Zheleznovodsk, the pearl of the Caucasus, is one of four amazing, unique resorts in the oldest resort region of Russia, with a worldwide reputation. The Caucuses Mineral Waters group is completed by Kislovodsk, Pyatigorsk and Yessentuki. These are all small towns, comparable in magnitude with such European resort centers as Karlovy Vary and Baden-Baden, and are close to each other, forming a single complex. The Caucuses Mineral Waters group is in the southern part of the Stavropol Region of Russia. The towns are located in the heart of the North Caucasus, on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range, only 90 km from Mt. Elbrus, and almost equidistant between the Black and Caspian Seas. Here, in an area of 2,000 sq. km., there are more than 120 mineral springs of various types. The sulphate-silt mud of Lake Tambukan has healing properties. The large variety of mineral waters, the availability of high-quality mud treatments, and the use of the particularities of the local climate for health purposes all lead to the wide range of medical indications for the Caucasian Mineral Waters region in general, and to the specialized medical profile of each of its resorts. The miraculous healing power of the local springs, spraying out of the ground, has long been known to the local population. Proof of this are the numerous legends of the mountain peoples, in which reality is intertwined with fiction.
The first official recognition of the healing waters of the Caucasus came in the time of Peter the Great. Later the Emperor Alexander I recognized the Caucasian healing waters as being of national importance. The resort was founded on April 24, 1803. Then, on March 27, 1992, by decree of Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia, the Caucasian Mineral Waters region was declared a specially protected eco-resort region of the Russian Federation.
The Caucasian Mineral Waters region has incredible beauty of the surrounding nature, exotic landscapes, a favorable climate, exceptionally clean, cool, crisp air, numerous attractions, and a developed infrastructure. As of today the region is the most effective multi-profile Russian spa resort, with all the necessary resources for rehabilitation and recreation, receiving more than 1 million people annually. The resorts of the Caucasian Mineral Waters attract people with the unusual beauty of their freestanding mountains, which stand alone in the plains, mesmerizing the eyes and creating a fascinating, almost dreamlike terrain of the region. There are 17 of these mountains: Beshtau, Mashuk, Zheleznaya, Razvalka, Ostraya, Kabanko (Dull), Yutsa, Dzhutsa, Bull, Camel, Scabby, Kokurtly, Dagger, Honey, Bald, Golden Mound, and Snake. The mountains of the area were declared monuments of nature and subject to protection on September 15, 1961.
All around, left and right,
Like the remains of pyramids,
Mountains look over one another,
Lifting up to the sky majestically.
By Mikhail Lermontov
The mineral water which the region is so rich in is born on the rocky ridges and grasslands. The water moves through the tilted north layers of sedimentary rock, dissolving the salt of ancient seas, and rises through fractures in the mountain rock, heated and enriched with carbon dioxide, formed from the impact of magma from the surrounding rocks which has not yet cooled, and sometimes comes to the surface as healing springs.
The city of Zeleznovodsk is the northernmost city of the resorts of the Caucasian Mineral Waters. This scenic area is surrounded by a thick oak-hornbeam and beech forests, protecting visitors and residents from the summer heat, giving the area a unique kind of magic. Here there are about 1,350 species of plants, 125 of which are used in pharmaceutical and medical practice. The forest has an area of 42 square kilometers. The total area of forest and residential area is 93 square kilometers. The administrative boundaries of Zheleznovodsk include the city, the resort, Inozemtsevo urban village, and the towns of Kapelnitsa and Beshtau. Altogether, Zheleznovodsk has a population of about 60,000 people. Zheleznovodsk’s geographical landscape, surrounded by mountains and natural forests, and its considerable height above sea level (600-650 m above sea level) determine its mountainous-middle Alps climate. The average annual temperature is +8.5°; the average summer temperature is +18.2°, and in winter – 4.6°.
The main therapeutic factors in Zheleznovodsk are the carbonic acid bicarbonate-sulfate, sodium-calcium mineral waters with different temperatures (ranging from cold – below 20º, to hot – more than +42º). There are two natural export products from Zheleznovodsk which are widely known to the general public: Smirnovskaya and Slavyanovskaya water.
