"South Ural - The Great Silk Road": New Tourism Opportunities


The production and exchange of produced (extracted) goods is a cornerstone and an indicator of the development of civilizations. Historically the systems of transport links between manufacturers and consumers in a variety of historical eras are no different from the formation of modern logistics: the emergence of a new production - the organization of information and advertising promotion by "scouts" and pioneers (Marco Polo, Afanasy Nikitin) - the organization of the transportation of goods, taking into account feed for pack animals, water, landscapes, weather conditions and seasons, etc. Over time, the nomenclature of goods and information about them had been growing, so a network of interconnected intercontinental and regional roads and transshipment points on them was formed from individual paths, from which large shopping centers were often gradually formed. Goods from the Southern Ural in all eras and with all technological structures were of interest for international trade within the framework of the system with the code name "The Great Silk Road".

Keywords: Southern Urals, tourism, tourist opportunities, historical connections


Consider the place of the Southern Urals in this system. In the Ural, there is a great variety of unique resources of living and inanimate nature, on the basis of which useful goods and technologies have been formed over time (Amirov & Ihsanova, 2017; Chlenova, 1983; Lebedev et al., 2016; Putenikhin, 2011; The history of Bashkortostan from ancient times to the 60s of the XIX century, 1997; Zdanovich & Batanina, 2007). Therefore, the task of involving the resources of the Southern Urals in the system of interregional and international trade has existed for at least the last 3-5 thousand years (Gumilev, 2016; Lebedev et al., 2015, 2017). The connection between the Southern Urals and the regions of the Great Silk Road could be carried out in two alternative directions: western and eastern.

Problem Statement

The geographic conditions of the South Urals and adjacent territories are such that for a safe and cost-effective exchange of goods it was necessary to develop three fundamentally different systems for transportation goods.

Firstly, the movement on rafts and boats along the full-flowing lowland rivers of the Volga basin which almost cover the entire territory of the Southern and Middle Urals such as Kama, Belaya, Ufimka with its tributaries. Rafting and boating has an ancient history including along the rivers of Eastern Europe and the Black Sea basin. Let us conditionally designate this path as the western one.

Secondly, it is the Great Steppe which can be moved by camels, horses, donkeys. The Steppe lies to the south up to the mountains of the south of Kazakhstan and most of the way can be done along the Syr Darya channel where the points of the Great Silk Road were located (Putenikhin, 2011). This journey was facilitated by two fundamental events in the history of transportation. Firstly, they tamed horses that were able to winter and feed in a snowy winter (tarpans). Secondly, there is information that exactly the Great Steppe was the site of the invention of the wheel. You can drive without roads in the steppe in directions over very long distances. There is information collected in Arkaim that the ancients used wheels in both military and peaceful carts (Chlenova, 1983). Let us designate this path as the east one.

The third technology for transporting goods was developed for mountain forests. Often both transport systems indicated above are not applicable in the mountains. There are many places in the mountains which are impossible to pass with loads: these are precipices, rocks, etc. Therefore, it is necessary to know narrow, pinpoint passages where movement is possible. As a rule these strategically important points had owners and they were guarded. It is impossible to drive with a wheel in mountains overgrown with dense forest, there is absolutely nowhere: either a steep slope or a cliff. Therefore they developed specific skills in the mountains for moving with pack animals that are not afraid of steep slopes. At the same time they probably used combined schemes: first on dry land then on floatable rivers. Rafting on narrow mountain rivers also requires special skills.

Research Questions

The border between forest and steppe, mountains and plains has always had "civilizational value" (Gumilev, 2016; Lebedev et al., 2015, 2017). The diverse natural resources of the Southern Urals have always attracted travelers, and then traders and industrialists. At the same time, the movement of goods in mountain forests and lowland steppes requires the development of more and more efficient and economical, but different processing and transport technologies. Awareness and introduction of the historical heritage into the arsenal of sustainable nature-saving development of the South Urals will make it possible to start creating new, different and often unexpected tourist resources. The experience of recreating ancient technologies is being accumulated in the Arkaim Museum-Reserve. However, this experience is single, point-to-point.

Purpose of the Study

It is necessary to create a system of "getting used to" the historical situation in the real conditions of the South Urals. Trails, bases with authentic conditions of survival, testing of ancient technologies adapted to modern safety requirements are needed. All this, ultimately, should lead to the creation of an ecologically oriented historical and natural history tourism scientific and educational cluster.

