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The Oglakhty Range

Date of Submission: 25/11/2016
Criteria: (i)(iii)(vi)(x)
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Republic of Khakassia, Bogradsky district
Coordinates: E91 25 10 N54 3 25
Ref.: 6165

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The Oglakhty Range is located on the left bank  of the Yenisei  (Krasnoyarsk Reservoir)  and represents a system of low-lying ranges with a great number of Devonian red sandstone rock exposures   providing a picturesque landscape on  the one hand, and its human use throughout thousands years on the other hand. Thousands of rock paintings related to different historic periods on the vertical rock outcrops and rock fragments give evidence of changes in the environment, husbandry types, material and intellectual culture of the peoples who inhabited this area. The same stone was used to erect impressive burial constructions found in the areas of foothills and intermontane steppe valleys, and an enormous fortification which borders the mountains on the south side. The territory nominated is of great scientific interest in terms of natural heritage: with its diversity of landscape; rare endemic plants; 5 reptile species, 148 species of birds and 44 species of mammals. Partially the territory is included in the area "Oglakhty" of the State Nature Reserve "Khakassky" registered in 1991. The key task of the reserve is to conserve and protect steppe biocenosis, habitats of rare endemic plants and rare species of animals, rock bird assemblages, monuments of historical and cultural heritage.

Natural Heritage
Geology and relief

The low-mountain striking monoclinal  Oglakhty Range located on the left bank of the Yenisei  (Krasnoyarsk Reservoir) below the mouth of the river Tuba (right tributary of the Yenisei) divides the Minusinskaya (South-Minusinsk) and Syda-Erbinskaya (Central-Minusinsk) hollows of the vast Minusinsk depression in the mountains of South Siberia. Depression formation took place at Devonian (410—360 million years ago) period. It was the time of a stable long-term surface tectonic settling. And at the same time the folded rock foundation was split into separate blocks resulting in some parts separation has been preserved until now. Ancient rocks forming the Minusinsk depression repeatedly exposed to tectonic forces and formed both folded and block mountains. Affected by external elements (such as wind, water, temperature fluctuations) the mountains were successively eroded therewith denser rocks were eroded at a much lower rate. Thus was created the relief variety that is characteristic of this region: vast plains, hills, ridges, and low mountains. Now the low mountains composed of Devonian red-brown lea stone rise above the surrounding area which is specific feature of khakass landscapes.

The Oglakhty Range consists of sedimentary rock of the Low Carboniferous and Upper Devonian: sandstone, siltstone, tuffite, limestone, and dolomite. Its hilly relief is intermingled with cuesta ridges with large rock outcrops and small valleys. This territory is a perfect example of cuesta relief (formed due to inclined bedding of different density rocks). Cuestas that run in latitudinal direction have large low angle folds, complicated by flexures and flexure-type curves of layers. They form a system of long, parallel elevations with cuesta ravines developing between them. Aeolian processes play a key role in the exogenous relief-forming processes, not only cuestas, but also deflation basins and lost mountains have become widespread due to them. Selective weathering processes and denudation are clearly observed throughout the area, as well as surface morphology strict dependence on the geological structure. Relative elevations are of100-150 m. The highest point (580 m above sea level) is Mount Oglakhty. The range extends 15 km from south to north.

Highly fragmented terrain, variable slope steepness and exposure provide a wide variety of landscapes in this relatively small area.

The eastern border of the range is linked with the Yenisei left bank line (since 1970 Krasnoyarsk Reservoir). Here one can see high picturesque cliffs dropping steeply into the river. Stretching north-west within the range the deep ravines cut through the cliff front in several places. One of them represents quite a wide valley which divides the range into well-defined north and south areas.

Climate. Geographic position, orographic characteristics and atmosphere circulation have a significant influence on climate formation of the Oglakhty Range. The climate of this territory as the climate of the mountain steppes of the Minusinsk hollow on the whole is a continental one with cold, long winter (five months) and short, hot summer. Not only monthly but also daily sharp fluctuations in temperature are quite typical of it. The annual precipitation ranges from  250 to 300 mm. The average temperature in January is within –16–20° С, in July within +18–20° С. Minimum temperature reaches –40–45° С, and maximum up to +35–40° С. the Minusinsk hollow is superior in the number of sunny days in the year to the Crimea.

