The Russian Imperial Academy and Western Transcaucasia (late-eighteenth century to the 1850s)

Known to western civilisations since the eighth century BC when the Ancient Greeks (specifically, the Ionians of Miletus) established colonies (e.g. ¡ låca| pisto’|, today’s Pitsunda, in northern Abkhazia) along the eastern shores of the Black Sea (Pontic Euxine), the Western (Trans-)Caucasus has always been distinguished for its multi-ethnicity. At the start of the Christian era, for instance, the geographer Strabo observed how Dioskuria (later called Seb/vastopolis, designations for what is today’s capital of Abkhazia, namely Aqw’a, more commonly known as Sukhum) served as the commercial centre for the peoples living in the mountains above it and for the surrounding neighbourhood, whilst Pliny Secundus in the second half of the first century AD speaks of it as a depopulated Colchidian town previously famed for the fact that up to 300 representatives of peoples speaking different languages would gather there, for the purpose of carrying on trade with whom the Romans needed 130 interpreters (see Inal-Ipa 1965.109)....


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