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D. Medvedeva

Travelling around the Russian South


In 2013 I happened to spend my summer holidays in the Krasnodar Territory. The Tuapsinski region is one of its most beautiful corners, which I have to acknowledge having visited several towns and cities in the South of Russia and Ukraine. One of its distinguishing features is the combination of sea proximity, picturesque scenery, mountains of middle height and a number of monuments not only architectural, but natural as well such as dolmens, for example. To behold these prehistoric structures you do not need to go far from Tuapse. They are scattered along the Black Sea Coast. According to the calculations, there are 2308 of them here, while in the Tuapsinskiy Region alone about 400 can be found. These unusual compounds are supposed to have been built by druids some 5000 years ago. They are believed to possess extraordinary capabilities (in some countries, in Great Britain, for instance, they are still living and continue observing their rituals).

We can come across table stones not only in Russia; in India, France, Great Britain and on the islands of the Atlantic. They have already been preserved till the present day. The translation of the word "dolmen" sounds like "a high post". These are big houses made of stone, as scientists describe them. But their predestination is still unknown and many years may pass before it becomes clear.

Dolmens are imparted with particular features. From the superstitious point of view, they strengthen human`s health, bring happiness. Scientific outlook on this issue also prevails. Due to their energy our brains get charged with intellectual activity. Twice a year the stones are especially productive which is used to treat irreparable diseases. If you ask, I tend to pin greater hopes on science, rather than on confessional biases.

In accord with the theoretical hypothesis, dolmens are built mainly in the places situated in the zone of especially strong magnetic field. To all intents and purposes, that can be underlying. As for spirits and different kinds of extraterrestrial beings, they have completely nothing to do here (at least, I think so).

In the Tuapsinskiy Region dolmens were discovered only in 1794 by the explorer Palass. Following that revelation thousands of tourists flocked to the neighborhoods to check it out. There were also those who studied to find treasures and gems, but the attempts turned out to be unsuccessful. Table stones of different kinds are distinguished: slab-shaped and layerwise. Virtually each of them has its own name and purpose. They were given comparatively lately, 15 years ago when the interest to the stone giants grew at a skyrocketing pace.

Among them are the wheel of happiness, the stone of luck, the dolmen of marital happiness and some others. But I did not get into peculiarities of these rituals which should be observed to make your dreams come true. I do not believe in it and much more interested in the historical significance of these magnificent compounds illustrating cultural background of the antecedent postures.

As our guide has told us, a group of people headed by a pagan priest could transport themselves to another planet to save their community, having predicted a catastrophe. As long as everything went by, they reverted again to their motherland.

To be honest, these words do not persuade me, because no explicit clues or evidence exist which could reliably prove it was really so. To get to the bottom of it, scientists did not manage to reiterate this process though hard had they tried. I think we should be proud of keeping this heritage and having the opportunity to behold and it.

The republic of Adygei and fortress in Mikhailovskoye

Next I would like to take you on a tour around the republic of Adygei. But first, my narration should be prefaced with a historical reference to the township where I stayed over and other neighborhoods around.

The boarding house for students "Politechnic" is situated in Novomichailovka in the Tuapsinski Region. Its name dates back to the nineteenth century and was given to honour Mikhail Ivanovich Romanov who was the Russian tsar`s Alexander II assistant and deputy. It is the biggest township in Tuapse where he lived. The river Nichepsucha flows through it. The waterway frequently tends to overflow its banks.

Next to Novomikhailovka Olginka lies. It was named after the above mentioned Mikhail`s wife Olga. The township has undergone great progress for the last ten years. Before that it was only a small fishing village, but now it`s home to one of the biggest aqua park, a number of hotels. Resort infrastructure has been considerably improved here and the service quality is also said to upgrade. Long before Olginka received its official status, it had been serving as an observation point, signal bay from which the sentries could give a badge indicating enemies` proximity or just assisting the ships in the broad sea not to lose their way. Then we headed for the neighbouring Lermontovo, which is imparted with the honour to bear the name of the Russian poet Michail Jurjevich Lermontov. The thing is that during the Caucasus and Turkish wars the Tuapsinski infantry regiment had its headquarter here. The poet was dispatched to fight in it. But soon after that he got ill and was forced to go to Kislovodsk to undergo a treatment. In the meanwhile hereafter the township was set to pay a tribute to Lermontov.

