Divnogorye Historical and Cultural Complex
Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO
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Divnogorye is a unique cultural landscape, which results from the continuous interaction of man and nature from the Late Paleolithic to the present day, located in Voronezh Oblast in the center of the European part of Russia. Its natural and cultural features have shaped the distinctive and special appearance of Divnogorye with chalk cliffs and divas, traces of industrialization, cave temples, early medieval Khazarremains, Bronze Age mounds, Prehistoric settlements, and hunting sites.
The exceptional harmony and beauty of the Divnogorye landscape are associated with its multifaceted nature, landscape dominants, views and panoramas, picturesque appearance in all seasons, vibrant set of colors, law anthropogenic impact, visibility of the range of land and water bodies.
Divnogorye is a chalk landscape with steep chalk river banks, gullies and ravines, chalk cliffs, canyon-shaped ravines, and karst formations, which has been providing people with shelter for thousands of years.
Since Upper Paleolithic, people have been using this chalk landscapes for their own purposes from ancient horse hunting to fortification construction, and cave hermitry, creating a unique interaction between nature and culture that reflects important stages of the history of the geo-cultural region.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Divnogorye Historical and Cultural Complex is located in the center of Voronezh Oblast, within Liskinsky and Ostrogozhsky municipal districts. Its territory is divided by 8 rural settlements and covers over 17,000 hectares. As regards the relief, it has two major elements, the valley of the rivers of Don and Tikhaya Sosna, which forms a lake-like expansion, and the interfluve plateau of the rivers of Don, Tikhaya Sosna, Liski and Krinitsa with a massiveheadlandslashed by ravines.
The buffer zone of the property encompasses adjacent territories along the left bank of the Donalong the Tikhaya Sosna River (in the area of the Uspenskoye settlement) and the Liski-Pukhovo railway line.
Favorable climate and geological settings, convenient location, diverse flora and fauna conditioned the settlement of Divnogorye by Prehistoric man in Paleolithic.
The most striking Paleolithic site of Divnogorye is Divnogorye 9 (ancient horse kill site), unique evidence of Upper Paleolithic (14-13 thousand years) with a large amount of accumulated wild horse bones, which were discovered in anatomical order in several culture-bearing horizons. The site likely had a comparatively deep and steep slope that was convenient for drive hunting. Currently, it is the only known site with evidence of repeated episodes of horse hunting in Russia. The osteological collection acquired during the studies belongs to over 100 animals of different age and gender composition from foals to old specimens. It is the largest collection of complete skeletons of the late Pleistocene horses.
In addition to Divnogorye 9, several archaeological sites are representing Prehistoryof the region as Tikhaya Sosna (1,2) settlements (Mesolithic); Ustye Sosny (Neolithic, Bronze Age); Bronze age mound groups, including Selyavnoye mound group 2, Krinichanskaya mound group, the mound group near the archaeological park, and a single mound near the potter's village at Mayatskoye archaeological complex; Golaya Balka settlement (3, 4, 5) and Selyavnoye settlement (1, 2, early Iron Age). The above-mentioned archaeological sites bear exceptional testimony of the continuity of human occupation of Divnogorye until the early Middle Ages when this area became a part of the Khazar Khaganate.
Khazar fortified settlement, Mayatskoye archaeological complex, is dated to the 9th early 10th centuries. It is an iconic site of Saltovo-Mayaki archaeological culture and is constituted by a hillfort, a settlement, a burial ground and a craft complex (also known as potter’s village). From the international perspective, Mayatskoye is the most well-preserved and studied archaeological site of the Khazar Khaganate, the disappeared state, which was competing with Russia, Byzantium, and the Arab Caliphate. Mayatskoye hillfort, reflecting the traditions of Byzantine fortification construction, was built of chalk blocks on a picturesque headland. Over 400 drawings, runic inscriptions and signs were discovered during the studies of the blocks. The diversity and representativeness of the inscriptions could be compared only with the series of signs of the fortresses of the First Bulgarian Empire. The fortress was surrounded by a settlement with an area of about 30 hectares with residential, household and worship buildings of the population of the Khazar Khaganate. A catacomb burial site with over 150 investigated burials was adjoining the settlement.
