1902 Encyclopedia > Caucasus

Caucasus




CAUCASUS, a great chain of mountains, extending from the Black Sea to the Caspian. It has a general direction from W.N.W. to E.S.E., which it preserves with great uniformity for so extensive a chain, having a range of nearly 700 English miles in length, from its commencement near Anapa on the Black Sea, till it sinks into a range of low hills, as it approaches Baku on the Caspian. Its width on the other hand is comparatively small, not exceeding in general about 70 or 80 miles, and even where widest not attaining more than 120 miles.

Few great mountain chains have their boundaries so clearly marked by nature. On the N. it is bounded by the vast plains and steppes of Russia, which extend completely across from the Sea of Azoff to the Caspian, and are earned up to the very foot of the mountain slopes; on the S. it is bounded at first by the Black Sea,for a distance of nearly 240 miles, and afterwards by the broad and level valley of the Bion as far as Kutais, about 70 miles inland. Farther east-ward the valley of the Kur may be considered as forming its southern limit from the neighbourhood of Tiflis to the Caspian, a distance of more than 250 miles. But between the towns of Kutais and Tiflis the country is more broken, the underfalls and minor ramifications of the Caucasus extending to the south so as te meet those of the mountain chain which forms the southern boundary of the valley of the Rion. The two ranges are, indeed, united at this point by a transverse range of very moderate elevation, which forms the watershed between the streams that flow into the Black Sea, and the Km- and its tributaries, which flow eastward towards the Caspian. This dividing range (commonly known as the mountains of Suram from the town of that name) may therefore be regarded as con stituting a connecting link between the Caucasus and the southern range, which extends from the Black Sea in the neighbourhood of Poti to that of Tiflis, and itself attains to a very considerable elevation, several of its summits having an altitude of from 9000 to 10,000 feet. But these ranges belong to the great mountain group of Armenia, and are inseparably connected with the mountains of Lazistan, and with those which extend inland to join the northern branches of the Taurus; and they cannot with any propriety be regarded as forming part of the system of the Caucasus. The transverse range above described, though forming the watershed between the two basins of the Bion and the Kur, is in itself but an inconsiderable ridge of hills, and the point where it is traversed by the high road between Kutais and Tiflis has an elevation of only about 3000 feet above the sea. Hence the Caucasus may properly be considered as forming an isolated chain, unconnected with any other of the great mountain systems of Asia; while those to the south of it belong in reality to the widespread ramifications of the range known to the ancients as Mount Taurus, which extends from Asia Minor through Armenia into Persia.

It is unfortunate that some modern geographers, especially Germans, have introduced into their systematic treatises the practice—first adopted by the Russian residents in the provinces south of the Caucasus—of designating these southern ranges by the appellation of the Little Caucasus, a term tending to produce confusion, and to encourage the notion of their being connected with the great northern range in a manner which is certainly not the case in any true orographical sense. In the present article the name of the Caucasus will be employed only as applied to the great mountain range which, as has been already stated, forms a continuous barrier from the shores of the Black Sea to those of the Caspian, and to which alone the appellation has been applied from the time of the Greeks to our own day.
The origin of the name is unknown. It was employed by the Greeks in very early times, and has continued in use among geographers ever since. But no general name for the whole chain is known to the tribes that inhabit it, or to those that immediately adjoin it. Nor does it appear that any of the local or native designations of portions of the mountains known by this name are such as may reasonably be supposed to have given rise to the term.

At the present day the line of the Caucasus is generally regarded as constituting the boundary between Europe and Asia ; and though it is only in quite modern times that this line of demarcation has been established among geographers, it is so much the most convenient natural limit that it can hardly fail to continue to be received as such. The scientific conclusion has, moreover, been con-firmed of late years by the official sanction of the Russian Government, which has adopted the watershed or central ridge of the Caucasus as the line of separation between its European and Asiatic provinces.

In its general character and conformation the range of the Caucasus may be considered as presenting more analogy with the Pyrenees than with the Alps. Its general uniformity of direction, its comparatively small width, and its well-defined limits towards both the south and the north, are strong features of resemblance to the former, rather than to the latter, of these well-known ranges. To these it may be added that, like the Pyrenees, the ridge of the Caucasus generally preserves for long distances together a high average elevation, and is not broken by those deep depressions, constituting natural passes across the chain, which are of such frequent occurrence in the Alps. Another point of resemblance between the Pyrenees and the Caucasus is to be found in the fact that in both cases two of the highest summits are in some measure detached from the main range; and just as the Mont Perdu and the Maladetta both lie south of the central ridge of the Pyrenees, and are consequently distinctly included in Spain, so Mount Elbruz aud Kazbek—the two best known summits of the Caucasus—are situated decidedly north of that chain, and must therefore be geographically assigned to Europe, if the line of demarcation be drawn along the watershed of the range. Both these mountains are, in fact, of recent volcanic origin, and, geologically speaking, unconnected with the granitic masses which constitute the central axis of the chain.

It had long been known that the highest summits of the Caucasus exceeded the most lofty of the Alps in positive elevation; but until very recently no accurate measure-ments of them existed, and little or nothing was known of any of the individual peaks except the two already mentioned. Of these Mount Elbruz owes its celebrity not merely to the fact that it is in reality much the most lofty summit of the whole range, attaining an elevation of not less than 18,526 feet, but to the circumstance that from its partly isolated position, it is conspicuously seen, both from the Black Sea and, on the other side, from the plains and steppes of Russia, where it is said to be distinctly visible from a distance of more than 200 miles. Kazbek, on the contrary, attracted attention from an early period, on account of its proximity to the Pass of Dariel, in all ages the only frequented pass across the range of the Caucasus. Hence it was long supposed to be the second in height of the whole range, which is now found not to be the case, though it attains an elevation of 16,546 feet, or nearly 800 feet higher than Mont Blanc. But between these two giant peaks rise those of Koschtan Tau and Dych Tau (both of the names until very recently quite unknown), of which the former rises to nearly 17,100 feet, while the latter attains to 16,925 feet; these are therefore entitled to rank as the second and third summits of the Caucasus, while Kazbek can claim only the fourth place. It is, indeed, doubtful whether some of the other peaks on the great snowy range do not also exceed it in height.

For the purpose of description it may be convenient to divide the great range into three portions.

