Between the Black Sea to the west and the Caspain Sea to the east, the Caucasus Mountains form a physical and cultural divide between southern Russia (top) and the Middle East (Iran at bottom right; Iraq, bottom center; Syria, bottom left; and Turkey, north of Syria). This region, sometimes referred to as the Caucasus Isthmus, has been in the path of successive Eurasian migrations over centuries. As those travelers mixed with the inhabitants and settled in pockets in the rugged, mountainous terrain, the geographic isolation created and preserved numerous small, diverse ethnic groups. Indeed, this region is one of the most ethnically diverse in the world; more different languages are spoken here than any other similarly sized region in the world!
This Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image from May 5, 2003, shows the snow-covered Caucasus Mountains separating southern Russia from Georgia (southwest) and Azerbaijan (southeast). West of Azerbaijan is Armenia. At the foothills of the Caucasus, a few scattered fires were detected and are marked with red dots. These fires are probably agricultural in purpose, set by humans to prepare farm or grazing land for spring time activities.