Тема: Sochi national park

General Information

Sochi National Park is Russia’s first national park, established in 1983. The mission of the park is to maintain natural and cultural heritage of the Black sea Caucasian coast and to develop ecotourism in that region. The park has a unique location in subtropical zone between branches of Caucasian range and the Black sea coast. Every year it hosts millions of both home and foreign visitors.

The park is situated in the south of Krasnodar Krai. Its territory is extended along the Black sea coast for 145 km, from the border with Tuapsinsky district, between the mouths of the Shepsi River and the Magri River in the north-west, to the border with Abkhazia along the Psou River in the south-east. The ultimate width of the park reaches 40-50 km from the seaside deep into foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. The park covers Greater Sochi area and occupies intermediate position between the Black sea coast and the Caucasian Nature Reserve.
The territory of the park spreads along the foothills of the north-western part of Greater Caucasus. Relatively low mountains, partitioned by river valleys, prevail in the relief of the park. Its subtropical climate is warm and humid with sunny summer, rainy and mild winter, prolonged spring, and very long and warm autumn. Sochi is famous for abundance of sunlight and heat, the sun shines here about 300 days a year.

The park holds a leading position among the other Russian national parks according to its diversity of species of flora and fauna. Besides widespread animals and plants, one can find here the rarest species; many of them are included in the Russian Red List and the IUCN Red List.

There are many striking natural sights on the park territory, such as deep gorges and canyons, numerous waterfalls, mysterious underground labyrinths, the unique colchian forest, sacred trees of local tribes covered with different legends. The central place among monuments of cultural and historical heritage in the park belongs to ancient dolmens, contemporaries of the Egyptian pyramids. All this natural and archaeological treasures are widely available to visit; numerous ecological paths and tourist routes lead to these great places.

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Plant community

The main part of the park is occupied by mountain forests, composed of the oriental beech, the downy oak, the sessile oak, the Georgian oak, Castanea sativa, European hornbeam and Oriental hornbeam. Buxus colchica is usually found in the underbrush. Wild trees and bushes (European crab apple, European Wild Pear, dogwood, medlar) as well as trees planted by human and become feral (old apple-trees, pear-trees, cherry-trees, cherry-plums) can be found here quite often. The major coniferous species of the park is the Nordmann Fir, less common are spruce, the Turkish pine and the Caucasian pine.

Colchian humid mixed forest is the most unique type of flora in the park. It spreads from seashore to the foothills at a height of 300-600 m above sea-level and occupies foothills and slopes of river valleys. The main features of the colchian forest are the presence of numerous species of evergreen plants and lianas and the presence of several vegetation periods within a year.

The uppermost forest layer is not too dense. It includes oaks, beeches, hornbeams, chestnuts and maples. The second layer located right under the described one contains relicts of the Caucasian seashore, such as European yew and Buxus colchica. European yew is one of the long-liver among plants: some specimen can arrive at the age of 4,000, and the diameter of their trunk can reach more than 4 m. Nowadays, the yew-tree has survived only on protected territories; the yew-tree has almost extirpated because of its extremely solid wood, possessing bactericidal properties. The box-tree is a very slow-growing evergreen bush or small tree up to 15-18 m at length and maximum 50 cm in the trunk diameter. The wood of box-trees is very solid and good for polishing. Yew-tree needles and box-tree leaves are toxic.

The typical bushes of the colchian forest are pontic rhododendron, cherry laurel, ilex and Colchis bladdernut, honeysuckle azalea, Turkish hazel, Caucasian whortleberry. The most widespread lianas are Persian ivy and common ivy, Clematis vitalba, Virginia creeper, cat briar, Italian honeysuckle.

The flora is rich and diverse: it numbers over 2,000 species of land plants. Many species growing in the park has been put on the Russian Red List. There are many types of mushrooms growing in the park, but the most remarkable among them is the gasteroid fungi.