1. The first of these, comprising the western portion of Western, the mountain, chain, begins in the neighbourhood of Anapa on the Black Sea, where it rises at first merely as a chain of hills of moderate height, but gradually assumes more and more of a mountain character, until the highest summits attain to an elevation of 9000 to 10,000 feet. It is not, however, tili they approach the neighbourhood of Elbruz that they pass the limit of perpetual snow; but the central chain, from the 41st degree of longitude eastwards, is almost constantly covered with snow, and throughout the greater part of the year exhibits a lofty range of snow-clad peaks, that can find no parallel in Europe, except in the Alps. Throughout this western portion of the Caucasus, the central chain forms a very distinct line of watershed, at no great distance from the Black Sea, but gradually receding from it, and thus leaving a wider interval between its shores and the main ridge. Even at Sukhum Kaleh, however, in longitude 41°, the central chain of the mountains is not more than 30 miles inland in a direct line as measured on the map. The whole of the intermediate space is filled up by the underfalls and subordinate ranges of mountains thrown out from the great chain, extending for the most part quite down to the sea, so as to constitute a coast line of a singularly rugged and inaccessible character. For a distance of nearly 200 miles from Novo Bossisk to Sukhum Kaleh there is nothing like a harbour, while the dense forests with which the mountains are still covered contribute to render the interior impassable.

From the proximity of the central ridge to the sea, in this western portion of the Caucasus, it naturally follows that no rivers of any importance are to be found on the southern slope of the mountains, though it is furrowed by numerous mountain torrents, which add to the impracticable character of this part of the country. On the northern side, on the contrary, the mountains slope more gradually towards the plains of Bussia, and here several considerable streams are found, all of which pour their waters into the Kuban, which itself takes its rise in the glaciers of Elbruz. Among the most considerable of these streams may be mentioned the Urup, the Laba, and the Bjelaia. Central. 2. The great central mass of the Caucasus, extending from the neighbourhood of Elbruz to that of Kazbek, or from the source of the Kuban to the pass of Dariel, a distance of about 130 miles in a direct line, is at once the most important and interesting part of the whole chain, and is that which has of late years been the most fully explored. It is here that are found all the most lofty summits of the whole range. Besides the four above mentioned, there are at least five other peaks in this part of the chain that attain to not less than 15,000 feet, viz., Gumaran Khokh and Adai Khokh, which, according to the Bussian survey, measure respectively 15,672 and 15,244 feet in height, while three others, not found in the survey, are estimated by the practised English mountaineers as follows:— Tungzorun, 15,000 feet; Tau Totonal or Tetnuld, 15,500 ; and Uschba (one of the most remarkable mountains in the whole of the Caucasus), not less than 16,500 feet. But it is not merely that isolated summits attain to these great altitudes, but the whole line of the watershed or central ridge, from a point south of Elbruz to the group of Adai Khokh, on the west of the Ardon valley, is an uninterrupted line, which nowhere sinks below 10,000 feet, and is traversed only by glacier passes, some of them extremely rugged and difficult, others comparatively easy, but still presenting an extent of snow and ice equal to that of the well-known pass of St Theodule in the Alps. There is here, therefore, an unbroken mass of glacier and perpetual snow of nearly 100 miles in length, or as far as from Mont Blanc to the St Gotthard. It nowhere, however, attains to any great width, nor do any of the glaciers that descend its flanks equal in extent the largest of those in the Alps. Eastward of the Adai Khokh group the ridge is intersected by the upper valley of the Ardon, but the range of snowy peaks is continued after this interruption by the lofty summits of Tau Tepli and Gumaran Khokh on to Kazbek, where the whole chain is deeply cut through by the gorge of Dariel, and the corresponding depression of the pass between Kobi and Mleti. But while the series of peaks just referred to may be considered as the continuation of the true axis of the chain, the watershed, which has for so long a space run nearly from W.N.W. to E.S.E., bends suddenly due south, and sinks to the comparatively low gap of the Mamisson Pass, which is about 9400 feet in height, and entirely free from glacier. After a few miles it resumes its former direction, but without recovering its elevation or grandeur, the peaks of this part of the chain rising only to 11,000 and 12,000 feet, while the passes which traverse it range from about 9000 feet to less than 8000 feet, the elevation of the Krestowaja Gora, where the watershed is traversed by the high road from Vladikafkaz to Tiflis. In this part of the chain, therefore, we have a watershed of com-paratively small altitude, with a parallel range to the north of it of much more lofty mountains. The central mass, on I the contrary, from Elbruz to Adai Khokh, presents a lofty medial range of granitic structure, on both sides of which, but especially on the south, rise secondary chains of lime-stone mountains, preserving in a general way parallel courses with that of the main chain. Hence the upper valleys are troughs, bounded on both sides by lofty mountains, through which the upper waters of the streams that take their rise in the glaciers of the central chain are compelled to flow, until they make their escape by deep gorges cut through the lateral ranges. The most important of these parallel trough-like valleys is the upper valley of the Ingur, forming the district known as Suanetia, which is between 40 and 50 miles in length, and will thus bear comparison with the two great valleys of similar structure in the Alps, the Valais and the Valteline.

It may naturally be expected that so great a mass of glaciers and perpetual snow should send forth a number of considerable streams, and in fact all the principal rivers of the Caucasus have their sources in the district now under consideration. Commencing with those on the south side of the chain, which flow towards the Black Sea, we find —(1.) the Kodor, a considerable stream, which enters the sea about 12 miles south of Sukhum Kaleh ; (2.) the Ingur, a much more important river, which rises in the great glaciers of the Central Caucasus, near a place called Jibiani, and, after flowing for nearly 50 miles in a course parallel to the great chain (as already described) and receiving in its course the outflows of numerous other glaciers, turns abruptly to the south-west, and after pursuing that direction for above 60 miles, discharges its waters into the Black Sea at the little town of Anaklia; (3.) the Zenesquali, which rises in the mountains almost immediately east of the sources of the Ingur, and in like manner flows at first nearly due west, then turns towards the south-west and south, and joins the Bion about 30 miles above its mouth at Poti; and (4.) the Bion itself, the most important of all the Caucasian rivers that flow into the Black Sea. The Rion has a very circuitous course, having its source at the foot of the mountain called Pasi Mta, very near the sources of the Zenesquali, and flowing at first in a south-easterly direction, past the little town of Gebi, about 8 miles below which it receives an affluent from the Mamisson Pass towards the north-east; it then turns about south-wTest til! it has passed the village of Oni, after which it flows for a considerable distance (above 30 miles) nearly due west, through one of the parallel valleys above described, and then again turns due south until it has passed under the walls of Kutais, the capital of Imeritia. A few miles below that town it emerges from the hills into the broad and level valley that separates the underfalls of the Caucasus from the ranges to the south. It here receives a tributary called the Quirilha, which brings down the waters from the Suram range (the transverse ridge that unites the Caucasus with the mountains of Armenia), and then again turning to the west, pursues a winding course, but retaining the same general direction, till it enters the Black Sea at Poti, about 50 miles in a direct line from its junction with the Quirilha. The Rion is in the lower part of its course a deep and rapid stream, and is navigable for steamers as high as Orpiri, where it receives the Zenesquali, but unfortunately a shallow bar at its mouth prevents the entrance of large steamers from the sea. It is the river so well known in ancient times under the name of Phasis, and connected by Greek legends with Medea and the voyage of the Argonauts.

