The History of Sochi

Several millennia ago, the land around Sochi was inhabited by primitive tribes. This is evidenced by numerous finds: the ruins of fortresses, sites, caves, tools, and dolmens. In the 1st century CE, the ancestors of the Abkhazians – the tribes of the Zygii, Achaei and the Heniochi – lived in and around Sochi. It is believed they were pirates and were engaged in the slave trade.

In the 6th Century, the Black Sea lands fell under the rule of the Byzantine Empire, then ruled by the Emperor Justinian. The local inhabitants were unhappy with foreign influence and began a struggle for self-determination, which resulted in an independent Abkhazian principality arising in the latter half of the 8th Century.

In the 19th Century, the territory around Sochi was occupied by the warlike Ubykh tribes. They practised Islam and were subservient to the Ottoman Empire. The Ubykhs survived on agriculture, cattle breeding, and gardening.

According to the Treaty of Adrianople, which ended the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829, the Ubykhs were forced to leave these lands and hand them over to the Russians for the construction of military fortifications.

On 21 April 1838, fort Alexandria, later renamed fort Navaginsky, was built at the mouth of the Sochi river. The fortification did not last long and was soon destroyed during the Crimean War. The Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel now stands in its place.

In 1860, a new fortification, fort Dakhovsky, was built nearby, and in 1896 it was renamed Sochi after the river that flows there. Life in old Sochi was poor and tedious. A major role in developing Sochi was played by the Russian Minister of Agriculture Alexey Yermolov, it was he who came up with the idea to establish a Russian resort here, following the example of those in Europe. Assembling a commission headed by Nikolai Abaza, Yermolov began to address the issues of land development, water supply, and the construction of health resorts and beaches. To provide a positive example, he bought a parcel of land and developed a park, which now bears the name of the Bolshevik military leader Mikhail Frunze.  

Following Yermolov’s example, wealthy Russians started buying up land in Sochi and began building. The regulations were very strict: a commission had to approve every project, with a uniform style as one of the main requirements.

Then the dacha-mansions owned by Moscow merchants began to appear: Vasily Khludov’s villa in Riviera Park, villa Vera on Kurortny Prospekt 34 A, and Aleksandr Jakobson’s dacha on Gagrinsky street.

At the same time, research began on the healing properties of the Matsesta waters and the first sulfur baths appeared. Thanks to this, Sochi gained renown as the Russian Nice.

By 1917, Soch was informally divided into two parts. Above were dachas and rest homes, below were offices, markets, and residences for ordinary citizens. During the Civil War, Sochi was first held by the Reds, then the Whites, then the Georgians tried to seize it, but were thwarted by General Denikin’s army.

In 1936, Kurortny Prospekt was built and along with it appeared dozens of new sanatoriums, cafes and restaurants. Parks, squares, and theaters were laid out to impress visitors, and then the Embankment was constructed.

By the 1940s, more and more government dachas sprang up in Sochi. The main ones were those of Josef Stalin and Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, named as Bocharov Ruchey. The latter dacha still serves as the summer residence of the President of Russia.

In the winter of 1941, more than 60 Sochi rest homes were turned into military hopsitals. When the war ended, Sochi returned to being a resort once more.

Sochi received a fresh impetus with the Olympic Games. Numerous cultural and sports facilities were built and Krasnaya Polyana turned into a global ski resort.

Sochi continues to develop to this day. Vast sums are being invested to make the city as attractive and comfortable as possible for tourists.

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