History of Sochi, Russia

Russian camp at the mouth of Sochi River in April 1838.

Sochi is the largest resort city in Russia and one of the largest in Europe. The town is situated along the Sochi River, near the Black Sea in Southern Russia. The city comprises an area of 68.25 sq mi (176.77 square kilometers), while the Greater Sochi Area covers over 1,352 sq mi (3,502 square kilometers). Sochi stretches across 90 mi (145 kilometers). It is the most extended (longest) city in Europe, the fifth-largest city in the Southern Federal District, the sixth-largest city on the Black Sea, and the second-largest city in Krasnodar Krai.

Let’s explore the Complete History of Sochi in Detail.

Early history

Geologically, the city of Sochi is composed of Cenozoic and Mesozoic rocks. They had encountered notable changes due to the seismic and volcanic activity, with the earthquakes measuring up to a disastrous nine on the Richter scale. It was populated through the Lower Paleolithic more than 100,000 years ago by ancient humans migrating from Asia Minor through Colchis. The oldest formed open-type settlements during the Middle Paleolithic (100,000–35,000 years ago) climbed to caves due to the mini ice age (global cooling). One evidence of this migration to caves was discovered at a 40,000–50,000 old site in the Akhshtyrskaya Cave, nearly 20 km from Adlersky City District.

Entrance to the Akhshtyrskaya Cave / NYK Daily

The Upper Paleolithic (35,000–10,000 years ago) has evolved to produce elaborated stone tools.

The Ancient Greeks voyaged to the Sochi area in the 6th–5th centuries BCE and kept exploring it till about the first century BCE. They encountered the Zygii, Aehi, and other people who were keen on the Greeks’ luxury goods and traded them for slaves. Slaves were a significant property of the time, and thus the Caucasian coast became a slave trade center. An ethnic tribe of a few thousand Greeks still live nearby Krasnaya Polyana. Between 2,000 and 1,800 BCE, the waterfront area around Sochi had one cultural entity. Humans built numerous stone monuments (dolmens) around Sochi during this era, and at least fifty remain to the present day. It is still unclear how these tombs measuring tens of tons were made with such an accuracy (some stones match each other within millimeters) and their purpose. Numerous trade objects and bronze tools, dated to 800 BCE–700 BCE, were found near Sochi, indicating active exchange with the neighboring areas.

Top left: plan of a dolmen at Krasnaya Polyana (length scale 10 cm), Sochi. Others: bronze tips and axes found near Sochi, Russia

In the Middle Ages, the era was influenced by Christianity and the Byzantine Empire, as discovered by the design of nine churches and eighteen fortresses recording from those times. The northern wall of an ancient eleventh-century Byzantinesque basilica still persists in Loo Microdistrict.

Middle Ages

During the 11th century, the Abkhazian King from the Bagrationi dynasty Bagrat II managed to unite Georgian Kingdoms, and Sochi remained under the control of Bagrat II and his followers. Sochi was part of Georgia’s Kingdom from the 10th to 14th century until the end of united Georgia under George VIII. Sochi and its residents were later part of the region known as Zichia after the Georgian kingdom’s dismissal. The native residents of the region, who were the Ubykhs, lived in a free society ruled by royal clans until the Caucasian war. A comprehensive description of the coastal area around Sochi arose from the naval expedition of the Frenchman Frédéric Dubois de Montpéreux in 1833. He also composed former reports of the region. Montpéreux could not land at the site of Sochi as his ship was met with intense gunfire from the coast. He states that in the Middle Ages, a Genoan town of Mamai stood on river Psakhe, and some 60 north from it a monastery and a German fortress.

Russian Colonization

View of Sochi River and Sochi from the west, photo ca. 1905–1915 || NYK Daily

Ottoman Turkey were very much inclined to invade the Black Sea coast to build an outstation for its northern expansions. However, it had lost this region to Russia after losing the Russo-Turkish War (1828–1829) and the Treaty of Adrianople. To further protect Turkey’s coast, Russia built a coastal defense line in 1830–1839 consisting of 17 fortresses. Several of these fortresses were constructed in the suburbs of modern Sochi, such as the fortress of Holy Spirit in Adler (1837), Golovinskoe (1839), and Lazarevskoye (1839). Since then, it has remained with Russia after surviving a British interest and World-War.

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