All the streams that take their rise on the southern side of the Central Caucasus, east of the Mamisson Pass, are tributaries of the Kur, and discharge their waters into that river, which itself, however, does not derive its origin from the Caucasus, but flows from the mountains of Armenia, and receives its first Caucasian affluent, the Lachwa, at the town of Gori. The most important of these tributaries is the Aragwa, which has a course almost due north and south, from its source above Mleti to its junction with the Kur at Mscheti. It is up the valley of this river that is carried the highroad from Tiflis to Vladikafkaz, which turns off at Mleti to cross the pass of the Krestowaja Gora, and from the natural facilities afforded by this line of route, it has been from the earliest ages frequented for the same purpose.

The rivers that flow from the Central Caucasus north-wards have much longer courses than those on the south side, both from the more gentle slope of the mountains in that direction, and from the extent of the steppes beyond, through which they have afterwards to find their way to the sea. By far the most important of these rivers are the Kuban and the Terek, which receive as tributaries all the minor streams. Of these the Kuban takes its rise in a glacier at the foot of Mount Elbruz, immediately below the watershed of the main chain. It flows at first in a northerly direction, and preserves this course till it has altogether quitted the mountains, and entered the steppe of the Nogai Tartars, when it trends first towards the north-west and then abruptly towards the west, which general direction it pursues till it enters the Sea of Azoff by one mouth and the Black Sea by another. Its whole course is estimated at above 400 miles. During the latter part of its course, from east to west, it receives the waters of all the smaller streams that descend the northern slopes of the Western Caucasus. The Terek has its source in the central chain, where it issues from a small glacier at the foot of Zilga Khokh, its head waters being separated from those of the Ardon only by a pass of moderate elevation. Its upper valley, like so many others, has a direction parallel to the main range, so that it is compelled to flow towards the south-east as far as the village of Kobi, where it turns to the north-east, which direction it holds to the village of Kazbek, and from thence pursues a course almost due north, traversing the famous ravine or gorge of Dariel, until it finally issues from the mountains at Vladikafkaz. From thence it takes a north-westerly direction, which it follows for a distance of more than 70 miles, receiving on its way numerous affluents, the last of which is the Malka, after its junction with which, near the town of Jekaterinograd, it turns abruptly to the east and pursues its course in that direction through a tract of steppes and marshes for 200 miles to its mouth in the Caspian Sea. All the mountain streams that flow northwards from the great glaciers of the central chain, between the Kuban and the Terek, discharge their waters into the latter river. The most important of these are (proceeding from west to east) the Malka, the Baksan, the Tchegen, the Tcherek, the Uruch, and the Ardon,—all of them large and rapid streams, which flow through deep valleys in a generally northerly direction, until they emerge from the mountains, and successively unite their waters with those of the Terek. The Kuma alone pursues an independent course through the steppes to the north of the Terek, but this stream does not rise in the central chain of the Caucasus, but has its sources in the detached and outlying group of mountains near Pjatigorsk—the highest summit of which, the Beschtau, does not attain to a height of more than 4600 feet. Hence its waters, not being fed by perennial snows, are absorbed in the sands of the steppe before they reach the Caspian.

3. The Eastern Caucasus may be considered as com- Eastern, prising the whole of the main chain from the Pass of Dariel to the Caspian, together with its various ramifications, which are considerably more extensive than in the other portions of the range. It is at once the most complicated and the least known part of the whole, the highest portions not having yet been explored by any of those adventurous travellers who have added so much to our knowledge of the Central Caucasus. But it is certain that, while none of the summits in this part of the range equal those further west— the highest of them not attaining to 15,000 feet—there is nevertheless a long succession of snowy peaks, rising to a height of from 10,000 to 14,000 feet, which extends from the Pass of Dariel as far as Baba Dagh, in 48° E. long., the last of these lofty summits proceeding eastwards towards the Caspian. At the same time there is no great connected mass of glacier similar to that found in the Central Caucasus ; indeed no considerable glaciers exist in this part of the range at all. The watershed is, however, continued at a high elevation (after passing the depression traversed by the pass of the Krestowaja Gora) as far as Mount Schebulos, from whence it sends out a considerable branch towards the north-east, known as the Andi Moun-tains, from the village and valley of that name, which forms the northern boundary of Daghestan, and separates it from Tschechnia, or the country of the Tchetchens. The main range retains its general direction with little variation, from about north-west to south-east, and still presents many peaks of considerable elevation, the highest summits being Sari Dagh at the head of the Biver Samur, which attains to 12,000 feet, and Schach Dagh (called also Bazardjusi) which rises to 13,950 feet. The last of these lofty peaks is Baba Dagh (11,934 feet), from which the main chain descends gradually as it approaches the Caspian, and sinks into hills of moderate elevation before reaching the shores of that sea at Baku. The Peninsula of Apsheron, which here forms a promontory projecting into the Caspian, may be considered as forming the last faint prolongation of the Caucasian chain.