The settlement Dzhubga we happened to pass by next is situated in the north east of the Krasnodar Territory and is famous for its small lakes with crystal clear water and inspiring nature around. In the meantime we are entering the Kuban lands falling into Cossack villages. The river with the same name flows through them. It has a rapid character and seems to have acquired its name not accidently, as the word "Kuban" is translated as "furious". The staple industry of the region is agriculture; the major part of the population is engaged in it.

In the eighteenth century the neighbourhoods were alined with Russia. Many different ethnicities left their traces here: the Skythians, the Mongol-Tatars, the Adygei (the Circassians). What is also interesting, the Silky Way went through the West Caucasus. It is also famous for the Dantov canyon. Layers of turf 1-1,5 m on average, but sometimes they reach up to 3 m.

Ekaterina showed a loyal attitude to the Adygei religion, but even that did not mitigate the ardent temper of the both nations which time from time got themselves invaded in wrangles and scuffles. The Adygei observed strict customs passing them over from generation to generation. They wore Circassian coats and sheepskin jackets so that their papahas do not get wet. As for the footwear, the Adygei had their own kind of shoes reflecting the originality of their nation - chuvyagi. A horseman represented the whole community with his steed. Their saddles were extremely hard. Judging by the Adygei huts, we can say they had a rather humble way of life. Initially those were small dwellings made mostly of clay. The walls were formed by wooden boards and fastened together with this material serving as an adhesive substance. They made fire right inside the hut and prepared food there.

Later on these primitive places of residence were swapped for brick-built houses on the whitewash instead of cement with Russian stove as an innovation.

The next city which lies on our way is Apsheronsk. As you may know, the Apsheronski peninsula is situated in the Caspian Sea. The thing is that, long ago, in the times of Peter the Great a mission to conquer Persia was based here. In spite of the fact that it was not fulfilled, the regiment remained. Several centuries later it was sent to the Krasnodar Territory, as the Cossacks needed help. Since that a township and a big agricutural city in the present got its name.

At last we are approaching Republic Adygei. It comprises only two cities Maikop (200000 people) and Adygeisk (70000 people). The territory unit used to be the part of the Krasnodar Territory, but since the 90-th it has become an independent republic consisting of Russia. Some 30 different nationalities live here. Among them are Europeans as well, such as the French, Germans. As for the French, it is a different story. They came here and made a name for the whole region in the neighbourhoods - Abrau Durso. It is famous worldwide for its wine production.

But our main goal for today is Lago - Naki which is situated on the territory of the National Caucasus natural reserve. It comprises three units such as the Krasnodar Territory, Adygei Republic and takes up the square of 300000 km.

About 2300 plant and tree species growing here included in the Red Book of Russia. 24% of them are endemic and cannot be found anywhere else. The Litvinov birch without any doubt is worth mentioning. It is different from other species of this stem due to the shape of leaves (they are liable to be a trifle bigger) and the form of vegetation (it resembles more a shrubbery than a tree because of several trunks). Another remarkable species in the natural reserve is the Caucasus pine. Its needles are noticeably shorter.

In the meanwhile we set foot on the Kamennoje Sea mountain ridge. This place left its trace in history owing an embittered battle during World War the Second in 1943. Luckily, the Soviet soldiers managed to reclaim their position with their hardy and self-sacrificing manner of combating.

The next point we happened to stop is the Iron ridge which acquired this name according to its triangular shape. From its peak an absolutely marvelous scenery comes into sight: mountain spurs replaced by clearly expressed thickly overgrown ranges. But along with wonderful spectacles which could be endlessly beheld, there are also some hidden surprises. I should say, not always may they be pleasant, especially for reckless and fearless tourists, seeing no hinders and boundaries in front of them. Sometimes it can lead to tragic and even fatal consequences. To be more exact, I mean carst gulfs. They are covered with snow virtually all the year around. Their maximal depth is 250 meters, in diameter they can reach up to 60 meters (one which is presented to our eye is 100 meters deep and 20 meters long). People run an especially big risk of getting trapped and sunk down in the spring, as the process of ice thawing and snow melting begins from inside prefaced with lower layers` participation.

