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  • Jerome Kocher

73. High Caucasus Mountains

I am high up in the Caucasus Mountains where Georgians can escape for summer hiking and winter skiing. The views are stunning. 

This chain of mountains from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea has provided a natural protection from the North. Unfortunately it didn’t stop the Persians, Arabs, and Ottoman Turks

from the South to transit Georgia as a crossroads for their Empires. Then the Mongols and Emirs from the East took their turn at the Georgian punching bag. So over 240 years ago the Georgians decided to turn to the Russian Empire for protection in return for being controlled by yet another overlord, this time the Northern Bear. When Russia became the USSR, then Georgia automatically became one of the Soviet Republics.

To commemorate this successful alliance a Friendship Monument was built at 9000 feet high atop the Caucasus Mountains. It was created by the Soviets to celebrate 200 years of peaceful co-existence between Russia and Georgia, starting in 1783 under the Russian Empire till 1983 under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

To protect against avalanches along the mountain pass, a tunnel was built by German prisoners of war in the 1940's. And like the durable construction they created, those first workers are still there. Today, road construction is contracted out to China whose construction worker camps are visible along the mountain pass. China's Belt and Road Initiative is the New Silk Road to create a global infrastructure spreading the commerce, trade and influence of the Chinese Communist Party worldwide.

The views are iconic and remain as beautiful and refreshing as they were over 200 years ago.

But that cannot be said for the former friendship between Russia and Georgia. After Independence in 1991 two northern parts of Georgia separated with Russian assistance. Georgia lost 20% of its national territory. To this day Georgia sees Russia not as a friend, but as an occupier. The Friendship Monument may still stand, but the bonds between these two countries have been irreparably severed.

But as far as Nature is concerned, the Caucasus Mountains knows no politics. Their majesty and serenity reign supreme.

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