But while the axis forming the main watershed of the range thus preserves a pretty regular course, it throws off towards the north and north-east a number of offshoots, filling up the greater part of the space between the main range and the Caspian. It is here that is formed the remarkable country known as Daghestan, which is in fact a great mountain plateau, sloping gently towards the Caspian at an elevation of not less than 7000 to 8000 feet, furrowed by deep valleys or ravines, cut by the streams that descend from the central range. It was this peculiar conformation of the tract in question that so long enabled the mountain tribes of this part of the Caucasus to defy the arms of Bussia. Gunib, the last stronghold of Schamyl, is a mountain that rises to 7742 feet, with precipitous sides; other summits in the same region attain to a still greater elevation,—Intseharo to 9469 feet, Schumi Dagh to 9733 feet, and Dschufa Dagh to 9900 feet. At the point where this fan-shaped plateau joins on to the main range is found a cluster of peaks, all of them rising above the level of perpetual snow; while Alachun Dagh, an offshoot of the main range, between Sari Dagh and Dschufa Dagh is said to attain to 12,100.

Of the streams that traverse the elevated plateau of Daghestan, four are known by the common name of Koissu, but are distinguished as the Andi Koissu, the Avari Koissu, the Kara Koissu, and the Kazikumi Koissu. After flowing through extremely deep and narrow valleys, in many places mere gorges, they all unite their waters before they quit the mountains, and under the name of Sulak flow into the Caspian Sea about 90 miles north of Derbend. The only other river of Daghestan that deserves notice is the Samur, which takes its rise at the foot of Sari Dagh, and after sweeping round almost in a semicircle enters the Caspian a few miles south of Derbend. The most important of the streams that rise in the main chain east of the valley of the Terek, and flow northwards into that river, is the Argun. Those which traverse the country of the Tchetchens are of little consequence.

The secondary ranges on the south side of the Eastern Caucasus are of comparatively little interest or importance, and none of them attain to any considerable elevation. Two of these subordinate ranges, however, which branch off from the main chain but a little east of the Terek, constitute the limits which separate the valley of the Aragwa from that of the Jora, and the latter again from that of the Alazun. Both these rivers are among the most con-siderable of the affluents of the Kur, and the valleys through which they flow are two of the most fertile districts of Georgia. The valley of the Alazun especially, constitut-ing the region known as Kakhetia, is celebrated for the abundance and excellence of its wines.

The preceding account of the physical structure of the Caucasus is derived from the latest works on the subject, but it must be admitted that our knowledge of this important chain is still far from possessing the complete-ness and accuracy which the geographer would desire. The Bussian survey has been found by recent travellers to be often defective and erroneous in regard to the most interesting part of the chain—the range of glaciers and snow-clad peaks in the Central Caucasus—and will require much correction before it can compare with the maps that we now possess of the Alps and Byrenees. Much confusion still exists with regard to the nomenclature of the different peaks, and this is aggravated by the different names given to them by the different races which inhabit the surrounding valleys. Thus Elbruz, as it is called by the Bussians, is known to the neighbouring mountaineers only as Minghi Tau, and the mountain called by the Bussians Kazbek, from the village of that name, is known to the Georgians, from whose plains it is a conspicuous object, as Mkinwari. Passes. The scarcity of passes across the great chain of the Caucasus has been already adverted to. There exists in fact but one such natural pass, sufficiently practicable to afford direct communication between the countries to the north and south of the range, and this has in consequence been frequented in all ages. This is the line followed by the present highroad constructed by the Russians since their occupation of the country, from Vladikafkaz at the northern foot of the chain to Tiflis on the south. This route ascends the valley of the Terek from Vladikafkaz as far as Kobi (a distance of about 40 miles), where it quits the valley, which turns abruptly to the west, and is carried over the lofty crest or ridge known as the Krestowaja Gora (Mountain of the Cross), an elevation of nearly 8000 feet, from whence it descends to Mleti in the valley of the Aragwa, and follows the course of that stream nearly to Tiflis. The proper designation of this pass would undoubtedly be that of the actual passage over the sum-mit level of the range, the Krestowaja Gora, but it is commonly known as the Pass of Dariel, from the re-markable gorge of that name through which it is carried between Lars and Kazbek,—a defile of the grandest and most impressive character, which is considered by recent travellers to be equal, if not superior, in point of scenery, to the finest defiles of the Alps. Previous to the formation of the present road, this deep and narrow gorge—affording only just passage for the torrent, while the mountains rise on each side abruptly to a height of at least 5000 feet above the level of the Terek—must have presented almost insuperable difficulties to the passage of traffic along this route. Hence it was known and celebrated from the earliest times, and is mentioned under the name of the Caucasian Gates (Portce Caucasice) by Pliny (Hist. Nat, vi. 2, § 30), who describes the pass as actually closed by a fortified gate, a measure which might have been easily adopted.

The only other line of communication in general use between the northern and southern regions bordering on the Caucasus, is that which skirts the eastern extremity of the range, where its offshoots descend to the shores of the Caspian. This passage presents almost no natural difficulties, the mountains for the most part not descending nearly to the sea, the shores of which are everywhere flat and low. Tn one place only does a range of hills, branching off from the more lofty masses of the chain, descend to within a short distance of the Caspian, so as to admit of the interval being closed by a fortified wall, which was in former times carried up the heights to the west for a con-siderable distance. The site is still guarded by a small fort and the town of Derbend, but the adjoining hills are not of a precipitous or impracticable character, so that the obstacles presented by this pass are merely of a military kind, and there is no difficulty in the construction of a road or railroad along this line, which has been, indeed, in all ages the natural highway by which nations north of the Caucasus have entered Georgia and Persia. Thus we are told by Herodotus (i. 104) that it was by this route that the Scythians penetrated into Media in the 7th century B. c.

On the other hand the western portion of the Caucasus, where it abuts upon the Black Sea, affords no natural passage along the coast, the underfalls of the chain descend-ing so steeply to the sea, and being so rugged and broken, as well as densely covered with forest, as to preclude the existence of any practicable route on this side. It is certain, indeed, that Mithridates the Great, when hard pressed by Pompey, succeeded in forcing his way with an army from Colchis (Mingrelia) to the Cimmerian Bosporus, along this line of coast, but the same Greek writers who recorded this wonderful march, dwelt largely upon the difficulties that he encountered. In modern times the Russians, during their long contest with the Circassians, established a continuous system of forts or small fortified posts along the whole of this line of coast, from Anapa to Sukhum Kaleh; but these have now been almost all abandoned, and the communications are maintained ex-clusively by sea.

