For glaciological and meteorological reasons Mount Elbrus, Caucasus, was chosen as a site for physical and chemical pilot studies of ice cores. This study was the first step towards systematic studies of impurities in glacier ice on Mount Elbrus. In 1900 two ice cores, each 17 m deep and spaced 10 m apart, were taken at an elevation of 4100 m on the Bolshoy Azau glacier on the western slopes of Mount Elbrus. The cores were used for different physical and chemical analyses. Structure, texture and ice microstructure were studied. Chemical analyses of major ions (SO4
2−, NO3−, K+ and Na+) and measurements of insoluble light-absorbing material and radioactivity (137Cs and total β activity) were made. With the results of the physical and chemical analyses of these two ice cores, the possibilities of utilising the ice for the study of trace substances deposited after long-range transport from Europe were explored. Ice-stratigraphic methods made it possible to establish the annual accumulation rate. A reference horizon was established from the depth variation of 137Cs and total β activities that showed a well-defined peak of their activities coinciding in time with the 1986 Chernobyl accident. The results of this study show that Mount Elbrus is a useful archive for atmospheric composition downwind of Europe.