Southern Russia is a region in Russia bordering the country's Central and Volga Regions to the north, Kazakhstan and the Caspian Sea to the east, Azerbaijan and Georgia to the south, the Black Sea and Ukraine to the west. Southern Russia boasts the nicest climate in the country, with warm Black Sea beach resorts, as well as Russia's most mountainous and exotic cultural destinations in the North Caucasus.
Europe's only Buddhist region
|Krasnodar Krai and Adygea
|North Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, North Ossetia)
the most unstable part of Russia
A region of Ukraine that was annexed by the Russian Federation in March 2014. Although this annexation is officially disputed by Ukraine and the Western powers, it can nevertheless be considered part of Russia from the traveler's point of view.
- Elista — one of Russia's most strange cities, home to several Buddhist monasteries and "Chess City"
- Derbent — the oldest city in Russia, established 5500 years ago.
- Mineralnye Vody
- Sochi — Russia's most famous beach resort, on the Black Sea, hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics
- Dombai — Russia's première mountain resort in the heart of Teberdinsky Nature Reserve is set among mountains higher than the Alps, complete with Russia's best alpine skiing, hiking, climbing, and hot springs
Southern Russia's mountainous regions in the south are extraordinarily complex in terms of their various linguistic, political, and ethnic cultures, while the northern, plains areas of Southern Russia are more solidly Russian in character. Southern Russia is generally more humid and lush in the west, towards the Black Sea, and more dry and arid approaching the Caspian Sea in the east.
Long considered a Russian frontier akin to the "Wild West," Southern Russia has a fascinating history of Cossack and Russian expansion in the face of fierce resistance from Tatar and other Mountain peoples. This southern frontier plays a special romantic role in the Russian consciousness as the one part of Russia combining a decent climate, interesting topography, and endless opportunities for the adventurous. This romantic ideal is immortalized especially in Mikhail Lermontov's famous novella, "A Hero of Our Time," as well as in many of Pushkin's poems. Pushkin's most famous poem about the region, "Prisoner of the Caucasus" (Кавказский пленник), was rewritten as a short story by Tolstoy, and redone most recently in an excellent Russian movie that sets the same story in the modern day conflict (shot in Dagestan).
Southern Russia is certainly the most complex linguistic region of the country, ranging from Mongolic Kalmyk, to Persian Ossetian, to dozens of languages wholly unrelated to any outside linguistic group. While this diversity makes the region an alluring destination to language nuts and ethnographers, the less linguistically inclined will find just about everyone speaks Russian.
Southern Russia is serviced by rail primarily through Voronezh, from Moscow. Most such trains come through Rostov-on-Don and then on to Krasnodar or Stavropol. Rail service also exists from Kharkiv, Ukraine to Rostov-on-Don.
In the regions with large non-ethnic-Russian populations, be sure to search out the many national cuisines of the region, many of them substantially different from Russian cuisine and delicious.
Travellers report substantially higher levels of corruption in Southern Russia than in the rest of European Russia. Corruption is mostly a problem during travel due to the many road blocks ostensibly protecting Russians, but actually existing just to extort bribes. While corruption is a concern throughout the region, it is a severe danger in the unstable North Caucasus region.
Throughout the North Caucasus intrepid visitors should be very cautious and aware of current developments in the region's sensitive political situation. There has been substantial violent crime and kidnapping against travellers at the hands of bandits, terrorists, and probably the authorities throughout the region. These dangers are especially severe in the southeast, in North Ossetia, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. Chechnya is easily one of the world's most dangerous travel destinations and should simply be considered off limits until the security situation improves.
The most common destination for travellers moving on from Southern Russia was Ukraine. As of March 2014, the Russian occupation of Crimea, which is populated by ethnic Russians and claimed by Russia to be a part of that country, has caused a rapid deterioration in Russia-Ukraine relations. Russian citizens formerly could cross into Ukraine visa-free, but travellers may find their ability to cross directly between Russia and Ukraine is uncertain due to the current political situation; any attempt to cross from Russia to Crimea and then onward to Ukrainian-controlled territory is likely a violation of Ukrainian immigration law.
Unfortunately the most natural outward bound destination for travellers in Southern Russia, the Caucasus, is largely unreachable from this region as the borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan are closed to all third party nationals due to regional instability, military operations, and serious security concerns throughout the North Caucasus. However, in the summer it is possible to join the hordes of Russian travellers on a ferry from Sochi to the northeastern Turkish port of Trabzon and to take a bus from there to the Georgian border at Sarpi/Hopa.