Libmonster ID: RU-17187
Author(s) of the publication: Olga BAZANOVA

by Olga BAZANOVA, journalist

An oval bowl of the Gelendzhik Bay (Krasnodar Territory) on the Black Sea, surrounded by the Markotkh mountain range on land (of the north-western part of the Main Caucasus Range), looks as if it were enclosed in the embrace of two Capes-Thick and Thin. In addition, the longest in the world (about 12 km) and the unusually elegant embankment stretches along its coast.

Gelendzhik area with its almost Mediterranean climate and its fame of one of the best Russian resorts is also rich in natural monuments. First, we should mention the longest of them all--7-km-long flysch* slopes of the Markoth ridge. They can be seen along the coast between the Cape Tolsty Point and Divnomorskoye village, located just south of the Gelendzhik Bay, which shore's appearance is very similar to the Gelendzhik's one, hence its former name--the False Gelendzhik.

No one would remain indifferent to the low but remarkably beautiful waterfalls on the river Jana, and the rock "Sail" (upright sandstone 30 m high and about 1 m thick) standing out of water close to the shore and, of course, the local bay itself with its water, which has unique healing properties due to the dissolved in it mineral salts as well as populating it living algae and microorganisms.

One of the main attractions of these parts-approximately 200 dolmens or, as they had been called in the old days by Russian residents of the North Caucasus, "the hats of heroes" (structures made of large stones) about 4 thousand years old. Similar structures may be found near the cities of Sochi, Tuapse, Novorossiisk as well as abroad--in France, England, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, USA, Canada, etc., mostly on the coast. According to the researchers, from the Bronze Age (35th-11 th centuries B.C.) on, they were used mainly as burial sites.

Dolmens are built differently. Gelendzhik ones (first discovered in 1818 by Jacques-Victor-Edouard de Marigny Tebu) are four rectangular sandstone slabs over 2 meters tall placed on the base and covered from above with a plate of about 3x4 m, sometimes decorated with reliefs. In the middle of the front wall of such chamber there is a round hole of 30-50 cm diameter; through this opening the containers with the ashes of deceased were placed inside along with their personal belongings and food supply and then the opening was closed with the stone stopper. In 1912, these ancient buildings had been studied for the first time by archeologists who found fragments of flint axes, amber beads, pottery and arrowheads there.

The earliest written testimonies on the history of Gelendzhik belong to the writings of Greek historians and geographers. According to them, the first inhabitants of the Northern Black Sea were the Cimmerians*. At the beginning of 7th century B.C., they were driven away by the Scythians (the name of one of the closest to Gelendzhik mountains is Papaj--the name of their heavenly god who created the Earth and the first humans), and who in turn were replaced by other Iranian-speaking nomads--the Sarmatians in 3rd century B.C. Later on, these places were settled by the Greeks, who founded Torik (Torikos) trading colony on the bay's shore.

A great number of Hellenic settlements existed around the Black Sea coast; gradually some of them became united in the kingdom of Bosporus, which was conquered by the Romans in 63 B.C. On the territory of the Gelendzhik region, close to the current resort village Arkhipo-Osipovka, in 1999, an expedition of the Moscow Institute of Archaeology found a monument of this period--a fortified manor. The excavations that had been carried out in 2000-2002 established that the site contained a square construction of 10.4x 10.4 meters with 1.2 meter thick walls that contained two rooms and which, besides its utilitarian household functions, served as a watchtower. These buildings were erected within a visibility distance from each other, forming a sort of a chain: in the event of an enemy approaching, it was easy to signal danger from one to another. The researchers have found there a large number of ceramic and glass tableware, jewelry fragments, tools, including a hand-mill with millstones made of volcanic tuff (sedimen-

* Flysch--a powerful series of marine sedimentary rocks of predominantly clastic origin, characterized by a rhythmic alternation of layers of several species.--Ed.

* Cimmerians--tribes who invaded the Caucasus in the second half of the 8th century B.C. and then conquered parts of Asia Minor.--Ed.

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tary rock formed from volcanic ash and other debris ejected during the eruption and later compacted), etc.

At the turn of the 4th-5th centuries, the Romans were replaced by the Zikhi*, who in the 6th century were replaced by the Byzantines and the Proto-Bulgarians (the people of Turkic origin who participated in the ethnogenesis of the modern Bulgarians), and in the middle of the next century, the area was taken over by the newly formed in the North Caucasus Khazar Khanate**. According to the one of the oldest Laurentian chronicles (1377), in 965 it was defeated by Svyatoslav, the Prince of Kiev; and his son Vladimir soon founded the Tmutarakan principality on the

Taman Peninsula. Unfortunately, under the blows of the Polovtsy (the Turkic-speaking nomadic people) at the end of the llth-early 12th centuries, it lost contact with the Russian lands and the independence.

