5 July 2010, 18:30

Sochi - from ancient sites to 2014 Olympics

Sochi - from ancient sites to 2014 Olympics
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Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics , is more than a popular seaside resort in the Russian subtropics and a unique nature preserve. The area has a long and rich history.

Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics, is more than a popular seaside resort in the Russian subtropics and a unique nature preserve. The area has a long and rich history.    

As a resort, Sochi is not more than a hundred years old, but ancient sites found by archeologists show that the first humans settled there more than 100,000 years ago. They lived in caves and left numerous traces of their lives. The most amazing of the caves, Akhshtyr, contains historical record from the primordial era to the Stone Age. The cave is protected by UNESCO. Legend has it that when Odysseus met a one-eyed giant during his voyage to Colchis, it probably happened somewhere near Sochi. Yelena Galishcheva is a researcher with the local history museum. 

Ancient Greeks came here in the 5th-6th centuries B.C. and were the first to tell the world about local tribes – aehi, zihi and others. Belligerent tribesmen loved luxury goods brought by Greeks and exchanged them for slaves. Sochi was a slave trade center back then. Slaves ranked among most valuable goods. Slave trade was a characteristic feature of the antique history of the Black Sea coast and the Caucasus. In the Middle Ages, the region fell under the influence of the Byzantine Empire and Christianity. Nine churches and eighteen fortresses dating from those times are built according to Byzantine style. Incidentally, Sochi has a Byzantine church, the only one in Russia that has survived almost fully intact.  

In the 14th-17th centuries, the region was dominated by the Abkhaz and Adyghe tribes. They lived in small clay-wooden houses called “saklya”, tucked on mountain slopes. But although they shared the same territory, they spoke different languages and had different cultures. Despite massive outside influence, they considered themselves independent from anyone. Yelena Galishcheva:" For a long time, Turkey had its interests here. But after the Russian-Turkish war of 1828-1829, the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus went over to Russia under the peace treaty of Adrianople. The locals resisted the move, which triggered the longest Caucasian war in Russian history. The years from 1829 to 1864 are characterized by a surge of Islam that became the main tool in the fight against czarist Russia. When the war was over, the Russian authorities persistently urged local residents to move to other regions. Turkish emissaries seized the opportunity to persuade lots of people to move to Turkey but life there was far from rosy. Many died. Seeing that the policy was entirely wrong, the Russian government allowed people to return. Unfortunately, by that time, some tribes, among them ubykhs and sadzes, having no alphabet of their own, had completely assimilated with Turks."   

Russian sovereignty marked the beginning of great changes for Sochi. But it had still a long way to go to become a resort.    

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