Climate and Natural Productions.—The chain of the Climate. Caucasus is situated between 45° and 40° 30' N. lat. It therefore corresponds in general position rather with the Apennines and the Pyrenees than with the Alps. But from its character as a great barrier extending across from sea to sea, it constitutes the limit between two climates which differ very widely from one another. The great steppes and plains of Russia on the north side of the chain are open to the cold winds of the north, and partake to a great extent of the severity of a Russian winter ; while the valleys of Imeritia and Georgia on the southern side are sheltered by the vast mountain wall to the north of them, and thence enjoy a climate more in accordance with their southerly latitude. Thus Tiflis, though situated at a height of about 1500 feet above the sea, has a mean temperature of 55°, and Kutais of more than 58°. The average winter temperature of Tiflis does not fall below 36°, and that of Kutais is not less than 42'5°.

But a still more remarkable contrast is that presented by the varying amount of rainfall in the different portions of the chain, according to their distance from the Black Sea. While the rainfall at Tiflis does not exceed 20 inches, it amounts to more than 57 inches at Kutais, and not less than 63 inches at Redut Kaleh on the sea shore near Poti.

The effects of these great variations in the meteorological conditions of the countries adjoining the Caucasus are naturally striking and strongly marked. Whatever be the contrasts presented by the two sides of the Alps, they are far more remarkable in the Caucasus. This is especially and the case with the south-western valleys and slopes, where a scenery. great amount of rain is combined with a warm tempera-ture. Hence all this part of the mountain country is characterized by a luxuriance of vegetation to which no parallel can be found in Europe. Magnificent forests clothe the mountain sides and extend down quite to the sea ; while the rich valley, or rather basin, of the Rion equals any part of Italy in fertility, and is capable of producing all kinds of crops that flourish in the Italian plains. But as the traveller passes inland towards Tiflis, he is struck by thè change that takes place after crossing the comparatively trifling range of the Suram Mountains. Arid upland plains and parched hill-sides take the place of the rich verdure and luxuriant forests of Imeritia and Mingrelia. A similar change is observed in the higher regions of the mountains on crossing the Maniisson Pass, which separates the head waters of the Ardon from those of the Bion. While the valleys west of this—especially that of the upper Ingur, or Suanetia—are covered with the richest vegetation, those on the other side, the valleys of the Ardon and Terek, are almost wholly bare of trees, and present only mountain slopes covered with grass, where they are not sheets of bare rock. The extensive pine forests, which constitute so important a feature in the scenery of the Alps, are almost wholly wanting in the Caucasus, or at least of only partial and occasional occurrence ; and the description given by Mr Freshfield of the scenery of the Terek above Kazbek, that it presents "treeless valleys, bold rocks, slopes of forbidding steepness (even to eyes accustomed to those of the Alps), and stone-built villages, scarcely distinguishable from the neighbouring crags," will apply with little varia-tion to all the valleys that run northward from the central chain. But if the general scenery of these valleys be dull and uninteresting, there is a marked exception in the deep gorges by which in most cases their waters make their escape through the northern lateral ridge. These defiles are pronounced by competent judges to be far superior in grandeur to anything of the kind to be found in the Alps ; that of Dariel has been already described, but the less known gorges of the Tcherek and the Uruch are considered by recent travellers to be still more striking and marvellous. At the same time the snowy ridges and peaks of the central chain are said to surpass those of the highest portions of the Alps in boldness and picturesqueness of outline, as well as in steepness and apparent inaccessibility, as much as they do in absolute elevation. On the whole it may be safely asserted that the Caucasus presents attractions to the traveller and the tourist beyond those of any other mountain chain within such comparatively easy reach, and that it will year by year become better known and more frequently visited. The vegetation of the Caucasus is in general not materially different from that of the mountain chains of Central Europe. The extensive forests that clothe its flanks are composed entirely of the ordinary European trees, among which the oak, the beech, the elm, and the alder are the most prevalent, but a peculiar character is imparted to them by the dense undergrowth of rhododen-drons, azaleas, box-trees, and laurels, as well as by the huge climbing masses of ivy, clematis, and wild vine, which attain to a height and size wholly unlike anything to be seen in Western Europe. Fruit trees of various kinds abound on the lower slopes of the hills, where the plum, the peach, the apple, and the pear are found wild, as well as the walnut, which is extensively grown in the cultivated regions, where it combines with the plane and the lime tree to form one of the chief ornaments of the landscape. The wild animals found in the Caucasus are Zoology, for the most part the same with those of the mountainous regions of Central Europe, while others point to a transi-tion toward the zoological character of Asia. Thus while it has the bear, the wolf, the wild boar, the lynx, in common with the Alps, the jackal is not unfrequent on its southern side, the hyaena is also found, and leopards are occasionally killed. Tigers do not appear to be ever found in the Caucasus proper, though they are killed from time to time in the districts of Lenkoran on the Caspian, south of the mouth of the Kur. The ibex or bouquetin, as well as the chamois, abounds among the higher summits of the range, and with them is found the wild goat (Oapra JEgagrus), and a species of moufflon or wild sheep. These vast forests of the western ranges still afford shelter to the aurochs or European bison, which now exists here alone in a truly wild state. It may be mentioned also that the southern slopes of the Caucasus are the native country of the pheasant, which derives its name, as well as its origin, from the Kiver Phasis.
Geology.—The geology of the Caucasus is still but Geology imperfectly known, though the long-continued labours of Dr Abich have thrown much light on the subject, and enabled us to trace at all events its general outlines. Throughout the most lofty part of the chain, from beyond Elbruz on the west to Kazbek on the east, the central ridge is composed of rocks of a granitic character; in great part indeed of pure granite. Immediately adjoining this granitic axis are found metamorphic rocks of the usual character,—mica-schists, talc-schists, &c,—and beyond these, again, clay-slates and schists of uncertain age. The great limestone masses that form the secondary chains on each side of the central range (which rise to a height of 10,000 to 12,000 feet) are considered by Dr Abich to belong to the Jurassic formation, while the flanks and underfalls of the mountaius on both sides are composed of Cretaceous strata, and these are again succeeded by Tertiary marls and sandstones, extending around the base of the chains, and forming its lowest declivities. This succession of the strata may be observed with great regu-larity and distinctness on the north side of the range, and is found on the southern side also, though more disturbed and irregular.

