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Based on both the author's study and recent on-the-ground experience in several of the countries of the Caucasus, this paper is, in effect, a brief guide to the region. It deals briefly with the geography and history of the area, discusses ethnicity and religion as factors contributing to conflict, and describes the negative impact of Soviet colonialism. It reviews the economic legacy of Soviet rule and underscores the lack of administrative and political skills that are the result of communist centralization. It discusses the relationship of the region to now-independent Russia and underscores the need for a more coherent Russian policy. It concludes with recommendations for organizations and governments working to mitigate conflict in the region. A bibliography is provided as an appendix.

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