Soils. The soil cover is characterized by the dominance of medium-humic, medium-deep southern and ordinary chernozems covering the gentle slopes. Low-humic chernozems, both thin and medium deep, are constant component of the soil-cover complex.  Low-humic chernozems in the southwestern portion of the area are developed on the red rocks and mostly gravelly. Gravelly soils are common in the Yenisei hilly part of the steppes. All the soils are heavy-textured. The soils on northern forested slopes are sod-podzolic. Some soils of the Oglakhty Range are listed in Red Data Book of Soils and Cadastre of particularly valuable soil objects of Russia, such as ordinary medium-deep medium-loamy chernozem on loess loams (have not been worked for 30 years). The soils in this area are specific natural-historical formations that can serve standards to compare with those modified due to human activities as well as to assess the damage to soils and ecosystems with subsequent development of recovery methods.

Flora. The Oglakhty Range and the surrounding steppe areas are home to rear and endemic plants, such as minusinsk sweetvetch (Hedysarum minussinense), martyanov warmwood (Artemisia martjanovii), oxytrope (Oxytropis encludens) and others. 234 species of higher vascular plant species have been already registered. Low-bushgrass and high-bushgrass steppes and their petrophyte aggregations cover the greater part of the territory. Meadow steppes and steppe dry meadows are less common. Northern slopes are mostly covered with birch forests and steppe bushes.

True low-bushgrass steppes are found both in plain and slope areas on chestnut and south chernozem soils. Typical plant species are: 1) Bushes: Caragana pygmaea. 2) Drought-resistant gramineous plants form a grass cover: Festuca pseudovina, Koeleria cristata, Poa sibirica, Cleistogenes squarrosa, Carex duriuscula, Carex pediformis. Из разнотравья обычны Veronica incana, Aster alpinus, Heteropappus altaicus subsp. altaicus, Artemisia frigida, Artemisia glauca, Leontopodium ochroleucum subsp. campestre, Hedysarum gmelini  and quite a large number of  plants of Oxytropis and Astragalus families.

True high-bushgrass steppes are found on steppe areas on western and eastern exposure slopes and come over to southern slopes in forest-steppe areas. Typical plant species are: 1) Grass cover: Stipa capillata or Helictotrichon desertorum prevail. The other types of plants are the following: Poa stepposa, Agropyron cristatum, Phleum phleoides, Carex pediformis, Dianthus versicolor, Galium verum, Delphinium grandiflorum, Artemisia glauca, Medicago falcata, Onobrychis arenaria, Aster alpinus, Heteropappus altaicus subsp. altaicus.

Semi desert steppes are not widely spread and fragmentarily found on south slopes. Vegetation is   thin and low. Plant covering does not exceed 40%. Typical plant species are: 1) Bushes: Caragana pygmaea. 2) Grass cover: Panzerina lanata subsp. argyracea, Thymus minussinensis, Artemisia frigida, Ceratoides papposa, Kochia laniflora and low grass.

Meadow steppes and steppe dry meadows  are found on northern slopes. Typical plant species are: 1) Grass cover: mostly Iris ruthenica, Phleum phleoides, Poa stepposa, Bromopsis inermis, less often Stipa pennata. Herbs including: Bupleurum multinerve, Delphinium grandiflorum, Fragaria viridis, Sanguisorba officinalis, Medicago falcata, Astragalus danicus, Dracocephalum ruyschiana, Phlomis tuberosa, Scabiosa ohroleuca, Ligularia glauc and the plants of Potentilla, Geranium, Thalictrum families  and others.

Stony steppes are found on the steep slopes of southern exposures. Typical plant species are: 1) Tree species: larch thin forests are often found on southern slopes (Larix sibirica). 2) Grass cover: except common steppe species there are relic species: Patrinia sibirica, Kobresia filifolia, Gypsophila patrinii, Aster alpinus., Chamaerhodos ereca, Orostachys spinosa, Arctogeron gramineum, Goniolimon speciosum, Androsace maxima, Ephedra monosperma, Asparagus pallasii, Sedum aizoon, Sedum hybridum, Phlox sibirica, Onosma simplicissima.

Tree and shrubbery vegetation is found on northern slopes, small woods and forest outliers and only some areas are covered by small forests. Typical plant species are: 1) tree species: Betula pendula and Larix sibirica, less often Populus nigra. 2) Bushes: mostly Spiraea hypericifolia, Spiraea media, Spiraea chamaedryfolia, Cotoneaster melanocarpus, Rosa aciculari, Caragana arborescens, less often Padus avium, Crataegus sanguinea, Grossularia acicularis, Lonicera tatarica, Atraphaxis frutescens. 3) Grass cover: Bupleurum multinerve, Delphinium grandiflorum, Fragaria viridis, Sanguisorba officinalis, Medicago falcata, Astragalus danicus, Dracocephalum ruyschiana, Phlomis tuberosa, Scabiosa ohroleuca, Ligularia glauca and the plants of otentilla, Geranium, Thalictrum families and others (Hemerocallis lilio-asphodelus, Trollius asiaticus, Anemone sylvestris and others.)

