Khakassia Republic (southwest of Krasnoyarsk) is an Ireland-size chunk of land occupied by the upper Yenisei River Basin. Located between the Altai and Tuva Republics, it is the home of the Khakas, a Christian people related to Mongolians, and is occupied mostly by steppe, mountains and hilly terrain at the far northwestern end of the Altai Range.

Khakassia Republic covers 61,900 square kilometers (23,900 square miles), is home to about 535,000 million people and has a population density of 8.6 people per square kilometer. About two thirds of the population live in urban areas. The city of Abakan is the capital and largest city, with about 165,000 people, about half the republic’s urban population.

Between the 6th and 12th centuries, the region was occupied by the "Yenisey Kyrgyz", who created an empire that stretched across Trans-Siberian and Central Asia. During the Mongol period they were defeated and forced to move to their present homeland in Kyrgyzstan. Those that remained became the Khakass, a nomadic horse people that adopted Christianity under Russian pressure. Before the arrival of the first Russians in the 17th century, Khakassia was a regional power in Siberia, based on commercial links with the khanates of Central Asia and with the Chinese.

Khakassia, an autonomous oblast that was redesignated an autonomous republic in 1992, is located about 1,000 kilometers west of Lake Baikal on the upper Yenisei River. Russians constitute a large percentage of the population of this sparsely populated republic. There are some remnants of a Lithuanian community that was exiled here in the 18 century. Russians make up 80 percent of the population and Khakass only 12 percent but more than three-quarters of residents spoke Khakass at the time of the Soviet Union collapse,. The republic produces timber, copper, iron ore, gold, molybdenum, and tungsten.


The Khakass is the name used to describe a loose of confederation of related Turkic-speaking peoples that live around the upper course of the Yenisey River in Siberia. Formally nomadic herders, they were artificially forged into a unified groups by the Russians, and are the remnants of the "Yenisey Kyrgyz."

The "Yenisey Kyrgyz” created an empire that stretched across Trans-Siberia and Central Asia from Kazakhstan to Lake Baikal from the 6th to the 13th century. During the Mongol period they were defeated and forced to move to their present homeland in Kyrgyzstan. Those that remained became the Khakass, a nomadic horse people, divided among a number of tribes, that adopted Christianity under Russian pressure. They lived in birch bark covered yurts Today their sedentary existence depends on sheep and goat husbandry.

There are about 80,000 Khakas. They make up 11 percent of the population of the republic of Khakassia, located in an area of Siberia with a relatively mild climate and sometimes referred to as “the Italy of Siberia”. Khakassia is now home to a large industrial complex and many Russians.

Tourism in Khakassia Republic

The Khakassia Nature Reserve is home to steppes, clear lakes and thick cedar forests. Among its attractions are the mysterious Tuimsky Proval, a man-made crater with a turquoise lake at the bottom; Sunduki mountain ridge; ancient menhirs ethnic settlements, mountain, taiga and steppe scenery and the huge Yenisei river. In the spring in March, you can celebrate Chyl Pazy, the local New Year, with all the locals! In the summer, there is a fermented mare’s milk festival. Horseback riding, hiking and caving can be enjoyed here. If you're into extreme sports, try the bungee jumping into the 120-meter-deep Tuim sinkhole. In the winter, you can downhill ski, snowboard or cross-country ski. Hunters hunt maral, boar, bear and wolf. The Republic of Khakassia is located in Southern Siberia, so winters are frigid while summers are scorching. Travellers are bound to appreciate this contrast.

Getting There: A round-trip flight from Moscow to Abakan costs RUB 21,000, and a round-trip flight from St. Petersburg to Abakan costs an average of RUB 24,000. By Train: The direct train from Moscow to Abakan departs from the Yaroslavsky train station. The train ride lasts 74 hours 40 minutes. One third-class ticket is RUB 11,600 and one second-class ticket is RUB 12,000 (round-trip, one adult). Prices vary depending on the day. You can also get to Abakan by train from Yekaterinburg, Novokuznetsk, Barnaul, Tumen, Achinsk, Krasnoyarsk and Novosibirsk.

Transport in the Region: The Republic of Khakassia is fairly small, so you can get to various areas from Abakan by bus and taxi alike. An Uber ride from Abakan to Sayanogorsk costs between RUB 1,339 and RUB 1,370. Neighboring regions can be accessed by bus and train. A train ticket to Barnaul is RUB 1,757. A train ticket to Novokuznetsk is RUB 1,892. A train ticket to Novosibirsk is RUB 1,126. For more information about the Abakan station train schedule and ticket prices, visit: abakan.dzvr.ruYou can get to Abakan by bus from Kemerovo (RUB 1,907), Krasnoyarsk (RUB 1,086), Minusinsk (RUB 65) and Tomsk (RUB 2,160). There is also bus service between Abakan and Tolmachevo airport in Novosibirsk. You can reach Novosibirsk by plane: for upwards of RUB 5,098, or by train: starting at RUB 1,207.