The principal disturbance on the north side is caused by the protrusion of the two great masses of Elbruz and Kazbek,—both of them of decidedly volcanic origin, and (geologically speaking) of comparatively recent date. They are composed principally of trachyte, but send down also vast streams of basaltic lavas, which form a striking feature in the scenery of the valleys beneath them.

The regularity of structure which may be considered as pervading the whole of this central mass of the Caucasus disappears almost entirely as one passes eastward of the Kazbek. Though the axis of elevation still preserves very much the same general direction from north-west to south-east, the fundamental granitic ridge is altogether wanting ; and even the highest summits of the range are composed of calcareous slates and sandstones, which were supposed by earlier geologists to belong to the Palaeozoic period, but are assigned by Dr Abich to a much later age. Even the lofty summits of Schach Dagh (the giant of the Eastern Caucasus) are composed of a dolomitic limestone, which appears to belong to the Neocomian era. To the same period may probably be referred the greater part of the limestones and shales which constitute the singular plateaux of Daghestan already described. But from the great scarcity of organic remains the determination of their age is a question of much difficulty. Minerals. The mineral riches of the Caucasus are still in great measure unexplored. Iron and copper ores are known to exist in abundance ; and coal is found in the valley of the Kuban, as well as in the upper valley of the Rion. But as it belongs to the Jurassic and not to the true Car-boniferous age, it is doubtful to what extent it may prove productive. The remarkable springs of naphtha near Baku, which have long been known as an object of interest and a sanctuary of the fire worshippers, are now turned to account for the manufacture of petroleum on a large scale.

Glaciers It has already been observed that glaciers exist on a great scale in the Caucasus, but they are confined to a higher elevation than in the Alps. Notwithstanding the vast mass of glacier and perpetual snow which exists in the Central Caucasus, none of the lateral glaciers descend below 7000 feet on the southern side of the range ; while the lowest point reached by any of those on the northern side is not below 5700 feet. But, as in the case of all the principal mountain chains of Europe, there is abundant evidence of the glaciers having once been much more extensive and having descended to a much lower level in the valleys than they at present occupy. At the same time it may be observed that there is a total absence in the Caucasus of those lakes which form so conspicuous a feature in the country on both sides of the Alps, and which are supposed by many geologists to be connected with glacial action.

Ethnology.—The ethnology of the Caucasus is still far from thoroughly known. Prom thé earliest times it has been noted as the region where the greatest diversity of tribes and languages existed within the smallest space (Herodot., i. 203). Pliny tells us that no less than 130 different interpreters were required by the Greek traders at Dio-scurias, the port where all the tribes of the neighbouring mountains, as well as the more remote nations of the interior useâïo congregate, while others raised the number to 300 (Plin.. E. N., vi. 5, § 15). This is of course a great exaggeration, but it proves the fact that there existed then, as at the present day, an extraordinary number of races speaking different and in many cases wholly dissimilar dialects. The researches of modern scholars have thrown considerable light upon the subject, and enabled us at least to classify these different tribes in certain groups or families.

I. The
GEORGIAN, or, as they are sometimes termed by modern writers, the Kartalinian tribes, from their speaking a language called by themselves Kartli. These are in all probability the descendants of the people called by Greek writers Iberians, who were in possession of the country south of the Caucasus at the earliest period of which we have any historical account. The name of Georgian is comparatively modern, but its origin is unknown. To this family belong :—

1. The Grusians or Georgians proper, who inhabit the whole country east of the Suram mountains down to the lowland steppes of the River Kur. They extend also up the valley of the Aragwa to the very foot of the main range, and occupy the extensive valleys
of Kakhetia and the slopes still further east.

2. The Imeritians, who extend from the watershed of the Suram mountains westward, including the valleys of the Rion or Phasis, and its tributary the Quirilha. Their western limit is the Zenes-quali, which separates them from the Mingrelians.

3. The Mingrelians, who extend from the Zenesquali on the east to the Ingur and the Black Sea on the west, while the lower Gourse of the Rion may be considered as constituting their limit on the south. Both these nations, though long politically independent of the Georgians, are undoubtedly of cognate race, and speak kindred dialects.

4. The Gurians, a small people occupying the strip of land be-tween the Rion and the mountains on the south, which form the frontier between Russia and Turkey. Their language shows them to be of Georgian race, but they are closely connected with the Laz or Lazi, a tribe that inhabits the adjoining mountains within the Turkish territory, where they were already settled under the name of Lazi in the time of Strabo.

5. The Suanians or Suanetians, who occupy the upper valley of the Ingur, above the confines of Mingrelia. They are a wild and semi-barbarous mountain tribe, who have only lately been brought under subjection to the Russians, and are still left in a condition of semi-independence. But from the natural beauty of their country, and its proximity to the highest ranges of the Caucasus, they have attracted much attention from recent travellers. They are considered to belong to the same race with their neighbours the Georgians and Mingrelians ; though they have existed from a very remote period as a separate tribe, being already mentioned under the name of Suanes or Suani by Strabo and Pliny, in whose time they were one of the most powerful nations in the Caucasus. Their language is a cognate dialect with the Georgian and Min-grelian, but presents very material differences.





II. The second principal group of the Caucasian mountaineers,
and that which has of late years attracted the most attention of any,
is that of the Tcherkesses or
CIRCASSIANS (a name of Russian origin),
who until within a few years past constituted the whole population
of the Western Caucasus on both sides of the mountain chain.
They were subdivided into numerous tribes, but may be considered
as belonging to three principal divisions.

1. The Circassians proper who designate themselves by the name of Adighe, and who formerly occupied the whole coast of the Blaek Sea from the neighbourhood of Anapa to Pitzunta, as well as the northern slopes of the mountains towards the Kuban. It was this people who so long fixed the attention of all Europe by their long continued struggles against the Russian power, which, however, ended in their complete subjugation in 1864. But that event was followed by a wholesale emigration of the Circassians, who quitted their country to the number of 400,000 (or, according to other accounts, nearly 500,000) souls, and settled in the different provinces of the Turkish empire. The effect of this emigration, without a precedent in modem history, has been to leave the whole country between the Caucasus and the Black Sea, for a distance of nearly 200 miles, almost absolutely without inhabitants, except the small settle-ments of the Russians at Novo Rossisk, Tuapse, and Sukhum Kaleh.