The key elements that create the well-known appearance of Divnogorye along with the Mayatskoyehillfort, are separate groups of chalk cliffs, Big Divas, Small Divas, Shatrishche Mount, and Selyavinskaya chain, with the complexes of cave temples, which are unique not only for their historical and cultural values but also for their spiritual significance for the visitors. The complexes are the most representative examples of the cave hermitry (also known as peshchernichestvo) phenomenon when Orthodox clerics and their followers were using existing caves or building new ones to hermit or to perform religious practices.
There are 6 worship caves and cave complexes in total in Divnogorye. All of them were cut down in the chalky massif of the right bank of the Tikhaya Sosna and Don rivers on a stretch of about 8.5 km. The complexes include cave churches and chapels, household facilities, cells, crypts, and extensive galleries. The smallest cave is only 27 meters long and the largest is 351 meters long.
The complex in Big Divas consists of the Church of the Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God and the monastery household premises. The complex in Small Divas has the cave church of the Nativity of John the Baptist, a bypass gallery with two chapels, and cell rooms. Besides two complexes, there are also Selyavinskiy cave complex with Ulyana’s Cave as well as Shatrishchegorsk cave complex and the Small Shatrishchegorsk (the Virgin) cave.
The practice of cave digging and reclusion inspired by the spiritual achievements of the early Christian holy hermits became widespread in Russia in the 18th - 19th centuries. The most striking reflection of this practice is the cave complexes of the Middle Don River region, especially Divnogorye. The development of cave digging in this region was facilitated due to the presence of chalk deposits convenient for this activity. The chalk rock density allowed to excavate and use the caves for a long time without collapses. Often, the cave-diggers used natural tectonic cracks to lay labyrinths along them. The cave complexes of Divnogorye are quite diverse in terms of chronological representation and serve as a unique and complete source on cave asceticism as a significant tradition and religious practice of the region. At the same time, both of the most vital cave complexes, Big and Small Divas, have preserved their religious use with divine services held on a regular basis. Big Divas is also serving as a heritage interpretation facility.
The construction of the railway in the 19th century also had an impact on the appearance of Divnogorye: an overpass under the railway near Shatrishche Mount serves as an evidence of this stage of the history of the cultural landscape. It is a harmonious engineering structure, which illustrates the overall advance of the railway construction techniques of those times.
Criterion (ii): Divnogorye is an outstanding example of a thousand-year interaction of man and nature, intercultural dialogue and interchange of cultural practices among different peoples. The consistent development of the territory based on its remarkable chalk formations, when chalk cliffs or divas were used to construct fortification or worship structures, demonstrates the mutual exchange of human values, especially in the early Middle Ages and in the 17th-19th centuries, when this territory was successively populated by the Khazar and Slavic people with different cultural backgrounds.
Criterion (iv): The cultural landscape of Divnogorye represents unique sites, reflecting the significant stages of the history of the region, as theMayatskoyearchaeological complex, which is an outstanding example of the site belonging to Saltovo- Mayaki archaeological culture and the most well-reserved and studied fortified settlement of the Khazar Khaganate, a disappeared civilization that was competing with Russia, Byzantium and the Arab Caliphate in international arena.
Criterion (v): The cave temples of Divnogorye are an outstanding example of the cave- digging tradition, widespread in the region in the 18th-19thcenturies, in terms of their quality and state of conservation. The Orthodox monks and laity committed to seclusion and act of faith had been using the natural features of the territory to construct cave temple complexes for centuries. The complexes have preserved their religious values until the present day.
Criterion (vi): Divnogorye has been inhabited by man for many millennia, who widely used the natural features of the territory for hunting and construction of settlements, fortifications, and temples. Its cultural monuments and sites as the Upper Paleolithic site of Divnogorye 9 (ancient horse kill site) directly associated with Prehistoric drive horse hunting or the cave complexes reflecting the intangible practice of Orthodox cave digging are the vital evidence of the events and traditions, which had left a significant imprint on European region.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The unique complex of Divnogorye has been preserved to the present day in a relatively good state of conservation. It fully conforms to the requirement of authenticity expressed by the variety of the attributes as form and design; materials and substance; use and function; a spirit of place.
The authenticity of the property is confirmed by numerous documented evidence and scientific studies.
The archaeological sites located in Divnogorye have been documented during their long-term studies in a detailed and quality manner. The documentation obtained additionally confirms the authenticity and the scientific values of the sites from an international perspective.
The studies of Divnogorye 9 archaeological site as well as the majority of the oldest archaeological sites of Divnogorye has started in the 2000-s. In 2003, the bones of large mammals were discovered in the section of the right bank of the ravine. In 2004, the site was also studied by the archaeological surveying group of Leningrad State Pedagogical University. Further studies of the site have been conducted from 2007 with the involvement of Russian and international researchers, who regularly publish the results obtained.
