Geographical area between the Black, Azov, and Caspian Seas, covering some 440,000 sq km/169,884 sq mi. Northern Caucasia lies within the Russian Federation, while Transcaucasia encompasses the territory of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. The northern Caucasus region is home to some 40 different ethnic groups.
Caucasia consists of several physical regions: in the north are the Kuban-Azov and Caspian lowlands, the Kuma-Manych Depression, and the Stavropol upland; in the centre are the Caucasus Mountains; and in the south lie the Colchis lowland and Rioni valley, the Kura valley and lowland, the Lesser Caucasus, and the Armenian highlands. The main mineral resources are oil (found at Baku, Grozny, Maikop), natural gas (in the Krasnodar and Stavropol krais (territories) of the Russian Federation, and at Karadag near Baku), manganese (Chiatura), copper (Armenia), lead and zinc (Alania), coal (Georgia), and iron ore (Azerbaijan); the industries of the area are largely concerned with the extraction and processing of these minerals. In the early 20th century, Caucasia led the world in oil production. The western area of northern Caucasia is one of the principal regions in the Russian Federation for growing sunflowers and wheat; tobacco and sugar beet are also important cash crops, while the drier east has grain and sheep farming. In Transcaucasia, tea, citrus fruits, and vines are cultivated in the west-facing valleys; cotton is grown and sheep raised in the east.
From the earliest times, Caucasia has had a turbulent history; continual incursions of various peoples have produced a complex ethnic mix. Parts of the region were conquered in antiquity by Scythians, Persians, Macedonians under Alexander the Great, Romans, and Parthians, and later by the Arabs, Byzantium, Khazars, Cumans, Mongols, and Turks. In the 18th century it was fought over by Turkey, Persia, and Russia. From the end of the 18th century until the 1870s, Russian influence steadily extended over the whole of the territory. Caucasia was the scene of fierce fighting during the Russian Civil War (1918–20) and World War II; in the latter conflict, many indigenous peoples were deported from the region to Central Asia for alleged collaboration with the Germans, and only rehabilitated in 1957.
The post-Soviet era has witnessed the revival of traditional regional enmities, for example the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh (1989–94), the attempted secession of South Ossetia (1990) and Abkhazia (1992–93) from Georgia, and the conflict between Chechnya and the Russian Federation (1994–96).
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