Research Methods

The materials were collected during the annual expeditions of the Department of Tourism And Hospitality Industry of the Institute of Economics and Services of the USPTU in the South Urals and adjacent territories (2004 - 2019) while working with the collections of the National Museum of the Republic of Bashkortostan and the Museum of Archeology and Ethnography of the Institute of Ethnological research named after R.G. Kuzeev of the Ufa Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences as well as materials from archaeological expeditions by archaeologists.


The difference in the methods of transporting goods and people makes trading platforms necessary where the exchange takes place. The South Ural occupies a convenient geographical position on the border of the Great Steppe and the Eurasian forest belt - taiga. It was along the borders of the mountains and steppes that ancient fortified settlements were located.

Many ancient settlements are known. Let us single out large centuries-old settlements on the borders of the "mountain - steppe". There is a hidden valley on the eastern slope of the Southern Urals (Irendyk ridge, near the village Baishevo) where more than 400 archaeological monuments have been discovered, the dating of which evenly covers about 10 thousand years. This valley is located at a distance of 1.5 km from the open steppe due to which it was equally convenient for meetings of mountaineers and steppe dwellers (Kraeva et al., 2018).

On the eastern slope of the Southern Urals, the ancient settlement of Ufa-II is located in the most convenient place at the confluence of the mountainous Ak-Idel, Kara-Idel and the steppe Dema. Several ancient settlements were found on the Ufa Peninsula, and in the settlement of Ufa-II the cultural layer was continuous until the 4th-6th centuries AD. Thus, the ancient "eastern" and "western" roads have stable settlements on the border "steppe - mountains".

The technology for the production of bronze items appeared in the South Ural in the first half of the II millennium. In the Bashkir Trans-Ural, on the territory of the Baymaksky district, settlements - "proto-cities" - Ulak-1 and Selek were discovered that are more than 35 centuries old (Mineeva, 2007). These settlements are part of the well-known "Country of Cities", where the famous Arkaim is located. According to B. B. Piotrovsky, the “Country of Cities” was “associated with the proto-Iranian population, one of the most ancient ethnic layers of our country” (as cited in Zdanovich & Batanina, 2007). The burials of that era exactly correspond to the descriptions in the Indo-Iranian texts "Rivgeda", "Akhtarvaveda".

At the time of Herodotus (early Iron Age), the Ural was called "Hyperborean Mountains». Another name is "Riphean Mountains". Some archeologists date back to the Bronze Age the establishment of trade ties between the population of the South Urals primarily the southeastern mountainous part with the remote territories of the Northern Black Sea region. At that time there was an exchange of copper and gold from the deposits of the Southern Urals for handicrafts, jewelry, etc. This route was later called the "Trade Route of Herodotus" (Zdanovich et al., 2016). In this region were the lands of the Sakas and Issedons described by Ptolemy. The Sarmatian gold deer found in the Philippov mounds of the Southern Urals are made of gold from the South Ural deposits. Numerous smelting furnaces for the production of bronze items in the Sintashta-Arkaim "Country of Cities" of the 2nd millennium BC are widely known.

Let us pay attention to some discrepancy between the large number of furnaces for melting bronze and the practical absence of bronze artifacts in the settlements of the Country of Cities themselves. One of the explanations could be the export orientation of bronze production.

In the Southern Trans-Urals there was found a mirror which was identified as Chinese one. This kind of mirrors became widespread in China during the Western Han era. Similar mirrors have been found far beyond the borders of China: in southern Siberia, Fergana, southern Ural, the Don region and the Lower Syr Darya. All of them came from complexes dated no earlier than the 1st century. BC e. - III century. AD., and there are both directly Chinese mirrors and their replicas.

Thus, even in ancient times the exchange of goods went in both directions: the South Ural was both a producer and a consumer of goods from the territory of the Great Silk Road.

The next, short by historical standards, but bright and distinctive era in science was named “The Great Migration of Nations” (II - VIII centuries AD) and captures the beginning of the early Middle Ages. During this period the tribes of the Huns, rushing from east to west, caused great changes in the settlement of many peoples. Some archaeologists associate the monuments of this period with the ancient Magyar population.

The most striking, original monument of this period is the Ufa-II settlement, located in the historical part of modern Ufa at the confluence of three large rivers: Ak Idel (White River), Kara Idel (Black River) and Dema. Numerous artifacts of Chinese, Indian, Iranian and European production have been found in a fortified settlement with a powerful cultural layer and an unconventional defense system.

The era of the ancient Bashkirs. In the end of the IX-X centuries. AD the first wave of Turkic-speaking nomads - the Oguzes, Pechenegs and ancient Bashkirs - penetrates into the steppes of the Southern Urals. The movement along the steppes of waves of nomads forced the ancient Bashkir tribes to occupy modern territories, gradually mixing with the Ugric population and adopting many of their features of material culture (the skills of forest hunting with a bow, crossbows and traps, chasing an animal on skis, airborne beekeeping, river and lake fishing with a and radiation, dugoutboats, conical huts-plagues, etc.).

