CAUCASUS MOUNTAINS, a lofty and rugged range of mountains forming one of the natural barriers between Europe and Asia. It extends in a northwest and southeast direction from near the strait of Kerch on the Black Sea to near Baku on the Aspheron Peninsula pro jecting into the Caspian Sea. The distance between these points in a straight line is 700 miles, but following the main ridge of the mountains about 940 miles. The range varies in width from 60 to 130 miles and may be divided into three parts. The western portion, extending from the Strait of Kerch and the Sea of Azov to the peak of Elbruz, consists of a series of parallel ridges of stratified rocks, the ridges apparently formed by huge, tilted fault blocks. The northern slopes of the northern ridges rise rather gently out of the plain of Caucasia; the southern slopes, along the fault planes, are abrupt; and the southern slope of the main ridge has in places almost vertical walls Z000 to 3,000 feet high. There are few passes through this great barrier, and these are difficult. The snow line is at about 9,000 feet.
The highest peaks of the Caucasus are in the central part, from Elbruz to the Adai Khokh. Here, as to the westward, is a series ofparallel ridges, the higher summits all snow clad, with deep longitudinal valleys; but some of the highests, Elbruz and Kazbelc, are on spurs more or C az less from the main range.
In this central portion of the Caucasus, as yet but incompletely mapped, there are said to be fully 20 summits higher than Mont Blanc, the highest peaks being Elbruz, 18,470 feet; Dykhtau, 17,054 feet; Koshtantau, 16,881 feet; Janghitau, 16,564 feet; and Kazbek, 16,546 feet. The snow line is at about 11,500 feet, and the total number of glaciers of the first class is fully 175, while rounded rock surfaces and boulders in the valleys show that glaciation was much more extensive at no very distant time. East of Kazbek the range narrows and is nar rowest south of Vladikarkaz, where it is crossed by the Russian military road to Georgia. This road runs over the Kobi Pass and through the great Davial Gorge, one of the greatest moun tain chasms in the world. The eastern part of
the Caucasus, from Kazbek to the Caspian, is of much more complicated structure; the range widening and including a high plateau crossed by subordinate ranges having an east-northeast and west-southwest direction, though what may be termed the main axis continues its southeast course.
The plains of Caucasia north of the moun tains are underlaid by Tertiary and Quaternary strata. The foothills of the western Caucasus and the plateau of the eastern Caucasus show rocks of Cretaceous and Jurassic Age, and nearer the main axis of the range are Palwozoic formations. The main axis shows schists and gneisses with granite and syenite. Trachyte and similar rocks occur, and some of the peaks, Kazbek, are probably in part of volcanic origin.
The scenery of the Caucasus is wild and gloomy rather than beautiful. The lower slopes are thickly wooded, but there is not the com bination of dark forests, beautiful lakes and graceful snow-crowned summits that makes some ranges — for instance the Selkirks in Brit ish Columbia so attractive to the mountain climber.
The mineral wealth of the Caucasus is very great ; in fact, in this respect the range is one of the most noteworthy in the world, but owing in part to the very rugged topography much of this wealth is still undeveloped. Among the valuable resources may be named the coal fields near Ochemchiri and at Kuban and Kutais, the copper mines of Tiflis and Elizabethpol and the silver ores of Terek and Kutais. More import ant are the manganese mines near Kutais, whence some 500,000 tons of ore are exported annually to various European countries and the United States. Most important of all are the oil wells of the Aspheron Peninsula, the most remarkable in the world, whence some $12,000, 000 worth of petroleum, benzine, etc., are shipped to foreign countries every year. Con sult Bodenstedt, People of the Deniker, (Races of Man' • Keane, Past and Present' ; Ripley, of Europe.>