What is the Bigger Picture?

The bigger picture: introduction

The Caucasus is a region lying between  Russia to the north, Iran and Turkey to the south, the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the East. The Greater Caucasian mountains are perceived to be a physical dividing line between Europe and Asia. 

For centuries much of this region was part of the Persian Empire.  But as a crossroads between Europe and Asia it was strategically important to Russia, particularly the North Caucasus, while the South Caucasus (Transcaucasia) gradually came under the control of the Ottoman Empire.  

There are more than 50 ethnic groups in the region and since the 8th century it has been an area where Christians and Muslims have lived alongside each other, sometimes peacefully, and sometimes in conflict. By the mid-18th century Islam was the predominant religion in the region.

 

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A long process of Russian expansion into the region led to the Russian-Caucasian Wars and then to outward migration by the Caucasian peoples and inward migration by Russians and other Slavic groups.

These population movements and internal ethnic conflicts created territorial disputes which have continued to this day.