The Caucasus

A high mountain range extending across the land between the Caspian and Black Seas, this region has collected a tremendously varied number of small enclaves of cultures who have found life on the steppes to the north or the semi-arid plateau regions to the south too inhospitable.

This has: Abasgia (Abkhazia), Albania, Arme-Supria (Nairi), Armenia, the Armenian Patriarchs, Armenian Catholic Patriarchs, Arminyah, Arran, Avaristan, Ayrarat, Azerbaijan, Baku, Balkaria, Besh Tau El, Chechnya, Circassia, Colchis, Dagestan, Derbend, Diaokhi, Dizak, Dzheraberd, East Svanet'i, Ganja, Georgia, the Georgian Patriarchs, Ghazi-Ghumuq, Girdyaman (Kuchen), Girdyaman (Siuna), Gulistan, Guria, Hereti, Ilisu, Imereti, Ingushetia, Kabarda, Karachai, Kartli, Kaytak, Khakheti, Khavkhazia, Kldekari, Kuba, Kutakashen, Lak Imamate, Lazica, Lenkoran, Lori, Matznaberd, Mingrelia, Mtskheta, Nakhchivan, Ossetia, Qarabagh, Sarir, Sheka, Shirak, Shirvan, the Sinds, Siuna, Svanet'i, Tarki, Tashir, Varanda, West Svanet'i, Xachen, and Yerevan.

Files for neighboring regions: Anatolia, (Western) Central Asia, the Crimea, Iran, Russia.


ABASGIA Also known as Abkhazia or Akhazia, it is a mountainous district along the east coast of the Black Sea, to the northeast of Georgia.

ARMENIAArmenia has nearly always been a client or province to some great empire or other, but it has always survived as well. A client-Kingdom of Rome during late Classical times, a Principality was established in the Dark Ages, which was raised to the status of a Kingdom in 885. Note carefully that there have been several Armenias, often with the same or very similar names. This list begins with Greater Armenia, which was based around the Ararat valley. Sophene was a state located between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. Lesser Armenia was between the Euphrates and the upper reaches of the Lycos, in Galatia and southern Pontus. An entirely different Lesser Armenia, often called Armenia Minor, was in southern Anatolia around the province of Cilicia.

ARMENIAN PATRIARCHATE As can be appreciated above, the Armenian people have seldom held a secure and independent realm of their own, but have often been at the mercy of the neighbours. In some ways resembling Diaspora Jewry in that Armenians have normally been found as isolated communities throughout the Middle East, their religion has been a powerful source of unity to them, and has been enormously influential in preserving the identity of the culture. Since the 15th century, the seat of the Patriarchate has been in the ancient city of Etchmiadzin, about 10 miles west of the current Armenian capital of Yerevan, and about 7 miles north of the Armenian/Turkish frontier. The Armenian Church is a Monophysite communion, and therefore is most closely related to Syrian, Coptic and Ethiopian branches of Christianity. See also, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. For a neighbouring Church hierarchy, Eastern Orthodox in it's theology, see below, the Georgian Patriarchate. Also note, just following, the Armenian Roman Catholic communion.

ARMINYAH A province of the Caliphs, based at Dvin and covering much of modern Armenia and northeastern Turkey, along with portions of modern Azerbaijan. These rulers were essential district governors, and should be viewed alongside local nobility of the era, in Armenia (primarily Bagratunids and Mamikonians), and Azerbaijan (the Mihranids).

ARMENIAN PATRIARCHATE (Roman Catholic) In the late 1600s and early 1700s, Rome began to send missions to various Eastern churches in an attempt to bring them into communion with the Catholic church. One such mission led to the schism between the Assyrian and Chaldean churches. Another, less successful one was sent to Armenia and culminated with the appointment of an Armenian Catholic patriarch.

ARRAN  Western Azerbaijan, south of Chechnya.

AVARISTAN The Caucasian Avars are an ethnic group living in southern Dagestan. Any connection between them and the Avars who invaded central Europe and the Balkans in the early Dark Ages is problematic: these Avars speak a Caucasic tongue akin to Circassian and Lak rather than the Turko-Mongolic language the Balkan Avars are thought to have used. Still, the name is suggestive - sundered folk do sometimes adopt divergent speech, and the issue is not satisfactorily resolved. They were Georgian Orthodox Christians during the early Middle Ages, but Sunni Islam is the dominant faith today. The Avars number approximately 600,000 and are now scattered throughout Georgia, Southern Russia, and Azerbaijan.

AZERBAIJAN  The eastern end of the Caucasus Mountains, aside the southwest coast of the Caspian Sea. See also Baku, the modern capital, and Atropatene for the southern reaches of this area.