Abakan (320 kilometers from Krasnoyarsk) is the capital and the largest city of Khakassia Republic and home to 170,000. Founded by Russians, it is a pleasant tree-filled town is a zoo with Siberian tigers and a museum with 3,000-year-old burial totems. The Yenisei has been dammed and creates a reservoir that extends 320 kilometers north to Krasnoyarsk.

The area around Abakan has been inhabited for a long time: there's an architectural monument of the Hunno-Sarmatian epoch near Abakan, the Tashebinsky palace, dating back to the 1st century BC. Nevertheless, the city appeared here only in 1931, when the village of the railway station Abakan, opened in 1925, and the village of Ust-Abakanskoe were united.

The city lies in the center of the Khakassko-Minusinsk basin, which forms of a bowl at the confluence of the Yenisei River and Abakan Rivers, after which the city was named. Abakan is the transport center of the region: you can go to any city and district of Khakassia from the city bus station.

Sights in Abakan

There are several parks and city squares in the city: Preobrazhensky, Orlyonok, Victory Park and Ivan Yarygin Park. In the heart of the city is the Abakan Art Gallery, which hosts art exhibitions. In May 2015, a memorial complex dedicated to the memory of the defenders of the Fatherland during the World War II was opened on Mt. Samokhval. There's a great view of the city and its surroundings from the complex territory. The complex opened only recently, but has already become a favorite place of the city residents.

The L.R. Kyzlasov Khakas National Museum of Local History has a collection of ancient art of Khakassia and has an exhibit of unique stelae and stone sculptures, as well as items found during archaeological excavations in the republic. The museum is located in a new building which opened in 2016. There is also a collection of medieval monuments, such as stone women, slabs with ancient writing as well as pictures, household items and weapons.

Accommodation: The Abakan and Khakassia hotels are situated in the center of town. Abakan offers a breakfast buffet, and also has a pizza place on the first floor. If you're on a business trip and need to stay in shape, there is also a gym and free Wi-Fi. Rooms range from standard to designer suites, and prices vary from RUB 2,500 to RUB 7,150 per night. Khakassia offers breakfast and Wi-Fi, with rooms starting at RUB 2,750 for a standard room to RUB 5,650 for a VIP suite. While Abakan hotel is non-smoking, Khakassia offers special rooms for non-smokers.

Near Abakan

Minusinsk (20 kilometers from Abakan) is a charming town of 70,000 with many old buildings located in an island in the Yenisei River. There is an interesting museum that began with a the collection of a 19th-century pharmacist.

Shushenskoe (80 kilometers south of Abakan) is where Lenin was exiled from 1887 to 1900. The pleasant town has 17,000 people and has little see other than Lenin-related monuments and a house where he stayed.

Village of Ancestors Open-Air Museum (in Khakassia Reserve, 60 kilometers southwest of Abakan) has a historical reconstruction of an ancient village. Opened in 2017, it contains houses and artifacts belonging to different archaeological cultures found in Khakassia. Here, visitors can discover the history of people who lived in Khakassia from ancient times to middle ages; at workshops everyone can learn about the everyday life of people of different cultures. For example, a house belonging to the Kyrgyz archaeological culture is decorated with a chatkhan—a traditional musical instrument.

Stone Art Museum of Poltakov (80 kilometers southwest of Abakan) is comprised stelae and archaeology artifacts found nearby. In 1980, scientists carried out archeological excavations in the area of irrigation system’s building in Askiz and Beya districts. As a result, they had collected 93 stelae, and decided to install them at the square in front of the House of Culture in the Poltakov village. A barrow-like artificial mound was set up and stelae were placed along the perimeter of this mound. On the stelae there are about 1,000 petroglyphs — fantastic animals and anthropomorphic figures, patrimonial tamgas and solar symbols. The oldest stelae are about 4,500 years old. The most recent date to the beginning of the 20th century.

Archaeological Sites Near Abakan

Ergaki Recreation Center (180 kilometers from Abakan towards Tuva) is located in Egarki National Park in the Western Sayan Mountains at an altitude of 1,510 meters. Set in an area with the untouched taiga, mountains and pristine rivers and streams, it is open year-round, with hikes, bicycle trips and rock climbing in the summer and downhill skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Visitors can relax at the Korchma cafe, FreeReid and Snowport restaurants, Russian bathhouses, a spa salon, masseur and even a hookah lounge. Small cabins and cottages are available. Prices start at RUB 3,200 a night for four people. There are several hotels where prices start from RUB 300 (standard double room), and go up to RUB 5,600 for a VIP suite.

Sunduki Mountain Range (accessible for Shira, 150 kilometers northwest of Abakan) comprises five peaks and is named after the first one, which is shaped like a chest (“sunduk” is Russian for “chest”). For the Dinlin people who lived here two thousand years ago, this mountain range held special significance. A shaman was buried next to the first mountain in the range, and there are ancient burial grounds next to the second and third as well, while the rocky slopes of the fourth mountain are covered in petroglyphs. There is another burial ground next to the fifth mountain, as well as remnants of an irrigation canal built about a thousand years ago. Make sure you see the White Horse petroglyph, as it is believed to have been made during the Ice Age 17,000-30,000 years ago. The best way to visit the mountain is to arrange a guide or tour through from the local history museum in Shira.

