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

Zhelesnovodsk, Essentuki, and Kislovodsk in Terek, and at Tiflis, Abbas-tuman and Borzhom in the government of Tiflis.

Manufacturing industry is confined to a few articles and commodities, such as cement, tea, tin cans (for oil), cotton goods, oil refineries, tobacco factories, flour-mills, silk-winding mills (especially at Shusha and Jebrail in the south of Elisavetpol), distilleries and breweries. On the other hand, the domestic industries are extensively carried on and exhibit a high degree of technical skill and artistic taste. Carpets (especially at Shusha), silk, cotton and woollen goods, felts and fur cloaks are made, and small arms in Daghestan and at Tiflis, Nukha and Sukhum-kaleh; silversmiths’ work at Tiflis, Akhaltsikh and Kutais; pottery at Elisavetpol and Shusha; leather shoe-making at Alexandropol, Nukha, Elisavetpol, Shusha and Tiflis; saddlery at Sukhum-kaleh and Ochemchiri on the Black Sea and at Temirkhan-shura in Daghestan; and copper work at Derbent and Alexandropol. But industries of every description were most seriously crippled by the spirit of turbulence and disorder which manifested itself throughout Transcaucasia in the years 1904–1906, accentuated as they were further by the outbreak of the long-rooted racial enmities between the Armenians and the Tatars, especially at Baku in 1905.

Commerce.—The exports through the Black Sea ports of Batum, Poti and Novo-rossiysk average in value a little over £10,000,000 annually, though showing a tendency to increase slightly. By far the most important commodity is petroleum, fully one-half of the total value. In addition large quantities are shipped at Baku direct for the Volga and the Transcaspian port of Krasnovodsk. The export that comes next in value is silk, and after it may be named wheat, barley, manganese ore, maize, wool, oilcake, carpets, rye, oats, liquorice and timber. The import trade reaches nothing like the same value, and what there is is confined almost entirely to Batum. The annual average vahie may be put at not quite £2,000,000, machinery and tin-plate being a long way the most important items. There is further a small transit trade through Transcaucasia from Persia to the value of less than half a million sterling annually, and chiefly in carpets, cocoons and silk, wool, rice and boxwood; and further a sea-borne trade between Persia and Caucasian ports (Baku and Petrovsk) to the value of over 1½ millions sterling in all. The very extensive internal trade with Russia can only be mentioned.

Railways.—The principal approach to Caucasia from Russia by rail is the line that runs from Rostov-on-Don to Vladikavkaz at the foot of the central Caucasus range. Thence, or rather from the junction of Beslan, 14 m. north of Vladikavkaz, the main line proceeds east of Petrovsk on the Caspian, and from Petrovsk skirts the shore southwards as far as Baku, the distance from Vladikavkaz to Baku being 414 m. This railway, together with the driving roads over the Caucasus mountains via the Mamison pass (the Ossetic military road) and the Darial pass (the Georgian military road), and the route across the Black Sea to Poti or Batum are the chief means of communication between southern Russia and Transcaucasia. Baku and Batum (also Poti) are connected by another main line, 560 m. long, which traverses the valleys of the Kura and the Rion, south of the Caucasus. From Tiflis, nearly midway on this last line, a railway proceeds south as far as Erivan (234 m.), with a branch to Kars (48 m.). The Erivan line is being continued into Persia, namely, to Tabriz via Julfa on the Aras.

History.—To the ancient Greeks Caucasia, and the mighty range which dominates it, were a region of mystery and romance. It was there that they placed the scene of the sufferings of Prometheus (vide Aeschylus, Prometheus Vinctus), and there, in the land of Colchis, which corresponds to the valley of the Rion, that they sent the Argonauts to fetch the golden fleece. Outside the domain of myth, the earliest connexion of the Greeks with that part of the world would appear to have been through the maritime colonies, such as Dioscurias, which the Milesians founded on the Black Sea coast in the 7th century B.C. For more than two thousand years the most powerful state in Caucasia was that of Georgia (q.v.), the authentic history of which begins with its submission to Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. The southern portion of Transcaucasia fell during the 1st century B.C. under the sway of Armenia, and with that country passed under the dominion of Rome, and so eventually of the Eastern empire. During the 3rd century A.D. Georgia and Armenia were invaded and in great part occupied by the Khazars, and then for more than a thousand years the mountain fastnesses of this borderland between Europe and Asia were the refuge, or the resting-place, of successive waves of migration, as people after people and tribe after tribe was compelled to give way to the pressure of stronger races harassing them in the rear. The Huns, for instance, and the Avars appeared in the 6th century, and the Mongols in the 13th. In the 10th century bands of Varangians or Russified Scandinavians sailed out of the Volga and coasted along the Caspian until they had doubled the Apsheron peninsula, when they landed and captured Barda, the chief town of Caucasian Albania.

But, apart from Georgia, historical interest in Caucasia centres in the long and persistent attempts which the Russians made to conquer it, and the heroic, though unavailing, resistance offered by the mountain races, more especially the Circassian and Lesghian tribes. Russian aggression began somewhat early in the 18th century, when Peter the Great, establishing his base at Astrakhan on the Volga, and using the Caspian for bringing up supplies and munitions of war, captured Derbent from the Persians in 1722, and Baku in the following year. But these conquests, with others made at the expense of Persia, were restored to the latter power after Peter’s death, a dozen years later. At that period the Georgians were divided into various petty principalities, the chief of which were Imeretia and Georgia (Kharthlia), owing at times a more or less shadowy allegiance to the sultan of the Ottoman Turks at Constantinople. In 1770, during the course of a war between Russia and Turkey, the Russians crossed over the Caucasus and assisted the Imeretians to resist the Turks, and from the time of the ensuing peace of Kuchuk-kainarji the Georgian principalities looked to their powerful northern neighbour as their protector against the southern aggressors the Turks. In 1783 George XIII., prince of Georgia and Mingrelia, formally put himself under the suzerainty of Russia, and after his death Georgia was converted (1801) into a Russian province. The same fate overtook Imeretia, nine years later. Meanwhile the Russians had also subdued the Ossetes (1802) and the Lesghian tribes (1803) of the middle Caucasus. By the peace of Gulistan in 1813 Persia ceded to Russia several districts in eastern Caucasia, from Lenkoran northwards to Derbent. Nevertheless the mountain tribes who inhabited the higher parts of the Caucasus were still independent, and their subjugation cost Russia a sustained effort of thirty years, during the course of which her military commanders were more than once brought almost to the point of despair by the tenacity, the devotion and the adroitness and daring which the mountaineers displayed in a harassing guerilla warfare. The animating spirit of their resistance was Shamyl (Samuel), a chief and priest of the Lesghians, who, a Mahommedan, proclaimed a “holy war” against the “infidel” aggressors. At first the Russians were able to continue their policy of conquest and annexation without serious check. After acquiring the northern edge of the Armenian plateau, partly from Persia in 1828 and partly from Turkey in 1829, Russia crushed a rising which had broken out in the Caspian coast districts of Daghestan on the north of the Caucasus. This took place during the years 1831–1832. The next seven years were occupied with the subjugation of the Abkhasians along the Black Sea coast, and of other Circassian tribes in the west. Meanwhile Shamyl had roused the Lesghian tribes farther east and begun his twenty years’ struggle for freedom, a struggle which called forth the sympathy and admiration of nearly the whole of Europe. More than once he escaped, in a manner that seemed little short of marvellous, out of the hands of the Russians when they held him closely invested in some mountain fastness, as at Himry in 1831, at Akhulgo in 1839, and again at the same stronghold in 1849.