With the alpine and Nordic events held at the nearby ski resort of Roza Khutor in Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi hosted the XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games in 2014, as well as the Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix from 2014 until at least 2020. It will also be one of the host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Greater Sochi is elongated along the Black Sea coast for 145 kilometers (90 mi). Sochi is in the north of Western Asia, falling on the southern (Asian) side of the Greater Caucasus. Sochi is approximately 1,603 kilometers (996 mi) from Moscow.
The city of Sochi borders with Tuapsinsky District in the northwest, with Apsheronsky District and with Maykopsky District of the Republic of Adygea in the north, with Mostovsky District in the northwest, and with Georgia/Abkhazia in the southeast. From the southwest, it is bordered by the Black Sea.
The vast majority of the population of Sochi lives in a narrow strip along the coast and is organized in independent microdistricts (formerly settlements). The biggest of these microdistricts, from the northwest to the southeast, are Lazarevskoye, Loo, Dagomys, central Sochi (Tsentralny City District), Khosta, Matsesta, and Adler. The whole city is located on the slopes of the Western Caucasus which descend to the Black Sea and are cut by the rivers. The biggest rivers in Sochi are the Mzymta, which is in fact the longest Black Sea tributary in Russia, and the Shakhe. Other rivers include the Ashe, the Psezuapse, the Sochi, the Khosta, and the Matsesta. The Psou River makes the border with Abkhazia.
The northeastern part of the city belongs to the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve which is a World Heritage Site spanning vast areas in Krasnodar Krai and Adygea. Almost the whole area of the Greater Sochi, with the exception of the coast and of the area which belong to the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve, are included into Sochi National Park.
Sochi has a humid subtropical climate with mild winters (average 11 °C (52 °F) during the day and 4 °C (39 °F) at night) in the period from December to March and warm summers (average 24 °C (75 °F) during the day and 16 °C (61 °F) at night) in the period from May to October.
Before the whole area was conquered by Cimmerian, Scythian and Sarmatian invaders, the Zygii people lived in Lesser Abkhazia under the Kingdom of Pontus, then the Roman Empire's influence in antiquity. From the 6th to the 11th centuries, the area successively belonged to the kingdom of Lazica and kingdom of Abkhazia who built a dozen churches within the city boundaries. The Christian settlements along the coast were destroyed by the invading Göktürks, Khazars, Mongols and other nomadic empires whose control of the region was slight. The northern wall of an 11th-century Byzantine basilica still stands in the Loo Microdistrict.
From the 14th to the 19th centuries, the region was dominated by the Abkhaz, Ubykh and Adyghe tribes, the current location of the city of Sochi known as Ubykhia was part of historical Circassia, and was controlled by the native people of the local mountaineer clans of the north-west Caucasus, nominally under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire, which was their principal trading partner in the Muslim world. The coastline was ceded to Russia in 1829 as a result of a Caucasian War and Russo-Turkish War, 1828–1829; however, the Circassians did not admit the Russian control over Circassia and kept resisting the newly established Russian outposts along the Circassian coast (Adyghe: Адыгэ хы аушу). Provision of weapons and ammunition from abroad to the Circassians caused a diplomatic conflict between the Russian Empire and the British Empire that occurred in 1836 over the mission of the Vixen.
The Russians had no detailed knowledge of the area until Baron Feodor Tornau investigated the coastal route from Gelendzhik to Gagra, and across the mountains to Kabarda, in the 1830s. In 1838, the fort of Alexandria, renamed Navaginsky a year later, was founded at the mouth of the Sochi River as part of the Black Sea coastal line, a chain of seventeen fortifications set up to protect the area from recurring Circassian resistance. At the outbreak of the Crimean War, the garrison was evacuated from Navaginsky in order to prevent its capture by the Turks, who effected a landing on Cape Adler soon after.
The last battle of the Caucasian War took place at the Godlikh river on March 18, 1864 O.S., where the Ubykhs were defeated by the Dakhovsky regiment of the Russian Army. On March 25, 1864, the Dakhovsky fort was established on the site of the Navaginsky fort. The end of Caucasian War was proclaimed at Kbaade tract (modern Krasnaya Polyana) on June 2 (May 21 O.S.), 1864, by the manifesto of Emperor Alexander II read aloud by Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich of Russia.
