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The CAUCASUS MOUNTAINS are a mountain system in West Asia
West Asia
between the Black Sea
Black Sea
and the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
in the Caucasus
Caucasus
region.

The Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains include the Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
in the north and Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
in the south. The Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
runs west-northwest to east-southeast, from the Caucasian Natural Reserve in the vicinity of Sochi
Sochi
on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea
Black Sea
nearly to Baku
Baku
on the Caspian Sea. The Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
runs parallel to the Greater about 100 km (62 mi) south. The Greater and Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
ranges are connected by the Likhi Range
Likhi Range
, and to the west and east of the Likhi Range
Likhi Range
lie the Colchis
Colchis
Plain and the Kur-Araz Lowland
Kur-Araz Lowland
. The Meskheti Range
Meskheti Range
is a part of the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
system. In the southeast the Aras River separates the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
from the Talysh Mountains which straddle the border of southeastern Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
and Iran
Iran
. The Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
and the Armenian Highland
Armenian Highland
constitute the Transcaucasian Highland , which at their western end converge with the highland plateau of Eastern Anatolia
Eastern Anatolia
in the far north east of Turkey
Turkey
. The highest peak in the Caucasus
Caucasus
range is Mount Elbrus
Mount Elbrus
in the Greater Caucasus, which rises to a height of 5,642 metres (18,510 ft) above sea level. Mountains near Sochi
Sochi
hosted part of the 2014 Winter Olympics .

CONTENTS

* 1 Geology * 2 Notable peaks * 3 Climate * 4 Landscape * 5 History * 6 Image gallery * 7 Notes * 8 References * 9 Further reading * 10 External links

GEOLOGY

Geologically, the Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains belong to a system that extends from southeastern Europe
Europe
into Asia
Asia
. The Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains are mainly composed of Cretaceous
Cretaceous
and Jurassic
Jurassic
rocks with the Paleozoic
Paleozoic
and Precambrian
Precambrian
rocks in the higher regions. Some volcanic formations are found throughout the range. On the other hand, the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains are formed predominantly of the Paleogene rocks with a much smaller portion of the Jurassic
Jurassic
and Cretaceous rocks. The evolution of the Caucasus
Caucasus
began from the Late Triassic to the Late Jurassic
Jurassic
during the Cimmerian orogeny at the active margin of the Tethys Ocean
Tethys Ocean
while the uplift of the Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
is dated to the Miocene
Miocene
during the Alpine orogeny
Alpine orogeny
.

The Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains formed largely as the result of a tectonic plate collision between the Arabian plate moving northwards with respect to the Eurasian plate
Eurasian plate
. As the Tethys Sea
Tethys Sea
was closed and the Arabian Plate collided with the Iranian Plate
Iranian Plate
and was pushed against it and with the clockwise movement of the Eurasian Plate towards the Iranian Plate
Iranian Plate
and their final collision, the Iranian Plate
Iranian Plate
was pressed against the Eurasian Plate. As this happened, the entire rocks that had been deposited in this basin from the Jurassic
Jurassic
to the Miocene
Miocene
were folded to form the Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains. This collision also caused the uplift and the Cenozoic
Cenozoic
volcanic activity in the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains.

The entire region is regularly subjected to strong earthquakes from this activity. While the Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains have a mainly folded sedimentary structure, the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains are largely of volcanic origin.

The Javakheti Volcanic
Volcanic
Plateau in Georgia and the surrounding volcanic ranges which extend well into central Armenia
Armenia
are some of the youngest features of the region. Only recently was the Caucasus
Caucasus
a scene for intense volcanic activity: the Armenian highland was flooded by calc-alkaline basalts and andesites in the Pliocene
Pliocene
and the highest summits of the Caucasus, the Elbrus
Elbrus
, and the Kazbek , formed as Pleistocene
Pleistocene
- Pliocene
Pliocene
volcanoes. The Kazbek is no longer active, but the Elbrus
Elbrus
erupted in postglacial times and fumarole activity is registered near its summit. Contemporary seismic activity is a prominent feature of the region, reflecting active faulting and crustal shortening. Clusters of seismicity occur in Dagestan
Dagestan
and in northern Armenia
Armenia
. Many devastating earthquakes have been documented in historical times, including the Spitak
Spitak
earthquake in December 1988 which destroyed the Gyumri
Gyumri
- Vanadzor
Vanadzor
region of Armenia.

NOTABLE PEAKS

Europe's highest mountain is Mount Elbrus
Mount Elbrus
5,642 m (18,510 ft) in the Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains. Elbrus
Elbrus
is 832 m (2,730 ft) higher than Mont Blanc , the highest peak in the Alps
Alps
at 4,810 m (15,780 ft). The Caucasus Mountains are defined as the continental divide between Asia
Asia
and Europe
Europe
for the region between the Black and Caspian Seas.

