Why and for whom to go to the North Caucasus

I traveled three and a half thousand kilometers driving in the North Caucasus for … Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Ilf and Petrov, Bodrov, Vizbor, Yermolov, all the last Russian emperors, from Alexander the First to Nicholas II, after Putin in the end. Some – caught up, some – not.

As a result of the trip, I report: the North Caucasus, although not Greece, but everything is also there. Well, almost everything. What kind of tourism do you prefer? Historical, cultural, literary, sports, medical, military-patriotic, gastronomic, ethnographic? In the North Caucasus, you can do any of them.

Kisa, Osya and Sasha were here

Alexander Pushkin called Mount Beshtau his Parnassus, at the foot of which lies Pyatigorsk. Greek Parnassus inspired Homer, Herodotus and Aristophanes, French Montparnasse – Apollinaire, Sartre and Hemingway, Caucasian – Pushkin, Lermontov and … Ilf and Petrov.

In Pyatigorsk, “they are all” – after all, not Pushkin, but Lermontov. Proof of this is the monument to the classic by the sculptor Alexander Opekushin, discovered back in the 19th century, and the museum-reserve, the main object of which is the house where the poet spent the last days of his life and wrote his last poems. A monument was also erected at the site of the fatal duel with Martynov.

Every era has its heroes. In the nineteenth century – Grigory Pechorin. In the twentieth – Ostap Bender. The great strategist cast in bronze stands… That’s right, at the entrance to the Proval, which in our mercantile time is surprisingly still free. And Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov collects alms in the Flower Garden park. Give it, he says, to the former deputy of the State Duma. I gave … fifty rubles. So, as they say, Kisa, Osya and Sasha were here.

However, I became interested in literature. Still, the Caucasian Mineralnye Vody is a resort primarily medical, and not literary. Pyatigorsk and Kislovodsk were created in the 19th century following the example of European water resorts. This is our answer to Baden-Baden and Ems. About 130 unique mineral springs – I don’t want to drink Narzan! The “Thunderstorm of the Caucasus”, General Alexei Yermolov, also immortalized in bronze in the center of Pyatigorsk, decided that there was nothing for the Russian nobility to spend money abroad, since we have medicinal waters no worse in our country. At his request, large funds were allocated from the treasury for the development of domestic water resorts. Luxurious restaurants, magnificent parks and galleries have grown. Rest on the Caucasian Mineral Waters has become fashionable. The Russian aristocracy was drawn here. In the Kislovodsk “Kursaal”, an architectural monument of federal importance, where the State Philharmonic is located today, Sergei Rachmaninov, Fyodor Chaliapin, Leonid Sobinov, Isadora Duncan, Matilda Kshesinskaya and other stars of the then Russian art and “show business” performed. In recent years, the attention of the top leaders of the state has again been riveted to the Minvody. Chairman of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko has been taking care of the resort since 2014, and during this time it has noticeably changed for the better.

Elbrus in the blue sky

“Great pictures!

Thrones of eternal snows,

Their peaks seemed to the eyes

A motionless chain of clouds,

And in their circle a two-headed colossus,

In a crown of shining ice,

Elbrus is huge, majestic,

White in the blue sky,

… I recited Pushkin, rushing to the highest mountain in Russia. From Pyatigorsk to the glade Azau at the foot of Elbrus – 170 kilometers. By car, two and a half hours. A trip along this mountain road passing through Kabardino-Balkaria is an exciting excursion in itself. On the way, at an altitude of 1300 meters, there is the highest mountainous city in Russia, Tyrnyauz, then the villages of Upper Baksan, Neutrino and, finally, Terskol, on the territory of which the Azau glade is located. Monuments to Killar Khashirov and Akhie Sottaev were erected on the bridge across the Baksan River. Khashirov is the first who in 1829, being the guide of the expedition of the Russian General Georgy Emmanuel, conquered the eastern peak of Elbrus. Sottaev, the guide on the expedition of the Englishman Florence Grove, was the first to reach the western peak – this happened only in 1874.

If Kavminvody is primarily a medical resort, then Elbrus is a sports one. Skiing here is from November to May, and the climbing season lasts all year round. The height of Elbrus is 5642 meters above sea level. Compared to it, Beshtau with its 1400 meters, not to mention Mashuk, which does not reach even a kilometer, is just hills. Once on Kilimanjaro I had to climb even higher – to 5895 meters, but I did not storm Elbrus. To do this, you need to plan a separate trip, and if you are not a pro, it is best in July or August. He limited himself to going up to the upper station of the Garabashi cable car at an altitude of 3847 meters, and then he took a snowmobile to the mark of 4150 meters. Those who wish can ride a snowcat even higher (and even more expensive) – up to the Pastukhov rocks at an altitude of 4700 meters.

By the way, Elbrus is often called the highest mountain not only in Russia, but also in Europe – this happens if we draw the border between Europe and Asia along the Main Caucasian Range, and not along the Kerch Strait. Otherwise, the highest peak of the Old World is Mont Blanc – 4810 meters.

An alternative skiing and mountaineering option to Elbrus is the neighboring Mount Cheget. But you can go from Pyatigorsk and in the other direction, to Karachay-Cherkessia, to the Dombay sung by Yuri Vizbor:

“That’s the end of the circle,

Remember, hope, miss.

Snow flags of parting

He hung out the old Dombay.

Two Ossetia

I set up my next “camp” in Vladikavkaz. In the center of the city there is a monument to Dzaug Bugulov, who founded the first settlement on this site in the middle of the eighteenth century. However, if it were my will, I would also erect a monument to Catherine the Great nearby. It was she who in 1784, just a year after my native Sevastopol and the same year as my native Simferopol, founded the fortress of Vladikavkaz at the foot of the eternally snow-capped mountains. The famous Table Mountain, almost three kilometers high, is visible from anywhere in the city and is depicted on its coat of arms.