In 1236-1237. already the Mongolian army invaded the Urals, the Volga Bulgaria was captured. All this territory fell under the rule of the Golden Horde and later the Kazan and Siberian Khanates, the Nogai Horde. Since the XIV century. among the Bashkirs, under the influence of the Golden Horde, the spread of Islam began. During this period, it is possible that trade routes reoriented to safer territories. Nevertheless, hundreds of coins from the Golden Horde period have been found in the South Urals.

The exchange of goods, technologies, including urban planning and production technologies, sharply increased at the stage of the region's entry into the Russian state (16th century). The formation of a multinational composition of the population, the construction of factories, fortresses and cities, including numerous monuments of architecture and urban planning, is intensifying. International trade during this period is part of the unified trade system of the Russian state. The range is slowly expanding.

There is a group of goods for which it is difficult to determine the time limits for exports from the South Urals.

This should include the export of timber to areas without forests or with scarce forest resources. Rafting of wood downstream of the rivers of the Volga basin probably took place for many centuries. The value of wood has increased in a row from larch to coniferous. Larch was of particular value. This type of wood has the most valuable property: it does not rot in water. However, the very high density of larch wood leads to the fact that it sinks in water. In this regard (therefore), there were two types of alloy of larch trunks:

1) In combo rafts with lighter timber trees.

2) In large disposable ships with steering control, but without propellers: upon arrival in the lower reaches, the ships were dismantled entirely.

Furs. This product has always been in price. Probably, the South Ural was one of the places where the fur trade was carried on.

One feature is important here, uniting wood and furs. In a fur-bearing animal, the undercoat is the warmer and more luxuriant, the more severe conditions the animal hibernates. In wood, harsh conditions form two characteristics. The thickness of the annual rings decreases, therefore, the wood becomes more and more dense. In winter, hydrophobic resins fill all the pores in the wood, so in winter ice blotches do not form, destroying living cells. The stronger the frosts, the better the wood quality. The density, coupled with high resin content, prevents wood from rotting. Larches from Siberia also sink and do not rot, but from Siberia there is no floatable route towards the Caspian and Black Seas. There are waterways to the south only from the Ural taiga through the Volga basin and further to the Caspian Sea and the Northern Black Sea region. Therefore, mass deliveries of timber are possible only from the Urals. There is a version that the underwater parts of the houses and palaces of Venice rest on piles of larch from the Urals. Wood from the Urals was more expensive than European wood, but especially high-quality materials are needed for particularly critical elements, such as the foundations of palaces. According to paleoclimatologists, the continental climate characteristic of the Southern Trans-Urals and adjacent regions changed little in the postglacial Holocene period 7-10 thousand years ago. Therefore, furs and wood had approximately the same valuable properties, including marketable ones.

Honey is another product mentioned by ancient authors (Aristotle (IV century BC) and Elian (II century BC). In Aristotle this is the honey of wild forest bees. Elian has especially frost-hardy "Scythian" bees, honey and wax of which were supplied to southern countries from northern regions. Later, in the Middle Ages, honey was included in the list of goods supplied as part of yasak (Zdanovich & Batanina, 2007). Note that there are no “steppe bees” that produce honey in commercial quantities. Honey bees could only settle in large trees with hollows (wild hive honey).

At present, it is becoming more and more obvious another fundamental resource of the South Urals - a huge massif of almost untouched nature located on the border of Europe and Asia. If you do not take into account the population of cities of the 18-20th century, the density of the mountain population is less than 1 person per sq. Km. Wildlife is becoming an increasingly valuable resource for urbanized humanity, and therefore a new technological challenge: the creation of scenic tourist roads and comfortable self-contained non-volatile housing. So far this two-pronged task has not been solved.


This way, goods from the Southern Ural in all eras and with all technological structures were of interest for international trade within the framework of the system with the code name "The Great Silk Road". Reproduction in general and in detail of historical connections of different eras is an interesting and promising task.


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Usmanov, I. Y., Lebedev, A. I., Putenikhin, V. P., Matveeva, L. D., & Khisamutdinova, A. (2021). "South Ural - The Great Silk Road": New Tourism Opportunities. In I. V. Kovalev, A. A. Voroshilova, & A. S. Budagov (Eds.), Economic and Social Trends for Sustainability of Modern Society (ICEST-II 2021), vol 116. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 2546-2552). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2021.09.02.283