THE TRANSCAUCASUS CAN CLAIM THE dubious distinction of being the former Soviet region most prone to seemingly intractable territorial conflicts. In Azerbaijan, the Armenian population of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast began lobbying in 1987 for the region's subordination to Armenia and has since waged a highly effective military campaign to consolidate control not only of the disputed enclave but of a buffer zone surrounding it. In Georgia, the central government has been forced to cede control of the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast and of Abkhazia, whose separatist leadership is dead set on retaining as much autonomy as possible.

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