A lot of evergreen subtropical plants grow on the sea coast, brought from different parts of the world: agaves, bananas, and all sorts of cactuses. There are not less than 15 species of palms: European fan palm, Canary island date palm, Chilean Wine Palm, California Washingtonia, Trachycarpus and others. Sochi is fairly called “land of magnolias”. Magnolias are flowering from the late May till September. Beautiful big white magnolia flowers look like water-lily. The magnolia flower has become an original symbol of Sochi.

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Animal life

Animals of the park are large in number and descend from different places. One can see here the typical representatives of the sea coasts, flat and mountain forests, subalpine and alpine meadows, and rocky high-mountains. The typical mammal representatives as West Caucasian tur, Caucasian chamois, Caucasian red deer, Caucasian snow vole, the long-clawed mole vole can be found at upper park border; here one can also see different birds such as the Caucasian grouse, the snowcock, and the griffon vulture. The forest park zone is commonly inhabited by brown bear, roe deer, wild boar, wolf, fox, wildcat, badger, squirrel, marten, European hare, and lynx. As for the birds, titmouse, cuckoo, halcyon, and thrush live in the forest part of the park. Snacks also live there: the widespread species is Caspian whipsnake, less common are whipsnake and aesculapian snake. Grass and dice snakes often inhabit the river valleys of the park. Sometimes one can find here the south coronella. Kaznakov's viper inhabits the foothills and low-hill terrain up to the 1,000 m height, Vipera dinniki can be found in the subalpine zone. Medium lizard, sand lizard, meadow lizard and rock lizard, as well as legless slowworm and scheltopusik are widely distributed there.

On the whole, there are about 230 species of the land vertebrate animals in the park, including about 80 species of mammals, about 120 species of birds, 17 species of reptilians and 9 species of amphibians.

The unique park location in the subtropical zone, between the spurs of the Caucasus Mountains and the Black sea, predetermines the presence of numerous endemic and relict species in the park’s fauna. There are multiple protected species in the park, such as the Caucasian wild cat and otter, 6 species of bats, the Caucasian grouse, the black stork, 7 species of birds of prey, vipera kaznakovi and aesculapian snake, the Greek tortoise, the Caucasian toad, the Caucasian parsley frog, the smooth newt, the brown trout and the Ukrainian brook lamprey, the Apollo butterfly.

The Persian leopard, one of the rarest species of the planet, lives in the park. It enters in the Russian Red List (category 1 - endangered species) and also in the UICN Red List. That subspecies, which was widespread all over the Caucasus only 100 years ago, has almost vanished recently. In 2009, a Persian leopard reintroduction centre was created to renew that unique predator in the Caucasus. It is located not far from Ahtsu canyon. Nowadays, the breeding stock of the leopard has raised; their descendants will be released into the wild in the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve.

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Rocks and Mountains

The main part of the park is occupied by relatively low mountains, dissected by river valleys. The mountain ranges are extended in the north-west direction; they are parallel to one another. Strictly speaking, the Greater Caucasian range is outside the park territory. It ends at Mount Fisht (on the Caucasian reserve territory), and then continues in the north-western direction under the another name known as the Black Sea Chain. The highest peaks within the park territory are Grachev Venets (1,644 m) and Semiglavaya (1,420 m). Parallel to the Black Sea chain of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range is a chain of advanced ranges: Aibga, Bzych, Amuko, Autl, Mzhetsu, Psechev massifs. The highest one is Aibga, up to 2,396 m above sea level; the height of the rest does not exceed 2,000 m at the average. The third chain combines Dzyhra, Alek, Ahtsu, Aroshe and other mountain massifs with an altitude of about 1,000 m. The fourth chain (Ahun ridge, Mamayka and Akhshtyr) extending from the south-east goes down sheer into the sea at the Dagomys area. The mountain ranges and intermountain hollows are dissected by valleys of numerous rivers and brooks.

