Greater Caucasus

The Greater Caucasus (Azerbaijani: Böyük Qafqaz, Бөјүк Гафгаз, بيوک قافقاز; Georgian: დიდი კავკასიონი, Didi K’avk’asioni; Russian: Большой Кавказ, Bolshoy Kavkaz, sometimes translated as "Caucasus Major", "Big Caucasus" or "Large Caucasus") is the major mountain range of the Caucasus Mountains.

Greater Caucasus
Карачаево-Черкесия, Архыз, Вершины Пшиш и Аманауз.jpg
Great Caucasus Range near Arkhyz
Highest point
PeakMount Elbrus
Elevation5,642 m (18,510 ft)
Coordinates43°21′18″N 42°26′31″E / 43.35500°N 42.44194°E / 43.35500; 42.44194
Length1,200 km (750 mi) NW-SE
Satellite image
CountriesAzerbaijan, Georgia and Russia
Parent rangeCaucasus Mountains
Borders onLesser Caucasus

The range stretches for about 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) from west-northwest to east-southeast, between the Taman Peninsula of the Black Sea to the Absheron Peninsula of the Caspian Sea: from the Western Caucasus in the vicinity of Sochi on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea and reaching nearly to Baku on the Caspian.


The range is traditionally separated into three parts:

In the wetter Western Caucasus, the mountains are heavily forested (deciduous forest up to 1,500 metres (4,900 ft), coniferous forest up to 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) and alpine meadows above the tree line). In the drier Eastern Caucasus, the mountains are mostly treeless.

Europe–Asia boundaryEdit

The watershed of the Caucasus is also considered by some to be the boundary between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The European part to the north of the watershed is known as Ciscaucasia; the Asiatic part to the south as Transcaucasia, which is dominated by the Lesser Caucasus mountain range and whose western portion converges with Eastern Anatolia.[1]

Most of the border of Russia with Georgia and Azerbaijan runs along most of the Caucasus' length. The Georgian Military Road (Darial Gorge) and Trans-Caucasus Highway traverse this mountain range at altitudes of up to 3,000 metres (9,800 ft).


The watershed of the Caucasus was the border between the Caucasia province of the Russian Empire in the north and the Ottoman Empire and Persia in the south (1801) until the Russian victory in 1813 and the Treaty of Gulistan which moved the border of the Russian Empire well within Transcaucasia.[2] The border between Georgia and Russia still follows the watershed almost exactly (except for Georgia's western border, which extends south of the watershed, and a narrow strip of territory in northwestern Kakheti and northern Mtskheta-Mtianeti where Georgia extends north of the watershed), while Azerbaijan is south of the watershed except that its northeastern corner has five districts north of the watershed (Khachmaz, Quba, Qusar, Shabran, and Siazan).


14th-century Georgian Orthodox Gergeti Trinity Church building, with the Mount Kazbek in the background


The snow-capped peaks of the Greater Caucasus

See alsoEdit


Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML
  1. ^ 18th-century definitions drew the boundary north of the Caucasus, across the Kuma–Manych Depression. This definition remained in use in the Soviet Union during the 20th century. In western literature, the continental boundary has been drawn along the Caucasus watershed since at least the mid-19th century. See e.g. Baron von Haxthausen, "Transcaucasia" (1854); review Dublin university magazine Douglas W. Freshfield, "Journey in the Caucasus", Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, Volumes 13–14, 1869.
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica o 1833, vol 5, p. 251.