At the same time, Mayatskoyearchaeological complex has a relatively long history of research. The archaeologists obtained the first finds from the site in 1890. The first comprehensive archaeological excavations were conducted by A. Milyutin in 1906 and N. Makarenko in 1908-1909. The site was also studied by the international Soviet-Bulgarian-Hungarian archaeological expedition in 1975 and 1977-1982. As a result, the Mayatskoye fortress became the most studied archaeological site of the Khazar Khaganate in the world.
As regards the anthropogenic impact on the archaeological site, only the cultural layer of its eastern part was slightly affected by plowing in the 1960-s. The wood line planted earlier also had a negative impact on cultural deposits. However, according to recent studies, the plowing had not affected the pits of residential, household and ritual structures, which have sustained the traces of the livelihood of the early Medieval population.
In total, the Mayatskoye settlement covers an area of about 30 hectares, whereas only 6000 sq. meters or 2% of its territory were excavated during the studies. At the same time, the Mayatskoye fortress covers an area of about 1.1 hectares with about 3000 sq. meters or 30 % of its inner territory excavated. It is important to note that the excavations conducted had not involved disclosure of the walls with an exception for a few local sections to identify construction techniques. The masonry of the walls of 1.5-2 meters in height with runic inscriptions and graffiti on chalk blocks are still covered by earthen ramparts and could be uncovered in the futurefor scientific and heritage interpretation purposes, if proper conservation is ensured. As regards the Mayatskoye catacomb burial site discovered in 1975, it covers an area of 3 hectares, 2874 sq. meters or 10%, of which has been excavated.
Although the Mayatskoye archaeological complex is quite well studied, the significant part of the site remains unexcavated and retains a significant research potential for further studies.
As for Divas, the most iconic natural feature of Divnogorye, they were first mentioned in the written account of 1398, which describes the traveling of Metropolitan Pimen to Constantinople along the Don. Since this period, this territory has been named as Divnogorye (which means the land of ‘divas’ or miracles).
The first written documents mentioning the Divnogorye cave monasteries are dated to the mid 17th century: several petitions were addressing Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich asking for assistance in solving economic issues due to the scarcity of the monastery. The later historic and travel accounts also provide detailed descriptions of Divnogorye temples.
Despite to the minor damage to certain temple complexes, in particular, and the natural landscape, in general, caused by the construction of the railway in the end of the 19th century and chalk working in the 20th century as well as natural and anthropogenic destruction of a part of the cave passages in Shatrishche and fragments of the facades of the Big Divas complex, the level of the overall state of conservation of the cultural landscape, its authentic forms, designs, and materials is over 70%.
Divnogorye Historical and Cultural Complex has legally established boundaries, land-use regimes, and object of protection. It is designated as a cultural heritage property of federal importance as a remarkable place.
The legally protected territory of the property encompasses all tangible and intangible elements and attributes expressing the potential Outstanding Universal Value of the property and representing the unique symbiosis of cultures and historical eras in the Middle Don River region.
Despite the loss of several chalk cliffs due to the construction of the railway and afterward, during the post-war period, the preserved natural and cultural components bear sufficient evidence of the history, development, and values of Divnogorye.
The majority of the cultural heritage sites and monuments constituting the Divnogorye Historical and Cultural Complex property are managed by Divnogorye Natural, Architectural and Archaeological Museum-Reserve State Budgetary Institution of Culture established in 1991 by the decision of the Voronezh Oblast Executive Committee of 07/07/1991 No. 346. The museum staff conducts regular monitoring and conservation works as well as various studies and heritage promotion activities focused on Divnogorye Historical and Cultural Complex.
The Small Diva temple complex is located on the territory of the operating Holy Assumption Divnogorsky Monastery and transferred to the use of the Russian Orthodox Church, which allows sustaining the historical function of the temple complex, divine services, and hermits.
Currently, Divnogorye is affected by various geomorphological processes related to erosion, karst-suffosion, landslide, and caving. Some of these processes as rain wash, artisanal developments of chalk and others have anthropogenic nature. Theproperty is also under the impact of atmospheric phenomena, including heavy rains and floods. The steppe fires are also among the threats of anthropogenic nature that could particularly damage the landscape.
