Although constructed originally in first centuries of the Christian era, this fortress, excavated first by V. I. Sizov in 1886, returned to prominence under the Ottoman Empire. The ruins left behind pull together the many cultures and confessions of eastern Black Sea littoral. Rebuilt by Genoese traders circa the turn of the 14th century, kale is the Turkish word for fortress, and Mamai refers to the stone babas, or steppe idols associated with the Cumans, or Polovtsi, nomadic tribes who traded with the Italians and others.

Saltovo Settlement

Discovered in 1900 by local school teacher-amateur archeologist V. A. Babenko, this turned out to be a fabulously rich site of Khazar culture. Khazaria, located on the Eurasian steppes circa 650-950 AD, was archeologically important to the Russian empire because, in an age when theory argued that the transition from nomads to settlements was a sign of advancing civilization, the Khazars appeared to have done just that. Babenko presented a history of Saltovo at the 12th Archeological Congress in Kharkov, but focused on its later history as an important city in Sloboda Ukraine, only to lose its status under Catherine the Great. Although Babenko had made the discovery, initially more seasoned archeologists, A. M. Pokrovskii and Praskovia Uvarova excavated the first graves, 45 in all.

Kelasuri Wall

The Kelasurskaia Tower was part of the great Abkhazian wall, fortifications ordered by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century to protect the Black Sea port of Sukhum (currently the capital of the breakaway republic of Abkhazia) from invaders from the Northern Caucasus. Construction continued on the wall til the 17th century, and much of it still remains.


The medieval capital of the short-lived independent kingdom of Armenia, Ani lay in ruins when it was rejoined to Christian Armenia following the Russian defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1878. King Ashot III had relocated his capital from Kars to Ani in 961, but it enjoyed only a brief heyday, as successor King Gagik II succumbed to Byzantine forces in 1045. Sent there first in 1892 because he was one of the few Russian scholars fluent in Armenian, Nikolai Marr made the ruins his centerpiece for creating archeological museums in situ.


The capital of Bulgaria on the Volga from the 8th-15th century, the ruins of this city intrigue because of the other Bulgaria, the one on the Danube. Similarities in language break down according to religious influences, Byzantium on the Danube and Islam on the Volga. Arab traders wrote about Bolghar, which profited as a trading center after the Mongol conquest in the 13th century. The ruins were rediscovered in the 18th century and visited by both Peter and Catherine the Greats, further testament to the perrenial empire.

Chora Church

The Chora Church was part of a monastery complex in Constantinople, an exemplar of the 14th-century Palaeologian Renaissance. After the Ottoman conquest, it was transformed into the Kakhrie-dzhami mosque.


Armavir was chosen as the capital of Armenia in 331 BC, when the Orontid Dynasty declared its independence from the Achaemenid Empire. Archeological inscriptions have been found in the Elamite language about Gilgamesh, in addition to Hesoid’s poetry and quotes from Euripides. Cleopatra also figures into this history; King Tigranes II sent an expedition to Palestine to attack, and brought many Jews back in captivity to settle in Armavir. Conquerors include the Seleucids, Parthians, Roman Empire, Sassanids and then Byzantine Empire before the Arabs claimed it in 645.

Tmutarakan Stone

In 1792 the “Tmutarakan’ Stone,” mentioned in the Lay of the Igor Campaign, was discovered on the Taman Peninsula. The inscription, credited to Prince Gleb made it the first source of an epigraphical history of Russia. President of the Academy of Arts A. I. Musin-Pushkin published the inscription in 1794, and its authenticity still remains a source of controversy. Tmutarakan was the capital of a 9th-century kaganate, Russian-Varangian, that controlled a trade route in defiance of Khazar dominance in the region that would become New Russia.

Bibi-Khanym Mosque

The ongoing absorption of Central Asia into the Russian empire, especially from the 1860s, mandated that archeologists identify the Muslim antiquities, especially on the sites along the old Silk Road. Veselovskii played the primary role in this, and the wealth there made it quite vulnerable to both thieves and forgers. This mosque was one included in his album Mosques of Samarkand (1905). ordered built by Tamerlane in 1399, by 1897 it had fallen victim to natural forces, and the cupola had collapsed.