Caucasus, or Caucasia, a historic region between the Black and Caspian seas. In the north, the basins of the Kuban and Kuma rivers in Russia mark its approximate limit. The southern limit is set by Armenia's border with Turkey and Azerbaijan's border with Iran. The portion south of the Greater Caucasus Mountains is sometimes called Transcaucasia.
The people of the Caucasus are varied in ethnic background because the region was continuously invaded over the centuries by peoples who left behind settlers and elements of their culture. Parts of the Caucasus were conquered in ancient times by Scythians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Later invaders included Arabs, Mongols, and Turks. However, many of the native Caucasian tribes—such as the Circassians and Chechens—preserved their own languages and cultures. In the early 19th century, the German anthropologist J. F. Blumenbach gave the name “Caucasian” to the white race because he thought certain peoples of Transcaucasia best typified the race.
During the 18th century the Ottoman Empire, Persia, and Russia struggled for control of the Caucasus. Russia gradually won supremacy, but mountain tribes held out against Russian forces until late in the 19th century. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, Cossack groups in the North Caucasus fought the Bolsheviks until 1924. The Caucasus was again the site of battles during World War II when German forces invaded the region in an attempt to gain the oil fields on the Caspian coast.