Like its nickname “The city of the dead”, Dargavs is the most mystery village of Russia due to a number of cemeteries and crypts that stretch all over the Caucasus mountain slopes.

Dargavs Russia travel guide -cemetery 2
The crypts look like pyramid-roofed huts. Source: whenonearth

A remote and isolated area

Dargavs is located in the north of Ossetia and it takes one hour to drive from the city Vladikavkaz through the twisty trails to get there. The village looming in the faraway hill and mountain slopes is about 17 km long, looking over the river Fiagdon.

In the 14th century, the price of plot rose so high that the ancestors of Ossetia people were forced to leave their homeland and choose this tough soil to settle down. Gradually, this became one of the most crowded lands in the north of Ossetia.

The house-like buildings were built to illustrate the sustainable culture of the village and reserve the skeletons, skulls of the dead. Every crypt has a small door to let the coffin inside. That makes them look like lovely little houses.

Dargavs Russia travel guide - trail
The trail leading to the cemetery. Source: flickr
Dargavs Russia travel guide - cemetery
The cemetery lies on the Caucasus mountain slopes. Source: amusingplanet
Dargavs Russia travel guide - river
Looming away is the river Fiagdon. Source: whenonearth

Dargavs Russia travel guide - mountain

Unique style of crypts

The crypts are white, rock-made and built in organized position. At the end of the cemetery lies a tower of which the top has been ruined. The local people have a myth that the one who look after the souls was buried in this tower.

The crypts were all built in the ancient Nakh style. They are pyramid-roofed huts and there are ones for families, soldiers, martyrs,… This architectural style dates back to 2000 years ago and varies in sizes and shapes.

The walls are flat and the whole buildings look like cubes. The dead were buried in these little houses with their own clothes, accessories. This is the place where they rest in peace.
Some of the crypts have bedrooms, some even have multi-floors depending on the number of the family members. Besides, people who have no family or come from the faraway land were also buried here.

Dargavs Russia travel guide - pyramidroofed
The pyramid-roofed crypts. Source: wiki
Dargavs Russia travel guide -skeletons, skulls
The skeletons, skulls of the dead. Source: whenonearth
Dargavs Russia travel guide - tower
The tower where the one looking after the souls was buried. Source: flickr

The legend of the wood boats

The coffin of the dead looks like boats. It is told that the dead have to cross a river in order to reach the heaven, similar to the story on the afterlife of ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamia.

There is a well inside every single crypt. When the dead were buried, they dropped a coin into the well. If the coin happened to touch the rock in the well, then it was believed that the dead had reached the heaven.

The historians believe that the cemetery was built when the big plague wiped out the whole land of Ossetia in the middle of 16th and 18th centuries. Thousands of people passed away, the population dropped from 200,000 to only 16,000 in the half of 19th century.

Dargavs Russia travel guide - boat-like coffin
The boat-like coffin is made of wood. Source: flickr
Dargavs Russia travel guide - pay respect to dead people
The house where they pay respect to the dead. Source: amusingplanet
Dargavs Russia travel guide - crypts
Every crypt has a small door to let the coffin inside. Source: amusingplanet

“The city of the dead” today

Due to the natural scenes, the relics dating back from the Bronze Age to the Medieval Age and the field documentary on Ossetia people, Dargavs is now one of the most attractive dead city in the world. However, few people pay a visit to this place because of the difficulty of accessing. It is worth visiting here before the architectural buildings are totally ruined by nature.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The top of the watchtower is missing. Image credit: Living Nomads.

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