Safronov Grave Field (near Safronov village, 100 kilometers southwest of Akaban) is one of the most extraordinary and scenic barrow complexes in Khakassia. On the hilly terrace there are more than 50 barrows, the most ancient of which were made more than 2500 years ago and belong to the Tagar culture. The barrows of the Safronov field stand out from other barrow because of the forms and size of the stone slabs situated around the fence. The columns and slabs here contain anthropomorphic figures and are decorated by images of animals, birds, people and mythical creatures. Patrimonial tangas carved by the descendants of buried people hold a specific place among all images. Historians divide burial mounds into common and prestige. Leaders of the ancient tribes were buried in the prestige barrows. This kind of barrows differs from others based on the size and unusual forms of menhirs. own thoughts.

Sayano–Shushenskaya Dam and Hydroelectric Plant

Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam (150 kilometers from Abakan) is Russia's largest hydroelectric dam. Built between 1975 and 1995, the dam is 242 meters high, one kilometer long and 105.7 meters wide at the base and boasts 640,000 kilowatt turbines. The hydroelectric power plant was built from 1961–1975. Forming the upper plant of the Yenisei Hydroelectric Plant Cascade, the plant supplies electricity to Khakassia and adjacent regions. The 280-kilometer-long reservoir behind the dam is closed to visitors uness .

The Sayano–Shushenskaya dam and plant is one of the most immense industrial construction projects ever undertaken not only in Russia but in the whole world. Construction of the entire facility took nearly 30 years, beginning in 1963 and continued until 1990. It was fully commissioned only in 2000. The building of this hydroelectric plant, the largest in Russia, used enough concrete to pave a highway from Saint-Petersburg to Vladivostok.

The majestic Sayano–Shushenskaya Hydroelectric Plant blocks the Yenisei River at a place called Karlov Stvor. It makes use of the Yenisei River drop at the 280-kilometer long Sayany Corridor — a place where the Yenisei cuts through the ridges of the Western Sayan. In August 2009, turbine failure at the plant killed 75 people and crippled the facility, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power. A turbine at the power station burst apart, sending rocks, shards of metal, and a flood of icy water rushing through a room where people worked. The hall's ceiling collapsed, trapping people beneath the water.

Valentina Gulina, an equipment engineer working in the turbine hall told Radio Free Europe."We tried to do everything we could," she says. "We put a chair up on a table so that someone could climb up. We did whatever we could so at least someone's life would be saved." Gulina, who couldn't swim, figured her chances were slim. "I decided that I wasn't going to grab onto anyone or cling to them, because I didn't want to be a burden," she says. "I went underwater and that saved me, because those who were on the surface and holding on were swept away by a wave." The tragedy was one of Russia's worst industrial accidents.

Abakan-based tour operators offer bus excursions to the power plant. The price is RUB 1,500 per person. The excursion includes a visit to a fishery on the bank of the Yenisei where you can see Yenisei trout and eat them for lunch. From May through September, boat excursions are offered around the Sayano–Shushenskaya reservoir for RUB 2,850 per person.Next to the station is the Cheremushki workers settlement. In the winter, do yourself a favor and stay for a few days to go skiing and snow tubing down the hill of the Cheremuhovy Log ski complex. The plant looks most impressive at night, when it is illuminated. Accommodation: In Cheremushki, you'll find the Borus hotel with rooms available from RUB 2,200 to RUB 8,700 a night, as well as the Joy hotel complex for RUB 1,100 a night.

Valley of the Tsars in Salbyk Basin

Valley of the Tsars (60 kilometers from Abakan) is the name of the 56 Scythian burial mounds located in the Salbyk basin. As you enter the valley, there are two hewn burial slabs. The northern slab features patrimonial signs (tamgi). Researchers believe these slabs date back over three thousand years. The most prominent burial mound in this sacred place of the giant funeral constructions is Big Salbyk, which is about 2,500 years old. Around the perimeter of the Big Salbyk mound are hewn stone slabs with origins that remain a mystery to this day, as people in the early iron age could not have had the tools to hew stones in this manner. Most of the burials date back to the 2nd century B.C. - A.D. 1st century and belong to the Okunevo, Tagar and Tashtyk archeological cultures. The site also includes menhirs (standing stones), places of of ancient astronomical observations, petroglyphs and a quarry.

Great Salbyk Mound is the most grandiose mound of the museum. It consists of 23 several human heights-tall stones, arranged along the perimeter of the rectangle. Age of the burial mound is at least 3,000 years. All the stones of the Great Salbyk Mound have their own name and purpose. The Great Gates, symbolizing the masculine and feminine energies, stand at the mound entrance, and a passage between them is called the Gates of Life. Due to the monumentality of its construction, the Big Salbyk mound can be placed on a par with the famous Stonehenge in England.