BAKU A Khanate created after the death of of Persian Emperor Nadir Shah Afshar in 1747 and abolished at the beginning of the 19th century by the Russians. Today's capital city of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

BALKARIA The Balkars are a Turkic-speaking people of the North Caucasus with heavy Persian lingusitic influence. They are of diverse origin, including Hunnic, Cuman, Khazar, Alan and Caucasic elements. They were pastoral nomads until the 1700s, when Islam was introduced and they settled in the highlands of northwest Circassia. In 1921 the Balkar District was established under Soviet power. In 1922, it became part of the Kabardino-Balkar Autonomous province, that in 1936 was made an autonomous republic. In 1943/44, many Balkars were deported and scattered throughout Kazakhstan and Central Asia, accused of having cooperated with the Germans. They returned in 1957. Their limited influence in Kabardino-Balkaria has led to a rise in Pan-Turkic ideology among the Balkars. In 1991, they joined the Assembly of Turkic peoples, a regional economic consortium which consists of Azerbaijanis, Kumyks, Nogay and Balkars.

CHECHNYA An upland district in north central Caucasus, lying just to the west of Dagestan. The region has always been situated on the very edge of great empires either to the north, the south, or both; consequently, it has seen incessant raids and occupations from many sources for most of it's history.

CIRCASSIA A region located in the foothills north of the Caucasus. The inhabitants, a sturdy, handsome folk with many often rapacious neighbors, have developed a warrior culture as a response to repeated invasions and slaving raids

COLCHIS Technically the name of the people living here; their state was called Colchida - but "Colchis" is the term best recognized from Hellenic usage. It was an ancient Kingdom at the southeastern end of the Black Sea, the supposed home of the sorceress Medea, and the location of the Golden Fleece. There is gold in the mountains adjacent to the coast, and a common method of extraction in ancient times was to stream gold-bearing water over a wool hide. For a possibly related people in this general region in ancient times, see also the Moschii.

DAGESTAN Northern and eastern Caucasus, approaching the central western Caspian coast. The Murid Imams of the 19th century were the source of considerable resistence to Russian advances in the region, and succeeded in gaining independence from Russian occupation for a time after 1834.

DIAOKHI (Diauehi) An ancient kingdom, possibly inhabited by a proto-Georgian people, located south of Colchis along the modern Georgia / Turkey frontier in what is now southeastern Georgia and eastern Anatolia.

DIZAK An Armenian Principality in what is now western Azerbaijan, one of the "Country of Five" lordships in Artsakh (northern Nagorno-Karabagh).

DZHERABERD An Armenian Principality in what is now western Azerbaijan, one of the "Country of Five" lordships in Artsakh (northern Nagorno-Karabagh).

GARDMAN An Armenian principality on the eastern banks of Lake Sevan, in what is now the frontier between eastern Armenia and western Azerbaijan.

GEORGIA A fabled land, in ancient times known as the home of the golden fleece.

GEORGIAN PATRIARCHATE In similar fashion to the Armenian Patriarchs listed above, these are the spiritual leaders of the Georgian people. The Armenian Church is a Monophysite communion, however, and has more in common thereby with Jacobite and Coptic Hierarchies. The Georgian Church is a part of the Eastern Orthodox communion, although it is fully independent as such and not within the authority of any of the other Patriarchates.

GHAZI-GHUMUQ The kingdom of the Laks, a North Caucasian people related to the Caucasian Avars, Lezgins, and (distantly) the Circassians and Abkhaz. The Laks controlled significant portions of what is now Daghestan. A very warlike people, they managed to repel attacks from such invaders as Batu Khan, Timur Lenk, and Nadir Shah.

GULISTAN An Armenian Principality in what is now western Azerbaijan, one of the "Country of Five" lordships in Artsakh (northern Nagorno-Karabagh).

GURIA A Georgian district in the north, near Mingrelia.

HERETI A medieval kingdom in the extreme eastern end of Georgia, part of which is now within Azerbaijan.

ILISU A tiny Muslim sultanate on the border between Azerbaijan and Georgia.

IMERETI A Georgian district, intermittently independent.

INGUSHETIA (Galgaachia) Ingushetia, or "Galgaachia" in the native tongue, is the smallest constituent republic of the Russian Federation, located in the northern Caucasus. The Ingush people are closely related to the Chechens and speak a similar language.

KABARDA A Circassian principality in the Northwest Caucasus. The Kabardins were closely tied historically with the Balkars, a Turkic ethnic group of the same region. Today Kabarda comprises the dominant part of Kabardino-Balkaria, an autonomous republic within Russia.