Vladikavkaz is Russia’s main outpost in the region. The strategic position of the city emphasizes its name – to own the Caucasus. It is no coincidence, as the National Museum of North Ossetia testifies, that all the last Russian emperors came here, from Alexander the First to Nicholas II.

Above the Terek embankment on a war horse reminiscent of George the Victorious General, twice Hero of the Soviet Union Issa Pliev. This is perhaps the most impressive monument of the Great Patriotic War in Ossetia, and the most touching is in the village of Dzuarikau. This is a monument to the seven cranes, the seven Gazdanov brothers – Magomed, Dzarakhmet, Hadjismel, Maharbek, Sozyrko, Shamil and Hasanbek.

You can lay flowers to him on the way abroad … the border – to South Ossetia. From Vladikavkaz to Tskhinvali 165 kilometers along one of the most picturesque mountain roads in the world. Travel time is three and a half hours. To them it is necessary to add an hour or two to pass the border.

“Thank you, Russia!” – I read on the side of the mountain on the way. “Thank you Russia!” my Tskhinvali friends repeat. Twice, in 1992 and 2008, our soldiers came to the aid of Ossetians fighting for independence.

South Ossetia is a small country. Its population is about fifty thousand people, the vast majority of whom dream of reuniting with North Ossetia as part of Russia. Everyone here knows each other. I think that even President Alan Gagloev knows by sight every well, or almost every citizen of his state.

The most unusual reminder of the “war of 08.08.08” is the tower of a wrecked Georgian tank, turned into a monument, stuck into the porch of the Tskhinvali House of Trade Unions. The heart of the city is Theater Square, on which stands a monument to the “Ossetian Pushkin” Kosta Khetagurov. On August 21, 2008, Valery Gergiev, probably the most famous of the living Ossetians, gave a grand concert here – let Valery Gazzaev and Stanislav Cherchesov not be offended by me. And one of the main streets of the city is named after Vladimir Putin. So people decided after the events of 2008.

Almost 90 percent of the territory of South Ossetia is located among the mountains. On one of them, to the medieval Orthodox Church of St. George the Victorious in the village of Dzher, at an altitude of 1880 meters, I climbed right behind the wheel to light candles in memory of those who died for our victories.

Another Caucasian prisoner

From Vladikavkaz to Grozny – 115 kilometers. By car, less than two hours on an excellent track. In general, all the main roads in the North Caucasus are in very good condition. The current capital of Chechnya was founded in 1818 by Alexei Yermolov as the Russian fortress Groznaya in the hottest point of the Caucasus – at the entrance to the Khankala Gorge. Subsequently, the “temperature” here rose more than once or twice, but now it is “cool” on the banks of the Sunzha.

The current Grozny is the most modern city in the North Caucasus, which is something like “our Dubai”, a symbiosis of modern technologies and national traditions. His calling cards are the skyscrapers of the local City, the “Heart of Chechnya” mosque, which evokes associations with the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, the avenues named after Vladimir Putin and Makhmud Esambaev, the square named after Akhmat Kadyrov with memorials to victims of deportation and the fight against terrorism.

The most famous sights of neighboring Ingushetia are located high in the mountains. One of them, the medieval defensive tower “Vovnushki”, which seems to be a continuation of the rock on which it was built, was a finalist in the “Seven Wonders of Russia” competition. The other is a whole complex of Erzin defensive towers on the mountainside outside the village of Olgeti, which, by the way, also has Putin Street. And in Ingushetia, the amazing capital of Magas is the “city of the sun” with a population of only 15 thousand people, in the center of which a hundred-meter Tower of Concord has been erected. By the way, the self-name of the Ingush “galgay” in translation into Russian means just “builder of towers.” Magas is the smallest and youngest capital of the Russian region, its foundation stone was laid in 1994.

However, alas, as Kozma Prutkov rightly argued, one cannot grasp the immensity. I was not only unable to tell about everything that I saw on my journey through the Caucasus, but I myself did not manage to see everything that I wanted to see. For you, this is a reason to continue reading our magazine, and for me, to return to these places once again following Pushkin, Lermontov and Tolstoy – the three pillars of Russian literature, each of whom once wrote his own “Prisoner of the Caucasus”.

Ten things to do in the North Caucasus

1. Read Mikhail Lermontov’s novel A Hero of Our Time.

2. Revise “The Prisoner of the Caucasus” directed by Sergei Bodrov Sr. with Sergei Bodrov Jr. in the title role.

3. Re-listen (and even better – learn to sing and play) “Dombai Waltz” by Yuri Vizbor.

4. Drink narzan in Pyatigorsk, but in moderation, so as not to be exhausted by it, like a fitter Mechnikov.

5. Climb Mashuk by cable car and go down from it on foot.

6. See Elbrus. Better yet, take the cable car to the Garabashi station and send a postcard home from there, from the highest mountain mailbox in the country. The most prepared can try to climb to the top of the highest mountain in Russia.

7. Go abroad – to one of the smallest and most proud countries in the world – South Ossetia.

8. Drink North Ossetian beer and South Ossetian wine and eat “just Ossetian” pies.

9. Put flowers at the monument to the seven cranes – the Gazdanov brothers in Dzuarikau.

10. Stroll down Putin Avenue in the Chechen capital Grozny, the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, or down Putin Street in the tiny village of Olgeti in Ingushetia.


Be the first to read breaking news on OopsTop.com. Today’s latest news, and live news updates, read the most reliable English news website Oopstop.com

Leave a Reply