot of the central Caucasus range. Thence, or rather from the junction of Beslan, 14 m. north of Vladikavkaz, the main line proceeds east of Petrovsk on the Caspian, and from Petrovsk skirts the shore southwards as far as Baku, the distance from Vladikavkaz to Baku being 414 m. This railway, together with the driving roads over the Caucasus mountains via the Mamison pass (the Ossetic military road) and the Darial pass (the Georgian military road), and the route across the Black Sea to Poti or Batum are the chief means of communication between southern Russia and Transcaucasia. Baku and Batum (also Poti) are connected by another main line, 560 m. long, which traverses the valleys of the Kura and the Rion, south of the Caucasus. From Tiflis, nearly midway on this last line, a railway proceeds south as far as Erivan (234 m.), with a branch to Kars (48 m.). The Erivan line is being continued into Persia, namely, to Tabriz via Julfa on the Aras.

History.—To the ancient Greeks Caucasia, and the mighty range which dominates it, were a region of mystery and romance. It was there that they placed the scene of the sufferings of Prometheus (vide Aeschylus, Prometheus Vinctus), and there, in the land of Colchis, which corresponds to the valley of the Rion, that they sent the Argonauts to fetch the golden fleece. Outside the domain of myth, the earliest connexion of the Greeks with that part of the world would appear to have been through the maritime colonies, such as Dioscurias, which the Milesians founded on the Black Sea coast in the 7th century b.c. For more than two thousand years the most powerful state in Caucasia was that of Georgia (q.v.), the authentic history of which begins with its submission to Alexander the Great in 323 b.c. The southern portion of Transcaucasia fell during the 1st century b.c. under the sway of Armenia, and with that country passed under the dominion of Rome, and so eventually of the Eastern empire. During the 3rd century a.d. Georgia and Armenia were invaded and in great part occupied by the Khazars, and then for more than a thousand years the mountain fastnesses of this borderland between Europe and Asia were the refuge, or the resting-place, of successive waves of migration, as people after people and tribe after tribe was compelled to give way to the pressure of stronger races harassing them in the rear. The Huns, for instance, and the Avars appeared in the 6th century, and the Mongols in the 13th. In the 10th century bands of Varangians or Russified Scandinavians sailed out of the Volga and coasted along the Caspian until they had doubled the Apsheron peninsula, when they landed and captured Barda, the chief town of Caucasian Albania.

