A large-scale project "Underwater Heritage of the Caspian Sea" was announced in Dagestan. Marine and underwater heritage experts of the Russian Geographical Society are confident that the implementation of the idea will give an impetus to the historical and archaeological study of the underwater cultural heritage of the Russian Caspian Sea (primarily near the city of Derbent), the development of underwater archeology in the Caspian Sea, and tourism.
A joint idea was put forward by three regional branches of the Russian Geographical Society – the Moscow Oblast, Dagestan and Astrakhan. The initiator of the development and the project leader is Sergey Fazlullin, Candidate of Geographical Sciences, Associate Professor at the Department of Museology of the Russian State University for the Humanities, President of the Confederation of Underwater Activities of Russia, Head of the Marine and River Heritage Commission of the Russian Geographical Society. The scientific part of the planned work is supervised by Sergey Gusev, Candidate of Historical Sciences, an employee at Likhachev Russian Research Institute of Cultural and Natural Heritage, who in 1976-1989 was a member of the Derbent archaeological expedition of the Dagestan Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
They visited Makhachkala and Derbent, where, together with local scientists, representatives of the authorities and the activists of the regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society, they discussed the ways of implementing the project. And in particular, they noted a great contribution to the study of the region’s history by the Derbent archaeological expedition of the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Dagestan Federal Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which has been headed by Murtazali Gadzhiev for 26 years.
"The Caspian Sea has a phenomenal history that we want to study. For several millennia, a large number of ships were sailing across the sea, some of which sank. For us, this is a kind of capsule, a source of information about a specific time period. This information is of interest not only to scientists, but also tourists. We hope that with our work we will be able to help replenish the collections of local museums," says Sergei Fazlullin.
Derbent was not chosen as the starting point of the project by chance. In the Middle Ages, it was the largest city in the Caspian Sea region with a large harbor and an important trade center on the Volga-Caspian Sea trade route. Underwater archaeological research carried out here in the 1980s turned out to be very productive from the scientific point of view.
The Dagestan participants in the discussions were especially interested in the idea of creating an underwater park in the coastal area of Derbent, which can attract tourists and divers.
At the first stage of the project "Underwater Heritage of the Caspian Sea", it is proposed to do reconnaissance in the water area of Derbent, and then to start a systematic study of archaeological heritage sites at the bottom of the sea. The expedition will include both experienced scientists and young specialists wishing to devote themselves to underwater archeology.
Simultaneously with the creation of the first underwater historical and archaeological park in the Caspian Sea, the issue of the possibility of opening a Museum of the Caspian Seafaring in Dagestan is being considered. All this will positively affect the image of Dagestan, make it even more attractive for domestic and international tourism. Note that the monuments of Derbent – the citadel of Naryn-Kala, the Old City and the centuries-old defensive walls of Derbent – were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2003.
The Russian Geographical Society and the High Command of the Russian Navy are ready to provide technology for the study of underwater objects, as well as to ensure the participation of experienced specialists in the project.