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Prometheus was Sochi's first Olympic guest

Host city showcases long history of mythology, hospitality
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Sochi's road to hosting the Olympic Winter Games has been filled with adventure. -Getty Images

Sochi, Russia, the host of the XXII Olympic Winter Games, is generally associated in people's minds with a lovely resort on the Black Sea. But Sochi has a rather large and interesting history, and the city really has something to tell the world about itself.

Sochi is a resort town in the Krasnodar region on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus. Russia's only subtropical resort city, it stretches along the Black Sea coast for 145 kilometers. The area of Greater Sochi is divided into four districts: Adler, Khostinsky, Central and Lazarevsky. Sochi is the largest sanatorium (health resort) in Russia.

Sochi and the surrounding coast of the Black Sea have a long history, as evidenced by archaeological findings in the region. The first settlements in what is now the city appeared over 100,000 years ago.

For the first time, the name "Sochi" was found in the records of the famous Turkish traveler and statesman, Evliya Çelebi, who visited the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus in 1641. However, the author assigned this name to the mountains, not the village. In the same work, he mentions a tribe of Socha among the peoples who inhabited the Black Sea coast.

Sochi was originally marked as Suchi on a Russian map of the Black Sea in 1723. Given that the names of local settlements were recorded from interpreters and could be distorted, the word "Suchi" can be considered identical to "Sochi".

Officially, the city of Sochi was founded in 1829, when at the end of the Russian-Turkish war, according to the Treaty of Adrianople, the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus from the mouth of the river Kuban to the fort of St. Nicholas passed to Russia.

A Black Sea coastline was created, which consisted of fortifications designed to protect the coast. Russian troops built the military forts Alexandria, Lazarev, Golovin and the Holy Spirit in Sochi's territory.

In 1864, after the end of the Caucasian War, the indigenous people -- Circassians, Ubahians and Abazians -- were forced to leave their land, and an immigration movement began in 1866. Sochi territory was inhabited by Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Armenians, Georgians, Greeks, Estonians, Moldavians and representatives of other nations.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sochi and the surrounding land became a resort area. Cottages, hotels, hospitals, the first spa facilities, gardens and parks were built. In 1909, the famous Caucasian Riviera resort complex opened with modern physiotherapy facilities, bathrooms, laboratories, concert halls, casinos and restaurants.

During World War I and during the October Revolution, the city was largely destroyed, and many resort bases were closed. The urban economy recovered only in 1918-20.

In 1921, governmental sanatoriums "Riviera," "Moscow," "Red Moscow" and others opened on the basis of special decrees.

In 1941, the development was interrupted by the outbreak of a new war. As World War II raged, Sochi-based health centers treated more than 300,000 soldiers and officers of the Soviet Army. Sochi became the main hospital base during the battle for the Caucasus in the south of the country.

After the war, the city was not only fully restored but also began to rapidly develop its modern infrastructure, housing and industry. Sochi became known as the main resort city of the Soviet Union.

In the late 1980s, the city hosted around 5 million people every year for rest and treatment, including more than 200,000 foreign citizens. The city had more than 200 spa facilities, with 90,000 seats overall.

The situation changed dramatically in the early 1990s, due to political and economic reforms in Russia. With privatization, radical changes occurred in the structure of all facilities, but despite the difficulties of the transition period, Sochi was able to successfully adapt to the market economy.

Today, the city is home to more than 400,000 people. There are 227 modern facilities for treatment and rest as well as many hotels and tourist centers for city guests.

There are also more than 50 mineral springs in the region. The most widely used at present are hydrogen sulfide and bromine water. In addition, there are 23 promising areas where mineral waters are being produced, and Sochi has large reserves of therapeutic mud.

Legends and Myths

Where there are mountains, there are always legends. Sochi is no exception. There is no person who does not know the legend of Prometheus, who gave fire to the people and was chained to a rock as a punishment for his transgressions. But few people know that this happened in Sochi's Eagle Rock. In memory of the event, there is a huge figure of Prometheus at the site, where everyone can take a photo with the legend.

There is more to the myth. The story goes that there was a kind girl named Agoura who could not stand Prometheus' groans and drove away the eagles pecking at his liver. The lord of eagles became angry and ordered for Agoura to be dropped from the cliff. Her blood was shed and turned into a river. Now, Agoura is a beautiful river flowing through the territory of Sochi, and its waterfalls are another attraction of the region.

Sochi also has a source of "living" water: Matsesta. According to legend, a beautiful girl, Matsesta, who -- wanting to heal her parents -- went to the spirit of mountains and persuaded him to give people a source of "living" water. Now Matsesta is a large wellness center, where hundreds of people are treated annually.

There is no doubt that the Olympic Winter Games will give Sochi that extra energy needed for growth and development for many years to come. And who knows: Maybe it will be Prometheus himself who will soon light the Olympic flame.