Caucasian Mineral Waters Region

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Caucasian Mineral Waters Region


the region containing a group of balneological health resorts, at the juncture of the Stavropol’ Highland and the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus (Stavropol’ Krai). The mineral springs in the region are varied and abundant. The main health resorts, of importance for the whole Soviet Union, are Piatigorsk, Kislovodsk, Essentuki, and Zheleznovodsk. The region as a whole is characterized by a temperate mountain-steppe climate. The average temperature ranges from 7.8°C to 8.6°C, and annual precipitation is around 600 mm (with a maximum in the early summer).

The presence of mineral springs is linked to the monoclinal complex of Mesocenozoic sedimentary formations, which gradually submerge from south to north, from the Greater Caucasus to the Stavropol’ Highland.

South of the region, in the area of highly elevated mountain ranges, Paleozoic and Precambrian highly metamorphosed schist is exposed; to the north these formations are gradually replaced by sedimentary Silurian, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Paleogene, and Neocene strata. The rocks of monoclinal formations are broken by a system of numerous fractures and fissures running predominantly northeast and northwest. Two cuestas are clearly seen in the region: the Southern one is formed of Upper Jurassic limestone (Skalistyi Range), the northern of Upper Cretaceous limestone (the Dzhinal and Borgustan ridges). Post-Neocene intrusions of the granite-syenite-porphyry series also play a substantial part in the geological structure of the region. They form unique cupola-like mountains, or laccoliths, including Beshtau, Mashuk, Zheleznaia, Razvalka, Byk, and Zmeika.

The complexity of geological structure determines the specific hydrogeological conditions of the Caucasion Mineral Waters region. From the point of view of the possibilities for accumulation and movement of subterranean waters, the Mesocenozoic rocks that submerge in a monoclinal fashion toward the north form a great artesian slope, whose main region of alimentation coincides with an area in which ancient metamorphic rock comes to the surface. The primary water-bearing complexes are of Tithonian-Valanginian, Aptian-Albian, and Upper Cretaceous age. Water-bearing complexes of Jurassic and Paleogene deposits have secondary importance. The subterranean springs are predominantly fresh water; however, in the area of deeply settled crushed rock, carbon-dioxide and, less frequently, hydro-gen-sulfide mineral waters of various ionic composition and temperature have developed. Areas of tectonic intrusions, as well as contact intrusions and sedimentary rock, give rise to individual sources of carbon-dioxide mineral waters (springs at Kislovodsk, Essentuki, Piatigorsk, Zheleznovodsk, Nagut, Berezov, Kuma) and a large number of mineral springs of various compositions.

The subterranean waters of the region (fresh and mineral) are formed primarily by the infiltration of atmospheric precipitation. Part of the subterranean waters are enriched by gases (carbon dioxide) formed under high temperatures deep in the earth—a result of recent volcanism. The composition of mineral waters is significantly affected by the leaching of the containing rocks and cation exchange and displacement. This last process is especially widespread in the upper parts of the profile, since this area is the destination of waters highly saturated with gas, which rise from deep in the earth through breaks in the rock. By pushing out less mineralized springs and partially mixing with them, these rising waters form the final chemical and temperature characteristics of the region’s mineral springs.

The Caucasian Mineral Waters region is one of the oldest Russian health resort areas. The first testimony about its mineral springs was given by the physician G. Shober (1717), who was sent by Peter I to investigate the mineral springs of the Northern Caucasus. Health resorts date from 1803. The physician S. A. Smirnov, director of the Water Authority (1860’s), played a large part in the development of the region. He founded a chemistry laboratory for water analysis and organized in 1863 in Piatigorsk the first Russian balneological society. The development of the health resorts and their wide use began only after the establishment of Soviet power. In 1972 the region had about 130 mineral springs, 90 of which were in operation. Near Piatigorsk is Lake Tambukan, rich in therapeutic mud. The region’s scientific center is the Balneological Institute (Piatigorsk), established in 1920, which studies the therapeutic methods of the resorts and develops more effective methods for using the mineral springs.

The region is the most popular health resort region of the USSR. In 1914, 41, 200 people visited the area; in 1940 there were more than 200, 000; and in 1971, 416, 000 people stayed at the labor union sanatoriums alone. All the resorts are linked by asphalt roads and an electric railroad system. There is a large passenger airport in the city of Mineral’nye Vody.


Ovchinnikov, A. M. Mineral’nye vody, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1963.
Panteleev, I. Ia. Essentukskie soliano-shchelochnye vody v sisteme Kavkazskikh MineraVnykh vod. Moscow, 1963.
Panteleev, I. Ia. Ocherk istorii izucheniia i razvitiia Kavkazskikh Mineral’nykh vod. Moscow, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.