Badger's Log Mound is the second largest mound in the monumentality and dimensions, excavated in Khakassia. It dates back to the 2nd century B.C. The mound has a complex structure in the form of a large stone fence with high vertical steles and internal stone structures. Not less than five people, representatives of the Tagar elite, were buried in it. First described by the traveler Miller in 1739, it since attracted the attention of scientists with serious geomagnetic anomalies. It's no coincidence that local people believe that there's a road of spirits the souls of the deceased follow to go to the upper world.

Tsar (or Salbyk) Gates is an unusual monument located six kilometers to the northeast of The Salbyk kurgan. The gates mark the entrance to the Tsar Valley. Locals attribute ritual and medical properties to this object. It is comprised of two vertical stone slabs (menhirs) situated on the top of a mountain on the valley’s east side and is orientated in the cardinal directions. The distance between the slabs is 3.6 meters.

On the north slab there are tamgas and oval niches, possible created from numerous hands touching the slabs from people coming to this place over centuries. It is said that the south square slab (called man stone) has the positive energy and the north round slab (called woman stone) has the negative charge. It is theorized that ancient people used this place to conduct rites.

Bolshoy Salbyksky Burial Mound

Bolshoy Salbyksky burial mound (part of an open-air museum, the “Ancient Burial Mounds of the Salbyk Steppe” a significant sacral, architectural and astronomical monument of the 5th-4th centuries B.C. Believed to have been built over the course of several years by hundreds, maybe thousands of labors, the mound is 30 meters high and is surrounded by a wall measuring 70 by 70 meters. To building the structure giant plates of Devonian sandstone weighing up to 30 tons were moved from a stone quarry at the Khyzyl-Khaya (“Red Rock”) mountain 18 kilometers away. Stones for the chieftain's burial place came from another stone quarry 70 kilometers away on the banks of the Yenisei River.

Originally the burial mound was for one man only — an old warrior with broken bones about 70 years old. Presumably he was not only the tribe's leader but also a powerful priest. The remains of this noble man were mummified. Later, six6 more people were buried here — associates, relatives, and slaves, accompanying their masters to a better world, perhaps. The burial room was accessed through a dromos — a corridor leading to it from the entrance. It was established that two of those buried there were brother and a sister. Two skeletons of murdered “guards of the peace of the deceased” were also found in the dromos. One of them had a bronze knife with him. Human sacrifices were discovered in the mound's most important parts. They include three adults, one of them tied up, and a child. Presumably, one of the sacrifices was buried alive.

Back in ancient times, the Bolshoy Salbyksky burial mound was plundered. Archeologists managed to find fragments of a huge vessel used for storing grain, two bronze knives, and the round millstone of a handmill, currently the oldest of its kind in Siberia.

Barsuchiy Log Barrow

Kurgan Barsuchiy Log Barrow (40 kilometers north of Abakan) was explored in 2004-2006 by the joint archaeological expedition of N.F. Katanov Khakass State University and the German Archaeological University. Belonging to the late Tagar culture and dated by the 3rd-2nd centuries B.C., Barsuchiy log barrow is the second-largest ancient funeral monument in the Republic of Khakassia. after the Salbyk barrow.

Barsuchiy barrow has a complicated and interesting architectural construction. It consists of the big stone fence (size of 53-x-54 meters) with a high vertical stelae and inner stone structures. Its builders used for the stelae from the more ancient monuments with preserved different rock paintings to make the fence.

As is true with Salbyk barrow, the Barsuchiy barrow the tomb is situated a little bit west of the barrow’s central part. The entrance to the tomb and was made of the big larch timbers. The bone chamber’s measures is 7.35-x-7.20 meters at the top and is 3.6 meters deep. It is covered by big timbers and covered by multiple layers of boiled elm. Later people built the earth mound 11 meters high. This mound is shaped like a frustum (sort of like of a multi-sided cone with the top half chopped off) and was made of thousands of small turf and red clay bricks.

The chamber was burnt and devastated in the ancient time and later. Three men and one woman were buried in this tomb. Among the preserved things archaeologists found were body shreds, glass beads, bronze wire and fragments of gold foil which covered earlier small things comprised of organic material. Scientists found indistinct images of animals on the foil and round cover plate with beads incised with a triangle ornament.

Khakass Republic National Museum-Reserve in Kazanovka

Kazanovka (90 kilometers southwest of Abakan) is the home of the Khakass Republic National Museum-Reserve, an area rich in archaeological monuments: settlements, mount sanctuaries, rock images, irrigation systems, copper and iron mines, barrows, commemoration places and grave fields . More than 2000 archaeological monuments have been discovered on the museum territory. The earliest dates to the Neolithic Period about 6000 years ago.

There are single stones are installed in steppe valleys. Most of these monuments were created in the Bronze Age. Scientists believe they may have marked places where rites were carried out. A grey granite stone called Akh Tas (the White Stone) is located in the center of scenic Kyug valley. This stele is about two meters tall and triangular in shaped and estimated to be about 4000 years old. During the 1500 years local people went to these stone for the treatment of different illnesses. It is said the Akh Tas cures edemas, heart troubles and blood diseases.