After the end of Caucasian War (during the period of 1864–1870) almost all Ubykhs and a major part of the Shapsugs, who lived on the territory of modern Sochi, were either killed in the Circassian Genocide or expelled to the Ottoman Empire (see Circassian Genocide). Starting in 1866 the coast was actively colonized by Russians, Armenians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Greeks, Germans, Georgians and other people from inner Russia.
In 1874–1891, the first Russian Orthodox church, St. Michael's Church, was constructed, and the Dakhovsky settlement was renamed Dakhovsky Posad on April 13, 1874 (O.S.). In February 1890, the Sochi Lighthouse was constructed. In 1896, the Dakhovsky Posad was renamed Sochi Posad (after the name of local river) and incorporated into the newly formed Black Sea Governorate. In 1900–1910, Sochi burgeoned into a sea resort. The first resort, "Kavkazskaya Riviera", opened on June 14, 1909 (O.S.). Sochi was granted town status in 1917.
During the Russian Civil War, the littoral area saw sporadic armed clashes involving the Red Army, White movement forces, and the Democratic Republic of Georgia. As a result of the war Sochi has become Russian territory. In 1923, Sochi acquired one of its most distinctive features, a railway which runs from Tuapse to Georgia within a kilometer or two of the coastline. Although this branch of the Northern Caucasus Railway may appear somewhat incongruous in the setting of beaches and sanatoriums, it is still operational and vital to the region's transportation infrastructure.
Sochi was established as a fashionable resort area under Joseph Stalin, who had his favorite dacha built in the city. Stalin's study, complete with a wax statue of the leader, is now open to the public. During Stalin's reign the coast became dotted with imposing Neoclassical buildings, exemplified by the opulent Rodina and Ordzhonikidze sanatoriums. The centerpiece of this early period is Shchusev's Constructivist Institute of Rheumatology (1927–1931). The area was continuously developed until the demise of the Soviet Union.
Following Russia's loss of the traditionally popular resorts of the Crimean Peninsula (transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchev), Sochi emerged as the unofficial summer capital of the country. In 1961, Soviet officials decided to expand the city limits by forming a Greater Sochi which extended for 140 kilometers from the southern parts of Tuapse to Adler. In July 2005, Russia submitted a successful bid for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in the city, spending around $51 billion in the process. Additionally, Sochi has also served as the location for the signing of many treaties, especially those between the Georgian, separatist Abkhazian, and separatist South Ossetian governing authorities.
Within the framework of administrative divisions, it is, together with one urban-type settlement (Krasnaya Polyana) and seventy-nine rural localities, incorporated as the City of Sochi—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the City of Sochi is incorporated as Sochi Urban Okrug.
Sochi is administratively subdivided into four city districts: Tsentralny City District, Lazarevsky City District, Khostinsky City District, and Adlersky City District. Tsentralny City District, comprising the central portion of, is by far the smallest out of four in terms of the area, and the other three have comparable areas, with Lazarevsky City District being the biggest. In terms of the population, Tsentralny City District is approximately twice as big as each of the other three city districts.
Tsentralny City District, or central Sochi, covers an area of 32 square kilometers (12 sq mi) and, as of the 2010 Census, has a population of 137,677. The highlights include:
Lazarevsky City District lies to the northwest from the city center; the 2010 Census showed the population of 63,894 people. It is the largest city district by area, covering some 1,744 square kilometers (673 sq mi) and comprising several microdistricts:
Khostinsky City District, sprawling to the southeast from the city center, occupies approximately 374 square kilometers (144 sq mi), with a population of 65,229 as of the 2010 Census. The district is traversed by many rivulets which give their names to the microdistricts of Matsesta ("flame-colored river"), Kudepsta, and Khosta ("the river of boars").
Adlersky City District, with an area of 1,352 square kilometers (522 sq mi) and a population of 76,534 people as of the 2010 Census, is the southernmost district of the city, located just north of the border with Abkhazia. Until the establishment of Greater Sochi in 1961, it was administered as a separate town, which had its origin in an ancient Sadz village and a medieval Genoese trading post.