From the top of the tower, one can see wonderful view of Greater Caucasus: Fisht, Chugush, Achishkho, Aibga. The Black sea waters are visible at the distance up to 100 km. One can also view the city of Sochi from this tower. Inside the tower, there is a restaurant with a huge open fireplace where the local dishes are cooked.
Big Ahun Mount and the Eagle cliffs are the most popular and available among the numerous mountains of the park. They are a part of Ahun mountain massif, situated between the Matsesta and the Khosta rivers. The name “Ahun” derives from the name of Ubykh god Ahyn, who was a protector of cattle.
At the top of Big Ahun Mount, a lookout tower built in 1936 by an engineer SI Vorobyov raised at 30.5 meters. It was built of white cut limestone in в Romanesque style, so it reminds of a medieval castle. A spiral ladder, enveloping the tower, leads to the upper viewing platform.

Big Ahun Mount, 663 m above sea level, is one of the nearest to the sea Sochi’s karst massifs. There are about 20 caves here. The biggest cave is Ahunskaya cave about 500 m in length. The south slope of the mountain is covered with hornbeam and oak forests, the north one, which is the most shaded, is covered with beech forests. Subtropical broad-leaved mixed forests of a colchian type rich in lianas and evergreen underbrush grow in the east and west, along the Khosta and Agura valleys. The mountain slopes are covered with the box-tree undergrowth. These parcels serve as habitats for the rare plants and the oldest inhabitants of the planet: amphibians and reptiles: the southern banded newt, the Caucasian parsley frog, the aesculapian snake, the spur-thighed tortoise.

The picturesque up to 380 m above sea-level Eagle cliffs, consisted of grey limestone and yellow sandstone, form the right side of Agur gorge at the district of famous Agur waterfalls. Trees of brutia pine, which grow almost plumb, make the cliffs especially beautiful.

At the top of the central rock called Prometheus rock, there is another viewing platform. From here, one can see a scenic view down to a cone-shaped Big Ahun Mount and the Agura River with its beautiful waterfalls at the bottom of the gorge. On a cloudless day, the Greater Caucasian peaks are clearly seen: Chugush, Achishkho, Pseashkho, Sugarloaf Mount, Aigba. There is a karst well (270 m deep) named “The cave of Tsar Hades” not too far from viewing platform.

In 1998, the sculpture of Prometheus tearing chains was placed on the platform. The top of the cliff, where a three-meter sculpture has placed, rises 125 m above the Agura River. The sculpture was created by Sergey Kolotov, the Siberian master.

That romantic place is covered with legends. The first legend completely agrees with the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus, who stole fire for humans. To punish Prometheus for his theft Zeus ordered to chain him to one of the Caucasian peaks. Every day an eagle was sent there to feed on his liver. Prometheus was at last freed by Hercules.

The local legend has common features with the Greek myth. It also tells about hero, who, against the gods’ prohibition, brought the fire of knowledge to humans and was chained to the Eagle cliffs by the Adyghe god Ahyn. The eagle increased hero’s torture by pecking out his liver, which would then grow back during the night. The local girl named Agura fell in love with brave hero and watered him secretly to relieve his suffering. Ahyn found it out and punished the girl: he turned her into a river at the foot of the Eagle cliffs.

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The canyons

Numerous rivers of the park, flowing down from the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range, have washed out deep canyons. These canyons are beautified with subtropical flora of the colchian forest. The most picturesque and popular canyons of the park are Navalishinsky and Psakho. Prokhladny canyon (“cool” from Russian) becomes more and more popular in recent years.

Navalishinsky canyon with sheer Eagle rocks, waterfalls, rapids, grottos and caves is situated at the Big Khosta’s valley in Khostinsky district. The name of the canyon is derived from the village Navalishino, named after its pioneer Navalishin. The river has washed a narrow gorge in chalky limestone.
From the sightseeing platform of Navalishinsky canyon a grandiose panorama of the foothills of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range and sheer rock walls opens up before viewers eyes. The cliffs of the canyon reach up to 250 m above sea-level. The length of the canyon is 2 km, the depth is over 100 m. The canyon tapers off to 3 m at its lower part, forming a picturesque gorge.

The canyon slopes are covered with the colchian relict forest. The hygrophilous flora has survived here since the tertiary period (about 30,000,000 years ago) due to the special ecological conditions of the gorges and river valleys, where these ancient forest communities grow. Here, there are 70 species of trees and bushes, about 80 species of herbaceous plants with a great number of ferns; all these plants are typical only for broad-leaved mixed forest of gorges. The predominant trees of this place include: Buxus colchica, hornbeam, beech, elm, Tilia dasystyla and European yew.

