Caucasus

Caucasus
Caucasus topographic map-en.svg
Topography of the Caucasus
Countries[1][2]
Partially recognized countries
Autonomous republics and federal regions Russia

 Georgia

 Azerbaijan

DemonymCaucasian
Time ZonesUTC+02:00, UTC+03:00, UTC+03:30, UTC+4:00, UTC+04:30
Highest MountainMt Elbrus
Height of the highest peak5,642 m

The Caucasus s/ or Caucasia ə/ is an area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and mainly occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus mountain range, which has historically been considered a natural barrier between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.[3]

Europe's highest mountain, Mount Elbrus, at 5,642 metres (18,510 ft) is located in the west part of the Greater Caucasus mountain range. On the southern side, the Lesser Caucasus includes the Javakheti Plateau and grows into the Armenian highlands, part of which is located in Turkey.[4]

The Caucasus region is separated into northern and southern parts – the North Caucasus (Ciscaucasus) and Transcaucasus (South Caucasus), 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, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, but also extending to parts of northwestern Turkey, northern Iran and the partially recognised Artsakh Republic.

The region is known for its linguistic diversity: aside from Indo-European and Turkic languages, the Kartvelian, Northwest Caucasian, and Northeast Caucasian families are indigenous to the area.

Toponymy

The term Caucasus is not only used for the mountains themselves but also includes Ciscaucasia (which is part of the Russian Federation) and Transcaucasia.[5] According to Alexander Mikaberidze, Transcaucasia is a "Russo-centric" term.[6]

Pliny the Elder's Natural History (77–79 AD) derives the name of the Caucasus from Scythian kroy-khasis ("ice-shining, white with snow").[7] German linguist Paul Kretschmer notes that the Latvian word Kruvesis also means "ice".[8][9]

In the Tale of Past Years (1113 AD), it is stated that Old East Slavic Кавкасийскыѣ горы (Kavkasijskyě gory) came from Ancient Greek Καύκασος (Kaukasos; later Greek pronunciation Kafkasos)),[10] 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.)[11]

According to German philologists Otto Schrader and Alfons A. Nehring, the Ancient Greek word Καύκασος (Kaukasos) is connected to Gothic Hauhs ("high") as well as Lithuanian Kaũkas ("hillock") and Kaukarà ("hill, top").[10][12] British linguist Adrian Room points out that Kau- also means "mountain" in Pelasgian.[13]

The Transcaucasus 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. In Middle Persian sources of the Sasanian era, the Caucasus range was referred to as Kaf Kof.[14] 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.[14] "Most of the modern names of the Caucasus originate from the Greek Kaukasos (Lat., Caucasus) and the Middle Persian Kaf Kof".[14]

"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".[14]

It was also noted that in Nakh Ков гас (Kov gas) means "gateway to steppe"[15]

Endonyms and exonyms

The modern name for the region is usually similar in the many languages, and is generally between Kavkaz and Kawkaz.