Among the natural wonders of the district is the Akhshtyr Gorge with a 160-meter-long cave that contains traces of human habitation from about 30,000 years ago. The upland part of the district includes a network of remote mountain villages (auls), the Estonian colony at Estosadok, and the ski resort of Krasnaya Polyana which hosted the events (Alpine and Nordic) of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Also located here are the largest trout fishery in Russia (founded in 1964) and a breeding nursery for great apes.
Sochi has an ethnic Russian majority (~70%).
The city is home to a sizable Armenian minority (~20%), which is especially notable in the Adlersky City District where they compose more than half of the total population. Most of Sochi's Armenian community are descendants of Hamshen Armenians from Turkey's northeastern Black Sea coast who came in the late 19th century and on. The rest are Armenians from Georgia (particularly from Abkhazia and Samtskhe-Javakheti) and Armenia (especially from Shirak Province due to the 1988 earthquake).
Sochi is home to the following high educational institutions (masters level degree and PhD): Sochi State University, Russian International Innovative University, and Russian International Olympic University.
The Byzantine Empire brought Christianity to the Sochi region in the Middle Ages. The region was relatively isolated before 1829. In the North, a few hundred Sunni Muslim Shapsugs, a part of the Circassian nation, lived around Tkhagapsh, near Lazarevskoye. The Circassians (also known as Adyghe) converted to Islam from Christianity in the 17th century. In the nineteenth century, Islam spread to the region.
Currently, Sochi is a large predominantly Christian city, though there are thought to be around 20,000 Muslims (5% of inhabitants) living there now (the majority are Adyghe) plus other Eastern Caucasians, Turks, Tatars, and other smaller Muslim groups.
A mosque was built in 2008 by United Arab Emirates in the central area of Bytkha, in addition to the old mosque being around 40 km (25 miles) north of the city center in the Adyghe aul of Tkhagapsh.
There are around thirty Russian Orthodox churches, the largest being St. Michael's, and two monasteries, plus two Catholic churches, one in the center of Sochi and the other in Lazarevskoye. The Armenian community, which is important in Sochi, gathers in about ten churches.
Sochi has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa), at the lower elevations. Its average annual temperature is 18.4 °C (65.1 °F) during the day and 11 °C (52 °F) at night. In the coldest months—January and February—the average temperature is about 10 °C (50 °F) during the day, above 3 °C (37 °F) at night and the average sea temperature is about 9 °C (48 °F). In the warmest months—July and August—the temperature typically ranges from 25 to 29 °C (77 to 84 °F) during the day, about 20 °C (68 °F) at night and the average sea temperature is about 23–24 °C (73–75 °F). Yearly sunshine hours are around 2,200. Generally, the summer season lasts four months, from June to September. Two months—April and November—are transitional; sometimes temperatures reach 20 °C (68 °F), with an average temperature of around 16 °C (61 °F) during the day and 9 °C (48 °F) at night. December, January, February and March are the coldest months, with average temperature (of these four months) 11 °C (52 °F) during the day and 4 °C (39 °F) at night. Average annual precipitation is about 1,700 millimeters (67 in). Sochi lies at 8b/9a hardiness zone, so the city supports different types of palm trees. Sochi is situated on the same latitude as Nice but strong cold winds from Asia make winters less warm. In fact, temperatures drop below freezing every winter. The highest temperature recorded was 39.4 °C (102.9 °F), on July 30, 2000, and the lowest temperature recorded was −13.4 °C (7.9 °F) on January 25, 1892.
Sochi is unique among larger Russian cities as having some aspects of a subtropical resort. Apart from the scenic Caucasus Mountains, pebble and sand beaches, the city attracts vacation-goers with its subtropical vegetation, numerous parks, monuments, and extravagant Stalinist architecture. About two million people visit Greater Sochi each summer, when the city is home to the annual film festival "Kinotavr" and a getaway for Russia's elite.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 2,957 square kilometers (731,000 acres) Caucasian Biosphere Reserve, lies just north from the city. Sochi also has the region's most northerly tea plantations.
Public transport is represented mainly by bus and taxi. Sochi is served by the Adler-Sochi International Airport. A kind of non-mass public transport are also two funiculars (the Central military sanatorium and Ordzhonikidze resort) and three cable cars (at arboretum sanatorium "Dawn" and pension "Neva") also has several cableways in Krasnaya Polyana.