Navalishinskaya cave is located at the bottom part of Navalishinsky canyon on the right edge of the Eastern Khosta river at an altitude of 200 m above sea-level. The depth of that cave is 120 m. In 1936-1937, as the result of archaeological research, the dwelling site of mousterian and upper paleolithic periods was found here.
Psakho is one of the most scenic canyons on the Black sea coast. It is formed by the Psakho River (the left tributary of the Kudepsta) flowing on the territory of Adlersky region near the village Lesnoye. The Psakho rises down from Alek range at an altitude of about 1,000 m above sea-level. It flows into the Kudepsta near Krasnaya volya village. The age of the canyon is about 70 million years. The Psakho River has washed the canyon of about 2.3 km at length and 20-30 metres deep. The canyon extends through the biggest in Russia Psakho-Kudepstinsky box-tree forestland. This forestland consists of the virgin colchian forest with evergreen underbrush of relict plants: box-tree, yew-tree, cherry laurel, ilex, fig tree, bladdernut. Trees are covered with green moss hanging from the branches like picturesque mane. Rocks are entwined with stems of the colchian ivy. This fantastic forest resembles a strange underwater world, not in vain this forest served as the scenery for the underwater world of “Sadko” film, shot in 1930th. The Psakho River runs over the stone barriers against the background of this prehistoric forest; the river forms cascades of small waterfalls and small backwaters. The nearness of the river, a shadow, coolness and the air, full of balsamic forest smells, create a unique vivifying microclimate of the gorge.

Prokhladny canyon is formed on the Chuzhaya River, flowing into the river Chemitokvadge in the South of Lazarevsky region. The route to the canyon begins from “Zubova Shchel” station in “Zubova Shchel” village.
The canyon’s name (“Prokhladny” means “cool” from Russian) describes the reality: it is really cool here even in the hottest day! The canyon walls almost close and they hover above the ground, the water runs down the walls. The green color of moss, ferns and ivies is so pleasing to the eyes; and the noise of the river stream is so rhythmic that one can feel to be in the primeval world.

The canyon is rich in waterfalls of various heights. These waterfalls flow into small but deep lakes, where one can swim on a hot summer day. The water bodies, formed by the river, are full of rapids. The water flows from one rapid to another, forming so-called bowls: “Rose bowl”, “Bowl of Good”, “Two maidens’ bowl”, “Bowl of Health”, “Bowl of wishes”. The highest waterfall in this place is “Sukhoy” waterfall (“Dry” from Russian), it is 8 m in height. There are huge moss-grown boulders along the river channel. Some of them reach several meters in diameter. The quaint cliff, called “The canyon keeper”, rises at the entrance of the canyon.

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The territory of the park is covered with a dense network of rivers and brooks: there are about 40 relatively big rivers and over 80 large brooks. The rivers begin on the slopes of the west branches of the Greater Caucasian mountain range and flow into the Black Sea. The largest rivers include: the Mzymta (89 km), the Shahe (59 km), the Psou (53 km), the Sochi (45 km), the Ashe (40 km), the Psezuapse (39 km). All the rivers of the Black Sea coast are non-freezing. Thanks to the drastic difference in heights and the mountainous relief there are a lot of waterfalls formed on the rivers and brooks. The highest waterfall of the park is Bezymyany waterfall (72 m), located on the right tributary of the Psou river. The second highest waterfall is the Orekhovsky waterfall (33 m), it is formed on the right tributary of the Sochi the Bezumenka River. On the whole, there are over 70 waterfalls in the park territory.

The waterfalls of Sochi are especially beautiful due to the usual twilight of the subtropical colchian forest. The most spectacular and available for visiting waterfalls of the park are located in the Ashe, Svirka, Chudo-Krasotka, Shakhe, Bezymenka, Zmeyka and Agura river valleys.