The table below lists some of the highest peaks of the Caucasus. With the exception of Shkhara
Shkhara
, the heights are taken from Soviet 1:50,000 mapping. There are higher and more prominent, but nameless, peaks than some of the peaks included below.

PEAK NAME ELEVATION (M) PROMINENCE (M) COUNTRY

Elbrus
Elbrus
5,642 4,741 Russia
Russia

Dykh-Tau 5,205 2,002 Russia
Russia

Shkhara
Shkhara
5,201 1,365 Georgia / Russia
Russia

Koshtan-Tau 5,152 822 Russia
Russia

Janga (Jangi-Tau) 5,059 300 Georgia / Russia
Russia

Kazbek 5,047 2,353 Georgia / Russia
Russia

Pushkin
Pushkin
5,033 110 Georgia / Russia
Russia

Katyn-Tau 4,979 240 Georgia / Russia
Russia

Gistola
Gistola
4,860

Georgia

Shota Rustaveli 4,860 c.50 Georgia / Russia
Russia

Tetnuldi 4,858 672 Georgia

Dzhimara 4,780

Georgia / Russia
Russia

Ushba
Ushba
4,710 1,143 Georgia

Ailama 4,547 1,067 Georgia

Tebulos 4,499 2,145 Georgia / Russia
Russia

Mount Bazardüzü
Mount Bazardüzü
4,466 2,454 Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan

Tepli 4,431

Russia
Russia

Diklo 4,285 843 Georgia

Mount Shahdagh
Mount Shahdagh
4,243

Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan

Gora Addala Shukgelmezr 4,152 1,792 Russia
Russia

Gora Dyultydag 4,127 1,834 Russia
Russia

Aragats
Aragats
4,090 2,143 Armenia
Armenia

CLIMATE

Aishkho Pass, Caucasus
Caucasus
Nature Reserve

The climate of the Caucasus
Caucasus
varies both vertically (according to elevation) and horizontally (by latitude and location). Temperature generally decreases as elevation rises. Average annual temperature in Sukhumi
Sukhumi
, Abkhazia
Abkhazia
at sea level is 15 °C (59 °F) while on the slopes of Mt. Kazbek at an elevation of 3,700 metres (12,100 ft), average annual temperature falls to−6.1 °C (21.0 °F). The northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountain Range are 3 °C (5.4 °F) colder than the southern slopes. The highlands of the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains in Armenia
Armenia
, Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
, and Georgia are marked by sharp temperature contrasts between the summer and winter months due to a more continental climate.

Precipitation increases from east to west in most areas. Elevation plays an important role in the Caucasus
Caucasus
and mountains generally receive higher amounts of precipitation than low-lying areas. The northeastern regions ( Dagestan
Dagestan
) and the southern portions of the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains are the driest. The absolute minimum annual precipitation is 250 mm (9.84 in) in the northeastern Caspian Depression . Western parts of the Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains are marked by high amounts of precipitation. The southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountain Range receive higher amounts of precipitation than the northern slopes. Annual precipitation in the Western Caucasus ranges from 1,000 to 4,000 mm (39.37–157.48 in ) while in the Eastern and Northern Caucasus
Caucasus
( Chechnya
Chechnya
, Ingushetia
Ingushetia
, Kabardino-Balkaria
Kabardino-Balkaria
, Ossetia , Kakheti
Kakheti
, Kartli
Kartli
, etc.) precipitation ranges from 600 to 1,800 mm (23.62–70.87 in ). The absolute maximum annual precipitation is 4,100 mm (161.42 in) around the Mt. Mtirala area which lies on the Meskheti Range
Meskheti Range
in Ajaria
Ajaria
. The precipitation of the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountain Range (Southern Georgia , Armenia
Armenia
, western Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
), not including the Meskheti Range
Meskheti Range
, varies from 300-800 mm (31.50 in) annually.

The Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains are known for the high amount of snowfall, although many regions which are not located along the windward slopes do not receive nearly as much snow. This is especially true for the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains which are somewhat isolated from the moist influences coming in from the Black Sea
Black Sea
and receive considerably less precipitation (in the form of snow) than the Greater Caucasus Mountains. The average winter snow cover of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains ranges from 10 to 30 cm (3.94–11.81 in ). The Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains (especially the southwestern slopes) are marked by heavy snowfall. Avalanches are common from November to April.

Snow cover in several regions ( Svaneti
Svaneti
and northern Abkhazia
Abkhazia
) may reach 5 metres (16 ft). The Mt. Achishkho region, which is the snowiest place in the Caucasus, often records snow depths of 7 m (23 ft).

LANDSCAPE

The Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains have a varied landscape which mainly changes according to elevation and distance from large bodies of water. The region contains biomes ranging from subtropical lowland marshes and forests to glaciers (Western and Central Caucasus), and highland semideserts , steppes , and alpine meadows in the south (mainly in Armenia
Armenia
and Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
).

The northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains are covered by oak , hornbeam , maple , and ash forests at lower elevations while birch and pine forests take over at higher elevations. Some of the lowest areas of the region are covered by steppes and grasslands . The slopes of the Northwestern Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
( Kabardino-Balkaria
Kabardino-Balkaria
, Cherkessia
Cherkessia
, etc.) also contain spruce and fir forests. The alpine zone replaces the forest at around 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above sea level. The permafrost/glacier line generally starts around 2,800–3,000 metres (9,200–9,800 ft). The southeastern slopes of the Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains are covered by beech , oak , maple , hornbeam , and ash forests. Beech
Beech
forests tend to dominate in higher locations. The southwestern slopes of the Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
are covered by Colchian forests (oak , buxus , beech , chestnut , hornbeam , elm ) at lower elevations with coniferous and mixed forests (spruce , fir and beech ) taking over at higher elevations. The alpine zone on the southern slopes may extend up to 2,800 metres (9,200 ft) above sea level while the glacier /snow line starts at 3,000–3,500 metres (9,800–11,500 ft).

The northern and western slopes of the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains are characterized both by Colchian and other deciduous forests at lower elevations while mixed and coniferous forests (mainly spruce and fir ) dominate at higher elevations. Beech
Beech
forests are also common at higher elevations. The southern slopes of the Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains are largely covered by grasslands and steppes up to an elevation of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). The highest areas of the region contain alpine grasslands as well. Volcanic
Volcanic
and other rock formations are common throughout the region. The volcanic zone extends over a large area from southern Georgia into Armenia
Armenia
and southwestern Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
. Some of the prominent peaks of the region include Mt. Aragats
Aragats
, Didi Abuli , Samsari , and others. The area is characterized by volcanic plateaus , lava flows , volcanic lakes , volcanic cones and other features. The Lesser Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains lack the type of glaciers and glacial features that are common on the Greater Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountain Range.

HISTORY

Further information: History of the Caucasus
Caucasus

Crossing the Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountain range
Mountain range
was an important section of the northern arm of the Silk Route
Silk Route
. There was one pass on the southeast end in Derbent
Derbent
(crossing the Great Wall of Gorgan
Great Wall of Gorgan
(also known as Alexander the Great's Wall)), and multiple passes throughout the range: Jvari Pass at 2379 m and above the Darial Gorge on the Georgian Military Road, Mamison Pass
Mamison Pass
on the Ossetian Military Road at 2911 m, and Roki Tunnel at 2310 m. See Russian conquest of the Caucasus
Caucasus
.

IMAGE GALLERY

*

Mt Elbrus
Elbrus
viewed from the south *

Komito Mountain in Chechnya
Chechnya
*

Caucasus
Caucasus
Mountains in Svaneti
Svaneti
, Georgia *

Murov mountain in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
*

Chaukhi mountain in Khevi
Khevi
, Georgia *

A gorge in Dagestan
Dagestan
, Russia
Russia
*

Twin-peaked Ushba
Ushba
in Georgia

NOTES

* ^ Native names:

* Georgian : კავკასიონი, translit. : k'avk'asioni,

pronounced

* Armenian : Կովկասյան լեռներ, Kovkasyan leṙner

pronounced

* Azerbaijani : Qafqaz dağları, pronounced * Russian : Кавка́зские го́ры, tr. Kavkázskiye góry; IPA: * Turkish : Kafkas Dağları, Turkish pronunciation: * Persian : كوه هاى قفقاز‎‎

REFERENCES

Wikisource
Wikisource
has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article CAUCASUS .

* Parts of this article are from the NASA Earth Observatory ;

* ^ Stokes, Chris R (2011). Singh, Vijay P.; Haritashya, Umesh K., eds. Encyclopedia of Snow, Ice and Glaciers. Spring Science & Business Media. p. 127. ISBN 9789048126415 . Retrieved 9 November 2014. * ^ Reilinger; McClusky; Oral; King; Toksoz; Barka; Kinik; Lenk; Sanli (Jan 1997). "Global Positioning System measurements of present-day crustal movements in the Arabia-Africa-Eurasia plate collision zone". Journal of Geophysical Research. 102 (B5): 9983–9999. Bibcode :1997JGR...102.9983R. doi :10.1029/96JB03736 . * ^ Philip, H.; Cisternas, A.; Gvishiani, A.; Gorshkov, A. (1 April 1989). "The Caucasus". Tectnophysics. 161 (1–2): 1–21. Bibcode :1989Tectp.161....1P. doi :10.1016/0040-1951(89)90297-7 . * ^ Mt. Elbrus
Elbrus
: Image of the Day. Earthobservatory.nasa.gov. Retrieved on 16 February 2015

FURTHER READING

* Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus, By Svante E. Cornell, Routledge.

EXTERNAL LINKS

Wikimedia Commons has media related to CAUCASUS MOUNTAINS .

* NASA Earth

.