The Sochi Port terminal building was built in 1955 by Karo Alabyan and Leonid Karlik in Stalinist architecture. It is topped with a 71-meter steepled tower. Sculptures embodying seasons and cardinal points are set above the tower's three tiers.
Five of the railway stations of Sochi were renovated for the 2014 Winter Olympics. These are Dagomys, Sochi, Matsesta and Khosta railway stations. In Adler city district of Sochi, the original railway station was preserved and new railway station was built near it. Another new railway station was built in Estosadok, close to Krasnaya Polyana.
At some point, plans to construct the light metro network to serve the Olympics were considered; however, the Sochi Light Metro plan was abandoned in favor of the reconstruction of the railway.
Sochi is also known for its sport facilities: a local tennis school spawned the careers of such notable players as Grand Slam champions Maria Sharapova and Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Kafelnikov spent much of his childhood here, while Sharapova relocated to Florida at the age of seven). In late 2005, the Russian Football Union announced that it was planning to establish a year-round training center for the country's national teams in Sochi. The city's warm climate was cited as one of the main incentives. Sochi is also the home for the football team FC Zhemchuzhina which plays in the Russian First Division and for the ice hockey team HC Sochi which plays in the Kontinental Hockey League.
The nearby ski resort of Roza Khutor at Krasnaya Polyana was the location of the alpine and Nordic events for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
In June 2006, the International Olympic Committee announced that Sochi had been selected as a finalist city to host the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2014 Winter Paralympics. On July 4, 2007, Sochi was announced as the host city of the 2014 Winter Games, edging out Pyeongchang, South Korea and Salzburg, Austria.
This was Russia's first time hosting the Winter Olympic Games, and its first time hosting the Paralympic Games. The site of a training centre for aspiring Olympic athletes, in 2008, the city had no world-class level athletic facilities fit for international competition. To get the city ready for the Olympics, the Russian government committed a $12 billion investment package, shared 60%–40% between the government and private sector. According to some estimates, the investments necessary to bring the location up to Olympic standards may have exceeded that of any previous Olympic games. By January 2014 the construction costs had been reported to exceed the $50 billion mark, making it the most expensive Olympic Games in history. According to a report by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, this cost will not boost Russia's national economy, but may attract business to Sochi and the southern Krasnodar region of Russia in the future as a result of improved services.
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi saw concern and controversy following a new federal law approved in Russia in June 2013 that bans "homosexual propaganda to minors". There were also concerns over Islamist militants.
The state-controlled RAO UES announced in July 2007 that it might spend 30 billion roubles (about US$1.2 billion) on upgrading the electrical power system in the Sochi area by 2014. The power generating companies Inter RAO UES and RusHydro would have to build or modernize four thermal power plants and four hydroelectric plants—and the federal grid company FGC UES has to replace the Central-Shepsi electricity transmission line, which reportedly often fails in bad weather. The new power line would run partly on power towers and partly across the bottom of the Black Sea. By 2011, the power supply of the resort area would increase by 1129 MW—of which 300 MW would be used for Olympic sports facilities "The cost of the work is estimated at 83.6 billion rubles (about US $3.26 billion), of which 50 billion rubles (about US$2 billion) will go to investments in the electricity grid," power company announced. They did not say how much of the bill the state would foot. In February 2007, when UES had planned to spend 48.8 billion rubles (about US$1.9 billion) on the Sochi area, the share the state had been ready to pay 38 billion roubles (about US$1.48 billion) of that.
The Silk Way Rally which is part of Dakar series took place in Sochi in 2010 for the last stage between the capital of the Republic of Adygea Maykop to the city of Sochi through Pseshwap.
President Vladimir Putin reached a deal with Bernie Ecclestone for the city to host the Formula One Russian Grand Prix from 2014.
The World Robot Olympiad took place in the Adler Arena Skating Center on 21–23 November 2014.
The 2014 World Chess Championship between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen was played in Sochi in November 2014, with Carlsen emerging as the winner.
The Fisht Olympic Stadium will also be used to host 2018 FIFA World Cup football matches.
Since 2014, the city has hosted HC Sochi, who play at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in the Kontinental Hockey League, the biggest ice hockey league in Russia and eastern Europe.