Anyone stumbling across the abandoned castle of Kalmykov may think it dates from the Middle Ages, but it was built much more recently. It was actually constructed in 1936 as a summer house or hunting lodge for prominent politicians and other influential figures.
Betal Kalmykov was born into a peasant family in 1893. He rose to become a statesman of Kabardino-Balkaria, one of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.
Kalmykov began his political activity by joining the rebellion of the Highlanders against the local aristocracy. He created an illegal peasant organization called Karakhalk (which translates as “Poverty.”)
In 1918, Kalmykov managed to become the head of the Nalchik district, which proclaimed Soviet power in Kabardino-Balkaria. Later, he led the fight against political banditry in his region and rose to the rank of Deputy of the Supreme Council of the USSR in 1937.
Kalmykov built his summer house so that he could host guests and dignitaries from the Soviet party there. However, he only entertained there during the summer seasons because the building was not heated, making it too cold to stay there in winter.
In November 1938, Betal Kalmykov was arrested and charged with being the initiator and founder of a counter-revolutionary organization in Kabardino-Balkaria in 1927.
It was alleged that the group had been engaged in the preparation of terrorist attacks. Betal’s sentence was execution, and he was shot on February 27, 1940.
After that, the hunting lodge was still used by guests, as it had been during Betal’s lifetime. Eventually, when they stopped visiting, it became completely empty.
While all this was going on, the All-Union Intourist JSC was created in the 1930s. The aim was to create world-class resorts in the USSR to attract foreign visitors.
Consequently, it was necessary to develop resort areas with hotels that would attract guests from other countries, in the hope that tourists would begin to see the USSR as a desirable destination.
The region of the Caucasian Mineral Waters attracted special attention and many resorts were built there. People were drawn to this area because there were around 17-20 sources of natural mineral water emerging along the banks of the local river.
Having passed to new owners buy now, the Kalmykov Castle was converted into a hotel. However, there was still the problem of heating the building in winter, and the new owners tried hard to create comfortable conditions for any guests.
Ovens known to have a high rate of heat loss were installed, but this did not help. Even in the summer, the temperature could drop below ten degrees at night. In 1964, a boiler house was built, but even this could not cope with the task of heating the rooms. As a result, the hotel was only open from May to September, the warmer months when a lack of heating wasn’t an issue.
However, in all other respects, the hotel was well equipped. It boasted 220 beds, a dining room, a library, and even a cinema. There was also a campsite called the Valley of Narzanov associated with the hotel which was open to visitors all year round.
The campsite closed in 2007, and Kalmykov Castle also shut its doors to guests at some unknown time, at which point it was left to fall into ruins. However, the abandoned castle continued to attract curious tourists due to its medieval style and the ease of access provided by an asphalt road that runs through the valley.
The walls of Kalmykov Castle are one meter (about four feet) wide, and from the inside, you can see the former layout of the living quarters. The castle was built in a circular design and has three floors with an observation tower that rises five stories. The tower can be reached by climbing a spiral staircase.
Both the upper and lower floors boast terraces (with those on the ground being covered) where no doubt guests could enjoy picnics, drinks, or barbeques outside while admiring the astounding views. Many of the rooms also have balconies.
A huge thank you to Vladimir Mulder for taking such amazing photographs of the interior and exterior of the abandoned castle and allowing us to share them with our readers! Vladimir is a history researcher and photographer based in Abkhazia. He has a LiveJournal account which he dedicates to different stories with amazing photographs.