Fauna is a typical steppe one and represented by the wild life of open spaces, tree and shrubbery vegetation  and rock outcrops. 44 species of mammals, 148 species of birds, 5 reptile species, and 26 species of fishes have been registered (in Krasnoyarsk Reservoir).

Characteristic animal species: 1) Amphibia: moor frog (Rana arvalis). 2) Reptiles:  sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), Central Asian viper (Gloydius halys), common lizard (Zootoca vivipara), common northern viper (Vipera berus). 3) Birds: tree pipit (Anthus trivialis), chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), great tit (Parus major), long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus), willow tit (Parus montanus), black-throated thrush (Turdus atrogularis), stonechat (Saxicola torquata), yellow-browed warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), scarlet grosbeak (Caprodacus erythrinus, common quail (Coturnix coturnix), partridge (Perdix daurica), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix). 4) Mammals: common shrew (Sorex araneus), steppe sicista (Sicista subtilis), dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus), steppe lemming (Lagurus lagurus), field mouse (Microtus arvalis), water vole (Arvicola terrestris), narrow-skalled vole (Microtus gregalis), field-mouse (Apodemus agrarius), east asian mouse(Apodemus peninsulae), house mouse (Mus musculus), long-tailed souslik (Spermophilus undulates), badger (Meles amurensis), brown hare (Lepus europaeus), fox (Vulpes vulpes), wolf (Canis lupus), Siberian Roe Deer (Capreolus pygargus).

This area is home to such rare mammal listed in the Red Book of Russia as steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanni), rare birds listed in the Red Book of Russia:  peregrine (Falco peregrinus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis), saker falcon (Falco cherryg) and imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca).

Cultural heritage

The undoubted value of the territory nominated is that the natural landscape is rich in traces of its cultural development throughout several historical epochs.

The area of the Minusinsk hollow was mastered as far back as the Stone Age. Primitive people hunted big mammals here, some species of which became extinct, and the others have changed their habitat. Later the territory was populated with more and more new peoples for thousands of years, one culture gave way to another, economic and cultural types changed as well as the methods of human and natural environment interaction. Here, in the territory of the Minusinsk hollow taiga hunters, fishers from Northern Asia and the peoples from the mountainsteppe zones of Central Asia interacted for centuries. They have created a unique cultural synthesis appeared in the peculiarities of the economic adaptation of different population groups (mobile forest hunters and fishers, settled farmers and metal-makers, nomadic cattle-farmers), in the functioning of internal and external relations of different communities and the ways of their communication, including the creation of spectacular, visible, identifying cultural objects, such as mounds, steles, and rock paintings in the landscape.

 The Oglakhty Range and adjacent steppe areas are only a small part of the Minusinsk hollow, but hundreds of mounds and thousands of rock paintings as well as other archaeological and historical artifacts (settlements, religious places, fortifications, quarries) are concentrated here.  They have a long history of studying (since the middle of the XVIII th century) and well developed chronology from the Paleolithic Age to the New Age and modern times. The most representational ones are those of afanasyevsk Eneolithic culture (IV– 1st half of the III millennium BC), okunyevsk culture, the Early Bronze Age (mid. III – the beginning of the II millennium BC), karasuk culture, the Late Bronze Age (the 2nd half of the II – the beginning of the I millennium BC), and the cultures of the Early Iron Age: tagarsk culture (of 9–3 centuries BC), tesinsk culture (of 2 – 3 centuries AD) and tashtyk culture (of 1–7centuries AD). The impressive stone- earthen mounds of tagar culture with fences and high corner and intermediate plates are an essential feature of the historical landscape of Minusinsk steppes. Unique burial masks, mummified remains, preserved objects made of organic materials (fabric, fur, wood) found in the burial grounds of tashtyk culture in Oglakhty now decorate the halls of the State Historical Museum in Moscow and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The grandiose monument of I - beg. II millennium AD is the famous Oglakhtinskaya "fortress", which ruins surround a huge area of several dozen square kilometers. This structure consists of horizontally laid sandstone plates, some remnants of the wall reach 6-8 m in width and 1 m in height, from the outside one can find the traces of a ditch surrounding the wall, "bastions" have been preserved in some places. The wall was erected by many generations, probably at first to protect against hunnish and later against Uighur invasions.