Until the 1960s, a rock called Iney Tas (the Stone Grandmother) stood on the left bank of the Askiz river, a kilometer northwest of the Kazanovka village. The rock hung over road at a height of about 30 meters and reminded people of a woman in a traditional khakass fur coat, this its name. The rock was associated with the patron of cattle-breeding and local people practiced rituals and sacrifices under it until 1950s. Under Iney Tas set beside a river were about 40 sculptures of domestic animals: bulls, horses and sheep were made from river gravel and red sandstone. Before moving from summer settlements to winter ones local people came up to check the figures of animals. If they stood in the same position the year ahead will be successful; if some of the sculptures fell down then the people expected to loss cattle. Unfortunately Iney Tas was blow up in the early 1960s as part of a Soviet campaign against “religious prejudices.”

Even after her “death” Iney Tas is still highly revered. When local people pass . Passing by this place people practice rite “sek-sek” — spirit’s feeding” — in which they pour some drink to some vessel and then pick some grass and splash drink to the four winds, and the same time wishful words are whispered to local spirits. After the prayer, leftover drink is drunk.

Oglakhty Range

The Oglakhty Range (in Bogradsky district, about 50 kilometers north Akaban) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2016. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The Oglakhty Range is located on the left bank of the Yenisei (Krasnoyarsk Reservoir) and represents a system of low-lying ranges with a great number of Devonian red sandstone rock exposures providing a picturesque landscape on the one hand, and its human use throughout thousands years on the other hand. Thousands of rock paintings related to different historic periods on the vertical rock outcrops and rock fragments give evidence of changes in the environment, husbandry types, material and intellectual culture of the peoples who inhabited this area. The same stone was used to erect impressive burial constructions found in the areas of foothills and intermontane steppe valleys, and an enormous fortification which borders the mountains on the south side. The territory nominated is of great scientific interest in terms of natural heritage: with its diversity of landscape; rare endemic plants; 5 reptile species, 148 species of birds and 44 species of mammals. Partially the territory is included in the area "Oglakhty" of the State Nature Reserve "Khakassky" registered in 1991. The key task of the reserve is to conserve and protect steppe biocenosis, habitats of rare endemic plants and rare species of animals, rock bird assemblages, monuments of historical and cultural heritage. [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO]

The low-mountain striking monoclinal Oglakhty Range located on the left bank of the Yenisei (Krasnoyarsk Reservoir) below the mouth of the river Tuba (right tributary of the Yenisei) divides the Minusinskaya (South-Minusinsk) and Syda-Erbinskaya (Central-Minusinsk) hollows of the vast Minusinsk depression in the mountains of South Siberia. Depression formation took place at Devonian (410 — 360 million years ago) period. It was the time of a stable long-term surface tectonic settling. And at the same time the folded rock foundation was split into separate blocks resulting in some parts separation has been preserved until now. Ancient rocks forming the Minusinsk depression repeatedly exposed to tectonic forces and formed both folded and block mountains. Affected by external elements (such as wind, water, temperature fluctuations) the mountains were successively eroded therewith denser rocks were eroded at a much lower rate. Thus was created the relief variety that is characteristic of this region: vast plains, hills, ridges, and low mountains. Now the low mountains composed of Devonian red-brown lea stone rise above the surrounding area which is specific feature of khakass landscapes.

Climate. Geographic position, orographic characteristics and atmosphere circulation have a significant influence on climate formation of the Oglakhty Range. The climate of this territory as the climate of the mountain steppes of the Minusinsk hollow on the whole is a continental one with cold, long winter (five months) and short, hot summer. Not only monthly but also daily sharp fluctuations in temperature are quite typical of it. The annual precipitation ranges from 250 to 300 mm. The average temperature in January is within –16–20° С, in July within +18–20° С. Minimum temperature reaches –40–45° С, and maximum up to +35–40° С. the Minusinsk hollow is superior in the number of sunny days in the year to the Crimea.

Oglakhty Eco-Tourist Complex is located near the confluence of the Enisey and Tuba rivers. The complex consists of a theme-based visitor's center and an eco-trail that leads to the petroglyphs of Sorok Zubyev Mountain (Forty-Tooth Mountain). The eco-trail features 965 steps and its observations points provide views of the Krasnoyarsk reservoir. This area of the reserve hosts one of the largest collections of petroglyphs, dating from 1,000-6,000 years old, in Khakassia. The complex also features a unique slab called Shaman-Stone with rock engravings. The visitor's center offers outstanding archaeological discoveries made on the territory of Oglakhtynsky mountain ridge, Khakassia's rock art of various styles, and information about the most important events in the history of ancient Kharassian lands. The exhibits in the visitor's center are interactive.

