Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

character of the vegetation is indicated under Caucasus: Western Caucasus. In the basin of the Rion, in that of the Chorokh (which runs off the Pontic highlands into the Black Sea south of Batura), and on the Black Sea littoral from Batum northwards to Sukhum-kaleh, and beyond, the climate is extremely hot and the rainfall heavy (see under Climate below). It is in this valley that the principal towns (except Vladikavkaz at the north foot of the Caucasus) of Caucasia are situated, namely, Baku (179,133 inhabitants in 1900), Tiflis (160,645 in 1897), Kutais (32,492), and the two Black Sea ports of Batum (28,512) and Poti (7666).

(iv.) The highlands of Armenia are sometimes designated the Minor Caucasus, Little Caucasus and Anti-Caucasus. But to use such terms for what is not only an independent, but also an older, orographical formation than the Caucasus tends to perpetuate confusion in geographical nomenclature. The Armenian highlands, which run generally parallel to the Caucasus, though at much lower elevations (5000–6000 ft.), are a plateau region, sometimes quite flat, sometimes gently undulating, clothed with luxuriant meadows and mostly cultivable. From it rise double or triple ranges connected by cross-ridges and spined with outer spurs. These double and triple ranges, which have a general elevation of 8500–10,000 ft., stretch from the south-east angle of the Black Sea, 400 m. south-eastwards to the Kara-dagh and Salavat mountains in north Persia, and the latter link them on to the Elburz mountains that skirt the southern end of the Caspian Sea. Various names are given to the different parts of the constituent ranges, or, perhaps more correctly, elongated groups of mountains. The Ajar, Akhalt-sikh and Meskes or Trialety groups in the west are succeeded farther east by the Somkhet, Murguz, Ganji and Karabakh sections, forming the southern rim of the Kura basin, while parallel with them, but farther south, run the Mokry, Miskhan, Akmangan and Paltapin ranges, marking the northern edge of the Aras drainage area. These two sets of parallel ranges are linked together transversely by the cross-ridges of Bezobdal, Pambak, Shah-dagh and Gok-cha. From this last branches off the highest range in the entire series, namely, the Zangezur, which soars up to 10,000 ft. above the left bank of the Aras. From it again there shoot away at right angles, one on each side, the ranges of the Dar-alagöz and Bergushet. These highlands exhibit very considerable evidences of volcanic activity both in remote geological periods and also since the Tertiary epoch. Large areas are overlain with trachyte, basalt, obsidian, tuff and pumice. The most conspicuous features of the entire region, Mount Ararat (16,930 ft.) and Mount Alagöz (13,440 ft.), are both solid masses of trachyte; and both rise above the limits of perpetual snow. Extinct volcanoes are numerous in several of the ranges, e.g. Akmangan, Mokry, Karabakh and Egri-dagh (see below). It is in this region of the Armenian highlands that the largest lakes of Caucasia are situated, namely, the Gok-cha or Sevanga (540 sq. m. in area) at an altitude of 6340 ft., the Chaldir-gol (33 sq. m.) at 6520 ft., and several smaller ones, such as the gols of Khozapin, Khopchalu, Arpa, Toporavan and Tabiztskhur, all situated between 6500 and 7000 ft. above sea-level. The principal water-divide in this highland region is, however, the range of Egri-dagh (Ararat), which just south of 40° S. forms for 100 m. the boundary between Russian and Turkish Armenia, having Ararat at its eastern extremity and the extinct volcano of Kessa-dagh (11,260 ft.) at its western. Its importance lies in the fact that it divides the streams which flow into the Black Sea and Caspian from those which make their way into the Persian Gulf. The Egri-dagh possesses a sharply defined crest, ranges at a general elevation of 8000 ft., is bare of timber, scantily supplied with water, and rugged and deeply fissured.

The transverse water-parting between the Black Sea and the Caspian begins on the south side of the main range of the Caucasus, at Mount Zikara (12,560 ft.), a little south-west of Kasbek, and runs south-west along the sinuous crests of the Racha, Suram or Meskes (3000–5000 ft.), Vakhan (10,000–11,000 ft.), Arzyan (7000–10,000 ft.), and its continuation the Soganluk, thus linking the Caucasus ranges with those of the Armenian highlands. This line of heights separates the basins of the Chorokh and the Rion (Black Sea) from those of the Aras and the Kura (Caspian Sea). North of the Caucasus ranges the water-divide between these two seas descends from Mount Elbruz along the Sadyrlar Mountains (11,000 ft.), and finally sinks into the Stavropol “plateau” (1600 ft.). But the main axis of the transverse upheavals would appear to be continued in a north-eastern direction in the Andi and other parallel ranges of Daghestan, as stated under Caucasus.

The population in this region consists principally of Armenians, Tatars, Turks, Kurds, Ossetes, Greeks, with Persians, Tates and a few Russians (see particulars below).

