Local defensive architecture in the Sochi Region reached its heyday in the Early Middle Ages (VII-X centuries AD), during the period of domination of the Abkhaz Kingdom. The architecture of fortresses and temples had considerable Abkhazian influences, and it could be considered that during this era the region formed an architectural continuum with Abkhazia, whose dominion in Circassia spread up to the modern-day town of Lazarev. There are ruins and remains of dozens of settlements, fortresses, and Christian temples in the Sochi Region. In the area of Krasnaya Polyana alone, there are 14 extant medieval fortresses, mainly in advanced stages of dilapidation, with only the Monastyr’ Fortress-cum-Temple in a reasonable state of preservation. Fortresses were built on strategically advantageous hills, whether previously populated or not. The population at the time was mainly composed of peoples ancestral to the Circassians, Ubykh, and Abkhazians.
View of Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi Region.
Map 1. Detailed map of Sochi and Krasnaya Polyana.
The majority of these fortresses have rectangular plans (Aibga), and a few have shapes cross between triangular and semi-circular (Achipse, Pslukh) [see Map 2]. Fortified defensive lines were mainly constituted of protruding towers and buttresses. Towers usually had two tiers, with the upper floor used for combat. The floors in the towers opened to each other through hatches with wooden ladders for access. In the walls of the towers were observation windows and loop-holes. Architects used other defensive structures, primarily perimeter moats and ramparts placed in front of the gates. Moats were apparently crossed using wooden draw-bridges.
Map 2. Fortresses of the Mzimta River, Adler District, Sochi Region.
A review of available data shows that Christianity in the Sochi Region only established firm roots in a narrow coastal zone. One telling indication is that temples located near the coast had no fences, whereas the church in the Monastyr’ village, the most remote in the mountains, was protected by a thick wall. No traces of Christian churches were found in the deep mountain valleys, particularly in the area of Krasnaya Polyana, suggesting that Christianity was not widespread in the hinterland of Circassia, where the ancient native beliefs and rituals reigned supreme.
Map 3. Location of the monuments of the Sochi Region.
Mediæval fortresses and Christian temples in Krasnaya Polyana [see Map 2 for locations]:
1. Achipse Fortress. Archeological monument of the Early Middle Ages (VII-X century), located on the crest of the hill at the confluence of Achipse in Mzymta, in the northern outskirts of the Estosadok village (to the east of Krasnaya Polyana) [Photo 1]. It is the largest structure of its kind in the Krasnaya Polyana District, with the wall extending for 350 m along the north side, 260 along the southern edge, and 80 m along the eastern limit [see attached plan of Fortress: Photo 2]. Excavations have uncovered numerous fragments of ceramics and glassware, as well as some metal objects (axes, knives, etc.). Ceramic shards and iron slag suggest the presence of respective production centres in the campus. A preponderance of animal bones indicates that animal husbandry was a principal occupation. During excavations in a two-tiered room, a large number of scattered human bones and fragments of brown-painted clay pots were found, suggesting that it could have served as a burial chamber, indicating some yet unknown pagan rite. [Location 144 on Map 3]
1. Achipse Fortress. Central semi-circular tower.
Archeological monument of the Early Middle Ages (VII-X century).
Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi Region.
2. Plan of the Achipse Fortress. Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi Region.
2. Aibga-1 Fortress. Early Middle Ages. Located 5 km south of Krasnaya Polyana on the left bank of the Mzymta River on the crest of the Aibga. [Photo 3; 151 on Map 3]
3. Ruins of the Aibga-1 Fortress. Sochi Region. Early Middle Ages.
Located 5 km south of Krasnaya Polyana on the left bank of the Mzymta River on the crest of the Aibga.
3. Aibga-2 Fortress. Early Middle Ages. Located 6 km south-west of Krasnaya Polyana, 1 km from the left bank of the Mzymta River. 
