In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Caucasia is Number 54 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The book includes sections on physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The part on political history summarizes how, in the 18th and 19th centuries, Russia gradually extended its reach into this region through wars with Persia and Turkey, wars with tribes in Dagestan and Chechnya, and diplomacy. The study emphasizes the great ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity of the region, noting that the “Caucasus was well named by the Arabs ‘Jebel Assuni’ [Jebel al-alssun], the Mountain of Languages, for the great range shelters as many different tongues as the famous Tower of Babel.” The book briefly covers how the independence movements that sprung up with World War I and the Russian Revolution “shattered the existing system.” The results included the establishment of “three independent republics in what used to be Russian Caucasia—the Armenian Republic, the Georgian Republic, and a Tatar Republic in the eastern Caucasus.” The study notes that in 1908 the Caucasian oil fields supplied about 22 percent of the world’s total production of petroleum and emphasizes the great political and economic importance for Europe of the region’s oil industry.

Last updated: November 14, 2017