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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Legend breathes life into ancient city
Father holding up baby
The baby boy's birth in the caves is "prophetic"
Crimean legend has it that the once-powerful Mangup kingdom, that was destroyed in the Middle Ages, would be restored if a male child were born in the kingdom's ruins in the caves.

So when a baby boy was recently born to new residents of the caves, his birth was seen as symbolic of the revitalisation of the medieval kingdom.

The caves of Mangup are home to new inhabitants
When destructive wars in the 15th Century forced the local people to leave the kingdom of Mangup, established in the third Century, the last defenders of the kingdom created the legend of the male child.

Local people say that legend is now being lived out in the 21st century.

Baby Ilya is the first male child in the last six centuries known to be born in the caves.

He is described by the Manguptsu as "the only native resident". If legend runs true, the young Ilya will herald the re-birth of the kingdom of Mangup.

Abandoned for centuries, Mangup is now an area of archaeological interest and has recently been occupied by new residents.

According to Russian NTV, people have been moving into the area for several years now, but it was not until two years ago that they started living in the caves.

Native son

But at the moment, the caves' inhabitants remain an enigma in the Crimean peninsula, the TV said.

We have international passports and we are using Pampers for our baby

Baby Ilya's family
The Manguptsu maintain a curious balance between modern lifestyles and traditional ones. While one household prays in front of a Christian cross chalked on the wall, the household next-door has a Buddhist bell representing the faith of its members.

Television pictures showing the home of Ilya's parents, Nikolay and Yana, give an indication of their own lifestyle.

Old blankets and mattresses cover the floor to keep it warm but other cave dwellers use furnaces to heat their homes. For light, Ilya's parents use candles and a kerosene lamp.

Kitchen crockery
The cave people live in harmony with nature and in touch with civilisation
"This is a natural way of life," Nikolay says. "We are living in harmony with nature. But this doesn't mean that we have abandoned civilisation. We have international passports and we are using Pampers for our baby."

Because the cave complex is seen as archaeological and historical centre, the residents receive numerous tourists. Cleaning up after the tourists has become a serious problem they told NTV.

It is not known how many people live on the site in the mountains. But with or without their native son, the Manguptsu are bringing life back to the caves of Mangup.

See also:

06 May 01 | Europe
Battle to save Crimea's treasures
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