Darial Gorge

The pass in Luigi Villari's book Fire and Sword in the Caucasus (1906).
Looking north along the gorge (8km south of the Russian checkpoint in North Ossetia–Alania).

The Darial Gorge (Georgian: დარიალის ხეობა, Darialis Kheoba; Russian: Дарьяльское ущелье; Ossetian: Арвыком, Arvykom; Ingush: Даьра Аьле, Dära Äle) is a river gorge on the border between Russia and Georgia. It is at the east base of Mount Kazbek, south of present-day Vladikavkaz. The gorge was carved by the river Terek, and is approximately 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) long. The steep granite walls of the gorge can be as much as 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) tall in some places.[1]

In history

The Darial originates from Dar-i Alān (در الان) meaning "Gate of the Alans" in Persian. The Alans held the lands north of the pass in the first centuries AD. It has been fortified in ancient times by the Romans and Persians; the fortification was variously known as the Iberian Gates[a] or the Caucasian Gates.[2] The pass is mentioned in the Georgian annals under the names of Darialani; Strabo calls it Porta Caucasica and Porta Cumana; Ptolemy, Fortes Sarmatica; it was sometimes known as Porta Caucasica and Portae Caspiae (a name bestowed also on the "gate" or pass beside the Caspian Sea at Derbent); and the Tatars call it Darioly.[3][1][3]

Josephus wrote that Alexander the Great built iron gates at an unspecified pass[4] which some Latin and Greek authors identified with Darial.[5]

Darial Pass fell into Sassanid hands in 252-253, when the Sassanid Empire conquered and annexed Iberia.[6] The control of the Darial Pass switched to the Western Turkic Kaganate in 628, when Tong Yabgu Kagan signed a treaty with Iberia, transferring over to the Kaganate the control of all its cities and fortresses, and establishing free trade.[7] Control of Darial Pass switched to the Arab Rashidun Caliphate in 644.[8] Afterwards, it was controlled by the Kingdom of Georgia. There was a battle point between the Ilkhanate and the Golden Horde, then indirectly controlled by Safavids and Qajar state,[citation needed] until it was captured by Russian Empire after annexation of Kingdom of Georgia in 1801-1830. It remained a strategic Russian forepost under Russian control until the dismemberment of the Soviet Union.