The Caucasus or Caucasia is a region liesbetween the borders of Europe and Asia, and is situated between the Black Seaand the Caspian Sea. The region is among the oldest settled places on Earthwith the history extending back into the ancient times. The history of theCaucasus region is divided into two parts: Northern Caucasus and SouthernCaucasus. The Northern Caucasus was historically influenced by Scythia andSouthern Russia or Eastern Europe, whereas Southern Caucasus was under theinfluence of Persia, Anatolia and Assyria.
The Northern Caucasus was the scenefor fighting during World War II when the Nazi attempted to take over theCaucasus region from the Soviet Union. Following the fall of the Soviet Unionin 1991, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia became independent nations. The Caucasusregion currently consists of 6 nations: Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey,Armenia, and Iran.If an average Russian is asked to listthings associated with the Caucasus, they would list a number of things and warwould always be in the list. Unfortunately, the Caucasus bears the image of warand violence. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region has beenbombarded with extreme violence and many conflicts around neighboringcountries.
One of the many conflicts that broke out in the Caucasus was a war betweenthe Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1988 over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Theconflict has roots dating back well over a century to Christian Armenian,Muslim Turkic, and Persian influences. The two group lived in relative peaceuntil World War I. The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out when thenew Soviet rulers established the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous region.Nagorno-Karabakh is a region in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan butis occupied by the ethnic Armenians.
This war left thousands dead, thousandswounded, and drove millions of people to seek refuge. This Nagorno-Karabakh wasthe longest running worry on the territory of the Soviet Union. Due to the longwar, both Armenia and Azerbaijan faced the devastating effects of the war. Inaddition to many years of war, all of Armenia’s trade routes were blocked byits neighbor, leaving the country in shortage of food, fuel, seed, fertilizer,and other essentials. The conflict continues to this day although the mainphrase of the war has ended in 1994.Scholars have argued over the causes theconflicts in the Caucasus region, focusing on various factors. One of the manyreasons why there are conflicts in this region is because of ethnic-federalism.Many scholars have identified high correlations between the Ethnic federalismand the conflicts in the Caucasus.
The Soviet leaders tried to create ethnicfederalism in Russia, where they forced a group of ethnic people into oneplace. Ethnic federalism is where a federal political system in whichterritorial governance units are explicitly designated as ethnic homelands. Accordingto Stalin’s four criteria -a set territory, national language, culture, andeconomy- fifteen nationalities were given the highest standing of SovietSocialist Republics (SSRs). Moreover, only fifty-three out of over one hundrednationalities were officially recognized by the Soviet Union. Each ethnicallydefined territories have its own administrative and regional councils that ismanaged by the local people. However, once the Soviet Union collapsed, these territorieswere transformed into state institutions. This meant a good thing for major ethnicgroups, whereas for the minor ethnic groups, such as the Lezgins in both Azerbaijanand Dagestan, lacked their own institution. Therefore, they were not likely tomobilize, and if they were to mobilize, they do not have the power to negotiatebetween the Soviet Union.
Indeed, all the ethnic territories had some form of autonomygiven by the Soviet Union. Unlike all the other places in the world where peaceis made when independence is offered, the Caucasus is a zone in which violentconflict erupted without the existence of an ethnically defined border. In addition to Ethno- Federalism, religionis also believed to be the play a huge part in many conflicts in the Caucasus. Whilethe majority of Russia’s other republics practice Orthodox Christianity, theCaucasus is one of the few Russian regions where Islam predominates.
Accordingto rbth.com, “The Caucasian Islam is based in Sufi traditions, which emphasizemeditation and spirituality, but its followers tend to be very conservative intheir worldview and follow a stricter interpretation of Sharia law thanadherents of other forms of Islam.” In conclusion, Caucasus is home to dozensof nationalities and ethnicities, many of which have trouble finding peace withtheir neighbors or the central government. One of the many wars happening inthe region is the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan overland.
Many scholars argue over the reasons behind all the conflicts However,one certain fact is that the conflicts occur due to Russia’s Ethnic-Federalism.Many also believed that religious beliefs have played a significant role in theconflicts in the region.