– THE CAUCASUS
The CAUCASUS is a chain of high mountains, some of them over 5,000 meters, stretching from the Caspian Sea in the East to the Black Sea in the West over 1100 km and from Armenia in the South to the plain of Russia in the North and considered to be the geographical barrier between Europe and Asia. The CAUCASUS stretches on about 500,000 km.
Like in other mountainous areas in the World, almost each basin in the mountains developed its own culture and traditions and adopted its own variation of religion. The CAUCASUS is today, and always was, a mosaic of ethnic and religious communities from Caucasian, Iranian and Turkish origin.
The CAUCASUS is also the frontline between Christianity in Europe and Sunnite Muslims in minor Asia (nowadays Turkey) and Shiite Muslims on the Border with Iran. Up to the early 18th century the CAUCASUS was a buffer zone between Shiite Iran and the Sunnite Ottoman Empire. Since the 18th century Russian Christian Orthodox, gradually, expended to the south and the CAUCASUS, very similar to the Balkans, became the buffer zone between Christianity, dominated by Russia, and Islam.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 the countries south of the CAUCASUS watershed: Christian Armenia, Shiite Azerbaijan and Christian Georgia became independent states but the region still suffers from religious and ethnic tensions which caused war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Armenian populated Nagorno- Karabakh in 1992-3. Christian Georgia is still fighting Muslim separatist in Abkhazia and Christian orthodox separatists, backed by Russia, in South Ossetia.
North of the CAUCASUS watershed, there is a chain of 6 small semi independent autonomies from Dagestan in the East on the Caspian Sea, through Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, near the Black Sea. The region is highly unstable, corrupted, with a very high crime and violence rate. Almost all this autonomies stretch on less the 10,000 km with a population less then 1 million. Only Dagestan on the Caspian Sea stretches on 50,300 km and has a population of about 2.8 millions. Except North-Osseti, which is inhabited by Orthodox Christians, all the other autonomies are populated mainly by Muslims.
All the Russian autonomies of the CAUCASUS suffer from Islamic Militancy in various degrees, from corruption and from extent activity of crime gangs.
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