Village Above the Clouds


Written by Isak B.

October 5, 2021

Kurush, located in southern Dagestan, Russia, is the highest inhabited point in Europe. Its elevation is 2560 meters above sea level. Water boils here at 90 degrees Celsius. The air, however, is still comfortable for breathing.

Kurush is surrounded by four peaks higher than 4,000 meters and four peaks higher than 3800 meters. It’s located close to glaciers, so the temperature in the village is low. Sometimes you need to wear a jacket at noon in July.

Kurush is the southernmost inhabited location in Russia. It is situated further south than Rome, for example. Because of the altitude, however, the climate is cold in the winter and cool in the summer. Here the children are pictured in mid-May with sweaters and winter hats.

Mountians to Climb

The most important location for Russian alpinism is very near Kurush– Yerydag mountain, whose elevation is over 3900 meters. There is an annual alpinism festival at the base of this mountain, held every summer. The alpinists climb on the mountain for three days and sleep hanging by the rock.

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The highest mountain of Dagestan, Bazardüzü is also near Kurush. It is also a popular alpinist spot but is not as difficult to climb. Beginner level alpinists can climb there.

Agricultural Border Zone

The border with Azerbaijan stretches along the mountains immediately across from, and in view of, Kurush. For centuries people in Kurush moved their sheep and cows to Azerbaijan to sell or to find winter pasture. But the fall of the USSR led to the establishment of a border between Russia and Azerbaijan, thus cutting off this traditional passage for Kurushi people.

Kurush is within Russian’s protected border zone. Both Russians and foreigners must get a special permission to enter the Kurush area. Russians coming to Kurush without permission will be fined. Foreigners will be deported.

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Historically, Kurush was considered a center of livestock farming in Dagestan. A century ago up to 100,000 sheep grazed here under the watchful care of local shepherds. Today residents also have thousands of sheep, but the total number is much smaller. Still, people in Kurush make cheese of sheep milk and sell the animals for meat.

In 1952 the inhabitants of Kurush were resettled to the plains of Dagestan and formed a new village, called New Kurush, with a population of about 7000. Some years later part of these returned to their original village and resettled it. Presently there are about 600 inhabitants in the original Kurush.

Tourist Destination

 Kurush has become an important tourist destination in Dagestan. Because of its location above the clouds, Kurush is exotic even for other mountain dwelling Dagestanis. It’s surrounded by 8 giant mountains creating a picturesque landscape. That makes the environment of Kurush both beautiful and unusual, attracting many tourists every year.

Written by Isak B.

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