2. The Abkhasians, a tribe occupying the coast eastward from Pitzunta to the confines of Mingrelia. They are undoubtedly a kin-dred race with the Circassians, though described as in all respects inferior to them. Their numbers have also been thinned to a great extent by emigration, since their last abortive attempt at insurrection in 1864, so that the interior of the country formerly occupied by them is now almost uninhabited.

3. The Kabardans, who hold the country north of the main chain of the Caucasus, from the valley of the Kuban to that of the Terek, and extending quite down to the steppes on the north. Though resembling the other Circassians in language and manners, and like them professing the Mahometan religion, they never offered any very serious opposition to the Russian arms, and have long been peaceful subjects of the Russian empire.

III. Adjoining the Circassian races on the east, and occupying
the very centre of the Caucasian range, are the
OSSETES, an isolated
race, differing both in language and in customs from their neighbours
on all sides. Their country is traversed by the great highroad across
the Caucasus, which has brought them especially under the observa-
tion of travellers, and many conjectures have been formed with re-
gard to their original and ethnic affinities. It is, however, conclu-
sively proved that they are an Aryan race, and their language has
considerable affinity with the Medo-Persian branch of that family.
Many resemblances have been traced in their manners and customs
with those of the Germans, and some writers have supposed them
to be a remnant of the Goths, while others regard them as the
representatives of the Alani, who played so conspicuous a part to-
wards the close of the. Roman empire ; but there is no real founda-
tion for either theory, and the evidence of their language seems
decisive, that, though belonging to the great Aryan family, they
have no special affinity with the Germanic or Teutonic branch of it.

They call themselves Iron, the name Ossetes being that applied i to them by the Georgians. Some of them are Mahometans, while the greater part profess Christianity, but retain many of their pagan rites and customs, and are in fact still more than half pagans. They hold the upper valley of the Terek, down to the pass of Dariel, as well as the mountain tract to the west of it, as far as the head-waters of the Ardon and the Mamisson Pass.

IV. The
TCHETCHENS, a people who inhabit the northern slopes
of the Eastern Caucasus, extending down to the valley of the Terek.
They adjoin the Kabardans and Ossetes on the west, and the
Lesghians towards the south, but do not extend up to the highest
recesses of the range. They profess the Mahometan religion, and
speak a language distinct from all others, of which it is said that
there are more than twenty dialects, though their whole population
is not estimated at more than 150,000 souls.

V. The
LESGHIANS, a name under which are generally comprised
all the inhabitants of the Eastern Caucasus, though consisting of
many petty tribes, speaking dialects more or less different, and in
some cases, it is said, radically distinct languages. Their chief seat
is in the high mountain region extending eastwards from Kazbek,
and including all the highest summits of the range as far as Baba
Dagh ; but they occupy also the southern declivities of the moun-
tains towards the valleys of the Alazun and the Kur, as well as the
rugged mountain tract of Daghestan towards the north-east between
the central range and the Caspian. It was these wild mountain tribes
that so long offered an unavailing resistance to the Russian arms ;
but it is said that the only real bond of union among them was their
devoted attachment to Islamism, and that no connection of race
unites them together. Their ethnic relations are certainly still
very obscure and imperfectly known, and it is supposed by some
ethnologists that among them may be found remnants of a number
of different nations and races. But it is more probable that when
they come to be better known, they will be found to have for the
most part a common origin, notwithstanding the remarkable diver-
sity of dialects spoken among them. A few very small tribes, such
as the Udi and the Kubatschi, seem, however, to form an exception,
and to belong to essentially distinct races. The most cultivated,
as well as the most powerful of the tribes of the Daghestan, is that
of the Avares or Avari, who adjoin the Tchetchens on the north,
and extend from thence to the central chain. They are the only
Lesghian tribe who profess a written language, for which they make
use of the Arabic characters.

It is unnecessary here to speak of the numerous Turco-Tartar tribes that inhabit the borders of Daghestan, between the mountains and the Caspian, as well as of the Cossacks of the Kuban and the Terek,—all these tribes, whether nomad or settled, being confined almost wholly to the plains and steppes that surround the moun-tains, and not forming any considerable ingredient in the popula-tion of the Caucasus itself.

The estimates of the numbers of these mountain tribes are very various, and the Russian official reports do not distinguish the population of the mountains from that of the adjoining districts in-cluded in the same governments. But it seems probable that, since the great emigration of the Circassian tribes, the whole population of the Caucasus does not exceed a million of souls.

History.—The Caucasus was known to the Greeks from a very early period. Without referring to the fable of the Argonauts, it is certain that Greek navigators penetrated in very early times into the remotest parts of the Euxine, and carried on trade with the native population of Colchis, the name which they gave to the rich country at the mouth of the Phasis or Rion. Here, at a somewhat later date, they founded the flourishing settlement of Dioscurias, the name of which is still retained in Cape Iskuria, a few miles south of Sukhum Kaleh. Hence their attention could not fail to be attracted by the vast snowy range of the Caucasus, and we find its name already familiar to iEschylus, who speaks of its " star-neighbouring summits," and terms it the most lofty of mountains (Prom,. Vinct., 720). The same statement is repeated by Herodotus, w-ho had a clear conception of its geographical position, as extending from the Caspian to the Euxine, and forming in this direction the limit of the Persian empire (i. 203, iv. 12). The mountain tribes still retained their independence under the successors of Alexander, and it does not appear that any considerable advance was made in the knowledge of these countries till the time of the great Mithri-dates, who subdued all the nations up to the very foot of the moun-tains, and even succeeded in making his way with an army along the coast of the Black Sea from Colchis to the Cimmerian Bosporus. His wars in these regions were described by several Greek historians, and Strabo, writing from these materials, shows an acquaintance both with the Caucasus and the adjoining countries, remarkable for its clearness and accuracy. Pompey had declined to pursue Mithri-dates on his adventurous march, and no Roman general ever passed the Caucasus. Under the Roman Empire, however, the frequent relations maintained with the Armenians made the Romans familiar with the names of the Iberians and Albanians on the south side of the chain, while their connection with the tributary kings of Bosporus opened out to them communications with the steppe country to the north. Neither Pliny nor Ptolemy, however, add much that is material to the knowledge already possessed by Strabo.

