Photographer Arseniy Kotov has a thing for “modernist” Soviet architecture and has made a career of documenting it via (this being now a decidedly post-Soviet world) Instagram, entries to which were gathered into a book Soviet Cities which has been followed by Soviet Seasons, a collection of photos divided into four quarters, nominally by time of year, but more specifically, perhaps, by region: winter in Siberia, the Caucasus in summer, Central Russia in the Spring and Ukraine in the Autumn.

As Azeri drones pounded Armenian defenders of Stepanakert in the September 2020 war, “Armenian and Azerbaijani politicians and historians continue to discuss whether the Nagorno-Karabagh region [was] only annexed to Albania after the division of Armenia in 387 BC”, writes Christoph Baumer in his new History of the Caucasus. In this part of the world, the past is never dead, it isn’t even past. That persistence of the past is what lends the Caucasus its fascination while it creates many challenges for its modern citizens. To dwell in the shadow of fortresses repurposed since the Bronze Age by Persians, Romans and Arabs, is both an enriching legacy and a burden.

The gold of the Scythians exploded into the world of museum goers when Leningrad’s Hermitage Museum sent these treasures touring to London and New York in 1975. An equally noteworthy exhibition, Masters of the Steppe, took place in 2017 at the British Museum. This copiously-illustrated volume enables readers to revisit that exhibition, and to ponder essays produced by 30 scholars from 12 countries. These essays appear, confusingly, in alphabetical order by author. It is best to start by reading the magistral concluding essay, and then return to the essays in the order they are discussed in the conclusion.

The whimsicality and enchantment of this collection of Ossetian folk tales could best be captured in the seductive melodies of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s fairy tale operas and the evocative stagings of Leon Bakst or Ivan Bilibin. The Tales of the Narts go back deep into the well of time, to the age when the Scythians pastured their horses from the Danube to Gansu, and when the Chechens, Adyghe and Karbadians were forging iron swords in the crags of the Caucasus.

To get the details out of the way first: Alisa Ganieva is a Russian writer of Avar/Dagestani extraction. She has been called “the first Dagestani author to have their [sic] work translated into English”, and her most recent translated novel, the 2015 Bride and Groom—which was shortlisted for the Russian Booker Prize—is set in the Muslim-majority and turbulent Caucasus region of Dagestan.