The potential anthropogenic threats to Divnogorye cultural landscape include the economic use of the land (earthworks and construction works), unregulated cattle grazing, excessive recreational load, grass fire as well as technology-related risks associated with the operating transport and engineering infrastructure as roads, power lines and the Liski-Ostrogozhsk-Valuyki railway line, which through the territory of Divnogorye near a number of its most valuable componentsand has a negative impact in the form of vibration. The above-mentioned risks have been identified and mitigated by preventive and planning measures as well as by the efficient coordination of the works implemented by respective services and organizations.
As one of the potential threats is related to the gradual increase of anthropogenic pressure due to the rise of the touristic attractiveness of the property, in 2018-2019, a comprehensive carrying capacity study was conducted in Divnogorye. Its results are currently implemented by the museum-reserve within the framework of visitor management and diversification activities.
The boundaries of the protection zones of the Divnogorye Complex were approved by the Decree of the Government of Voronezh Oblast of 25/12/2013 No 1153 ‘On Approval of the Boundaries of the Protection Zones of the Divnogorye Natural and Cultural Complex Remarkable Place Cultural Heritage Site of Regional Importance, Land-Use Regimes and Urban-Planning Regulations within the Boundaries of Distant Zones’.
The protection zones of the remarkable place are to be considered as the buffer zone of the property for its World Heritage nomination.
The Department of Cultural Heritage Protection of Voronezh Oblast is ensuring the state protection of both the Divnogorye complex and the sites and monuments located on its territory. Recently, the state historical and cultural expertise was conducted at Divnogorye for its inscription to the List of the Most Valuable Cultural Heritage Sites of the Russian Federation, which is the highest possible designation at the national level.
Comparison with other similar properties
Divnogorye as a nodal point of the Russian Plainis the result of the symbiotic development of the territory due to the continuous interaction of man and nature, which led to the emergence of the cultural landscape that illustrates significant stages in human history both in its entirety and through its monuments and sites that have no direct analogs in the world.
The only cultural landscape on the World Heritage List nominated for the identical set of criteria is Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila (Mexico) located between the foothills of the Tequila Volcano and the valley of the Rio Grande River. It is a part of a vast landscape of blue agave used for fermentation of drinks, production of fabrics and tequila. The World Heritage property is constituted by fields, distilleries, haciendas, and towns of the 18th century as well as by archaeological sites of Teuchitlan culture (mainly housing and worship structures), which shaped the region from AD 200-900. The key similarity of the compared property with Divnogorye is residing in the multifaced nature of its cultural heritage encompassing different categories, cultures and chronological periods as well as in the continuous development of the landscape over a span of time. However, the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila property belongs to a completely different geocultural region and is not associated with the heritage of religious interest.
The recently inscribed Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi World Heritage property (Canada) could be considered for the comparative analysis and demonstrates the growing interest for this type of cultural landscapes. As Divnogorye, this cultural landscape located in the Milk River Valley is shaped by the concentration of rock formations (hoodoos) sculpted by erosion. Even though there are several similarities, including natural processes, sacred values of the sites and living traditions, the Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi property is directly associated with one culture, Blackfoot (Siksikáíítsitapi) people, whereas Divnogorye reflects the interaction and interchange of several cultural traditions.
Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape World Heritage site (Spain) also represent a striking example for the comparison. The property reflects the heritage of Guanches, the indigenous people of the Canary Islands, in the form of troglodyte settlements, cult cavities, and two sacred temples. The cultural landscape bears the unique testimony of the emergence and the development of the extinct culture. Although Divnogorye also provides evidence of the existence of the extinct Khazar culture, its cultural landscape has multifaceted nature, reflecting the interaction of several cultures over a span of time.
As regards the Prehistoric heritage of Divnogorye as a unique ancient horse kill site, it is necessary to mention Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump property (Canada) as one of the comparable World Heritage sites. It represents an aboriginal camp and a tumulus with vast quantitates of buffalo skeletons that illustrates the hunting traditions of the indigenous population of North America. In spite of the similarity in hunting customs, the Prehistoric hunters of Divnogorye were at least 8-10 millennia older than Canadians. At the same time, Divnogorye 9 is one of the several archaeological sites and an essential element of the cultural landscape, which, in this case, is comparatively more multidimensional and multifaceted. The same argument could be applied for the comparison of Divnogorye with Solutré Prehistoric hunting site (not inscribed to the World Heritage List), which also contains a large number of ancient horse skeletons: Solutré is also an archaeological site, whereas Divnogorye is a complex cultural landscape with elements of different periods shaped by distinct natural environment.
