People started to explore the territory of present day Sochi 400-350 years ago in the early Paleolithic Period. Sochi was an important city in antique and medieval history. Manifold archeological sites have been found and explored: caves, ancient settlements, stone monuments known as dolmens, ruins of fortresses and churches, burial grounds, kurgan burials and so on.
Archeological excavations on the territory of Sochi proved the city to be unique taking into consideration the number of archeological and historical heritage sites. Such archeological memorial sites give retrospective view of people’ lives many centuries ago. The remnants show how they lived, worked, the clothes they wore. We discover their houses, art objects, cult places and so on.
More than 200 archeological sites are registered as unique archeological heritage sites. Byzantine – style fortress on Goldlik River, Lazarevskiy District, and medieval churches in the settlement Lo-o are among them. “The period of early Middle Ages in present day Sochi is represented by numerous hill forts, fortresses and churches.” - says an archeologist U. N. Voronov. In the early antique period (4-1 century BC) on the north-eastern seacoast of the Black Sea there lived tribes of Aehi, Zygii and Geonihi, and in the first centuries AD the area of Sochi was populated by Sanigi who belonged to Genionikh tribes conglomerate before that. In middle Ages, there lived tribes of Abkhaz-Adyghe language groups and in the first half of the 19th century - Adyghe (Black Sea Shapsugi), Ubykh and Abazun (Sadzy). From the second half of the XVIth century the Caucasian territory became the arena of Russian confrontation with Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and Persia, which ended in signing the Treaty of Adrianople. According to the peace treaty the Black Sea territory from river Kuban to the St. Nickolas fortress (to the south of city Poty, Georgia) came to Russia. During the Caucasian War in the 30s, the 19th century, the first Russian Black Sea outpost was set up to protect people living along the coastline. On the territory of Sochi, Russian soldiers built fortresses: the Holy Ghost fortress (Adler), fortress Aleksandria (Sochi), Lazarev fortress (Lazarevskoe), Golovinskoe (Golovinka) and others. Some fortresses ruins preserved to the present days and are now considered historical heritage.
After the Caucasian War (1864) native people / Adyghe (Shapsugi, Ubykh, Abazun (Sazdy) were forced to abandon their motherland.
After the decree, promoting population transfer of people from all over the Russian Empire to the Sochi area the territory of the Black Sea Coast was quickly resettled. There lived Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Armenians, Georgians, Greeks, Estonians, Moldavians and other nationalities, representing a colourful combination of the present day Sochi. All the forthcoming events determined the future resort city - Sochi appearance and development.
The Caucasian War ended (in 1864) and people started to explore and study remedial effects of the Black Sea coast. At this very moment, the process of division of lands was in its full swing. The government proved to be unable to solve the problem of industrial exploration of the territory and had to attract private capital to cope with it. Thus, Russian bourgeoisie circles felt the benefits of the territory, new branches to invest and raise the profits.
When in 1868 newspapers printed numerous articles about the land division a group of intellectuals led by Peter and Alexander Vereshchagins (brothers) decided to make an association of specialists not only in agriculture but in factory industries as well. There were 50 specialists in the association. They were interested in the Black Sea coast and it was Sochi (Post Dakhovky), that they chose as a central settlement for their purpose. “It so happens,” writes F. P. Dobrokhotov - the author of the guidebook «the Caucasian Black Sea coast», 1916, - comrades spread out over the coast, but their colonization plans were not over.”
In 1872, a villa called “Vera” was built on the territory of N.N Mamontov’s estate. The villa, considered the first datcha (summer house) was built on the territory of Big Sochi. Then Sochi country house building experiences some decline... A special committee, launched in 1898, that studied the Black Sea coast territory from towns Novorossisk to Sukhumi, played an important role in development of Sochi – as a Resort. The committee consisted of professors A.I.Voejkov, F. I.
Pasternatskiy and a mine engineer A. V. Sergeev. They read their report to the first all-Russian convention on climatology, hydrology and balneology, which took place in St. Petersburg, 1898. The report said that natural resources, the Black Sea territory is rich for, made it possible to create water health resorts. However, it required sound investments, governmental support and involvement of specialists. The Tzar government stepped away from the problem but it was solved with the assistance of prominent individuals and their investments.
