Peter Frankopan

Most people who call themselves Caucasian know nothing about the Caucasus

Fortunately, Christoph Baumer proves an expert guide to the beautiful, puzzling region known as ‘a mountain of tongues’

The three-nave Alanian church of Shoana from the early 10th century was built in the Byzantine style and stands on a rocky outcrop near the left bank of the Kuban river, Karachay-Cherkessia, Russian Federation [Alexander Svirkin 2018]

The Caucasus, a popular saying goes, is a ‘mountain of tongues’. Describing this region requires a strong constitution, determination and brilliance because, as Christoph Baumer writes in this magnificent book, ‘in many ways, the Caucasus region is a puzzle’.

That is something of an understatement. For one thing, the mountains usually referred to as the Caucasus are in fact part of two geologically distinct ranges: the Greater Caucasus that is around 100 kilometres wide and ten times the length, spans the land between the Black and Caspian Seas and acts as a climatic valve, blocking off like a plug cold...

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