The Ashe River is located in Lazarevsky district. Two remarkable waterfalls are formed at the upper reaches of the Ashe. They are called Psydah and Shapsug. The Psydah falls (Adygian “The beautiful water”), is of two- cascade and over 20 m in height. It is located 4 km upstream from the village Kalezh. The Shapsug waterfall (named after the large Adygian tribe) located 0.6 km from the Psydah waterfall upstream the Ashe consists of three cascades. The total height of the waterfall is about 50 m. Both of the falls have wooden ladders and viewing platforms.

The small river Svirka is located in the vicinity of Lazarevskoye. The Svirsky falls is the lowest waterfall, located near the path on the right side of the river. In that place the Svirka is gripped between the cliffs forming a deep canyon; so the waterfall can be seen only when the water is not very high. The picturesque falls “Mother-in-law’s tears” located above the Svirsky falls is one of the most beautiful on the whole coast.

The Chudo-Krasotka river (“A marvelous belle”) is located within 10 minutes ride from Lazarevskoye village to the city of Sochi side, near Soloniki settlement. Like many other rivers of the Black sea coast it is of spring origin, so its water is pure and cold even in the midsummer. The river is short, only 10 km at length. The river gets its name for its extremely pure water and beautiful valley. The river forms small waterfalls on its way; the largest one among them is also called “Chudo- krasotka”.

The Shakhe River, the second largest after the Mzymta, flows into the Black sea near Golovinka settlement. A small river Dzhegosh (from Adygian: “the place of competitions and merrymaking”) flows into the Shakhe in the vicinity of the village Large Kichmay. The valley of the Dzhegosh River is one of the most scenic on the whole Black coasts. In spite of its small length this river forms a cascade of waterfalls. There are 33 waterfalls, 7 rapids and 13 riffles in total. The highest of the waterfalls is the last waterfall downstream. Its height is almost 10 m; the rest high waterfalls vary from 1.3 to 6 m.

The Orekhovsky waterfall is a sample of a scenic beauty; it is one of the most famous waterfalls of Sochi. It is located on the Bezumenka River, the right tributary of the Sochi River, in 14 km from the Black sea. The waterfall arises where the mouth part of the Bezumenka River falls from a 33-meter altitude. Its name derives from the nearest settlement Nizhnaya Orekhovka. The waterfall is very beautiful in any season, but it shows the special power after cloudbursts.

The famous Zmeykovsky waterfalls arise in the lower stream of the Dikarka River (“Wild river”), the right tributary of the Matsesta in Khostinsky district. Running down from the top of Zmeyka Mount, the river crosses the soft marly layers. The ledges of different height were formed in several places of the channel, and the water falls down from them in noisy waterfalls. The river is named so for its wild nature which shows up after heavy rains. The upper waterfall is the most beautiful among all five Zmeykovsky waterfalls; it splits up over the rocky ledge at numerous jets.

The Agura is a small river about 10 km. It arises at the foot of Alek crest about 300 m above sea-level. The Agura flows into the Black sea near the pension “Sputnik”, located at the intersection of Kurortny prospekt with a highway, leading to Adler. The river formed a picturesque gorge, striking with its odd and virgin beauty, located between Ahun Mount and the Eagle cliffs. The famous Agur waterfalls located in the gorge became a tourist attraction long ago; they were included in the earliest and most popular tour route over Greater Sochi in the early 20th century. The highest and most beautiful waterfall of Agur gorge reaches 30 m in height. It consists of two 12 and 18 meter cascades, which jets fall at an angle to one another. A large and deep backwater is formed at the place of the powerful stream.

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Caves and grottos

There are a significant number of karst areas in the park. Mountain ranges Alek, Ahun, Ahtsu, Akhshtyr, Dzyhra are formed of limestone that in humid and warm climate was easily being washed under the action of numerous underground brooks and rivers for many millennia. As a result, the underground sinks, wells and giant cavities, in other word, caves, have formed. Altogether there are more than 300 large and small caves in the park territory.
In caves, one can admire beautiful space, stalactites and stalagmites, and also listen to the mysterious sound of the underground rivers run. The longest caves are Vorontsov cave (12 km) and Nazarov cave (7 km). The deepest among Sochi’s caves are “The System of friends” (630 m), “A soaring bird” (565 m) and Nazarov cave (502 m). Vorontsov and Ahshtyr caves are the most visited caves. They are well-equipped: there is electricity and the daily excursions in these caves.