At the end of XIX - beginning of the XX centuries rich lands of the Black Sea coast attracted attention of big industrials and entrepreneurs. A decree dating from 23 of May 1896, made the Black Sea District that was part of the Kuban territory, a separate and independent Black Sea Gubernia (a county). That was the smallest Gubernia in Russia (6455 square miles). Simultaneously the Land being under Sochi custodianship became a District. The Sochi District boundaries spread from the Dederukaj River (present-day Lazarevskiy District) to Sukhumi (Gagra city). In 1901, Sukhumi District was added to Sochi District. Since then Sochi District boundaries have spread from the sea to the main Caucasian mountain ridge - from Shakhe River on the north to Bzych River on the south, including Gagra city. According to the same Decree (23 of May, 1896) , the Dakhovsky Posad (administrative division of settlements in Russian Empire) was named Sochi Posad in the name of Ubykh settlement - “soatshe” that populated the territory until 1864. On 1 May, 1898, Sochi Posad was included into the list of settlements with a simplified public administration - classified as an urban village. The administration consisted of the village headman, his assistant and 12 elected commissioners.
Only after the inclusion of the Vereshchagins, the Khludlovkys and the Katkovo-Leontevs dachas (summer houses) and private estates of the Kostarevs, the Tolokonnikovs, Khudekovs and others into the Posad territory, Sochi got the status of a city ( 31st of July, 1917). Within Sochi District, there were big private estates of count S. D. Sheremetev, S. I. Kovalevskaya, Prince Michael, Tzar country estate “Dagomys” and many others. The building of a highway Novorossisk-Sukhumi and wide media coverage of the committee reports in 1898 contributed to lager investment and further construction of dachas and resort places in Sochi District. The price of land rose and the owners were selling parts of their estates for the construction of dachas, guesthouses and hotels.
At the end of XIX - the beginning of XX centuries the architecture of Sochi had its own unique features, characteristic to sea resort towns and greatly deferent from that of other Russian provinces. The main Sochi construction plan was to create a city like a garden. The architectural system had a feature of a pavilion construction, characteristic to parks, aiming to harmonize the city architecture with the landscape. Sochi was particularly proud of its beautiful parks.
S. N. Khudekov - the author of a notable book “The History of Dance”, the editor and publisher of “St. Petersburg newspaper”- founded a special park – Aboretum Park - in 1892, where he collected and planted over 1500 species of plants from all over the world. It is the largest subtropical park in Russia. (Historical and cultural heritage of federal significance).
“Riviera public garden is a “specialty” of Sochi. It was founded in 1898 and belonged to V. A. Khludov - an honorable, notable citizen of Moscow, an heir of the oldest merchant dynasty. The garden has more than 240 species of trees and bushes, 50 of which are particularly valuable and unique. In 1901-1903 professor A. N. Krasnov founded a park of subtropical flora in Khosta. In 1910-1911, following a project of a famous landscape architect A. Regel, there was founded a park in “Sluchaynoe” estate (Sovkhoz “Uzhnye Cultury” public garden) in Adler.
Climate and environmental conditions in the village Uchdere near Sochi made it a perfect place to open a tuberculosis detection centre. In 1900 a minister of Agriculture and State Property A. S. Yermolov presented a piece of land in the village Uchdere (55 square hectares) to Empress Maria institute for pupils with poor health. Romanov recreation boarding school, donated by the institute, was opened and blessed in 1914. Many Moscow officials and prominent people had their dachas and estates in the village Uchdere and around it:
Dacha of Evgenii Vasilyevich Pavlov - a professor, a doctor of medicine, a surgeon and a Private Councilor;
Estate of Princes Konstantin Konstantinovich and Dmitry Konstantinovich;
Dacha of Nikolay Savvich Abaza - a doctor of medicine, a member of State Council, head of printing and publishing ministry;
Dacha of Grigory Alexandrovich Krestovnikov - the chairman of Moscow Exchange Committee, the Chairman of Moscow Merchant Bank;
Dacha of Feodor Nikiforovich Plevako - a famous lawyer and court speaker;
Estate of Dmitiy Sergeevich Sheremetev - a count, aide-de-camp in the Russian Empire;
Dachas of entrepreneurs: Aristov, Shipov and others.
All the estates were located not far from the sea and had beautiful gardens stretching 3-5 hectares long with exotic plants. Twenty estates and their constructions of the late XIX - the beginning of XX centuries preserved to the present days and registered as objects of historic and cultural heritage of Russia.
