Situated at one of the world’s great crossroads, the Caucasus is a globally significant center of cultural diversity. A multitude of ethnic groups, languages and religions intermingle over a relatively small area spanning the borders of six countries.
The region’s captivating history, chronicling the rise and fall of empires—from the Romans to Mongols, the Red Army to the Ottoman Turks—has created a cultural mosaic. A multitude of languages can be heard in the region, including Russian, Armenian, Azeri, Georgian, Yezidi, Abkhaz, Lezgi and others. Christianity and Islam are practiced side by side, and while differences in religious beliefs are generally tolerated, historically and until today many of the regions conflicts and even wars have been waged along ethno-religious divides. Though they share a common history, the three South Caucasus countries where CNF works—Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia—have forged very distinct and proud identities.
A population of 16.8 million lives in the three countries. In the Caucasus ecoregion as a whole, there are some 35 million people, about half in rural areas. The region has a relatively low population density of 60 people per square kilometer (this compares to 169 people per square kilometer in western Europe and 31 people per square kilometer in the continental US). High migration rates are characteristic for the entire region. The majority of the population in rural areas lives below the poverty level.