Our next destination for the exploration is the Azizhskaya cave. This unusual underground formation is 40 meters deep. Vertically it is divided into 3 steps: upper, middle and lower.

In the lower one a river can be found, which ends in a waterfall of 6 meters high. There is practically no light inside. That is why artificial illumination is used. Basing on this fact we can definitely say that such cavities have never been inhabited by people. Our tour lies through the middle layer. Those eager to perceive the underground world or a wider scope, can also book private sallies with a guide. From inside the Azizhskaya cavity is formed by stalagmites and stalactites, which have been developing and growing for thousands of years. This process could be compared with the formation of the Caucasus Mountains. Several millions years ago the only ocean is claimed to have existed named Tethys. Over the course of time some changes began to occur. Multimeter layers of soil were sinking down. In the end they reached magma forcing it to go up and form islands. One of them was what is now the Caucasus Mountains. As magma heated, sedimentary became warmer as well. Under the influence of this inner thermal process highlands came into being, developing into mountains later on. It is still continuing without any interruptions. As a matter of fact, the Caucasus Mountains are presently growing by 1mm per year. So do these stone structures inside the cave. Sometimes they even grow together producing an unusual picture which is not much likely to be seen somewhere else.

But the growth of stalagmites and stalactites is caused by some other physical process in contrast to mountains. The thing is that caves were formed by water, having sifted through inside and created these hollows underground. It is supposed to have happened back in the copper period. The stream of thaw water grew in its volume, the number of sinters also increased. The process of crystallization started, which resulted into solid compounds. At the same time, in spite of different nature and moving force making the mountain and underground formation development possible, they still have something in common. The feature could be expressed by the continuity of the process and its unstoppable character showing itself only with the time passing.

Now it is time to move on to the "rooms" in the cave if they could be called so, connected with each other by stairs going up and down taking turns. With the help of a flash it is possible to see different figures naturally shaped and carved of stone on the wall. The first room which has been dubbed "Koronniy" presents such wonders as a crowned princess, elongated formations resembling spaghetti, the main hero of the famous book "Don Ki hot", Buddha-snowman.

The next room we visited called "Wedding". While illuminated, two circles closing up into a sole whole and embodying a marital ring can be seen. In my opinion, it is a real spectacle to examine. Apart from that for those who would like to get married or engaged here, a basket with a bottle of champagne is being kept in stock (not real, but made of stone, of course). In spite of having the aim to simulate, not represent this process in reality, everything looks so solemnly and ceremonial here!

The fairy-tale does not come to an end on this. It carries on in the "dwarfs` room". If you do not feel reluctant to make all the necessary efforts, an angel, wings of Eros and certainly, little dwarfs, which made the name for the room, can be observed. The most prominent figures, which are doubtless to catch your eye, are a constitution of extraordinary features resembling the musical instrument organ.

As it has already been mentioned, the cave was formed in the Copper Period, but only in the nineteenth century was it discovered. Everything began with the archeological expedition when 10 tons of stalactites were found at the height of 1520 meters above the sea level. Now they are being kept not far from the cinema лSever in Sochi. As for the world record, this honour belongs to North America, where the longest explored cave way accounts for 587 km; compared with this stretch Russia is out of competition.

After that a part of our group headed onto the waters of the River Belaya to try out rafting. This kind of sport comprises 5 cases of complication. All of them are presented on the waterway, which is one of the most complicated ways of competition in Russia. But I do not consider myself as an extreme fan. Of course, I am fond of splashing in the water, swimming but not in a rafting boat when you need to operate as a team. Luckily, there was an alternative Ц to go to the monastery. I find it exciting from the historic and cognitive points of view. I adore visiting different museums, architectural buildings and other memorable places bearing the traces of culture, tradition, passing on from generation to generation. At the same time it is not possible to exclude the fact that something still dies out, goes out of fashion, becomes obsolete and replaced by more productive ideas. Whatsoever, we should not forget our roots, as they serve as a foundation of social values, forming the humanity the way of life of in the whole. I completely agree with their statement that without the past there is no future. Therefore, without even being a believer, I find Christianity is a very important milestone in the history of Russia and the majority of Eastern European countries.

