|Mount Elbrus Region|
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.
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.