Caucasus emerged as the major field of violent conflicts in the aftermath of Soviet collapse. Nationalism paradigm used abundantly fails to explain why the conflicts happened. This study looks at state collapse as the primary source of the conflicts, and argues that the rapid weakening and sudden collapse of the Soviet rule created a power vacuum, which nationalist forces were the best positioned to fill. The state collapse perspective links the contemporary conflicts in the Caucasus with its Soviet historical context, and explains the conflicts as clashes between competing nationalist projects. Lastly, the "spark", that is the first utilization of force, and "mass trauma" of minority groups is used to explain the strong mobilization of such groups as Karabakh Armenians, the Abkhaz, and the Chechens on the one hand, and the start of the military phase of the conflict by an attempt to subdue the mass mobilization of those groups