Its roots are supposed to come from Armenia where the prophets Varfolomei and Filaret began to confess it in the first century AD. They lived in the cave, leading an absolutely ascetic way of life. Confessing their belief, they also practiced missionary activity. But later on they were ruthlessly tortured by order of the Armenian regent.

In spite of that the popularity of the new religion grew over the course of the time. By the end of the third century AD the number of its followers accounted for the majority of the country`s population, following which Orthodoxy was declared the government religion in Armenia In 302. At first the Bible, church literature were written in Greek and Syrian languages, as well as services. Later on the Armenians felt they needed their own language to bring the religion and libations of soul closer to their heart. As a result in the beginning of the IV century it was realized in practice as the national alphabet was created, which later became the foundation of sacred literature designated for the congregations on the territory of Armenia. As for Russia, the Mikhailovskaya bay (is also called the bay of Ilya the Saint) is supposed to be one of the first islands of Christianity on the Black Sea Coast. Its seeds were sown in the V century AD. The apostle Kanonit allegedly conducted divine service here. When he died his ashes were transported to Abkhazia for burial. But the discussions are still going on, whether it was really so. In the antic times a Greek colony settled in this corner of the present Tuapsinskiy region. To protect the settlement from enemy attacks, they built the Nicopsia Fortress. Some of its parts have been preserved till the present day. One of them is situated about 200 meters from the river-bed and another Ц 1000 meters from the mainstream. Later on the structure has been founded by the Adygei.

In the XI-XII centuries the fortress has been largely influenced by the Italian, the Genoese and the Venetians. But in 1207, when Constantinople was invaded by crusaders, this impact mitigated. After the stabilization of the situation inland the factors over this patch of land on the Black Sea Coast broke out. In the end the victory fell on the Genoese side, which predisposed their dominance on these areas with favorable virtually for all the spheres of human activity for several centuries to come.

In the 16-th centenary it was the Turkish turn to possess these lands. They inherited the remains of the Greek fortress as well and called it лsaline waters. As the salt has never been extracted from the Nichepsucho River, the only thing is left to suppose the salt trade could have been developed in the region. In some districts the foundation of the Greek fortification compounds can be seen even today. In spite of the fact that it may be veiled under the canopy of the forest, it will not handicap you a lot to behold it.

Even older scars of the antecedents have been discovered in the Tuapsinskiy Region by archeologists. Numerous implements and household items make it possible to state that the primitive human station dates back as early as 335000 years. According to the data we are provided with, this is the most venerable standing in Russia.

Now it is high time to proceed to narration about the Saint Mikhailovskiy monastery, which snugly settled down 20 minutes of a bus drive away from the Khadzhikhskaya ravine. Its construction was closely connected with the completion of the Caucasus and Turkish wars train changing one for another for a long period of time. To pay a tribute to this event, monks from Afon gathered and united with the Russian nationals to form a brotherhood. But they took ten years to get permission for the beginning of the erection. At the end of the day the green light was given; in 1877 the process reached its peak, developing at its full speed. In the meanwhile, Mikhail Romanov took on the lead contributing a lot to the first stones of the shrine laid down. The deputy of Alexander II was a deeply religious man giving the major priority to the belief and peace in the human soul. The choice of the lot for the monastery has proven to be a vocation, as a foundation of the previously constructed one was discovered here. It allegedly dated back to thousands of years ago. In the Soviet era in it happened to undergo the same fate as the majority of churches and monks` shelters within the precincts of influential sphere submitted to the uniform regime. The shrine was closed, prayer service suspended and postponed soon after that. In the postwar periods different social institutes located here including a hospital, a disable and elderly people care house (not simultaneously, of course, but taking turns).

