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North Caucasus

North Caucasus
Map of North Caucasus
Coordinates43°21′18″N 42°26′31″E / 43.35500°N 42.44194°E / 43.35500; 42.44194
Federal subjects and mkhares
DemonymNorth Caucasian
Time ZonesUTC+03:00
Highest mountainElbrus (5,642 metres (18,510 ft))

The North Caucasus,[a] or Ciscaucasia,[b] is a region in Eastern Europe, governed by Russia. It constitutes the northern part of the wider Caucasus region, which forms the natural border between Europe and West Asia. It is bordered by the Sea of Azov and Black Sea to the west, the Caspian Sea to the east, and the Caucasus Mountains to the south. The region shares land borders with the South Caucasus countries of Georgia and Azerbaijan.[c] Krasnodar is the largest city within the North Caucasus.

A region of Russia since the 18th century, the North Caucasus is today politically divided between a number of Russian republics and krais. It lies north of the Main Caucasian Range, which separates it from the South Caucasus. As part of Russia, the territory falls within the North Caucasian and Southern Federal Districts and consists of Krasnodar Krai, Stavropol Krai, and the constituent republics, approximately from west to east: the Republic of Adygea, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia–Alania, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Republic of Dagestan and to the north: Kalmykia.[1]

Geographically, the term North Caucasus also refers to the northern slope and western extremity of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, as well as a part of its southern slope to the West. The Pontic–Caspian steppe area is often also encompassed under the notion of a Ciscaucasus region, thus the northern boundary of the Forecaucasus steppe or Nogai steppe is generally considered to be the Manych River. Owing to its mild climate compared to much of Russia, the region has been described as Russia's "sunbelt".[2]


Northern Caucasus, Early Bronze Age artifacts, 3rd millennium BCE.

Ancient cultures of the Northern Caucasus are known as Klin-Yar community, with one of the most notable cultures being the ancient Koban culture.[3]

Ciscaucasus was historically covered by the Pontic–Caspian steppe, mostly on fertile calcareous chernozyom soils, which has been almost completely tilled and grazed. It is bounded by the Sea of Azov on the west, and the Caspian Sea on the east. According to the Concise Atlas of the World, Second Edition (2008), the Ciscaucasus region lies on the European side of the "commonly-accepted division" that separates Europe from Asia.

The Northern Caucasus was conquered by Russia after the Russo-Circassian War. Much of the Northern Caucasus seceded from Russia in March 1917 as the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus, taking advantage of the instability caused by the February Revolution and becoming a minor participant in the Russian Civil War. Mountainous Republic troops engaged in fierce clashes against the invading White General Anton Denikin's Volunteer Army, before the latter's defeat at the hands of the Red Army. The region was informally occupied by the Soviet Union shortly afterwards, and the republic was forced into accepting a nonviolent annexation in January 1921. It was reformed into the Mountainous ASSR, which was later dissolved in October 1924, replaced by a series of autonomous Okrugs and Oblasts.

The outer border of the Soviet Union's North Caucasus Krai was the same as that of present-day North Caucasus Economic Region (Raion) which includes an oblast (Rostov Oblast), two krais (Krasnodar Krai and Stavropol Krai), and seven republics. The former North Caucasus Military District (Okrug) also included Astrakhan Oblast, Volgograd Oblast, and the Republic of Kalmykia. Its administrative center was Rostov-on-Don until 10 January 1934, Pyatigorsk until January 1936, then Ordzhonikidze (today Vladikavkaz) and, from 15 December 1936, Voroshilovsk (today Stavropol).


The North Caucasus region experienced widespread unrest and insurgency after the fall of the Soviet Union, including a low-level armed conflict between Russia and militants associated with the Caucasus Emirate and, from June 2015, the Islamic State.[4][5][6]

The insurgency became relatively dormant in its later years.[5][6] During its peak, the violence was mostly concentrated in the North Caucasus republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. Occasional incidents happened in surrounding regions, such as North Ossetia–Alania, Karachay-Cherkessia, Stavropol Krai, and Volgograd Oblast.

While the insurgency was officially declared over on 19 December 2017 when FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov announced the final elimination of the insurgent underground in the North Caucasus,[7] counter-terrorism operations in the North Caucasus have not ended.[8]

In June 2022, the US State Department advised citizens not to travel to the North Caucasus, including Chechnya and Mount Elbrus, due to terrorism, kidnapping and risk of civil unrest.[9]

Other paramilitaries active in the region have included the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, an anti-Georgian organization and a participant in the 1992-1993 Abkhaz conflict that based its flag and political agenda directly on those of the Mountainous Republic.