4. Beshenka-1 Fortress. Early Middle Ages. Located on the right bank of the Beshenka River, 1.5-2 km from its confluence with the Mzymta River, on the spur of a ridge. Fortress is an elongated rectangle in terms of size 50X40 m. It was surrounded by a moat and was guarded by a rectangular tower. The walls were built of brickwork without mortar. Finds include early medieval dishes (bowls, jars, pots), and other items (knives, hoes, axes, etc.). [Photo 4; 146]
4. Ruins of the Beshenka-I Fortress. Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi Region.
5. Beshenka-2 Fortress. Early Middle Ages. 
6. Kotel Fortress. Early Middle Ages. Located 5 km southwest of Krasnaya Polyana, on the left bank of the Mzymta River. 
7. Kunitsyno-1 Fortress. Early Middle Ages. Located 6 km west of the southern edge of Krasnaya Polyana. 
8. Kunitsyno-2 Fortress. Early Middle Ages. Located about 150 m from Kunitsyno-1. 
9. Kunitsyno-3 Fortress. Early Middle Ages. Located 500 m from Kunitsyno-1. 
10. Monashka-1 Fortress. Early Middle Ages. Located 2.5 km to the southwest of Krasnaya Polyana on the right bank of the Mzymta River, 1 km from the mouth of the Monashka River. [Photo 5; 154]
5. Ruins of the Monashka-I Fortress, Early Middle Ages. Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi Region.
11. Monashka-2 Fortress. Early Middle Ages. Located 3 km to the southwest of Krasnaya Polyana, on the right bank of the Mzymta River, 1.5 km from the mouth of the Monashka River. 
12. Monastyr’ Fortress-cum-Temple. Details of structure and restoration work shown below. [Photos 8, 9, 10, 11]
13. Pslukh Fortress. Dated to the Early Middle Ages (VI-X centuries AD). Located in the neighbourhood of the village of Pslukh, on the spur of a ridge opposite the confluence of the Pslukh and Aibga rivers. [Photo 6; 143 on Map 3]
6. Ruins of the Pslukh Fortress. Southern wall of western watch-tower.
Dated to the Early Middle Ages (VI-X centuries AD). Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi Region.
14. Roza-Khutor Fortress. Dated to the Early Middle Ages. Located 4.2 km east of Krasnaya Polyana, on the left bank of the Mzymta River.
Restoration of the Monastyr’ Fortress-cum-Temple
The Monastyr’ Fortress-cum-Temple is located 2 km from the village of Monastyr’ [Photo 7], in the Adler District, Sochi Region, at the confluence of the Mzymta and Gluboky Yar rivers, on the left bank of the former, on the Dzykhran Ridge, at an altitude of 212 m above sea level and 80 m from the foot of the ridge. The monument was discovered in 1948, and it was first surveyed in 1968 by an expedition dispatched by the Institute of Archæology of the USSR Academy of Sciences. It is thought that the fortress dates back to the 10th century AD. Archæological research conducted in 2007 allowed the full disclosure of the plan of the temple, and its façades and floors [plan attached: Photo 9].
7. The Monastyr' village, Adler District, Sochi Region.
The Early Middle Age Monastyr' Fortress is located near here.
Monastyr’ is a rare medieval structure, for the complex has largely retained its original plan and three-dimensional structure. The walls of the temple are preserved to a height of 4-5 m, and the sections to 10-12 m. The internal outlines of the temple are simple. The church hall is divided in two parts by a pair of pilasters. It adjoins the broad semi-circular altar in the east. The parapet and altar are still distinguishable. The chapel had two entrances: from the west and north. The north entrance connected the chapel with a large room that had two floors. The first probably served as a cellar. The second floor had windows, remnants of which are still visible in the western wall. The church is located within a small fortification, with preserved walls and a large tower. The gates were south-east of the temple. The Fortress was surrounded by a fortified defensive wall, built of large, roughly-hewn stones of size 0.6x0.3x0.44 m, cemented with mortar.
8. Monastyr' Fortress before restoration work. Adler Distrcit, Sochi Region.
This is the most intact monument that goes back to the Early Middle Ages
in the area of Krasnaya Polyana.
9. Plan of the ancient Monastyr' Fortress-cum-Temple.
Monastyr' village, Adler District, Sochi Region.
In the years 2009-2010, "Monuments of Kuban" conducted conservation work on the monument [Photo 9 shows Fortress before restoration; Photos 10 and 11, after completion of work]. [http://www.pkbn.ru/hramkrepostuselamonastyr/]
10. Eastern view of the Monastyr' Fortress after restoration work. Adler Distrcit, Sochi Region.
In the years 2009-2010, "Monuments of Kuban" conducted conservation work on the monument.
11. View of the Monastyr' Fortress after restoration work. Adler Distrcit, Sochi Region.
Archæological expedition up the Mzimta River carried out in 1999: http://geo.opensochi.org/node/215