In modern times the chief interest in these regions has arisen from the long-continued struggle of these mountain tribes against Russia, and the energy with which the Circassians and Lesghians especially maintained the contest for independence against all the power of that mighty empire. From the time of the annexation of Georgia, at the commencement of the present century, it became a great object with the Russians to obtain possession of the intermediate mountain country ; but it was not till the treaty of Adrianople in 1829, by which the Turks ceded to the Russian Empire their nomi-nal sovereignty over the Caucasian tribes, that their efforts assumed a systematic form. From that period till the year 1859, the contest was maintained almost without interruption, and with many alternations of success. The. Russians had to encounter immense diffi-culties, to traverse dangerous passes, to burn down forests, and to sacrifice immense numbers of lives, in order to gain small portions of territory. The war was for a long time chiefly maintained by the Circassians under their native chiefs ; and no sooner did their exer-tions relax in consequence of the exhaustion caused by a long con-tinued contest, than a new enemy to Russia arose on the shores of the Caspian. Schamyl, the most devoted follower of the heroic Kasi Mullah, placed himself, on the death of that chief, at the head of the Lesghians. At once the prophet and the warrior of his race, by his enthusiasm and bravery he soon gained the confidence of the tribes, and prevailed upon them to follow a united and deter-mined plan of action under his authority. His influence was daily increased, not only by the victories which he gained, but by the successful manner in which he frequently delivered himself and his followers from the most imminent dangers. His own escape from the rocky fortress of Achnlko, where he was completely invested by the forces of General Grabbe, appeared both to his own countrymen and the enemy almost miraculous. The great exertions which were made by the Russians in the following years to reduce the tribes yet unsubdued, and those which had risen against their authority, were completely defeated by his indefatigable activity and bravery. In the year 1842, when the mountain tribes were filled with the great-est alarm in consequence of the advance of General Grabbe, that formidable enemy was completely defeated by Schamyl in the woods of Itchkeri. The Circassians, after again renewing their attacks upon the Russians in the neighbourhood of the Black Sea, were ultimately driven back to their fastnesses ; but Schamyl still con-tinued to maintain his position on the Caspian, and inflicted severe losses upon the armies of the enemy. The Russians were evidently at a loss how to proceed against a chief who had baffled all their schemes, who had been a prisoner in their hands, whose rocky home had been frequently in their possession, wrho had incurred the most imminent dangers and been driven to the greatest emergencies, and who was still opposing them with unconquerable resolution, watch-ing the progress of their troops, cutting off their supplies, and har-assing them by constant attacks. Various Russian generals were sent in succession to the Caucasus, new plans of action, defensive and offensive, were tried, but without effecting any permanent con-quest.

The Crimean War (1854-1856) produced a temporary suspension of the efforts of the Russians in the Caucasus ; but after its termina-tion hostilities were resumed with increased vigour, both on the side of Circassia and in Daghestan. In the western districts, indeed, the contest never assumed any important character, and was carried on by a series of petty expeditions against the Circassian and Abkhasian tribes, who never acted in concert, and were compelled to submission one after the other. But it was not till the year 1864 that the last of these wild tribes was finally subdued, and the com-plete subjugation of the Circassians was secured by the emigration of the whole people in the manner already noticed. The contest in Daghestan, though it had assumed for a time more formidable dimensions, had been already brought to a close. All the efforts of Schamyl could not prevent the Russians from gaining ground. Step by step they advanced steadily, though slowly, into the in-terior of the mountain country, and at last in the winter of 1858-59 made themselves masters of Weden, Schamyl's principal strong-hold, which was taken by storm, and he himself was obliged to flee. This event was followed by the submission of many tribes, and though Schamyl threw himself into the apparently impregnable mountain fastness of Mount Gunib, even this was surprised by the Russian general Prince Bariatinski, and Schamyl himself made prisoner (Sept. 6, 1859). From this time the war in the Caucasus was virtually at an end ; the mountain tribes submitted one after the other, and notwithstanding some occasional petty outbreaks, appear to have passed quietly into the condition of Russian sub-jects.

Bibliography. It is only of late years that we have begun to obtain accurate information concerning the mountain chain of the Caucasus and the tribes that inhabit it. The works of the earlier travellers in this region—Pallas, Klaproth, &c.—treat principally of the countries that adjoin the Caucasus, rather than of the mountain ranges them-selves, and even the elaborate work of Dubois de Montpereux (Voyage autour du Caucase, 5 vols. 8vo, Paris, 1839-43) labours under the same defect. It was not, indeed, till after the complete subjugation or pacification of the mountain tribes by Russia that it was possible to carry on any systematic examination of the interior recesses of the great chain, and the foundation of a scientific knowledge of the Caucasus was first laid by the construction of the trigonometrical survey under General Chodzko from 1847 to 1863, and the publication of the map resulting from their labours on the scale of 5 versts to an inch. Recent travellers have indeed found that the portions of this work relating to the highest ranges of the Central Caucasus are often imperfect or erroneous ; but the same was the case with the best maps of the Alps until very lately, and if our knowledge of the great Caucasian chain is still far inferior to that which we now possess of the principal European ranges, it is immeasurably in advance of that which we have attained concerning any other Asiatic mountains, except those parts of the Himalaya which have been surveyed by English engineers. Among recent
writers the one who has contributed the most valuable information is A. Petzholdt, whose work (Der Kaukasus, 2 vols. 8vo, Leipsic, 1866) is the most useful book on the subject as yet published. The works of Dr Radde also supply valuable materials of a more special and detailed character. The more recent work of Baron Thielmann (Travels in the Caucasus, Persia, and Turkey in Asia, translated into English and published by Murray in 2 vols. 8vo, 1875) also contains much useful matter in a compendious and convenient form. Mr Freshfield's Journey in the Central Caucasus and Bashan (8vo, Lond., 1869) is not merely a record of his personal experiences, but an important contribution to our knowledge of the highest regions of the central chain, which he was the first to explore. His example has been already followed by Mr Grove, who has described some portions of the mountains not visited by Mr Ereshfield ( The Frosty Caucasus, 8vo, Lond., 1875), and there can be little, doubt that successive explorers of a similar stamp will soon make us acquainted with the inmost recesses of the Central Caucasus. (E. H. B.)




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