Climate.—Owing in part to the great differences in altitude in different regions of Caucasia and in part to the directions in which the mountain ranges run, and consequently the quarters towards which their slopes face, the climate varies very greatly according to locality. Generally speaking, it may be characterized as a climate of extremes on the Armenian highlands, in the Kura valley and in northern Caucasia, and as maritime and genial in Lenkoran, on the Black Sea coastlands, and in the valley of the Rion. The greatest recorded range of temperature is at Erivan (altitude 3230 ft.), namely, of 64° between a January average of 14.9° and an August average of 78.8° F. At Sukhum-kaleh, on the Black Sea, the corresponding range is only 27.3°, between a January average of 48.8° and an August average of 76.1°. The highest mean temperatures for the whole year are those of Lenkoran (60.3°) and of Sukhum-kaleh and Poti (about 58°), and the lowest at Ardahan (5840 ft.), in the province of Kars, namely, 37.9°, and at Gudaur (7245 ft.), a few miles south of Kasbek, namely, 38.6°. The following table gives particulars of temperature averages at a few typical places:—

Place. Altitude.  Annual 
 Stavropol   2030   47.0°   24.0°   70.0°
 Vladikavkaz    2345   47.3°   23.4°   68.0°
 Gudaur   7245   38.6°   20.3°   57.2°
 Baku   on Caspian   58.0°   38.0°   80.0°
 Tiflis   1490   55.0°   32.0°   76.5°
 Batum   on Black Sea    59.0°   42.0°   75.0°
 Sochi   on Black Sea   56.3°   40.3°   76.1°
 Lenkoran   on Caspian   60.3°   39.0°   80.6°
 Erivan   3170   51.0°   51.0°   75.0°

In respect of precipitation the entire region of Caucasia may be divided into two strikingly contrasted regions, a wet and a dry. To the former belong the Black Sea littoral, where the rainfall averages 59 to 93 in. annually, and the valleys that open upon it or are exposed to winds blowing off it, in which the rainfall varies, however, from 20 in. (Abbas-tuman, Borzhom) to 60 (Kutais). In Lenkoran also the rainfall averages 40 to 50 in. in the year. Between 16 and 40 in. fall as a rule at the northern foot of the Caucasus (Mozdok, Pyatigorsk) and in the Kura valley (Tiflis, Novo-bayazet). On the Armenian highlands and on the steppes north of Pyatigorsk the rainfall is less than 12 in. annually, and even in some places less than 8 in., e.g. at the foot of Ararat. Most rain falls at Batum and at Lenkoran in the autumn, in northern Caucasia and in Transcaucasia in spring and summer, but in the vicinity of the Sea of Azov in winter.

Flora and Fauna.—Plant-life, in such a mountainous country as Caucasia, being intimately dependent upon aspect and altitude, is treated under Caucasus. The wild animals of Caucasia are for the most part the same as those which frequent the mountainous parts of central Europe, though there is also an irruption of Asiatic forms, e.g. the tiger (in Lenkoran only), panther, hyaena and jackal. The more important of the carnivores which haunt the forests, valleys and mountain slopes are the bear (Ursus arctos), wolf, lynx, wild cat and fox (Vulpes melanotus). The wild boar occurs around Borzhom. The aurochs (Bos urus) appears to exist still in the forests of the western Caucasus. Of interest for sportsmen, as well as serving as prey for the carnivores, are red deer, goats (Capra pallasit and C. aegagrus), chamois, roebuck, moufflon (Ovis musimon), argali or Asiatic wild sheep (O. Amman), another species of sheep in O. gmelini, and fallow deer (Capreolus pigargns) in northern Caucasus only. Rodents are numerous, the mouse (Mus sylvaticus) is very destructive, and beavers are met with in places. The birds of prey are the same as these of central Europe, and include the sea eagle, alpine vulture (Gyps fulvus), buzzard, kites (Gypaëtus barbatus and Milvus ater), hawks (e.g. Astur nisus), goshawk (A. palumbarius), fish-hawk (Pandion haliaëtus) and owls. Among the smaller birds may be enumerated finches, the siskin, bullfinch, pipit, titmouse, wagtail, lark, fine-crested wren, hedge-sparrow, corn-wren, nut-hatch, starling, swallow, martin, swift, thrush, butcher bird, shrike, dipper, yellow-hammer, ortolan and a warbler (Accentor alpinus). The game birds consist of grouse, blackcock, moorhen, quail and partridge. The pheasant derives its name from the ancient name (Phasis) of the Rion.

In the seas and rivers about 190 species of fishes have been enumerated. Of these, 115 species are Mediterranean, 30 are common to the Caspian Sea, and the remaining species are peculiar to the Black Sea. The most useful economically are several species of sturgeon and of herring, trout, barbel, chubb, bream, ray, sea-dace,