Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Caucasians. I. In Anthropology the conventional name of one of the main divisions of mankind, for which see Caucasic Race. II. In Ethnology the aborigines of the Caucasus, who are grouped (mainly on linguistic grounds) in four divisions: 1. Southern: Georgians, Imeritians, Mingrelians, Lazes, Swanithians, Khevsurs Pshavs, collectively forming the Kartweli family; 2, Western: Circassians, Abkhasians, Kabardians; 3. Central: Ossetes or Irons; 4. Eastern: Lesghians, Avars, Chechenzes, Ingush, Kist, Tush, Dargo, Kazi-Kumyksh, and many others collectively known as Daghestani, a term, however, which simply means "highlanders." These four divisions must for the present be held as fundamentally distinct, all attempts to reduce the several languages to a common mother tongue having hitherto failed. No. 3 (Ossete) belongs to the Aryan stock with Iranian affinities. All the others are strictly indigenous with no known affinities elsewhere. No 1 certainly, No. 2 probably, and No. 4 very doubtfully, form each a linguistic family, and are sprung from three now extinct stock languages. No. 4 has but slight unity, and in it are often grouped such tribes as the Andi and Ude, whose languages are absolutely distinct from each other and from all others. Even in No. 2 Kabardian differs profoundly, perhaps radically, from both Circassian and Abkhasian, and the Caucasus altogether presents linguistic and racial problems of an extraordinarily complex character. This complexity goes back to prehistoric times, for the Caucasus was already spoken of by the Greeks as the "Mountain of Languages," and Pliny tells us that in his time as many as 120 languages were current in the port of Dioscurias on the Euxine. Apart from Ossete, which being Aryan is inflectional, all the other indigenous languages have this in common, that they belong to the agglutinating order of speech; but in some cases, such as Georgian, Circassian, and Chechenz, the agglutination is so highly developed that the line is not easily drawn between it and true inflection. Some philologists hold even that the line has in several instances been passed. Another common feature is their phonetic system, which is generally characterised by exceeding harshness due to an extraordinary heaping up of consonants, as in Mtzhhet, the name of the capital of the ancient Georgian kingdom. To account for the surprising differences prevailing amongst these small upland communities it has been suggested that they are the remnants of several distinct races, who may have in remote times taken refuge in the Caucasian highlands from conquering hordes sweeping over the Russian and Asiatic steppes. The Caucasians have long been regarded as physically, perhaps, the finest branch of the Caucasic type, which, in fact, is named from them. No doubt many, especially of the Circassians and of the Georgian group (Mingrelians and Imeritians), present a magnificent physique, so far justifying anthropologists in accepting them as typical specimens of the race. But great diversity prevails, and some of the hill tribes, such as the Pshavs and Swanithians, have coarse, ill-favoured features, and ungainly figures. The Ossetes also have a far from prepossessing appearance, and many of the highland populations seem to have been degraded from want and hardships in their barren upland valleys. But all without exception present the distinctly Caucasic type, as opposed to the Mongolic of most Asiatics. III. In Ethnography all the inhabitants of the Caucasus, including, besides the aborigines, Mongol, Russian, Armenian, and other intruders, number altogether about 6,270,000 (1890) as under: Southern Caucasians, 904,000; Western Caucasians, 188,000; Central Caucasians (Ossetes with other Iranians), 280,000; Russians, 1,905,000; Armenians, 810,000; Chechenzes, 265,000; Lesghians, 537,000; Mongolo-Tatars, 1,286,000; Jews, Arabs, and other Semites, 30,000; sundries, 70,000.