CAUCASUS, RUSSIA, THE NEW YORK TIMES, ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT
Caucasus, Russian Kavkaz, mountain framework and district lying between the Dark Ocean (west) and the Caspian Ocean (east) and possessed by Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.
The immense memorable hindrance of the Caucasus Mountains ascends over the wide isthmus isolating the Dark and Caspian oceans in the locale where Europe and Asia focalize. Slanting by and large from northwest to southeast, the mountains comprise of two territories—the More prominent Caucasus (Russian: Bolshoy Kavkaz) in the north and the Lesser Caucasus (Maly Kavkaz) in the south. Mount Elbrus in the More prominent Caucasus range, at 18,510 feet (5,642 meters), is the most noteworthy crest. The watershed of the More prominent Caucasus, the foundation of the framework, customarily has been a piece of the line separating Europe and Asia; yet the entire area is so subject to Asian impacts that there is currently broad concession to doling out the Caucasus to Asia.
The name Caucasus is a Latinized type of Kaukasos, which the antiquated Greek geographers and history specialists utilized; the Russian Kavkaz is of the same cause. A definitive determination is thought to be from Kaz-kaz, the Hittite name for an individuals living on the southern shore of the Dark Ocean. This old classification mirrors the authentic significance of the district: in Greek mythology the extent was the scene of the sufferings of Prometheus, and the Argonauts looked for the Brilliant Downy in the place that is known for Colchis (the cutting edge Kolkhida Marsh of Georgia), which settles against the reach on the Dark Ocean coast.
The extents likewise turned into a noteworthy area course toward the north for social dispersion of the Center Eastern Fruitful Bow civic establishments. The people groups of the district have displayed an exceptional ethnic and social differing qualities since right on time times: the Colchians, for instance, as portrayed in the fifth century bce by the Greek antiquarian Herodotus, were dark cleaned Egyptians, however their actual birthplace stays hazy. In consequent hundreds of years, progressive floods of people groups moving crosswise over Eurasia added to and were shaped by the more settled gatherings in the area. Of course, a more prominent assortment of dialects is talked in Caucasia than in some other range of comparable size on the plane.
Caucasia includes not only the mountain ranges of the Caucasus proper but also the country immediately north and south of them. The land north of the Greater Caucasus is called Ciscaucasia (Predkavkazye, or “Hither Caucasia”) and that south of it is Transcaucasia (Zakavkazye, or “Farther Caucasia”).
The whole region, which has an area of 170,000 square miles (440,000 square km), is nevertheless predominantly mountainous. It extends southward from the lowlands of the Kuma and Manych river basins in the north to the northern frontiers of Turkey and Iran in the south and so comprises the southernmost portion of Russia (including Dagestan and several other administrative units constituted on an ethnic basis) and the Transcaucasian republics of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
The Greater Caucasus range extends for approximately 750 miles (1,200 km) southeastward across the Caucasian isthmus from the Taman Peninsula, which separates the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov, to the Abşeron Peninsula, which juts into the Caspian Sea east of the oil-rich port of Baku, Azerbaijan. The vast plains and highlands of Ciscaucasia stretch from the northern foothills of the Greater Caucasus to the Kuma-Manych Depression, running from the Sea of Azov to the Caspian Sea.
Western Ciscaucasia consists largely of plains, such as the extensive lowland north of the Kuban River that slopes gradually upward to the foothills of the mountains farther south. Central Ciscaucasia includes the Stavropol Upland, characterized mainly by tablelands of limestone or sandstone separated by deep valleys; the Mineralnye Vody-Pyatigorsk zone to the southeast, where Mount Beshtau rises to 4,593 feet (1,400 metres) from the surrounding plateau; and, still farther to the southeast, the Terek and the Sunzha ranges, separated by the Alkhanchurt Valley. Eastern Ciscaucasia is a lowland traversed by the lower Terek River and, to the north beyond the sands of the vast Nogay Steppe, by the Kuma River. Both rivers flow into the Caspian Sea.
The northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus are not as steep as the southern. The middle of the system is comparatively narrow, but its western and eastern ends have widths of 100 miles (160 km) or more. The main axis of the system contains, in addition to Mount Elbrus, Mount Dombay-Ulgen (Dombey-Yolgen; 13,274 feet [4,046 metres]), in the western sector; Mounts Shkhara, Dykhtau, and Kazbek, all over 16,000 feet (4,800 metres), in the central sector; and Mounts Tebulosmta and Bazardyuzyu, both over 14,600 feet (4,550 metres), in the east. Spurs tonguing north and south from the main axis occasionally reach elevations approaching 10,000 feet (3,000 metres).
South of the Greater Caucasus, on the Black Sea coast, lies the alluvial Kolkhida Lowland, site of ancient Colchis. South of the range on the Caspian side, the Shirak Steppe, between the Greater and Lesser Caucasus ranges, falls sharply into the Kura-Aras (Kura-Araks) Lowland. At the centre of this extensive depression the Kura River receives its major right-bank tributary, the Aras (Azerbaijani: Araz) River.