Mud from Lake Tambukan is used for treatments. Its contains a highly mineralized (30-70 mineralization g/dm3) sulphide silt mud.
The resort is well-known internationally thanks to the ability of local environmental factors to cure diseases of the digestive system, diseases of the kidneys and urinary tract, andrological illnesses, gynecological diseases, metabolic disorders, diseases of the peripheral nervous system, and some pulmonary diseases.
The area where the city is located has been inhabited since ancient times. Stone tools used for hunting have been found in the Selityar Cave, while there are traces of ancient settlements on the top of the Tupaya (Dull) Mountain, and everyday objects made by Byzantine craftsmen have been found at the foot of Honey Mountain. Here, starting from the 7th century, the Great Silk Road connected Asia and Europe: the caravans carried Chinese silk, and made a stop at Mount Razvalka in order to drink the “living water” before making the final trip to the Black Sea ports of Abkhazia. The well-known scientist P.S. Pallas mentions the miracle water of Zheleznaya (Iron) Mountain in 1793.
The city history began in 1810, when two mineral springs were discovered in the dense forest on the slopes of Mount Iron by the Moscow doctor Fyodor Petrovich Haas. A state house of 7 rooms and a bath was constructed next to Spring #1 (Lermontov Spring). Further north were the huts of Cossack soldiers guarding the “water” society from the attacks of mountain peoples.
The first patients came to the Iron waters two years after the end of the War of 1812, when returning troops went to the Caucuses to guard the resorts from the attacks of mountain peoples. The total number of patients who came to the Caucasian Mineral Waters region at that time didn’t exceed a few dozen people per season. These were mainly soldiers from the central provinces of Russia. In the 1820s, the number of visitors to the waters were measured in the hundreds per season. This was during the so-called “Yermolovskoye Rule” in the Caucasus (1816-1827), when the commander of the troops was the celebrated General Alexei Yermolov.
Yermolov ordered the construction of first house at the iron waters in 1819. This was a guest house and bath house with one bath near the spring found by Haas. Based on Ermolov’s order of 1819, the Caucasian Mineral Waters region was ordered to be used for its medicinal mineral waters, and projects for all the necessary buildings were made, and comfortable roads were constructed. In 1823 the mineral waters of Zheleznovodsk were examined by the physician-pharmacist A.P. Nelyubin, who found a number of new springs. In May 1828, a special committee in St. Petersburg founded to improve the resorts of the Caucasian Mineral Waters region agreed to name the settlement of iron waters “Zheleznovodsk”. That year, the Kalmyk Baths were built on the site of the springs (now Lermontov Square). These baths were made in the form of a Kalmyk tent – out frames covered with cloth. In 1830, the first street in Zheleznovodsk was built from spring #1 (Lermontov Sprng): Kursovaya Street (todau Semashko Street).
The history of the resort town is connected to the presence here of two great Russian poets.
Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) visited the iron waters in 1820. The newly-founded resort was seen by Pushkin in its original form. A plaque is erected in honor of Pushkin’s 200th anniversary on Lermontov Square – the birthplace of the resort. The plaque commemorates Pushkin’s visit to the iron waters at the beginning of his four-year journey through the Caucasus.
Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841) repeatedly came to Zheleznovodsk from Pyatigorsk during his stay in the Caucasus. His stays at the waters as a child has left their mark on all of his future works. Exiled to the Caucasus for his poem written about the death of Pushkin, Lermontov was killed in a duel, just like the great poet who he adored.
The Zheleznovodsk settlement was founded in 1842-1843. A total of 40 families of soldiers and Cossacks were transferred to the Kislovodsk fortress. The name is associated with the original idea, (not completely correct), that the area was rich in iron salts (Iron Mountain got its name for the same reason).
In the middle of the 19th century 24 springs were known in Zheleznovodsk. In 1856 a number of springs of Zheleznovodsk were described by the scientist F.A. Batalin. Starting from 1865, the Gryaznushka mineral spring, later named Smirnovsky in 1890 (after the doctor S.A. Smirnov) was used.