Oglakhty Range Geology

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Oglakhty Range consists of sedimentary rock of the Low Carboniferous and Upper Devonian: sandstone, siltstone, tuffite, limestone, and dolomite. Its hilly relief is intermingled with cuesta ridges with large rock outcrops and small valleys. This territory is a perfect example of cuesta relief (formed due to inclined bedding of different density rocks). Cuestas that run in latitudinal direction have large low angle folds, complicated by flexures and flexure-type curves of layers. They form a system of long, parallel elevations with cuesta ravines developing between them. [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO]

?Aeolian processes play a key role in the exogenous relief-forming processes, not only cuestas, but also deflation basins and lost mountains have become widespread due to them. Selective weathering processes and denudation are clearly observed throughout the area, as well as surface morphology strict dependence on the geological structure. Relative elevations are of100-150 meters. The highest point (580 meters above sea level) is Mount Oglakhty. The range extends 15 kilometers from south to north.

Highly fragmented terrain, variable slope steepness and exposure provide a wide variety of landscapes in this relatively small area. The eastern border of the range is linked with the Yenisei left bank line (since 1970 Krasnoyarsk Reservoir). Here one can see high picturesque cliffs dropping steeply into the river. Stretching northwest within the range the deep ravines cut through the cliff front in several places. One of them represents quite a wide valley which divides the range into well-defined north and south areas.

Soils. The soil cover is characterized by the dominance of medium-humic, medium-deep southern and ordinary chernozems covering the gentle slopes. Low-humic chernozems, both thin and medium deep, are constant component of the soil-cover complex. Low-humic chernozems in the southwestern portion of the area are developed on the red rocks and mostly gravelly. Gravelly soils are common in the Yenisei hilly part of the steppes. All the soils are heavy-textured. The soils on northern forested slopes are sod-podzolic. Some soils of the Oglakhty Range are listed in Red Data Book of Soils and Cadastre of particularly valuable soil objects of Russia, such as ordinary medium-deep medium-loamy chernozem on loess loams (have not been worked for 30 years). The soils in this area are specific natural-historical formations that can serve standards to compare with those modified due to human activities as well as to assess the damage to soils and ecosystems with subsequent development of recovery methods.

Oglakhty Range Plants and Vegetation

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Oglakhty Range and the surrounding steppe areas are home to rear and endemic plants, such as minusinsk sweetvetch (Hedysarum minussinense), martyanov warmwood (Artemisia martjano7th), oxytrope (Oxytropis encludens) and others. 234 species of higher vascular plant species have been already registered. Low-bushgrass and high-bushgrass steppes and their petrophyte aggregations cover the greater part of the territory. Meadow steppes and steppe dry meadows are less common. Northern slopes are mostly covered with birch forests and steppe bushes. [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO]

True low-bushgrass steppes are found both in plain and slope areas on chestnut and south chernozem soils. Typical plant species are: 1) Bushes: Caragana pygmaea. 2) Drought-resistant gramineous plants form a grass cover: Festuca pseudovina, Koeleria cristata, Poa sibirica, Cleistogenes squarrosa, Carex duriuscula, Carex pediformis. Из разнотравья обычны Veronica incana, Aster alpinus, Heteropappus altaicus subsp. altaicus, Artemisia frigida, Artemisia glauca, Leontopodium ochroleucum subsp. campestre, Hedysarum gmelini and quite a large number of plants of Oxytropis and Astragalus families.

True high-bushgrass steppes are found on steppe areas on western and eastern exposure slopes and come over to southern slopes in forest-steppe areas. Typical plant species are: 1) Grass cover: Stipa capillata or Helictotrichon desertorum prevail. The other types of plants are the following: Poa stepposa, Agropyron cristatum, Phleum phleoides, Carex pediformis, Dianthus versicolor, Galium verum, Delphinium grandiflorum, Artemisia glauca, Medicago falcata, Onobrychis arenaria, Aster alpinus, Heteropappus altaicus subsp. altaicus.

Semi desert steppes are not widely spread and fragmentarily found on south slopes. Vegetation is thin and low. Plant covering does not exceed 40 percent. Typical plant species are: 1) Bushes: Caragana pygmaea. 2) Grass cover: Panzerina lanata subsp. argyracea, Thymus minussinensis, Artemisia frigida, Ceratoides papposa, Kochia laniflora and low grass.

Meadow steppes and steppe dry meadows are found on northern slopes. Typical plant species are: 1) Grass cover: mostly Iris ruthenica, Phleum phleoides, Poa stepposa, Bromopsis inermis, less often Stipa pennata. Herbs including: Bupleurum multinerve, Delphinium grandiflorum, Fragaria viridis, Sanguisorba officinalis, Medicago falcata, Astragalus danicus, Dracocephalum ruyschiana, Phlomis tuberosa, Scabiosa ohroleuca, Ligularia glauc and the plants of Potentilla, Geranium, Thalictrum families and others.

Stony steppes are found on the steep slopes of southern exposures. Typical plant species are: 1) Tree species: larch thin forests are often found on southern slopes (Larix sibirica). 2) Grass cover: except common steppe species there are relic species: Patrinia sibirica, Kobresia filifolia, Gypsophila patrinii, Aster alpinus., Chamaerhodos ereca, Orostachys spinosa, Arctogeron gramineum, Goniolimon speciosum, Androsace maxima, Ephedra monosperma, Asparagus pallasii, Sedum aizoon, Sedum hybridum, Phlox sibirica, Onosma simplicissima.