Only in the nineteenth century was the decision made to revive the monastic life. However, seven years more were to pass before the reconstruction works began. The shrine had to be brought back to its former sight virtually from the ruins, as for several decades of complete desolation it had been found in a deplorable and unsightly condition. But due to inexhaustible enthusiasm and ginger of believers the mission pursued by the call of the soul was accomplished.

At the present time it is one of the most popular places of worshiping in the orthodox world, which could be compared with the Kievo-Pechorskaya Lavra in Ukraine or the Sergieva Lavra in the Moscow Region. Our tour guide showed us around the precincts comprising not only the cloister for monks, but also a chapel, a number of churches, refectory with fresh crusty bread and fruit gardens full of plumes, apples, cherry and pears.

Apart from that the local park is famous for its lush vegetation of bramble, as well as scattered beeches and hornbeams. Beech is also called Caucasus birch, for it bears resemblance to this tree due to its light-tinted trunk, which usually reaches considerable thickness. As distinct from beech, hornbeam tends to be thinner. The shape of their leaves looks similar, so this feature is not easy to apply for distinguishing.

The Khadzhokhskaya ravine has also left a pleasant ensemble on my mind. It poses a decoratively adorned hiking trail with grotesque handrail, freaky ups and downs imparting the whole picture with some kind of mystique. The riverine landscape is wonderful with its steeply falling and rising terraces covered with adamant mighty massive cobblestones standing out due to their size coming into sight from a distance.

The next destination I would like to focus my attention on is the city-port Tuapse. Its name is translated as лtwo waters or лtwo rivers and has an Adygei root.

As a township Tuapse came into being in 1831. Later on several decades of war finishing and breaking up again followed. After the tensions were regulated and stability became more tangible, in 1896 the administrative unit received the status of posad; in 1916 it was upgraded to a city. It is one of two unfreezing ports on the territory of the Russian Federation.

The majority of communities we happened to pass by have Adygey names. Nebug, for instance, means лthe valley overgrown with shrubbery. The neighbourhoods used to be swampy, but with the course of the time they were mostly reclaimed. In 1996 the first aqua park on the Black Sea Coast was built here. 2003 was celebrated with the erection of Delphinium. But it should be noted that in the Soviet period the townships functioned not worse than at the present. Some kilometers away Agoy is situated, which used to be an Adygei aul. The name means the лthe river edge. The so called hall of the Artillerists lying further on our way marks the World War II. Antiaircraft guns served as a very important means of defense; hundreds of enemy pursuit planes flew by the neighbourhoods bombing innocent people and destroying beautiful landscapes turning them into ugly ruins. 10000 bombs are reckoned to have descended on the Tuapsinski Region and the city itself in 1941 alone.

The major Hitler`s aims were to reach out the oil making the Georgian cities Baku and Grozny famous and scoop Caucasus ports opening up new trade connections.

On September 24-th in 1942 the Tuapsinskaya army began to make its move on the adverse side despite its superiority 1.5 fold. As the things were progressing, on October 1-st the foes moved 10 kilometers back. Then a ruthless battle high in the mountains broke out. Another advance was carried out. All this ended in victory of the Soviet Union, which was publicly declared January 16 in 1943. In 1981 Tuapse was granted the Great Patriotic War order. A couple of decades later in 2006 the township received the title of Military Glory city.

The rock of Kiselyov

One of the most romantic and a picturesque corners in Tuapse is the famous Kiselyov`s Rock. Alexander Nikolaevich was born in 1838 in the Russian city of Svyaborg in a military minister`s family. When he was only 12, they moved to Kazan, where the youth was enrolled in the military college. Later on he continued his education in Novgorod University on the faculty of philology. But linguistics was not his cup of tea, as Alexander found out afterwards. That came with the realization that he was more prone to drawing and wanted to develop his skills in this sphere of activity. At the same time Kiselyov was fully aware that it was not so easy to enter the Art Academy and that is why he needed to be recommended by somebody; to show one`s gifts was not enough. Luckily, this person was found. It must have been a vocation! Suvorov`s grandchild, who took the post of a governor at that time contributed a lot to let Kiselyov be accepted to the Academy. Certainly it was a great avail for his future career. At the same time he numbered not as a student with a monthly scholarship, but as a free listener. Due to his natural talent and native curiosity the youngster managed to persuade docent and tutors that he was worth studying there as a funded student provided with minimal financial support.

