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The Caucasus or Caucasia is a region lies
between the borders of Europe and Asia, and is situated between the Black Sea
and the Caspian Sea. The region is among the oldest settled places on Earth
with the history extending back into the ancient times. The history of the
Caucasus region is divided into two parts: Northern Caucasus and Southern
Caucasus. The Northern Caucasus was historically influenced by Scythia and
Southern Russia or Eastern Europe, whereas Southern Caucasus was under the
influence of Persia, Anatolia and Assyria. The Northern Caucasus was the scene
for fighting during World War II when the Nazi attempted to take over the
Caucasus region from the Soviet Union. Following the fall of the Soviet Union
in 1991, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia became independent nations. The Caucasus
region currently consists of 6 nations: Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey,
Armenia, and Iran.

If an average Russian is asked to list
things associated with the Caucasus, they would list a number of things and war
would always be in the list. Unfortunately, the Caucasus bears the image of war
and violence. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region has been
bombarded with extreme violence and many conflicts around neighboring
countries. One of the many conflicts that broke out in the Caucasus was a war between
the Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1988 over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The
conflict has roots dating back well over a century to Christian Armenian,
Muslim Turkic, and Persian influences. The two group lived in relative peace
until World War I. The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out when the
new Soviet rulers established the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous region.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a region in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan but
is occupied by the ethnic Armenians. This war left thousands dead, thousands
wounded, and drove millions of people to seek refuge. This Nagorno-Karabakh was
the longest running worry on the territory of the Soviet Union. Due to the long
war, both Armenia and Azerbaijan faced the devastating effects of the war. In
addition to many years of war, all of Armenia’s trade routes were blocked by
its neighbor, leaving the country in shortage of food, fuel, seed, fertilizer,
and other essentials. The conflict continues to this day although the main
phrase of the war has ended in 1994.

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Scholars have argued over the causes the
conflicts in the Caucasus region, focusing on various factors. One of the many
reasons why there are conflicts in this region is because of ethnic-federalism.
Many scholars have identified high correlations between the Ethnic federalism
and the conflicts in the Caucasus. The Soviet leaders tried to create ethnic
federalism in Russia, where they forced a group of ethnic people into one
place. Ethnic federalism is where a federal political system in which
territorial governance units are explicitly designated as ethnic homelands. According
to Stalin’s four criteria -a set territory, national language, culture, and
economy- fifteen nationalities were given the highest standing of Soviet
Socialist Republics (SSRs). Moreover, only fifty-three out of over one hundred
nationalities were officially recognized by the Soviet Union. Each ethnically
defined territories have its own administrative and regional councils that is
managed by the local people. However, once the Soviet Union collapsed, these territories
were transformed into state institutions. This meant a good thing for major ethnic
groups, whereas for the minor ethnic groups, such as the Lezgins in both Azerbaijan
and Dagestan, lacked their own institution. Therefore, they were not likely to
mobilize, and if they were to mobilize, they do not have the power to negotiate
between the Soviet Union. Indeed, all the ethnic territories had some form of autonomy
given by the Soviet Union. Unlike all the other places in the world where peace
is made when independence is offered, the Caucasus is a zone in which violent
conflict erupted without the existence of an ethnically defined border.

In addition to Ethno- Federalism, religion
is also believed to be the play a huge part in many conflicts in the Caucasus. While
the majority of Russia’s other republics practice Orthodox Christianity, the
Caucasus is one of the few Russian regions where Islam predominates. According
to, “The Caucasian Islam is based in Sufi traditions, which emphasize
meditation and spirituality, but its followers tend to be very conservative in
their worldview and follow a stricter interpretation of Sharia law than
adherents of other forms of Islam.”

In conclusion, Caucasus is home to dozens
of nationalities and ethnicities, many of which have trouble finding peace with
their neighbors or the central government. One of the many wars happening in
the region is the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan over
land. 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 the
conflicts in the region.  

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