But, apart from Georgia, historical interest in Caucasia centres in the long and persistent attempts which the Russians made to conquer it, and the heroic, though unavailing, resistance offered by the mountain races, more especially the Circassian and Lesghian tribes. Russian aggression began somewhat early in the 18th century, when Peter the Great, establishing his base at Astrakhan on the Volga, and using the Caspian for bringing up supplies and munitions of war, captured Derbent from the Persians in 1722, and Baku in the following year. But these conquests, with others made at the expense of Persia, were restored to the latter power after Peter’s death, a dozen years later. At that period the Georgians were divided into various petty principalities, the chief of which were Imeretia and Georgia (Kharthlia), owing at times a more or less shadowy allegiance to the sultan of the Ottoman Turks at Constantinople. In 1770, during the course of a war between Russia and Turkey, the Russians crossed over the Caucasus and assisted the Imeretians to resist the Turks, and from the time of the ensuing peace of Kuchuk-kainarji the Georgian principalities looked to their powerful northern neighbour as their protector against the southern aggressors the Turks. In 1783 George XIII., prince of Georgia and Mingrelia, formally put himself under the suzerainty of Russia, and after his death Georgia was converted (1801) into a Russian province. The same fate overtook Imeretia, nine years later. Meanwhile the Russians had also subdued the Ossetes (1802) and the Lesghian tribes (1803) of the middle Caucasus. By the peace of Gulistan in 1813 Persia ceded to Russia several districts in eastern Caucasia, from Lenkoran northwards to Derbent. Nevertheless the mountain tribes who inhabited the higher parts of the Caucasus were still independent, and their subjugation cost Russia a sustained effort of thirty years, during the course of which her military commanders were more than once brought almost to the point of despair by the tenacity, the devotion and the adroitness and daring which the mountaineers displayed in a harassing guerilla warfare. The animating spirit of their resistance was Shamyl (Samuel), a chief and priest of the Lesghians, who, a Mahommedan, proclaimed a “holy war” against the “infidel” aggressors. At first the Russians were able to continue their policy of conquest and annexation without serious check. After acquiring the northern edge of the Armenian plateau, partly from Persia in 1828 and partly from Turkey in 1829, Russia crushed a rising which had broken out in the Caspian coast districts of Daghestan on the north of the Caucasus. This took place during the years 1831–1832. The next seven years were occupied with the subjugation of the Abkhasians along the Black Sea coast, and of other Circassian tribes in the west. Meanwhile Shamyl had roused the Lesghian tribes farther east and begun his twenty years’ struggle for freedom, a struggle which called forth the sympathy and admiration of nearly the whole of Europe. More than once he escaped, in a manner that seemed little short of marvellous, out of the hands of the Russians when they held him closely invested in some mountain fastness, as at Himry in 1831, at Akhulgo in 1839, and again at the same stronghold in 1849. The general who at last broke the back of the long opposition of the prophet-chief of the Lesghians was Prince Baryatinsky, who after three years of strenuous warfare succeeded in capturing Shamyl’s stronghold of Weden, and then in surrounding that chieftain himself on the inaccessible rocky platform of Gunib in the heart of Daghestan. There the hitherto indomitable champion of Caucasian independence was forced to surrender to the Russians on the 6th of September 1859. Nevertheless the spirit of resistance in these stubborn mountaineers was not finally broken until 1864, when the Russians eventually stifled all opposition in the difficult valleys and glens of the western Caucasus. But this was followed, during the next fourteen years, by the wholesale emigration of thousands upon thousands of Circassians, who sought an asylum in Turkish territory, leaving their native region almost uninhabited and desolate, a condition from which it has not recovered even at the present day. During the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 the self-exiled Circassians and other Caucasian mountaineers, supported by a force of 14,000 Turks, made a determined attempt to wrest their native glens from the power of Russia; but, after suffering a severe defeat at the hands of General Alkhazov, the Turks withdrew, and were accompanied by some 30,000 Abkhasians, who settled in Asia Minor. A few months later the Lesghians in Daghestan, who had risen in revolt, were defeated and their country once more reduced to obedience. By the ensuing peace of Adrianople, Russia still further enlarged her Transcaucasian territories by the acquisition of the districts of Kars, Batum and Ardahan. After a peaceful period of a quarter of a century the Armenian subjects of Russia in Transcaucasia were filled with bitterness and discontent by the confiscation of the properties of their national (Gregorian) church by the Russian treasury. Nor were their feelings more than half allayed by the arrangement which made their ecclesiastics salaried officers of the Russian state. This ferment of unrest, which was provoked in the years 1903–1904, was exacerbated in the winters that followed by the renewed outbreak of the century-long racial feud between the Tatars and the Armenians at Baku and other places. In fact, nearly the whole of the region between the Caucasus and the Perso-Turkish frontier on the south, from the Caspian Sea on the one side to the Black Sea on the other, was embroiled in a civil war of the most sanguinary and ruthless character, the inveterate racial animosities of the combatants being in both cases inflamed by religious fanaticism. Complete anarchy prevailed at the worst centres of disorder, as Baku and Batum, the imperial authorities being more powerless to preserve even the semblance of order than they were in the interior of Russia. Many of the oil wells at Baku were burned, and massacres took place at that town, at Shusha, at Erivan, at Tiflis, at Batum, at Jebrail and at other places. An end was put to these disorders only by the mutual agreement of the two contestants, alike horrified and exhausted by the fierce outburst of passion, in September 1905.  (J. T. Be.) 

  1. Premier Recensement général de la population de l’empire de Russie, ed. N. Trointsky (St Petersburg, 1905, 2 vols.), in Russian and French.
  2. Although the Ingushes speak a Chechen dialect, they have recently been proved to be, anthropologically, quite a distinct race.