KARACHAI The Karachai, a Turkic people closely related to the Balkars were driven into the highlands of the North Caucasus by Mongols in the 13th century. Their territory was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1828 but they continued to resist Russian rule throughout the 19th century. In the 1920s Soviet authorities grouped the Karachai together with a Circassian tribe, the Cherkess, to form a single autonomous republic in an attempt to squelch the nationalism of each. Like many Turkic peoples of the Caucasus, the Karachai were largely imprisoned in Kazakhstan from 1943 until 1957, allegedly for collaberation with the Germans. Today the Karachai are heavily Russified and exhibit much lower nationalist tendencies than other Caucasian peoples.

KAYTAK A Caucasian people who converted to Islam in the 8th century. They were vassals of the Laks in Dagestan from around the 10th century but eventually became an important princedom in South Dagestan, with a population composed of Lak, Dargwan and Kumyk elements. In 1806, the Kaytak became a Russian protectorate. In 1819, the area between the mountains and the Caspian Sea was annexed by Russian General Emolov and in 1862, the mountain area followed.

KHAKHETI A Georgian district, intermittently independent.

KHAVKHAZIA A Hunnish Khanate centered on the cities of Vara'achan and Chungarsh in Dagestan, northwest of Azerbaijan.

KLDEKARI (Gedaklari)
A duchy (saeristavo) in mediaeval Georgia. The modern town is in south-central Georgia, about 40 miles (65 km.) east-southeast of Tblisi, the national capital. Ruled by the powerful Baghvashi or Liparitid dynasty, the duchy existed from 876 to 1103 in the southern Kvemo Kartli province, and, despite its small size, served as a locus of opposition to the Bagrationi kings who sought to bring all Georgian lands under royal control.

KUBA A district in northern Azerbaijan; briefly in control of much of that region in the era between the disappearance of the Persian Safavids and the extension of Czarist Russian control of ther Caucasus.

LENKORAN A city on the Caspian coast in a far southeastern panhandle of Azerbaijan, 22 miles (35 km.) from the Iranian frontier to the south, overlooked by the Talish Mountains to the west.

LORI (Tashir-Dzoraget) A district of northern Armenia, occasionally autonomous.

MINGRELIA In the northwestern Caucasus, north of Georgia and west of Chechnya and Dagestan.

NAKHCHIVANAn Azeri enclave located between Armenia, Turkey and Iran, centered on the city of Nakhchivan and including the regions of Nakhchivan, Sharur, Ordubad, Mehri-Gafan. During the late 1700's and early 1800's Nakhchivan was an independent Khanate; today it is a hotly-contested region between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

OSSETIA A region in the north Caucasus Mountains, lying across the Georgia / Russia frontier north of Tblisi and including at the higher altitudes the source of the Terek River.

SHEKA A district in what is now northwestern Azerbaijan, intermittently autonomous or independent.

SIUNA (Sisacan) A province in eastern Armenia and western Azerbaijan, adjacent to Lake Sevan and normally a vassal of Armenia, Persia or some other foreign power.

SVANET'I The northwest coastal region of Georgia, just south of Abkhazia. The Svans are a Georgian sub-group.

TARKI A small town located a few miles south of Makhachkala, on the northwestern Caspian Sea coast; about 95 miles (152 km.) east of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Tarki was long associated with the Scythians and Khazars, and also with the Kumyks of Dagestan. The Kumyks are probably descended from a mixture of indigenous Caucasic people and Turkic nomads who infiltrated the Daghestan region. They claim descent from the Khazars, but this claim is not widely accepted; the Kumyk language is a dialect of Kipchak (Cuman). First mentioned during Timur the Lame's campaign in 1395, they ruled a relatively large kingdom from the late 1400's until the late 1700's, holding many neighboring peoples as tributaries and dominating the northeast Caucasus. Their ruler was called the Shamkhal and ruled from Tarki. The Shamkhal was vassal of the Persian Shah, and in the same time entertained good relations with Russia and signed a treaty with the Turkish Empire.

VARANDA An Armenian Principality in what is now western Azerbaijan, one of the "Country of Five" lordships in Artsakh (northern Nagorno-Karabagh).

XACHEN An Armenian Principality in what is now western Azerbaijan, one of the "Country of Five" lordships in Artsakh (northern Nagorno-Karabagh).

YEREVAN Today the capital of the Republic of Armenia; but under Persian rule a small Azeri khanate grew up around the town in the early 1700s. It was not under Russian rule (and attached to Armenia generally) until 1828.