In 1222, the Black Sea coast was swept by the tornado of 30,000 men strong Mongol-Tatar army under the command of Genghis Khan and the flourishing city-colonies were destroyed. These raids were repeated and as a result some tribes were destroyed while the others fled to the mountains. Only the Circassians (the descendents of the Zikhi and other local peoples) stubbornly resisted the enemy, not allowing it to move south.

At the end of the 13th century, on the shore of the Gelendzhik Bay a trading post appeared; it was frequently visited by Italian merchants who bought grain, flour, meat, fish, fruit, timber, honey, furs, and slaves and brought from

* Zikhi-a tribal alliance that became the main component in the ethnogenesis of the modern nations-the Abkhazians and Adhygs.--Ed.

** See: D. Vasilyev, Ye. Zilivinskaya, "A Witness of the Three Eras", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2007.--Ed.

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Europe salt, cloth, raw cotton, rice, soap, spices, and jewelry. But in 1395, another tragedy occurred: the army of Central Asian conqueror Tamerlane passed through the region, devastating in its wake peaceful settlements and killing the inhabitants. The year 1427 was marked by the formation of the Crimean Khanate that took the local inhabitants under its authority but after a half of a century it itself came under the domination of Turkey; a village that had once existed at the today's resort site served as the export point of various goods but mainly female slaves from the mountains--goryanki.

Our country got hold of this territory--from the point of confluence of the Kuban River into the Black Sea to the current border with Georgia--only as a result of the Russian-Turkish war of 1828-1829. However, the other war--the Caucasian (1817-1864)--continued; many of the highlanders' tribes that had previously refused to recognize the Sultan's authority, also refused to take on vassal obligations to the Czar, in particular, because the Treaty of Adrianople of 1829, which put an end to the armed conflict between the two countries, was signed without their participation.

That is why in 1831 Emperor Nicholas I established the Black Sea coastline--a chain of fortifications--to stabilize the geopolitical position of our country in the region. In the same year, the construction of the Gelendzhik fort--the stronghold for our troops and the main base for coastal warship unit--was begun. However, due to continuous raids of the highlanders, the progress was slow; and, unfortunately, in 1837 almost everything that had been built was destroyed by a huge fire.

It was precisely during these times when General Nikolai Raevski, a talented military leader, took the command of the Black Sea coastline. He directed all the forces on "the organization of the new and unique region" and strived to bestow on the established there military facilities an additional function of development of trade with the local population. "Only a policy of peace with the highlanders,--he wrote--can lead to their lasting conquest; any other policy based on the destruction and bloodshed is harmful... Trade, which brings us and the highlanders together and creates great benefits... cannot have any harmful consequences."

Despite the poor food supply, illness of the Russian army personnel, attacks of disgruntled local tribes unhappy with the army presence, by the 1842, the Black Sea coastline of 17 defensive structures was ready to carry out combat missions. However, the highlanders continued to attack its garrisons. One of the major incidents occurred in 1840 when Lazarev, Velyaminov and Tenghins forts were destroyed. When the enemy combatants broke into Mikhailovskoye, Private Arkhip Osipov of Tenghis regiment shouted to his comrades: "It is time, brothers! Who will stay alive, remember my deed!", and threw himself with a flaming torch in a powder cellar, occupied by the enemy, and blew it at the cost of his life. In 1889, the village Vulanskaya, which was built there later, was renamed Arkhipo-Osipovka in honor of the hero.

Raevski persuaded Emperor Nicholas I to place the main port for the coastal fleet not in the Gelendzhik Bay, as it had been planned earlier, but 20 km to the north, in the Tsemess Bay, which is considerably larger and deeper and is easily accessible by land. Thus, Novorossiisk--currently the largest port in the south of the our country--appeared on its shores, while Gelendzhik became a resort town (that was further stimulated by the established in 1888 of a regular railroad service between St. Petersburg and Novorossiisk).

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Perhaps, the only monument of the 19th century existing in Gelendzhik is a casement lighthouse, which is the oldest active lighthouse on the Black Sea coast. Built in 1897 in "Modern"* style with stained glass windows according to the design of a French architect Joseph François de Tondo, it was equipped with the best optics of the day that has been operating without fail or a single repair to this very day. Thanks to the surrounding lamp reflectors made of rock crystal, its light is visible at night from a distance of at least 16 km from the coast.

A new page of the regional history was turned in 1900 by "the spa for patients with a weak chest", established by the sea and surrounded by elegant flower beds, a garden and a vineyard. Soon, other health resorts began their operations. Gradually, a picturesque city by the sea with a mild warm climate became famous as "the dacha of Russian intelligentsia"; and societies for improvement of the resort appeared there. In 1909, at the initiative of one of such organizations, at the dacha of Privy Councillor Michael Reinke, the Natural History Museum was opened. The Museum's collection was replenished by finds of archeologists: the most interesting artifacts are the items of the early Middle Ages found in 1912 during the excavations of the local estate "Borisov" by the expedition of the Imperial Archaeological Commission under the supervision of Vsevolod Sakhanev from St. Petersburg.

