The Crimean Peninsula is repeatedly mentioned in ancient sources and in the History of Herodotus in particular. Along with the mythic Amazons and…evidence suggests that the fertile lowlands and cozy coves of the peninsula used to be populated in different periods of time by the Taurus and Cimmerians, Scythians and Greeks, Romans and Goths, Slavs and Tatars as well as Italians, Armenians, Bulgarians, Turks and other peoples.
Gurzuf owes the Romans for its name, who waged the famous Mitridat wars crowned with their success for decades there. The Latin name for the bear – “ursus” – gave the name to a settlement, which was also referred to in different periods of time as Gorzuvity, Gorzovium, Kursaity, Yurzuf and, finally, Gurzuf, emerged there at the border of the Roman Empire.
The silhouette of the Ayu-Dag (Medved Mountain) is a clearly recognizable symbol of the Crimean South Coast. The Byzantines, descendants of the Romans, who had taken pretty much effort for the development of their Gothic province, mounted a fortress on one of Gurzuf cliffs, from where one can view the valley and the whole Gurzuf Bay from the Ayu-Dag to the Ay-Danil.
In the XIV Century, the Genoese Republic, firmly based on the Crimean coast, deployed its camp their. The fortress has been called Genoese since then. Both its ruins and name have survived until nowadays. Rich Genoese merchants, holding colonies throughout the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, turned the coast from Kafa (present-day Feodosiya) to Kherson (Sevastopol) into a thriving Italian province.
In 1475, the Gurzuf Fortress passed into the Sultan’s hands after the Crimea had been conquered by the Osman Turks.
The Russian Empire annexed the Crimea to its holdings in 1783, and Gurzuf embarked on a new phase of evolution - as one of the most attractive places of the Russian Riviera.
In the early XIX Century, Gurzuf and the surrounding lands were bestowed on Armand Emmanuel de Richelieu (1766- 1822), or Immanuil Osipovich Rechilieu – Governor-General of Novorossiysk territory and founder of Odessa in Russian history. It was he who owned the first house and park in the European style in Gurzuf. It was at this house, already in ownership of the General Rayevskiy, that A. Pushkin stayed in 1820.
A beautiful park – one of the first parks in the Crimea - was laid out on a space of over 12 hectares, containing more than 110 species of rare plants.
In the mid-XIX Century, extensive plantations of vineyards, based on the vines of primary sorts of grape brought from Spain and Portugal, were planted on the Gurzuf slopes. In 1847, a large wine cellar was built there, which has survived until now in ownership of the Gurzuf Vinsovkhoz (State winery farm) – descendant of the past winery traditions.
Gradually, the popularity of the South Coast grew with Russian aristocrats, and the Gurzuf Valley became dotted with luxury mansions and villas.
In 1881, the first resort of the European class was established in the Russian coast of the Black Sea. The Russian entrepreneur, Moscow-born Piotr Gubonin, owner of railways and industrial enterprises, purchased the entire of Gurzuf for 250,000 gold rubles.
Piotr Gubonin poured in quite much effort to develop and improve Gurzuf. A few stores and canteens, a kursaal and, importantly, seven hotels in a beautiful park with many fountains, as well as a restaurant of French cuisine, being the best one on the coast, were built. By the late XIX Century, the town had already had a pharmacy, library with a reading-room, bakery, milk farm, ice shop, steam laundry, barber’s shop, grocery, haberdashery and other points of sale as well as a store of Persian items, book and paper sales, and a post-office.
Gurzuf soon became the most improved resort in the South Coast of the Crimea. Gubonin's cottages have survived until nowadays. The administration of the vacation hotel Gurzufskiy - so is now called the former estate of the merchant Gubonin - plans to reshape it into a comfortable hotel and regain the one-time fame in the nearest time.
Gurzuf is home to one more luxury resort Suuk-Su, which used to be owned by the Countess O. Soloviova. The countess strived to create a hotel of the top European grade with a gambling house. Her ambitious plans intended to attract Russian elite, accustomed to spend leisure time at the French Riviera, to Gurzuf. A. Chekhov, who would often visit the countess, was the first to promote this splendid resort.
The resort Suuk-Su is currently based in the territory of Artek. A famous children movie festival takes place every summer in the beautiful building Casino erected by the prominent architect N. Krasnov, author of the royal palace in Livadia, in the French Renaissance style.
Consequently, Gurzuf rose from a small seaside village to the most fashionable resort of the Russian Riviera in the early XX Century due to the efforts taken by P. Gubonin and O. Soloviova.
In the Soviet era, Gurzuf was known as a place of recreation and rehabilitation for children and teenagers - the International Children's Camp Artek was founded there in summer 1925; and the International Youth Camp Sputnik was established there in 1970s.
Today, Gurzuf is undergoing its rebirth. Beauty of the place, unique healing climate and warm sea keep attracting, as they did for centuries before, visitors into its cozy coves and flourishing valleys. New hotels and villas are being constructed, the old town is changing and historic monuments are being renovated. Undoubtedly, Gurzuf will soon restore its former splendor and join the rank of major seaside resorts of the Mediterranean and Black Seas.