One of the essential elements of the Divnogorye cultural landscape is the Mayatskoye archaeological complex, which is an early Medieval reference fortress of the Khazar Khaganate built by the Byzantine architectural tradition and is closely associated with Saltovo-Mayaki archaeological culture. Currently, there are no World Heritage sites representing Khazars. Moreover, the non- representation of the history of this large and influential state that controlled the vast territory of the Ciscaucasia, the Volga River region, the Sea of Azov, Eastern Crimea, and Eastern Europe competing with the Arab Caliphate and Byzantium, is considered as a significant gap in the World Heritage List.
There are several Khazar archaeological sites, mainly fortified settlements, which are studied to different extents, in Russia and neighboring countries as Ukraine, including Sarkel and the left-bank Tsimlyanskoye settlement (flooded by the Tsimlyansk reservoir); the right-bank Tsimlyanskoye settlement; Semikarakorsk Fortress; Verhni Olshan archaeological complex (along with Mayatskoyearchaeological complex was a part of the northwestern fortification line of the Khazar Khaganate); Dmitrievka fortified settlement (Belgorod Oblast), Verhnee Saltovo (Ukraine) and others.
The Mayatskoye archaeological complex does not have a distinction as regards its size, chronology or aesthetic values from the above-mentioned archaeological sites. However, as a typical Khazar fortified settlement, Mayatskoye is the most well-preserved and well-studied site with a high level of integrity. It is the only one Khazar heritage site with interpretation facilities. Mayatskoye also was the northernmost fortress of the Khazar Khaganate located on the border with Slavic tribes, which conditions the high scientific value of the archaeological site for the studies of intercultural exchanges in the region. This set of features allows considering the nomination of the Mayatskoye archaeological complex for the inscription to the World Heritage List as a part of the Divnogorye Historical and Cultural Complex.
Besides the archaeological sites, the cave monasteries harmoniously integrated into the environment are also contributing to the essential elements of the cultural landscape of Divnogorye.
The category of cave worship complexes is quite well-represented in the World Heritage List, for instance, there are Mogao Caves (China) illustrating the development of Buddhist art over ten centuries; Elephanta Caves (India) associated with the cult of Shiva and Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela (Ethiopia), which are 11 Medieval monolithic churches of Ethiopian Christianity.
As regards the comparative analysis, the above-mentioned World Heritage sites of China and India belong to other geocultural regions and religions, therefore there is a low similarity with the case of Divnogorye.
As for 11 cave churches of Ethiopia, as Divnogorye they belong to Christianity. However, the natural conditions, historical and cultural backgrounds are dramatically different: Rock-Hewn Churches were built under the direction of the King of Lalibela in the 12th century as a ‘New Jerusalem’ after Muslim conquest halted Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The Divnogorye temples were constructed later by monks and hermits without any state incentive. Moreover, especially after Raskol and in the 19th century, the cave-digging was perceived as the resistance to the Russian Orthodox Church and state power and as a practice of reclusion inspired by spiritual achievements, common in the early centuries of Christianity.
In accordance with the geocultural background of Divnogorye, the comparative analysis of the property also encompassed several European Christian Cave Complexes inscribed to the World Heritage List:
Sceilg Mhichíl monastic site (Ireland) as Divnogorye provides the unique evidence of the adaptation of monks to the natural environment in an earlier period of the 7th century. The property is also valuable for its natural features: it is one of the most important sites for breeding seabirds in Ireland. Despite the similarities, including natural values, Sceilg Mhichíl is distinguished by its ‘island-location’ specificities and architectural appearance that constitutes its fundamental difference with Divnogorye.
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia (Turkey) cultural landscape was shaped by erosion and contain rock-hewn sanctuaries of the Byzantine period. The sanctuaries of Cappadocia as the temples of Divnogorye were constructed by monks and hermits for reclusion and represents continuous interaction of man and nature. However, the cultural landscape of Cappadocia has emerged and was influenced by different geological, historical, social and cultural backgrounds. In terms of chronology, the earliest human habitat in Cappadocia is dating back to the 4th century, whereas the development of monasticisms had already started in the early Middle Ages (which corresponds to the Khazar period of development for Divnogorye). Moreover, the Outstanding Universal Value of Cappadocia does not encompass Prehistoric heritage layers, which are represented in Divnogorye cultural landscape.
The Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo (Bulgaria), which is a complex of rock- hewn churches, chapels, monasteries and cells in the valley of the Roussenski Lom River, could be considered as the closest World Heritage site to Divnogorye in terms of geographical and chronological backgrounds. The majority of the temples are dating back to the 13th-14th centuries. It is necessary to highlight that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is more related to the unique artistry of its frescoes rather than its architectural features: the frescoes have a unique paint composition and are attributed as the greatest examples of the Medieval Bulgarian arts. This is the fundamental difference between the Rock- Hewn Churches of Ivanovo and the cave complexes of Divnogorye, as the latter contains no decoration: the white surface of chalk was remained unpainted, which contributes to the unique atmosphere of the interiors of the complexes.
Kyiv: Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Ukraine), namely Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the oldest and the most famous example of the Russian Orthodox cave-digging traditions, is considered to have the closest historical connection to Divnogorye. The Cave Church of the Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra was founded by Saints Anthony and Theodosius and is defined as the oldest cave temple on the territory of Kyivan Rus’. Often, it was the pilgrimage to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra that inspired clergy and laity to become hermits and build cave temples and monasteries in their home regions. For instance, the cave of Belogorsky Resurrection Monastery of the late 18th century (Voronezh oblast) was founded by Maria Sherstyukova after her visit to Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra.
Despite the enormous influence of the cave complex of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra on the construction of cave temples throughout the European part of Russia, including Voronezh Oblast, the Kyiv: Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra World Heritage site itself represents an architectural ensemble rather than cultural landscape. This difference in the typology of cultural heritage properties does not allowfurther comparative analysis.
As regards World Heritage sites located in Russia, there are several Orthodox monastic sites to consider. For instance, the Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad, which manages the Gethsemane Cave Complex Chernihiv Monastery located in distance from the key monastic complex and was not included to the nomination.
The Assumption Pskov-Pechersk Monastery in Pskov Oblast, which was not included in the final composition of the Churches of the Pskov School of Architecture World Heritage sites, is also an example of an Orthodox cave complex of the 15th century. However, Pskov-Pechersk caves belong to the architectural and monastic tradition of northwestern Russia, whereas the cave complexes of Divnogorye are attributed to central and southwestern Russia, the Don River region and the Volga River region architectural and monastic traditions. The complexes have significant differences in forms and materials, techniques of construction as well as in use and function, as Divnogorye cave complexes were used for hermitry, whereas Pskov ones were functioning as necropolises.
Concerning Orthodox cave complexes located near Divnogorye cultural landscape in Voronezh Oblast and in bordering Belgorod Oblast, there are 3 cave complexes (also designated a cultural heritage properties): the cave complex of Voskresensky Monastery; the cave complex of the Kostomarovsky Spassky Convent; the caves of the Holy Trinity Kholkovsky monastery and the cave church of Ignatius the God-Bearer of the Valuysky Assumption monastery.
All the above-mentioned cave complexes are hewn in chalk mountains, similar in terms of architectural features and chronology (the 17th-19th centuries) and function (partly) as religious worship places. In this context, the cave temple complexes of Divnogorye, especially Small and Big Divas, distinguish from other regional cave complexes by their exceptional artistic expressiveness and aesthetic appeal, harmonious setting in the surrounding landscape and a high degree of preservation and investigation.
The overpass of the late 19th century under the railway near Shatrishche Mount is also considered as one of the vital elements of Divnogorye. The railway had a significant impact on Divnogorye cultural landscape both in pre-revolutionary and Soviet periods. Currently, this heritage is represented by the overpass. As regards the comparison with existing World Heritage railways, as Semmering Railway (Austria) or Mountain Railways of India, it is necessary to highlight the elegant architectural and engineering solutions for their viaducts, tunnels, and other structures.The same features are also present at Divnogorye overpass, which was harmoniously placed within the landscape and presents the evidence of this important stage of the history of the region.
Overall, even though several elements of the Divnogorye cultural landscape could have analogs at national or international levels, the comprehensive nature and unique features of the property provide no doubt regarding its exceptional character.
The conducted preliminary comparative analysis concluded that the set of attributes of Divnogorye constitutes the unique cultural landscape of outstanding historical, aesthetic and artistic values at the international level without any direct analogs in the World Heritage List. Therefore, Divnogorye Historical and Cultural Complex property is considered to be prominent for the inscription to the World Heritage List.