Rock art is the most significant cultural component of the Oglakhty Range area. The relief features described above provided a great number of comfortable "canvasses" for ancient artists: as red Devonian sandstone outcrops can be found everywhere here, so everywhere can be found the paintings on the rocks. Images made with the use of all known techniques - knockout, engraving, grinding, painting. Most of the paintings are on the vertical planes, but some of them are found on the stone blocks lying on the slopes, as well as on the plates used for mound construction (some of the images date back to mound construction and associated with obsequies while the others were made by the following generations). The rock paintings are clustered in different parts of the Range. The rocks along the Yenisei bank and the south-western slope of Mount "Sorok Zubyev" are particularly rich in such paintings. Each of such clusters itself is a very important monument of rock art, but all 12 currently known painting clusters form the largest complex of Minusinsk hollow - a region known as one of the world's richest culture area of rock art.

Historical and cultural value of this complex is not only in the number of sources, but in their diversity, representativeness, the presence of both typical and unique plots, images and styles. Oglakhty petroglyphs represent all the cultural and chronological periods (of at least nine) determined in the ancient art of South Siberia, apart from the unique groups that far from being simple issue to explain. A number of the images are made at a very high artistic level, thus they are of great importance aesthetically as well. The Rock Art of the Oglakhty Range is a valuable historical source. Parallels can be drawn between many cultural and chronological groups and the corresponding burial archaeological sites to add some significant information on a particular culture, obtained due to excavations. Some periods have not been presented in terms of archaeology so far in this area but rock art (most likely, the artifacts have not been found yet). In this case, the petroglyphs provide the information of invaluable significance. The most typical example is the so-called "ancient layer" image. The figures of wild animals, as well as the enigmatic anthropomorphic figures and symbolic images of boats with "passengers" are made with great realism and artistic skill. Their dating is unknown, it has been determined only that not later than the III millennium BC. It is not excluded that they belong to the Stone Age. Once all the coastal cliffs were covered entirely by such paintings. Not all of them have survived up to now but those survived are an impressive example of the artistic genius of primitive man and gives us valuable information, have not been confirmed so far by paleontological sources, about the biocenosis disappeared from the area. Some animals in the rock paitings became extinct and the others have not inhabited in this area any longer. The former include wild horse (Equus ferus) and the primeval ox (Bos taurus primigenius). The latter include elk (Alces alces), red deer (Cervus elaphus), ibex (Capra sibirica), mountain sheep (Ovis ammon), bear (Ursus arctos), and wild boar (Sus scrofa). The only specie that has been still living in the territory of the range is the roe (Capreolus pygargus).    

Among the images of later eras, there are some that reflect the influence of remote area cultures (of Central Asia, China and so on.), direct migration and the presence of certain ethnic groups serve as indirect evidence of historical events. The images of cultural artifacts are found on the rocks, for example, a series of images of daggers and chariots of the Late Bronze Age are knocked out on the unique object – the plate from Kizan area. On the lower plates of Mount "Sorok Zubyev" there is the image of a kettle and, probably, the oldest image of a felt yurt - a typical nomad dwelling. The absolute majority of images, however, has mythological, epic, and religious plots and serves as a source to reconstruct the worldviews of different epochs and nations.

The series of images of so-called ethnographic time deserves special mention.  These are the paintings of the indigenous population - Khakas, who continued to maintain the rock art millennial tradition in Oglakhty until the beginning of the twentieth century. There is not any other monument in Khakassia with such a number of Khakas paintings. They are very informative both for studying Khakas beliefs and mythology and the realities of their daily living, economic structure, and even historical events.  On the folds and separate plates there are images of horses (decorated, with tamgas, "dappled", with "bells", saddled, harnessed, with and without riders, etc.), camels, deer, dogs, and goats. Numerous anthropomorphic figures wearing in different ways, symbolic, holding hands, forming rows of dozens of figures with bows, guns and so on; many images of shamans wearing robes with fringes with drums and tampons. The images of tamga and other signs, as well as mysterious complex abstract motifs are found in a large number. The images of a Christian church, samovar, cart, etc. are the evidence of Russian culture penetration. It is essential that some plots cannot be explained in terms of existing ethnographic data sources, that is, they represent a unique source for further studying Khakas traditional culture.

Thus, a huge variety of different heritage sites occurring at different times, which perfectly characterize the culture development of the whole region for thousands of years are concentrated in the nominated area, despite its small size.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (i): Location of the rock art in Oglakhty is the largest concentration of the monuments of this type in the Minusinsk depression and is of unique and exceptional value, taking into account the diversity of the graphic styles, color saturation, high art quality in the transmission of wildlife images and anthropomorphic figures.