Tree and shrubbery vegetation is found on northern slopes, small woods and forest outliers and only some areas are covered by small forests. Typical plant species are: 1) tree species: Betula pendula and Larix sibirica, less often Populus nigra. 2) Bushes: mostly Spiraea hypericifolia, Spiraea media, Spiraea chamaedryfolia, Cotoneaster melanocarpus, Rosa aciculari, Caragana arborescens, less often Padus avium, Crataegus sanguinea, Grossularia acicularis, Lonicera tatarica, Atraphaxis frutescens. 3) Grass cover: Bupleurum multinerve, Delphinium grandiflorum, Fragaria viridis, Sanguisorba officinalis, Medicago falcata, Astragalus danicus, Dracocephalum ruyschiana, Phlomis tuberosa, Scabiosa ohroleuca, Ligularia glauca and the plants of otentilla, Geranium, Thalictrum families and others (Hemerocallis lilio-asphodelus, Trollius asiaticus, Anemone sylvestris and others.)

Oglakhty Range Animals

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Fauna is a typical steppe one and represented by the wild life of open spaces, tree and shrubbery vegetation and rock outcrops. 44 species of mammals, 148 species of birds, 5 reptile species, and 26 species of fishes have been registered (in Krasnoyarsk Reservoir). [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO]

Characteristic animal species: 1) Amphibia: moor frog (Rana arvalis). 2) Reptiles: sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), Central Asian viper (Gloydius halys), common lizard (Zootoca vivipara), common northern viper (Vipera berus). 3) Birds: tree pipit (Anthus trivialis), chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), great tit (Parus major), long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus), willow tit (Parus montanus), black-throated thrush (Turdus atrogularis), stonechat (Saxicola torquata), yellow-browed warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), scarlet grosbeak (Caprodacus erythrinus, common quail (Coturnix coturnix), partridge (Perdix daurica), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix). 4) Mammals: common shrew (Sorex araneus), steppe sicista (Sicista subtilis), dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus), steppe lemming (Lagurus lagurus), field mouse (Microtus arvalis), water vole (Arvicola terrestris), narrow-skalled vole (Microtus gregalis), field-mouse (Apodemus agrarius), east asian mouse(Apodemus peninsulae), house mouse (Mus musculus), long-tailed souslik (Spermophilus undulates), badger (Meles amurensis), brown hare (Lepus europaeus), fox (Vulpes vulpes), wolf (Canis lupus), Siberian Roe Deer (Capreolus pygargus).

This area is home to such rare mammal listed in the Red Book of Russia as steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanni), rare birds listed in the Red Book of Russia: peregrine (Falco peregrinus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis), saker falcon (Falco cherryg) and imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca).

Human History in the Oglakhty Range

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The undoubted value of the territory nominated is that the natural landscape is rich in traces of its cultural development throughout several historical epochs. The area of the Minusinsk hollow was mastered as far back as the Stone Age. Primitive people hunted big mammals here, some species of which became extinct, and the others have changed their habitat. Later the territory was populated with more and more new peoples for thousands of years, one culture gave way to another, economic and cultural types changed as well as the methods of human and natural environment interaction. Here, in the territory of the Minusinsk hollow taiga hunters, fishers from Northern Asia and the peoples from the mountainsteppe zones of Central Asia interacted for centuries. They have created a unique cultural synthesis appeared in the peculiarities of the economic adaptation of different population groups (mobile forest hunters and fishers, settled farmers and metal-makers, nomadic cattle-farmers), in the functioning of internal and external relations of different communities and the ways of their communication, including the creation of spectacular, visible, identifying cultural objects, such as mounds, steles, and rock paintings in the landscape. [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO]

The Oglakhty Range and adjacent steppe areas are only a small part of the Minusinsk hollow, but hundreds of mounds and thousands of rock paintings as well as other archaeological and historical artifacts (settlements, religious places, fortifications, quarries) are concentrated here. They have a long history of studying (since the middle of the 18th th century) and well developed chronology from the Paleolithic Age to the New Age and modern times. The most representational ones are those of afanasyevsk Eneolithic culture (IV– 1st half of the III millennium B.C.),okunyevsk culture, the Early Bronze Age (mid. III – the beginning of the II millennium B.C.),karasuk culture, the Late Bronze Age (the 2nd half of the II – the beginning of the I millennium B.C.),and the cultures of the Early Iron Age: tagarsk culture (of 9–3 centuries B.C.),tesinsk culture (of 2 – 3 centuries AD) and tashtyk culture (of 1–7centuries AD). The impressive stone- earthen mounds of tagar culture with fences and high corner and intermediate plates are an essential feature of the historical landscape of Minusinsk steppes. Unique burial masks, mummified remains, preserved objects made of organic materials (fabric, fur, wood) found in the burial grounds of tashtyk culture in Oglakhty now decorate the halls of the State Historical Museum in Moscow and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The grandiose monument of I - beg. II millennium AD is the famous Oglakhtinskaya "fortress", which ruins surround a huge area of several dozen square kilometers. This structure consists of horizontally laid sandstone plates, some remnants of the wall reach 6-8 meters in width and 1 meters in height, from the outside one can find the traces of a ditch surrounding the wall, "bastions" have been preserved in some places. The wall was erected by many generations, probably at first to protect against hunnish and later against Uighur invasions.