Vorontsov karst massif is located in the upper Kudepsta River in the vicinity of Vorontsovka village in Khostinsky district. The massif include: The wild boar’s cave, Labirintovaya and Vorontsov caves, which have 12 way outs on the slopes of the Kudepsta River valley. It is the largest karst massif on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus. The total length of the cave passage system reaches almost 12 km, and level difference forms over 300 m. The caves are formed in the upper grey and white limestone, the width of the limestone layer reaches 80 m.

The caves have its own microclimate: the temperature is the same here in any season, it is held at 9-11 C. Air of the cave contains far less pathogenic bacterium, than outside air, especially air of cities and dwellings.
Archaeological digs in Vorontsov caves have revealed numerous discoveries of the Late Stone Age: stone and bone tools, bones of animals (wisents, wild horses, wild boars, deer, and bears), pieces of the dishware. Bones of the cave bear have found in Peshcherny and Ochazhny halls.

Vorontsov cave was named after count Illarion Ivanovich Vorontsov- Dashkov, who was the General Governor of Caucasus in 1905-1915. The outskirts of the cave were his hunting ground, that’s why Vorontsovka and lllarionovka villages were named after the count.

There are many mineral springs, underground rivers and lakes in caves. The huge cave halls “Stalactite”, “Pantheon”, “Ochazhny”, “Tishiny”, “Oval”, “Medvezhy”, “Prometheus” amaze not only with their size, but also with their natural interior. The “Stalactite” and “Ochazhny” halls are beautified with waterfalls, fanciful piles of blocks, and carbonate tears. The stalactite garlands hang down from the arched ceiling in “Pantheon” hall. In Labyrintovaya cave, there is a giant stalactite “Rocket” about 6 m in height.

Akhshtyr or Big Kazachebrodskaya cave is one of the major sights of Akhshtyr gorge, located in 15 km from the Black sea coast, a little bit above Adler trout farm, up-stream the Mzymta. Akhshtyr village is situated right opposite it, on the left bank of the Mzymta. That famous cave is appreciated as an archaeological monument of world significance. In the catalogue of Sochi’s caves it is listed under the name of Big Kazachebrodskaya cave, this name is derived from the name of the nearest settlement Kazachy Brod located on the right bank of the Mzymta.

The entrance to the Akhshtyr cave is located on the right side Akhshtyr gorge at the altitude of 185 m above sea-level. The ;t-flowing Mzymta river has been washing out a deep gorge the limestone rock mass of Akhshtyr range for many millions ars. From the entrance to the cave, a picturesque panorama of ; Mzymta valley, with its channel curves and slopes of the gorge srgrown with colchian forest, can be viewed. The cave extends ep into the rock for 150 meters, forming at the beginning -meter corridor, and then goes into the halls. The height of the lls reaches 10 m; the maximum width of the halls is 8 m. Two wares connected by a corridor are formed in front of the cave, ere is little sinter, the cave is almost dry, that's why it was used dwelling by primitive man.

An early man site in the cave was discovered by the Leningrad archaeologist E.N. Zamyatin in 1936. This discovery initiated long¬term archeological digs and researches of cave’s cultural layers. According to the Cambridge Guide to Prehistoric Man, Akhshtyr cave is considered the northernmost site in south-eastern Europe, where Cro-Magnons, the ancestors of contemporary Europeans, dwelt. A huge series of cultural layer contain various evidence of human’s activity in the period from 300,000 to 40,000 years BC.

The mythologists from different countries believe that well-known character from Homer's Odyssey - Polyphemus the Cyclop - lived in Akhshtyr cave. In those days, the cave was much closer to the river and the Black Sea.

