Since ancient times, the Caucasus has been the crossroads of peoples, cultures and languages. The oldest permanent populations of Europe, the indigenous peoples of Caucasian ethnic stock, are found here. The Caucasus region is also home to various other peoples, among them Indo-Europeans and Turkic populations. For thousands of years, multilingualism and language contacts have been stable ingredients in interethnic relations. With the conquest of the region by tsarist Russia, forcible unification was imposed on the local population. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Caucasus region has been divided into two major areas. One is the South where the major peoples (Georgians, Armenians and Azeri), in their re-established political sovereignty, have rid themselves of the Russian influence that had overformed their cultures. The northern part of the Caucasus has remained under Russian rule and, here, the Russian impact continues to be felt both linguistically and politically. To this day, there is no political stability, with ethnic conflicts blowing out of proportions and local populations engaging in wars, either with the Russians or among themselves.