Rock art is the most significant cultural component of the Oglakhty Range area. The relief features described above provided a great number of comfortable "canvasses" for ancient artists: as red Devonian sandstone outcrops can be found everywhere here, so everywhere can be found the paintings on the rocks. Images made with the use of all known techniques - knockout, engraving, grinding, painting. Most of the paintings are on the vertical planes, but some of them are found on the stone blocks lying on the slopes, as well as on the plates used for mound construction (some of the images date back to mound construction and associated with obsequies while the others were made by the following generations). The rock paintings are clustered in different parts of the Range. The rocks along the Yenisei bank and the southwestern slope of Mount "Sorok Zubyev" are particularly rich in such paintings. Each of such clusters itself is a very important monument of rock art, but all 12 currently known painting clusters form the largest complex of Minusinsk hollow - a region known as one of the world's richest culture area of rock art.

Historical and cultural value of this complex is not only in the number of sources, but in their diversity, representativeness, the presence of both typical and unique plots, images and styles. Oglakhty petroglyphs represent all the cultural and chronological periods (of at least nine) determined in the ancient art of South Siberia, apart from the unique groups that far from being simple issue to explain. A number of the images are made at a very high artistic level, thus they are of great importance aesthetically as well. The Rock Art of the Oglakhty Range is a valuable historical source. Parallels can be drawn between many cultural and chronological groups and the corresponding burial archaeological sites to add some significant information on a particular culture, obtained due to excavations. Some periods have not been presented in terms of archaeology so far in this area but rock art (most likely, the artifacts have not been found yet). In this case, the petroglyphs provide the information of invaluable significance. The most typical example is the so-called "ancient layer" image. The figures of wild animals, as well as the enigmatic anthropomorphic figures and symbolic images of boats with "passengers" are made with great realism and artistic skill. Their dating is unknown, it has been determined only that not later than the III millennium B.C. It is not excluded that they belong to the Stone Age. Once all the coastal cliffs were covered entirely by such paintings. Not all of them have survived up to now but those survived are an impressive example of the artistic genius of primitive man and gives us valuable information, have not been confirmed so far by paleontological sources, about the biocenosis disappeared from the area. Some animals in the rock paitings became extinct and the others have not inhabited in this area any longer. The former include wild horse (Equus ferus) and the primeval ox (Bos taurus primigenius). The latter include elk (Alces alces), red deer (Cervus elaphus), ibex (Capra sibirica), mountain sheep (Ovis ammon), bear (Ursus arctos), and wild boar (Sus scrofa). The only specie that has been still living in the territory of the range is the roe (Capreolus pygargus).

Among the images of later eras, there are some that reflect the influence of remote area cultures (of Central Asia, China and so on.), direct migration and the presence of certain ethnic groups serve as indirect evidence of historical events. The images of cultural artifacts are found on the rocks, for example, a series of images of daggers and chariots of the Late Bronze Age are knocked out on the unique object – the plate from Kizan area. On the lower plates of Mount "Sorok Zubyev" there is the image of a kettle and, probably, the oldest image of a felt yurt - a typical nomad dwelling. The absolute majority of images, however, has mythological, epic, and religious plots and serves as a source to reconstruct the worldviews of different epochs and nations.

The series of images of so-called ethnographic time deserves special mention. These are the paintings of the indigenous population - Khakas, who continued to maintain the rock art millennial tradition in Oglakhty until the beginning of the twentieth century. There is not any other monument in Khakassia with such a number of Khakas paintings. They are very informative both for studying Khakas beliefs and mythology and the realities of their daily living, economic structure, and even historical events. On the folds and separate plates there are images of horses (decorated, with tamgas, "dappled", with "bells", saddled, harnessed, with and without riders, etc.), camels, deer, dogs, and goats. Numerous anthropomorphic figures wearing in different ways, symbolic, holding hands, forming rows of dozens of figures with bows, guns and so on; many images of shamans wearing robes with fringes with drums and tampons. The images of tamga and other signs, as well as mysterious complex abstract motifs are found in a large number. The images of a Christian church, samovar, cart, etc. are the evidence of Russian culture penetration. It is essential that some plots cannot be explained in terms of existing ethnographic data sources, that is, they represent a unique source for further studying Khakas traditional culture.

Thus, a huge variety of different heritage sites occurring at different times, which perfectly characterize the culture development of the whole region for thousands of years are concentrated in the nominated area, despite its small size.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in September 2020

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