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Mount Elbrus Region

Mount Elbrus Region (Prielbrusie) is the name often given to a section of the Caucasus extending from the western foothills of Elbrus to the Chegem valley in the east. It includes the highest massif of the Caucasus Range - Elbrus (5642m) - and those parts of the Main (Glavnyi) Caucasus watershed and side ridges that form the upper Baksan river catchment area.

The watershed marks the border between Europe and Asia; also the national border between the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic (part of the Russian Federation) to the north, and Svanetia - the historic province of the Republic of Georgia - to the south.

History and ethnography

The region is the border area between two countries - the Russian Federation and the Republic of Georgia. Kabardino-Balkaria, as part of Russia, and the historic province of Svanetia in Georgia face each other across the Main Caucasian ridge. In spite of the territorial proximity of the Caucasian peoples, their development took place in certain isolation due to the mountainous terrain.

Kabardino-Balkaria is a member of the Russian Federation, lying in the centre of the Greater Caucasus, and occupies its highest section and adjacent plains. In an area of 12400 sq.km, mountains occupy 70% of the territory. The population is 768,000 (1990), comprising Kabardinians, Balkarians and Russians. The capital is Nalchik.

Kabardinians ethnically belong to the group of Northern Caucasian peoples. Their Kabardino-Cherkess tongue belongs to the Iberian-Caucasian languages of the Indo-European language family. The written language is based on Cyrillic.

Balkarians are related to Turkic peoples and speak a Turkic type of language. Their written language is also based on Cyrillic.

Both Kabardinians and Balkarians are mostly Muslims (Sunnites).

Upper Svanetia is the historic province of Georgia and lies in the central part of the main Caucasian ridge to the south of the watershed. This is the world of glaciers, narrow canyons, wild rapids and is the symbol of a majestic love of freedom. It occupies an area of 3154 sq.km. The present population is hard to estimate due to recent natural and political disasters; in 1970 it was 18,000. The capital is Mestia.

Svans are one of the main ethnic groups making up the Georgian nation, itself an ancient one belonging ethnically to European peoples and mainly Christian.


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© Andrew Wielochowski 4/9/2014. From the "Map & guide to Elbrus and the Upper Baksan"