Criterion (iii): Foothill steppes of the Oglakhty range had been inhabited for at least 5000 years. During this period many cultures were replaced with different ways of management and interaction with the environment. Archaeological monuments left by these tribes, in the first place - the rock art is a unique and exceptional witness of a number of disappeared cultural traditions, way of life and world view, climate change of and fauna, etc. In the nominated area great number and a variety of archaeological and ethnographic evidences are concentrated there that they reflect in full the development of culture throughout the Minusinsk Hollow in different historical epochs.

 Criterion (vi): The considerable part of the Oglakhty range petroglyphs somehow are related to the shamanic cult and mythology. Shamanism as a religious phenomenon in the most complete form appeared in Siberia; there are no any reliable data on the time of the shamanism appearance. The rock art is one of the sources for researching the formation, development and evolution of the phenomenon. In addition, the later so-called ethnographic images that in such an amount and diversity of the region represented only in Oglakhty are associated with mythology and traditional outlook of Khakass.

 Criterion (x): Nominated territory includes exclusive and unique combination of forest, forest-steppe, steppe and coastal landscapes in their undisturbed state, unique communities, and steppe vegetation complexes, diverse and vital habitats of rare and endangered species.

The Oglakhty range flora is diverse and specific. Flora includes 234 species of vascular plants. The nominated area plays an important role in preserving and creating possibility to research not only the rare species of plants and phytocenoses, but that is no less important in preserving typical, characteristic zonal steppe communities and a wide range of environmental options. On the territory rare flora is marked. Among them 5 species listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation, 17 species in the Red Data Book of the Republic of Khakassia and 3 species are listed as rare and endangered species of the Republic of Khakassia. The Oglakhty range is one of the few places where rare and endemic species of plants of Khakassia are concentrated:: Minusinsk sweetvetch  (Hedysarum minussinense), Oxytropis encludens, Stipa pennata, Stipa zalesskii and others. Among the rare plants endemic species, such as Artemisia martjanovii, Allium tuvinicum, Astragalus ionae, Oxytropis ampullata, Oxytropis nuda are marked. In the territory communities with domination of the blood-and -red (Selaginella) selaginella, lycopodiopsida Carex pediformis C.A. Mey. + Selaginella sanguinolenta (L.) Spring which are rare and in need of the protection of plant communities of Siberia and listed in the Green Book of Siberia are marked as well.

For rare birds included into the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation and Red Data books of subjects of the Russian Federation peregrin (Falco peregrinus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis), saker falcon (Falco cherryg) and eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) dwell here. The territory of the Oglakhty range may be a natural reserve for propagation and increasing the number of rare bird species.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The mountain territory of the Oglakhty range, proposed to be listed to the World Heritage List is a complete system, within which natural ecosystems, numerous historical and cultural monuments and evidence of human activity since ancient times stored in a fairly stable state over a long period. This area is a combination of mountain range and intermountain basins. Part of the territory proposed for inclusion in the List, is within the state natural reserve "Khakassky" and therefore provided with professional protection by the administration and staff of the reserve and protected by the Russian legislation. The status of the world heritage site UNESCO will further enhance the guarantee of the safety of the Oglakhty range will protect against potential threats to the integrity from the economic and recreational activity.

The rock art is in its original natural surroundings, which is quite well preserved mostly, except for the natural destruction of rocks. Being included in the reserve provided the real protection against vandalism: there is almost no visitors` graffiti. Funerary monuments are also an integral feature of the mountain and steppe landscape, only a very small part of them were subjected to excavations.

Comparison with other similar properties

The nominated territory as the object of a mixed natural and cultural heritage with a prominent role of such a component as the rock art which bears a similarity with the following objects of the World Heritage List as the Tassili n'Ajjer, Maloti-Drakensberg Park, Kakadu National Park, Wadi Rum Protected Area, and some others. It differs by existence of unique steppe communities, and a unique combination of historical and cultural heritage of a number of historical periods that are integrated into the mountain-steppe landscape and is an integral part of it. The Oglakhty complex differs radically from others complexes of the Minusinsk depression mountains which are rich in rock art. The Oglakhty complex exceeds any other complexes in amount, diverse and representative images. Neither territory kept steppe biocenoses nor ensemble of the rock art are represented in the World Heritage List; while the first are one of the most typical, valuable and subject to the extinction of species of natural heritage, and the second - cultural.