It is a bold historian who writes a history of the Caucasus, as events of the past week have made all too clear. The region may not be much bigger than England and Wales, but its history involves three unrelated indigenous groups of people – the Abkhaz and Circassians in the north-west, the Chechens, Ingush and Dagestanis in the north-east, the Kartvelians (Georgians, Mingrelians and Svans) in the south – and representatives of many Eurasian groups (Iranian, Turkic, Armenian, Semitic, Russian) who have settled there over the past 2,000 years.

Some forty mutually unintelligible languages, of which a handful are established literary languages and several others have only a precarious recent literary status, are spoken. Worse for anyone trying to present a coherent narrative, these disparate peoples have very different histories, and only two, the Georgians and Armenians (some would add the Azeris), have a history of statehood consistent enough to be retold as one would retell the history of a West European country.

more from the TLS here.