The caves of the Cupp-Coutunn System are very paradoxical not only in their mineralogical aspect, but also in their structure. These factors led to significant troubles during their investigation, which was riddled with the regular appearance of paradoxical and sometimes humorous situations. For example, the cave system, which was completely unknown 25 years ago and became celebrated only during the last decade, was very well-known already two thousand years ago (see "Bibliotheka Historica"by Diodorus,Sicelus in which the author cited wittingly Khashm-Oyik - the largest part of the Cup Coutunn system, though he did not mention names of the caves of the Kugitangtau Ridge).
The modern history of the research of this caves began when Yalkapov, the geologist from Ashkhabad, had compiled the first plans of Khashm-Oyeek (3km) and Cupp-Coutunn II (5km) during the mid-1950s, also finding some new caves. Unfortunately, he published a paper which suggested the caves as a deposit of marble onyx. It was the beginning of unprecedented mining project resulting in the destruction of this unique natural monument. Apparently, Yalkapov understood this fact and he quikly dropped out of the history of caves. It is customary to think that he had bricked up the entrances ino the caves that he had not shown to the officials of the "Soyuzquartzsamotsvet" enterprise after the beginning of the mining project. I agree with this point of view, based on some finds. Until 1981, the caves of the system were hardly studied. For example, the speleologists from Samarkand have found some new caves and a continuation of Cupp- Coutunn II; a very large continuation was found during the mining works in the small Promeszutochnaya Cave as well. I first appeared in the region also during this period, taking the unseemly role of an employee of the "Soyuzquartzsamotsvet" enterprise. However, I hope that my further activity over many years on the protection of caves partly expiates my guilt.
In 1980, I began a campaign to end the exploitation of the cave system and promote its protection. This drive was supported by speleologists, scientific institutes, the mass media (including such newspapers as "Sovetskaya Kultura", "Izvestiya", "Komsomolskaya Pravda" and television) some academicians (Yanshin), local powers, a regional geological-prospecting expedition, and numerous other people and organizations. It is a wonder that in Brezhnev's USSR, all this was successful. The " protectionists" picketed the caves and even semimilitary actions with shooting took place when the watchman of the mining storage facility containing explosives was instructed to go out of the canyon onto the plateau, build a redoubt and, if any of the speleologists appeared in the vicinity, to fire rifle shots above his head.The whole campaign had occupied a little more than a year when the chief directorate finally decided that those annoying two thousand tonnes of onyx,(according to the calculated amount) cost substantially less than the financial supply for the numerous commissions, organized after publications in the mass media. Afterwards, some attempts of reexploitation took place, but it was easier to stop them: although in one case, Kutuzov, the local speleologist, and his friend were obliged to barricade themselves in the Geophyzicheskaya Cave and withstand a one and a half month siege. It was more difficult to wean Central Asian geologists of the notion of the caves in the Kugitangtau Ridge as a source of beautiful souvenirs, but this task was significantly easier than it was first estimated to be. Thus, now only rare recurrences take place. To the honor of the geologists, this process went without any administrative measures.
The normal study of the caves began when exploitation was stopped. During the last ten years, Cup Coutunn II was joined with the Promeszutochnaya Cave, reaching 56km in length. Some new caves were discovered, including the Geophyzicheskaya Cave, one of the most beautiful caves known also as Zimnyaya, Gyul-Shirin and by a few other names. I use the first officially declared name. Presently, this is the only cave where there are no destroyed areas, and it is not necessary to crawl many hours through the narrow passages to reach the most interesting places. This is a great credit to the speleologists and to the regional geological-prospecting expedition. As soon as the ideas of the preservation of the cave became popular, the joint suspiciousness of these two forces made a real miracle. The leading role in investigations belongs to the Moscow groups of speleologists and particularly to the group headed by myself, to Bartenev's group, to theschool club from Balashikha (Moscow region),and some others. The groups from Krasnoyarsk also made some significant finds.
The mineralogical research of the cave system was promoted by another scenario guided again by the principle that caves are too interesting in their mineralogy to be easily studied. Let me explain this. The secondary formations reveal two aspects of mineralogical interest. The first aspect is a variety and an uncommonness of minerals and mineral-forming processes. The second aspect is a variety and uncommonness of aggregates and aggregate-forming processes. Traditionally in Russian cave mineralogy, it has been considered that the existence of caves that are interesting in the first aspect is simply impossible. The priority of research was automatically reorientated toward the second aspect of interest.
The caves of the Cupp-Coutunn System are very interesting in both senses; moreover, in those places where the most unusual aggregates are found, there are almost no uncommon minerals and vice versa. Thus, the parts of the caves that are interesting in the first aspect were nearly unresearched before 1986, even when special investigations took place. For example, the leading Russian cave mineralogist Victor Stepanov twicely in Cup Coutunn twice, the second time was with me in 1981. The main attention of our activities was concentrated on the Promeszutochnaya Cave, where, as it later became known, the most interesting objects were located near the entrance. Beautifully prepared traces of thermal activity represented by fluorite, gigantic crystals of calcite, sulfides, etc. remained unnoticed for a long time. They were trud upon speleologists (in their attempt) to reach the halls with beautiful gypsum and calcite aggregates as quickly as possible. To begin purposeful research of the traces of thermal activity, and then of the non-standard mineral-forming processes, a speleologist of a more sporting type, who was not interested in the charms of nature, was needed. Orevkov tooks on this role in 1985, becoming interested in why the gravel on the floor of one of the passages had a violet color. Further, a whole cascade of finds has been discovered, which have almost completely changed the preconceived notions on the mineralogy of Cup Coutunn.