Currently funds and expositions of Gelendzhik Museum of Regional History, which celebrated a century of operation in 2009, consist of more than 90 thousand exhibits. The most interesting of them are a collection of tools dated from the early Stone Age (1.5-0.2 mln yrs of age) and from the Bronze Age (35th-11th centuries B.C.), burial paraphernalia found in the local burial grounds dated around 1st century B.C. and 11th-12th centuries, and the antique period artifacts, including a collection of coins.

Many well-known personalities of Russian art and culture--seascape artist Ivan Aivazovsky, sculptor Stepan Erzya, such writers as Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Constantine Paustovsky, Alexander Serafimovich, Marietta Shaginyan and others--vacationed in Gelendzhik and its surrounding at one time or another. In 1898, eminent novelist, essayist and social activist of late 19th-early 20th century Vladimir Korolenko visited the village of Dzhankhot (20 km from Gelendzhik). There, he chose a location for a manor for his brother Illarion who suffered from tuberculosis.

In 1902, in the valley at the foot of Mount St. Nina, among pitsunda pine groves, a two-storey stone building with carved wooden balconies and verandas, a tiled roof, and later outbuildings, were built according to the design of the writer. He visited Dzhankhot with his family nine times during 1889-1915. All the original buildings are well preserved to this day-this is the only fully preserved mansion of the 19th century on the territory of the resort. In 1964, through the efforts of local residents, the first museum of Korolenko in Russia was opened there; now it is a memorial, architectural and natural complex, the exhibit of which tells the story of the life and the work of the master writer.

In addition to building resorts and villas, another direction of local development was viticulture. However, frequently, the two were combined: the plantations of climbing vines were organized by the people who owned the estates and land. Meanwhile, according to scientists, the local North Caucasian tribes--the Natuhaytsy, the Shap-

See: T. Geidor, "Russian Architecture of the Silver Age", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2009.--Ed.

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sugs and the Ubykhs--were familiar with this culture since the 6th century B.C. They knew how to store and preserve the wholesome beverage made from grapes; they closed receptacles with lids made of timber and insulated them further by applying layer of clay around the lids and buried the receptacles in the ground; they used wine skins of oxen and sheep skins for wine transporting.

In the second half of the 19th century, right after the end of the Caucasian War, Russian authorities took the first steps towards the development of winemaking in Gelendzhik and surrounding villages; only in 1869 on the advice of the chief agronomist of the Black Sea region Fyodor

Geyduk about 20,000 vines brought from the Crimea and Moldova were planted there. This process was continued by the immigrants who arrived from the different regions of the country in 1870s, when they had found through experience that the conditions for vineyard cultivation on the Black Sea coast of Caucasus, and primarily on the slopes of the Markoth ridge, were really excellent.

In the beginning of the 20th century, many local estates had already produced wonderful red and white wines, marked by high awards at international exhibitions in Paris and Brussels in 1902-1903. For example, Countess Lubyov Firsova made from her own plantation's Cabernet grapes

Science in Russia, No.6, 2011

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wonderful Cahors, ordered by the Moscow Patriarchate; the Imperial court itself was well-inclined to her product. The factory "Gelendzhik", which in the middle of the 20th century became the flagship of the industry, was established in 1920 precisely on the production base of the Russian "Veuve Clicquot". Every year thousands of tons of sweet grapes were harvested there and the winemaking region began to produce its famed brands of wines: "Smile", "Black Eyes", "Amber Muscat", "Sauvignon Gelendzhik" and others. At present the area vineyards cover nearly 3,000 hectares and produce the richest yields in the country. And since 2007, Russian champagne "Madame Firsova" (medium sweet and medium dry), named after the founder of the company, is also produced there.

A special place in the history of the region belongs to the events associated with the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. In the summer of 1942, German troops began an offensive on the southern flank of the Eastern Front, trying to break into the oil regions of the Caucasus. As a result of heavy fighting in September, the enemy captured Novorossiisk, but at the cost of enormous effort it was stopped at the walls of the cement plant "October". The frontline was then held only 30 km from the resort town, which was turned into a military and material support base of Novorossiisk group of the Soviet troops.

A special detachment under the command of Major Caesar Kunikov was formed in Gelendzhik in January-February 1943; soon, it landed on the southeastern outskirts of Novorossiisk. The Bridgehead occupied there and expanded, after heavy fighting, to almost 30 km2 was named the Little Land. For 225 days the heroes kept their defense, and all through that time at night the resort town sent reinforcements, ammunition, and transported back the wounded. In autumn of 1943, Novorossiisk was liberated from the invaders and in 1973 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of its liberation the city received the honorary title of Hero City.

In 1996, by the order of the Government of the Russian Federation, the region of legends and heroic tales, ancient monuments and modern hospitable resort facilities--Gelendzhik resort--entered the list of the specially protected natural territories of federal significance on the shores of the Black and the Azov seas.


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Olga BAZANOVA, DACHA OF RUSSIAN INTELLIGENTSIA // Moscow: Russian Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.RU). Updated: 23.09.2021. URL: (date of access: 08.12.2021).

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