History of the Caucasus

Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia, completed in 303 AD, UNESCO World Heritage Site, religious centre of the Armenia.
Palace of the Shirvanshahs in Azerbaijan, completed in 13th or 14th century AD, UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Georgia, original building completed in the 4th century. It was a religious centre of monarchical Georgia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One can divide the history of the Caucasus region into the history of the Northern Caucasus (Ciscaucasia), historically in the sphere of influence of Scythia and of Southern Russia (Eastern Europe), and that of the Southern Caucasus (Transcaucasia; Caucasian Albania, Georgia, Armenia), in the sphere of influence of Persia, Anatolia and for a very brief time Assyria.

Up to including the early 19th century, the Southern Caucasus and a part of the Northern Caucasus (Dagestan) all formed part of the Persian Empire. In 1813 and 1828 by the Treaty of Gulistan and the Treaty of Turkmenchay respectively, the Persians were forced to irrevocably cede the Southern Caucasus and Dagestan to Imperial Russia.[1] Russia conquered and annexed the rest of the Northern Caucasus in the course of the 19th century in the Caucasian Wars (1817–1864).

The Northern Caucasus became the scene of intense fighting during the Second World War. Nazi Germany attempted to capture the Caucasus region from Soviet control in 1942 by a two-pronged attack towards both the western bank of the Volga (intending to seize the city of Stalingrad) and by a drive southeast towards Baku, a major center of oil production. The Nazis intended to establish a Reichskommissariat Kaukasus to control the Caucasian territories of the Soviet Union. Considerable parts of the northern Caucasus fell under German occupation, but the invasion eventually faltered as it failed to accomplish either goal, and Soviet soldiers drove the Germans back west following the Battle of Stalingrad (1942–1943).

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia became independent nations. The Caucasus region has become the setting for various territorial disputes since the collapse of the Soviet Union, leading to the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the Ossetian-Ingush conflict, the War in Abkhazia, the First and Second Chechen Wars, and the South Ossetia War.


Further information: Prehistoric Georgia and Prehistoric Armenia

Stone Age

Bronze Age

Iron Age

Classical Antiquity

Georgian Kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia 600BC-150BC

Middle Ages

Kingdom of Georgia at the peak of its power under Tamar of Georgia and George IV of Georgia (1184–1226).

Early modern history

Map of the Caucasus in 1490

By the end of the 15th century, the Kingdom of Georgia was fragmented into a number of petty client kingdoms subject to either Persia (Kingdom of Kakheti, Kingdom of Kartli) or the Ottomans (Kingdom of Imereti).)[note 1]

The nascent Russian Empire gains territories in the North Caucasus in the Russo-Persian war of 1722/3. Following the death of Nader Shah, Kartli and Kakheti were merged into the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti in 1762, seceding from Persian overlordship. King Erekle II concluded the Treaty of Georgievsk with the Russian Empire. Catherine the Great used Georgia as a base of operations against both Iran and the Ottoman Empire. The Qajar dynasty attempted to restore Persian hegemony over the Caucasus. A Persian invasion force defeated the Georgian army in the Battle of Krtsanisi in 1795, but soon lost its grip over the Caucasus once again, after the assassination of Agha Mohammad Khan in 1797, leading to the Russian annexation of Georgia in 1801.

While Georgia and Armenia remained Christian, the Chechens gradually adopted Sunni Islam.[2] The Circassians were mostly Islamized under the influence of the Crimean Tatars and the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century.

Modern history

Russian Empire and Civil War

Soviet Union

Recent history (1991present)

See also

Further reading


  1. From 1258, Imereti was considered a separate kingdom within the Kingdom of Georgia (1008–1490). However, the start of the rule of the Second House of Imereti in 1455 is from where it became independent from the Kingdom of Georgia and would form its definite own entity.
  1. Timothy C. Dowling Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond pp 728-730 ABC-CLIO, 2 dec. 2014. ISBN 978-1598849486
  2. Tsaroïeva, Mariel (2005). Anciennes croyances des Ingouches et des Tchétchènes: peuples du Caucase du Nord (in French). Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose. ISBN 2-7068-1792-5.
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