In 1887, the Caucasian Mineral Waters were visited M.N. Ostrovsky, Minister of State Property and State Secretary. Ostrovsky approved a number of important events at developing the resort, including the construction of a major bath building in Zheleznovodsk. A baths built for the season of 1894 was named after him – the Ostrovsky Baths. In 1898, the resort was connected to the railway at the Beshtau Station. The 100th anniversary of the Caucasian Mineral Waters resorts was celebrated in 1903. Urban sculptures appeared in the area featuring the symbol of the region: An eagle tearing apart a snake. Starting from 1917, the mineral water of the Vladimirsky and Slavyanovsky springs. After the Russian Revolution and the Civil War, private hotels, guest houses and villas were nationalized and converted into nursing homes. The pre-war population of Zheleznovodsk had 7,500 people, but served more than 25,000 people annually. There were 16 health centers for 2,189 guests. After World War II, the resort restored its lost health and fitness infrastructure until the end of the 1950s. A new mud bath was built in 1971.
The comfortable health resorts Rus, 30 Year Anniversary of Victory, and Oak Grove were built in the 1970s-1980s, and equipped with all the necessary medical equipment for successful treatment.
In 1997, the city received the prestigious international award “Golden Mercury” in Italy for achievements in the field of architecture and urban planning. In 2000, the European Association of resort towns recognized Zeleznovodsk as one of the best balneotherapy resorts for its natural factors.
Plaza Health Resort, the first new health resort to be built in Zheleznovodsk since the Soviet Union period, was opened in 2012. This world-class resort combines classical SPA techniques with medicine of the 21st century.
Among the architectural monuments of the city Zheleznovodska, the most famous are:
Postal Station. This mail stagecoach station is a monument of architecture of the 19th century.
Ostrovsky Baths. This building was made in the style of an Eastern Palace in 1891-1893 by the architect Suzor.
Pavilions of the Slavyanovsky and Lermontov springs built in 1810-1824.
Palace of the Emir of Bukhara. This is an architectural monument of the early 20th century, and today is one of the buildings of the resort in the name of Telman.
Pushkin Gallery. This building was made in 1901, and is distinct for its elegant architecture. It was made in Warsaw by the joint stock company of iron products, and was designed by the architect Z. Hrzhanovsky. It has a room for 700 people and a hall for art exhibitions.
The resort park at the base of Iron Mountain is one of the most effective factors in improving the health of visitors to the resort. The park has the restored Pushkin Gallery, the Cascade Steps, the light and music fountain, the Park café-restaurant, Pushkin Square, a copy of the sculpture “Pushkin by the Sea”, the “Sings of the Zodiac” sculpture, and a musical gazebo from which the sounds of the brass band of the Black Sea Infantry regiment used to come. The majority of the Zheleznovodsk springs are located in the park. One special feature of the park is that it has four health walking paths around Iron Mountain with different slopes.
Dosed walking along the mountain paths, called the “health path”, is one of the most important methods of treatment in Zheleznovodsk. One of the oldest paths, built in the early 20th century, leads to the top of Iron Mountain. This trail is 3,200 meters in length, and has a change in altitude from 630 meters to 851 meters.
One of the attractions of the park is the “Fragment of Iron Mountain”, weighing 1,700 pounds, which rolled down during an earthquake on the night of April 11, 1892 from the eastern slope of the mountain.
The most surprising and mysterious place in Zheleznovodsk is the Razvalka Mountain. The geologist E.E. Eyhelman discovered this amazing feature of the area in 1901: the “summer permafrost”, which is still poorly understood. Here, on an area of 25 hectares, plates of ice can be found in the summer heat under a layer of moss. In July, the temperature of the soil at the surface is just +8°, and in the crevices between the stones it is +1°. There are different fauna and flora in the “permafrost” area: once can see animals and plants of northern latitudes. This leads to the conclusion that the “permafrost” of Razvalka Mountain has existed for a long time. The “permafrost” was actively studied by geologists in the 1950s. Drilling was done to the center of the mountain. The origin of the Grafsky cold water spring next to the hottest springs of Caucuses Region, the Zheleznovodsk springs, is also associated with the structural features of Razvalka Mountain. This is the coldest spring in the Caucuses Mineral Waters region. Its temperature ranges +1° to +5°.