The North Caucasus, especially in its mountainous territories, has the highest life expectancy in Russia.[10][11] The region is known for a large number of centenarians.[12][13][14]

Life expectancy at birth in the North Caucasus, 1990–2021[10][11]

Administrative divisions

North Caucasus is located in Southern Federal District
Krasnodar Krai
Krasnodar Krai
Stavropol Krai
Stavropol Krai
Rostov Oblast
Rostov Oblast
Volgograd Oblast
Volgograd Oblast
Ast- rakh- an Oblast
The North Caucasus region within Russia
  • Red: NC economic region, former NC krai, former NC military okrug
  • Green: former NC military okrug
  • Blue: NC economic region, NC federal okrug, former NC military okrug

Russian political subdivisions associated with the region include:


See also


  1. ^ (Adyghe: Темыр Къафкъас, romanized: Temır Qafqas; Avar: Хьундасеб Кавказ; Karachay-Balkar: Шимал Кавказ, romanized: Şimal Kavkaz; Chechen: Къилбаседа Кавказ, romanized: Q̇ilbaseda Kavkaz; Ingush: Даькъасте, romanized: Däq̇aste; Kabardian: Ишхъэрэ Къаукъаз, romanized: İṩxhərə Qauqaz; Ossetian: Цӕгат Кавказ, romanized: Cægat Kavkaz; Russian: Северный Кавказ)
  2. ^ Russian: Предкавказье, romanizedPredkavkazye; Also translated as Ciscaucasus or Forecaucasus
  3. ^ The North Caucasus also shares borders with the two partially recognized breakaway states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to its south, both of which are internationally recognised as part of Georgia.


  1. ^ Peuch, Jean-Christophe (April 8, 2008). "Russia: Protesters Ransack Government Building In Karachaevo-Cherkessia". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
  2. ^ Hill, Fiona; Gaddy, Clifford (2003). The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-8157-9618-3. "The North Caucasus region extends across Rostov oblast and Stavropol and Krasnodar krays. It also encompasses the seven autonomous republics of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetiya, North Ossetiya, Kabardino-Balkariya, Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, and Adygeya. The region accounts for about 2 percent of the territory of the Russian Federation and in 1989 had a population of 13,183,860, or about 8 percent of the Russian population. The North Caucasus could qualify as Russia's "sunbelt."
  3. ^ Sharko, Fedor S.; Boulygina, Eugenia S.; Tsygankova, Svetlana V.; Slobodova, Natalia V.; Rastorguev, Sergey M.; Krasivskaya, Anna A.; Belinsky, Andrej B.; Härke, Heinrich; Kadieva, Anna A.; Demidenko, Sergej V.; Malashev, Vladimir Yu; Shvedchikova, Tatiana Yu; Dobrovolskaya, Maria V.; Reshetova, Irina K.; Korobov, Dmitry S. (January 4, 2024). "Koban culture genome-wide and archeological data open the bridge between Bronze and Iron Ages in the North Caucasus". European Journal of Human Genetics: 1–9. doi:10.1038/s41431-023-01524-4. ISSN 1476-5438. PMID 38177408. S2CID 266745350.
  4. ^ "Six Russian soldiers killed in Chechnya". BBC News. 24 March 2017. Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 3 October 2017. Russian troops in Chechnya have faced a low level insurgency for years ... They still face a low-level insurgency in the mainly Muslim region in Russia's volatile North Caucasus area.
  5. ^ a b "Russia's North Caucasus Insurgency Widens as ISIS' Foothold Grows". 12 April 2016. Archived from the original on 3 October 2017. Retrieved 3 October 2017. Russia's North Caucasus insurgency has gone relatively quiet, but reduced casualty numbers belie a still-worrying situation where long-standing grievances remain.
  6. ^ a b Walker, Shaun (April 4, 2017). "Why suspicion over St Petersburg metro attack is likely to fall on Islamist groups". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on April 3, 2017. Retrieved October 3, 2017. A renewed crackdown on any suspected militant activity in the run-up to the Sochi winter Olympics in 2014 and the departure of many militants to fight in Syria led to a weakening of the North Caucasus insurgency.
  7. ^ Нечаев А., Зайнашев Ю. Россия выиграла еще одну важнейшую битву // Взгляд.ру, 19.12.2017
  8. ^ Федеральный закон № 5-ФЗ от 12 января 1995, "О ветеранах" (in Russian)
  9. ^ "Russia Travel Advisory".
  10. ^ a b "Демографический ежегодник России" [The Demographic Yearbook of Russia] (in Russian). Federal State Statistics Service of Russia (Rosstat). Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  11. ^ a b "Ожидаемая продолжительность жизни при рождении" [Life expectancy at birth]. Unified Interdepartmental Information and Statistical System of Russia (in Russian). Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  12. ^ "Russia: Mountain Air Leads To Long Life In North Caucasus". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. June 1, 2007.
  13. ^ Sam Bedford (February 13, 2018). "Why the Caucasus Has So Many 100-Year-Olds".
  14. ^ Science (January 29, 2021). "The Caucasus. The Oldest People In The World (Episode 3). Full Documentary" (video). YouTube.

Further reading

  • In Quest for God and Freedom: Sufi Responses to the Russian Advance in the North Caucasus by Anna Zelkina
  • Russia in the Modern World: A New Geography by Denis J. B. Shaw, Institute of British Geographers
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North Caucasus
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