Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Nationalities of the Caucasus

A small mountainous region in the southwestern portion of the Soviet Union known as the Caucasus has been the home to three major nationalities--the Armenians, Georgians, and Azerbaydzhanis--and to twenty-four minor nationalities. The three major nationalities had their own union republics along the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, sometimes known as the Transcaucasus. The other nationalities resided in their own autonomous republics or autonomous oblasts, mostly along the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, or lived scattered within the boundaries of the three Caucasian republics or the Russian Republic. Over 15.7 million people, or 5.5 percent of the total population of the Soviet Union in 1989, lived in the Caucasus, a region not much larger than the territory of the three Baltic republics. Although they have shared historical experiences, the three major nationalities of the Caucasus have far greater differences than the three Baltic nationalities or the three East Slavic nationalities. The differences are particularly sharp between the Azerbaydzhanis and the Armenians and Georgians. The Turkic-speaking Azerbaydzhanis are Muslims. Culturally and historically linked to both Iran and Turkey, they have not experienced independent statehood except for a brief period after the fall of the tsarist government in 1917. Both Armenians and Georgians have been Christian since the fourth century, and their history of independent statehood dates back to classical antiquity.

Data as of May 1989