To the northeast the hills of southeastern Kobystan separate the Kura-Aras Lowland from the Abşeron Peninsula; and to the extreme southeast the narrow Länkäran Lowland extends south between the Caspian Sea and the Talish (Talysh) Mountains, which reach elevations exceeding 8,000 feet (2,400 metres).
West of the Kura-Aras Lowland rises the Lesser Caucasus range, which is extended southward by the Dzhavakhet Range and the Armenian Highland, the latter extending southwestward into Turkey. East of Lake Sevan in the eastern Lesser Caucasus, the highest peaks rise above 12,000 feet (3,600 metres), while Mount Aragats (Alagöz), the highest peak in the range, rises west of the lake to 13,418 feet (4,090 metres).
From their western sources in the Armenian Highland, the Kura and Aras rivers both flow around the Lesser Caucasus—the Kura to the north of the range and the Aras to the south—to their confluence in the east.
The greater part of Caucasia originated in the vast structural downwarp in the Earth’s crust known as the Alpine geosyncline, dating from the late Oligocene Epoch (about 25 million years ago), and the region thus reflects some of the same structural characteristics as the younger mountains of Europe. Northern and central Ciscaucasia have a platformlike construction, with a foundation of folded structures dating from the Hercynian orogeny early in the Carboniferous Period (i.e., about 345 million years ago).
Southwestern and southeastern Ciscaucasia lie on the margins of a vast downfold in the Earth’s surface that arose later in the Alpine orogeny, producing, concurrently, broad subsidence on the lower courses of the Kuban and Terek rivers. The surface of most of Ciscaucasia is composed of Cenozoic rock (i.e., less than 65 million years old; on the Stavropol Upland, which was uplifted in the late Miocene Epoch (about 11 to 5.3 million years ago), there are strata of folded, platformlike structures.
Structurally the Greater Caucasus represents a great anticline (upfold) uplifted at the margin of the Alpine geosyncline about 25 million years ago and subsequently altered by fresh cycles of erosion and uplift. Hard, crystalline, metamorphosed rocks such as schists and gneisses, as well as granites that predate the Jurassic Period (i.e., are older than 200 million years), have been exposed at the core of the western sector, while softer, clayey schists and sandstones of Early and Middle Jurassic origin (about 200 to 160 million years ago) have emerged in the east. The spurs of the Greater Caucasus are composed of younger limestones, sandstones, and marls.
The Kolkhida and Kura-Aras lowlands are both structural depressions linked to the Alpine geosyncline; the former is related to the formation of the Black Sea, the latter to that of the Caspian. In the Kolkhida Lowland, the overall surface of deposits laid down less than 25 million years ago is broken, at the foot of the mountains, by the protrusion of slightly older sedimentary rocks. Younger rock also underlies the Kura-Aras Lowland.
The structures of the Lesser Caucasus, the Talish Mountains, the Dzhavakhet Range, and the Armenian Highland likewise originated from folds uplifted from the Alpine geosyncline. Whereas the western sector of the Lesser Caucasus and the Talish in the far southeast are formed chiefly of deposits laid down about 50 million years ago during the downwarp episode of the geosyncline, the central and eastern sectors of the Lesser Caucasus consist of sedimentary strata with areas of intrusive volcanic rock that is at least twice as old.
Geologically recent volcanism and contact metamorphism (the intrusion of molten material into preexisting strata) everywhere have played a great role in shaping the landscape. The folded base of the Dzhavakhet Range and of the Armenian Highland, for example, is masked by volcanic debris from eruptions that occurred in the Cenozoic Era, but to the east much older rocks emerge between the middle course of the Aras and the latitude of Lake Sevan.
The Kura (and Aras), Sulak, Terek, and Kuma rivers flow into the Caspian Sea; the Rioni and the Inguri flow into the Black Sea; and the Kuban into the Sea of Azov. In the spring, when snow and ice begin to melt, the rivers of the Greater Caucasus and some of those of the Lesser Caucasus begin a flood cycle that may last for six months. Other Transcaucasian rivers are characterized by shorter-term spring flooding, while the rivers of the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus generally have summer floods as well.
The rivers of Ciscaucasia, except those flowing from the Greater Caucasus themselves, characteristically freeze over in winter, flood in spring, and become extremely shallow and sometimes even dry up in summer. In the eastern and central Caucasus, brief storm flooding occurs frequently. The karst regions along some spurs of the Greater Caucasus contain rivers that intermittently plunge beneath the earth into caverns within the soluble limestone bedrock.
Lake Sevan in the eastern Lesser Caucasus is the largest lake of Caucasia; its overflow drains into the Hrazdan River, a tributary of the Aras. The higher elevations of the Greater Caucasus contain numerous small mountain lakes, while a number of saltwater lakes occur in the arid regions of northeastern Caucasia.
The Greater Caucasus has more than 2,000 glaciers, occupying about 1 percent of its total area. Some 70 percent of them occur on the cooler northern face, with a concentration on the higher central slopes. The largest—notably Dykhsu, Bezingi, and Karaugom glaciers, on the northern face, and Lekzyr and Tsanner glaciers, in western Georgia—are about 8 miles (13 km) long. The desolate flanks of Mount Elbrus are streaked by many glaciers.