The government did not provide any real assistance to the development of Sochi District. Sochi headman A. Kartashov noted in his report to the convention of activists of Caucasian Black Sea coast, which took place in St. Petersburg in 1913: “the significance of Sochi for Russia as a health resort is widely covered by media and its popularity in this respect is so big that there is hardly a town or a village throughout the whole territory of European or Asian parts of Russia, where people have never heard of Sochi...” However, due to the poor organization, “lots of people prefer going abroad and spend there millions of rubles thus enriching the Resorts there... and our Resorts, being richer for natural and environmental resources, are in great decline and misery...” However, at that time all the concerns and suggestions of Sochi municipals were left unattended by the government.
After the October Revolution (1917) and the Civil War (1918-1920) Sochi experiences construction boost reaching its high point in the 30s. The first general plan of Sochi reconstruction approved in 1934. Greatest architects I. V. Zholtovskiy, V. A. Schuko, A. V. Shchusev and new but promising architects I. S. Kuznetsov, K. P. Chernopyatov, V. V. Efimovich, brothers A.A. and K.A. Vesnins and others were involved in the process.
Sochi reconstruction was held frantically, projects were drawn alongside the construction itself. A road to the Akhun Mountain peak and an Observation tower (the design of the architect S.I. Vorobyov) 30 meters high were built in 1935. Nowadays the tower serves a monument of soviet architecture and city construction.
Such difficult architectural constructions as the Riviera Bridge, Vereshchagin and Matsesta viaducts (civil architecture and engineering heritage) were built in the shortest terms. In 5 years (1934 - 1939) there were built 19 new spa resorts – Primorye Spa Resort, Pravda Spa Resort, Zolotoy Kolos Spa Resort , spa resorts named after S. M. Kirov, S Ordzhonikidze, Frunze, Fabrizius, and Voroshilov. Famous Sochi Matsesta Spa Resort faces serious reconstruction, new buildings are being erected, including the building “number 4” - the largest and the most comfortable according to A.P. Golubev project (monument of soviet architecture). Sochi becomes Soviet Health Resort.
The city architecture was in perfect harmony with the environmental demands and had specific features of the time. The edifices and constructions of that period still attract attention of Sochi citizens and guests.
Sochi Art Museum (former office of the USSR Commissioner responsible for the Spa Resort Sochi - Matsesta), Winter Theatre, Spa Resort named after S. Ordzhonikidze are considered to be architectural and city construction monuments of federal significance. Fourteen edifices, erected during the first wave of Sochi reconstruction and registered as soviet architectural and city construction monuments are under the protection of Russian government. During the Second World War period, Sochi resorts became hospitals housing over 300 000 soldiers and officers. After the war, the process of reconstruction became even greater.
The construction of Sochi Sea Port, the Railway Station and Passenger Sea Terminals (monuments of civil architecture), the Airport, Adler Air Terminal, the Krasnaya Polyana hydroelectric power station was finally brought to an end. Housing parts of spa resorts: Belarus’ Spa, ‘Sochi’ Integrated Spa Resort, Salyut Spa Resort, Semasko Spa Resort, and Central Clinical Resort named after F.E. Dzerzhinskiy are completed in this period. New resorts also appeared - Metallurg Spa resort, Zarya Spa Resort, Rus’ Integrated Spa Resort Federal State Institution, Progress Clinical Resort, and Chayka Spa Resort; opened Sputnik Sports and Recreation Facility, a telecentre, movies, broad-walks got new architectural design.
In 1961, the RSFSR Supreme Soviet added Adler and Lazаrevskiy District to Sochi Resorts. Sochi District now spread from village Magri (at the border with Tuapse District) to the mouth of the Psou River (at the border with Abkhazia).
A new general scheme of Sochi - Resort reconstruction, planned for 25-30 years, was adopted in 1967. The scheme meant to build recreational complexes covering 145 kilometers of coast territory and identify agricultural zones. Intensive housing, industrial and hotels construction was in its full swing in those years. In 1960s hotels- Leningrad, Kuban, Sochi’ Central Military Clinical Resort, Sochi-Magnolia Hotel, Caucasus Spa Resort, Chayka Spa Resort and some years later – Kamelia Spa Resort, Zhemchuzhina Hotel, Moskva Hotel, Dagomys Wellness Facility Federal State Unitary Enterprise of the President Administration were completed. The construction of modern spa resorts such as Zelenaya Roshcha Spa Resort, Belye Nochi Spa Resort, Neva International Spa resort and others got a significant boost.