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Ancient dolmens, the contemporaries of the Egyptian pyramids

The territory of the national park is famous not only for its natural sights, but also for its numerous monuments of historical and cultural heritage. The most well-known and mysterious sights are dolmens (from breton “tol” - table, “men” - stone). Dolmens are ancient stone building, made of unbroken blocks or giant sandstone slabs. They look like small houses and are found along practically all the Black Sea coast, from the Taman Peninsula in the north to Colchis lowland in the south, on a length of about 500 km. Dolmens remote from the Black sea coast eastwards, in foothills of the Caucasian mountain range in the Adygeya area, maximum at a distance of 75 km. Local mountain people (Adyghe, Shapsugs) worshiped dolmens as sacred and called them houses of dwarfs (“ispun”).

Nowadays, about 2,300 dolmens are known in the West Caucasus. Unfortunately, the major part of them is destroyed to a variable extent. According to a conservative estimate, there were no less than 30,000 dolmens in period of their building. However, later on, many dolmens were disassembled to separate slabs that were used as building materials.

Dolmens are widely distributed practically throughout the world. In Europe they can be found in Ireland, England, France, Denmark, and Holland, in south Norway, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, and Portugal. Moreover, in the Iberian Peninsula the most ancient dolmens that appeared here as early as 4000-3500 BC have still remained. In the Mediterranean region dolmens are found on the islands of Sardinia, Corsica, Malta, and the Balearic Islands. In Asia, dolmens are known in Turkey, Jordan, Korea, on Koshu Island; in North Africa dolmens are known in Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Ethiopia, in the south-west of the Sahara, in the Nile Valley. In South America dolmens are found in Peru and Bolivia.

There are over 100 dolmens located in the national park; most of them are in Lazarevsky district. In some cases, dolmens were built near springs, and Volkonsky dolmen is located on the Godlik River, near the mineral spring.
There are 5 types of dolmens that can be distinguished in their construction technique.
The most elementary is monolithic dolmen. It was cut out in a rock or in separately lying stone block; and the inner part was carved through the hole in the facade wall. A sample of that type is Volkonsky dolmen, located on the bank of the Godlik River in Lazarevsky District.

A semi-monolithic or trough-shaped dolmen was hollowed out in a rock block and was covered with a slab. Slab dolmen is the most numerous (more than 90% of all dolmens) kind of dolmens; it was made of six multi-ton slabs: the first one served as foundation, the other four were walls, and the last one served as covering slab.
A compound dolmen was built from several big blocks.
Ring-shaped dolmens were built from small stone blocks put together in a circle. On the top it was covered with a covering slab

The age of dolmens of the Western Caucasus is on average 4-6 thousand years. The appearance of dolmens in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age (4-2 millennium BC) in the Western Caucasus coincides with the emergence of other megalithic buildings in many parts of the world (“mega” from Greek language means huge and “lithos” means stone). In the first place, these are the Egyptian pyramid built of huge stone blocks, Stonehenge in England, the series of stone pillars and menhirs in western France.

In the main, dolmens were set in small groups on relatively flat areas along river banks, flat slopes of the mountains, on flat tops of the mountain ridges at an altitude of 500-700 m above sea-level. As a rule, a portal of dolmens is directed to the south, east or south-east.
The obligatory condition for building dolmens is presence of water (river, brook or spring) in close vicinity. This location of dolmens proves that water played an important role in the rites of their ancient builders.

A small round hole (of 30-40 cm in diameter) was carved in the portal dolmen slab. This hole is supposed to have been made for an access for builders to the inner part of the dolmen; after the burial, the hole could be served as a way out for souls of the deceased. Nowadays, dolmens are empty inside, but in those, which were recently found, there were human remains, stone and bronze tools, pottery, weapons and ornaments. On the surface of some dolmens, there are ancient inscriptions called petroglyphs.

The question of dolmen function is still an unsolved problem. Nevertheless, most of researchers suppose that dolmens had a sacral function, connected with veneration of the dead.

Still, there is no explanation of the fact how ancient masters achieved such a high quality of handling the large-tonnage stone blocks. The transportation of stone blocks from the place of their extraction to the building place and the building of dolmens itself demanded not only special building techniques, but also energies of a great number of builders.

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