Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cultural and Historic Ensemble of the Solovetsky Islands

The Solovetsky archipelago comprises six islands in the western part of the White Sea, covering 300 km2 . They have been inhabited since the 5th century B.C. and important traces of a human presence from as far back as the 5th millennium B.C. can be found there. The archipelago has been the site of fervent monastic activity since the 15th century, and there are several churches dating from the 16th to the 19th century.

The Cultural and Historic Ensemble of the Solovetsky Islands is a medieval Russian Orthodox monastic settlement in an inhospitable environment.

The Solovetsky Islands are an archipelago situated north of St. Petersburg. There are about 100 islands, inhabited by only 1400 people. Greater Solovetsky Island is the biggest, on which the famous medieval monastery and Kremlin is built. Its beginnings as a religious center date to the mid 15th century: in 1436 the monastery was founded.

The complex also includes a monastic village and a number of detached monasteries (on other islands too).

In 1920 Solovetsky Camp became the first Soviet concentration camp, on the grounds of a former monastery. People persecuted by the Soviet government were sent here, and it became a model for the gulag system that later spanned the country. Later it was turned into a naval base. Its monastery function was restored in 1990.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Qinghai Hoh Xil

Qinghai Hoh Xil, located in the northeastern extremity of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, is the largest and highest plateau in the world. This extensive area of alpine mountains and steppe systems is situated more than 4,500 m above sea level, where sub-zero average temperatures prevail all year-round. The site’s geographical and climatic conditions have nurtured a unique biodiversity. More than one third of the plant species, and all the herbivorous mammals are endemic to the plateau. The property secures the complete migratory route of the Tibetan antelope, one of the endangered large mammals that are endemic to the plateau.

Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve

Located well above the Arctic Circle, the site includes the mountainous Wrangel Island (7,608 km2), Herald Island (11 km2) and surrounding waters. Wrangel was not glaciated during the Quaternary Ice Age, resulting in exceptionally high levels of biodiversity for this region. The island boasts the world’s largest population of Pacific walrus and the highest density of ancestral polar bear dens. It is a major feeding ground for the grey whale migrating from Mexico and the northernmost nesting ground for 100 migratory bird species, many endangered. Currently, 417 species and subspecies of vascular plants have been identified on the island, double that of any other Arctic tundra territory of comparable size and more than any other Arctic island. Some species are derivative of widespread continental forms, others are the result of recent hybridization, and 23 are endemic.

The Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve comprises a group of two islands north of the Arctic Circle with a remarkable high diversity of plants and animals.

Wrangel Island and Herald Island lie in the High Arctic Tundra ecoregion, with a very dry and cold climate. They have a mountainous landscape, with valleys, lakes and rivers. Vegetation consists of tundra and steppe underlain with permafrost. The surrounding waters are also part of the designated area.

The islands were not glaciated during the last Ice Age, and subsequently served as a refuge for Pleistocene species that have not survived elseweher. Wrangel also is on the intersection of two major continental systems – Asia and North America -and has species from both.

Notable features include:

• northernmost Migratory bird destination

• northernmost marine mammal location (gray whales and dolphins)

• breeding habitat of Asia’s only Snow goose population

• the largest population of Pacific walrus with up to 100,000 animals congregating

• a breeding ground for polar bears (having the highest density of dens in the world),

• woolly mammoths survived on Wrangel Island until 1650 BC, the most recent survival of all known mammoth populations.

• remains of a palaeoeskimo site as well as several small deserted reindeer herder’s settlements

Herald Island is uninhabited, and Wrangel is home to a handful of rangers and scientists.

Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent

The Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent were part of the northern lines of the Sasanian Persian Empire, which extended east and west of the Caspian Sea. The fortification was built in stone. It consisted of two parallel walls that formed a barrier from the seashore up to the mountain. The town of Derbent was built between these two walls, and has retained part of its medieval fabric. The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century.

The Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent are part of a strategic Sasanian defence system from the 5th century.

Derbent is situated on the western shores of the Caspian Sea, in present-day Dagestan. It was in the position to control the traffic between Europe and the Middle East, and shield the prospering agricultural peoples of the Middle East from devastating raids of nomadic tribes from the steppes of South-Eastern Europe.

The defence structures that were built by the Sasanians were in continuous use by the succeeding Persian, Arabic, Mongol, and Timurid governments. Its militairy function lasted til the 19th century. Its name is a Persian word: “Darband”, meaning "closed gates".

The fortifications consist of:

• Two parallel defence walls, 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.

• Naryn-Kala Citadel: most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.

• the ancient City, between the two walls, holds interesting courtyard houses, mosques, baths, madrasahs, and the remains of a caravanserai.

Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex

This property lies on the shores of the Volga River, south of its confluence with the River Kama, and south of the capital of Tatarstan, Kazan. It contains evidence of the medieval city of Bolgar, an early settlement of the civilization of Volga-Bolgars, which existed between the 7th and 15th centuries AD, and was the first capital of the Golden Horde in the 13th century. Bolgar represents the historical cultural exchanges and transformations of Eurasia over several centuries that played a pivotal role in the formation of civilizations, customs and cultural traditions. The property provides remarkable evidence of historic continuity and cultural diversity. It is a symbolic reminder of the acceptance of Islam by the Volga-Bolgars in AD 922 and remains a sacred pilgrimage destination to the Tatar Muslims.

The Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex is testimony to a medieval civilization and an important pilgrimage destination for Tatar Muslims.

It was the settlement of the Volga Bolgars, which existed between the 7th and the 15th centuries.

Central feature of the site is the (reconstructed) historical mosque. There also are a number of mausoleums.

Churches and Convents of Goa

The churches and convents of Goa, the former capital of the Portuguese Indies – particularly the Church of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb of St Francis-Xavier – illustrate the evangelization of Asia. These monuments were influential in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art in all the countries of Asia where missions were established.

The Churches and Convents of Goa are a group of Catholic religious buildings that have been influential for spreading both the faith and their Portuguese style of art and architecture around Asia.

They are located in Old Goa, which from 1565 was the capital of the Portuguese Indies. It was abandoned as such in 1760 because of a malaria outbreak.

The main buildings that are included, are:

- St. Catherine's Chapel

- Church and Convent of Francis of Assisi

- Sé Cathedral

- Basilica of Bom Jesus (on the picture)

- Church of Saint Cajetan including the seminary

- Church of Our Lady of the Rosary

- St. Augustine Tower

The Basilica of Bom Jesus holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, a missionary across Asia (India, Japan, China) who died in 1552. He is regarded as the patron saint of Goa. Once every decade on December 3, the body is taken down for veneration and for public viewing.

Elephanta Caves

The 'City of Caves', on an island in the Sea of Oman close to Bombay, contains a collection of rock art linked to the cult of Shiva. Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expressions, particularly the huge high reliefs in the main cave.

The Elephanta Caves are two groups of caves that contain Hindu and Buddhist rock art architecture.

The reliefs and sculptures in the caves has been dated to between the 5th or 6th and 8th centuries. The Hindu caves are dedicated to the god Shiva. These were regular Hindu places of worship, and during the festival of Shiva still continue to be so.

The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. All caves were painted in the past, but only traces remain.

The caves are located on the Elephanta Island in the Mumbai harbour. The Portuguese named the island "Elephanta Island" in honour of a huge rock-cut black stone statue of an elephant that was then installed on a mound on the island. That elephant now sits in the Jijamata Udyaan zoo in Mumbai.