In the meanwhile, the most difficult way only lay ahead. After graduation from the Academy Alexander was exposed to far not an easy stage I his life Ц choice of job. Even in spite of having a diploma, nothing seemed to clinch in the beginning. Having found no alternative, Alexander Kiselyov fixed on going to Krakov, where he applied for a job of a bank officer. Later on his works were presented in many exhibitions due to which the painter gained popularity. He changed his place of residence a lot. But this rock especially stamped on Kiselov`s memory as well as the corresponding picture on ours.

The way back

The time came to go back to Moscow. But so that to reach the railway station, I had to cover a long way Ц 20 minutes afoot and then by bus. Over the unmounted route I made two pit stops to have some rest, as my luggage was really heavy. Moreover the scorching sun contributed to quicker exhaustion.

While going through the local Youth Park, I came across a sleeping red cat. It coiled comfortably right on a warm cement slab in a shadow of a big branchy tree. I could not pass behind and decided to throw off my burden indulging the lust for this funny creature. As it awoke by half, the cat got a little bit frightened and was about to go away. But at that point I remembered having several pieces of cheese in my pocket wrapped in a serviette prepared for supper. Having taken out the cheese I divided it into small pieces and put them on the slab not far from the cat. I should say the animal found it a real treat. To be frank, I did not expect such a reaction thinking that the cat would just sniff and get away. Much to my surprise, it ate up all the cheese I could offer. As a reward, it allowed me to caress it gently scratching against my legs. It even followed me for some time than. Unfortunately, as the park ended and the walking path turned into a wayside of the highway, we had to say goodbye to each other.

Afterwards another pleasant surprise awaited me Ц on the nearest intersection a passing coach stopped and saved me from the necessity to move further with all my belongings. I find it needless to describe my way while sitting in a coach, as then I was absorbed by my German studies.

At the railway station a healthy portion of attention was paid to find the right track in the hologram on the indicator board. I should say some stations on the way to Moscow are really worth of alluding to.

In spite of the fact that Chertkovo looks humble, it inspired me with its cozy one- or two-storied timbered houses surrounded with gardens rich in fruit. Jogging along Pionerskaya alley I left behind the children-youth sport school banded with poplars. Some of them were neatly trimmed. That produces an impression of a big leafy green bowl on a short trunk ending where the thick cover begins. After a twenty-minute run I successfully came back to the railway station following another way along Pochtovaya alley.

Next I managed to visit the Russian city of Voronezh. To my disappointment, there were no prominent sights around to behold. So, I had to find comfort in a short walk along the streets. Out of sudden I came across a wonderful flower in bloom bearing resemblance to a lily, but its stem was thicker. The flower had a mixed coloration of red and orange which stroke my eye in a distance.

On Kastornaya-Kurskaya station I learned some historical reference. It turns out to have been the site of the defense post during the Civil War (1918-1921) when the Red army led by Budyonyi reclaimed the neighbourhoods from the White army.

The city of Kursk presented its best to my sight. As I crossed the light Цgreen bridge over the railroad, I found myself in the yard, which looked like a garden from one of the fairy-tail I had read in my childhood so often. A great variety of plants greeted me with all of their hospitability. Fruit trees rich in apples and pears served as an additional feature to this visual enjoyment.

The following station impressed me due to a grand figure of an eagle made of straw. It came into my sight on the background of darkness. (It was about midnight) The figure looked truly gorgeous owing illumination. A number of cobblestones were laid around. Of course, I did not miss out on the opportunity to move closer to the eagle and touch it. As you may guess, that was the city of Oryol. This image is sure to keep in my memory for a long time due to its eccentricity and unusual material.

To conclude, I spent my summer holidays meaningful. I am happy that I managed to combine active rest in the seaside with cognitive outings. I look forward to the next summer to explore something new and make a difference to a daily routine.

(Based on the narration of a guide and my own impressions)

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