Home / … SOME VERSIONS OF THE ORIGIN OF BENDERY FORTRESS …

... … SOME VERSIONS OF THE ORIGIN OF BENDERY FORTRESS … ...

GenoeseThe most common and well-known version (and scientifically proven at the same time) of the origin of the Bendery fortress is that the current stone fortress was begun to build in 1538 – the year of the final conquest of the Moldavian Principality by Turkey. It is this date that is indicated on the Tarikh of Sultan Suleiman together with accompanying explanatory text. Tarikh is a marble embedded plate that previously was hung on the front side of the citadel’s Gate Tower of the fortress. The plate original is partially preserved till today; in addition, very accurate hand-drawn copies of its full text, well-studied, carefully translated in different variations, have remained intact till today. It made it possible to produce an almost identical copy of the Tarikh in marble and return it to its original place. The periodization of the construction stages of the Bendery fortress itself is a big separate topic, which will be discussed in another Chapter. This article is devoted to issues that historians are very interested in today: were there other fortifications on the site of the current Bendery fortress? Who built them and for what purpose? How long and in what kind did they exist?

The first version of the origin of fortifications on the site of the fortress, and one of the most popular is Genoese one. In short, its essence lies in the fact that initially a stone citadel with towers was built by Genoese warrior-traders on the site where the fortress is now located and where the river crossing across the Dniester used to exist. Only after that it was completed and rebuilt by Moldavian hospodars, and then by Turkish sultans.

The earliest mention of this fact, and, indeed, the first attempt to establish the age of the Bendery fortress, is found in the works of the historian Miron Kostin (1633-1691). He suggested that the fortifications of the fortress were built at different times by the "Оld Dacians", the Romans, Genoese or Moldavian voivodes.

The Genoese version was considered to be the main one in both Russian and Soviet historiography, where information is provided from many sources claiming that the Genoese are the founders of the Bendery fortress.

Thus, the military historian Zashchuk A. in his work on the military description of the Bessarabian region, published in 1862, in
Major General  Zashchuk A.I. (See text of the Chronicles, page 499) the section on the chronicle of the Bendery fortress, writes the following: "On the shores of the Black Sea during the period of Genoese reign, their colonies spread along the Dniester; among the fortified castles erected by them at the most important points, the existing one in the Bendery fortress, which is a citadel nowdays, was also built. The name of this castle and the time of its foundation, as well as the transition to the rule of the Turks, are reliably unknown. The last time, when the castle was captured, was probably after the time when the main point of domination of the Genoese on the Black Sea coast fell before the weapons of Mohammed II Kafa… In the days of the Genoese, the castle, the main parts of which exist even now, was supposed to have the same or similar appearance as it was during the capture of Russian troops for the first time in 1770 ... The original construction of the castle, apparently, was made before the invention of gunpowder, and the castle fortifications were assigned to the spaces of the former throwing weapons." 

The publication "Bessarabia" (1903, graphic, historical, statistical, economic, ethnographic, literary and inquiry collection edited by Krushevan P.) in a brief historical description of the cities of Bessarabia notes the following: "The oldest fortifications on the banks of the Dniester belong to the Genoese. Their towers in the citadels of Khotyn, Bendery, and Ackerman still survive. Some additional buildings are belong to the Khotyn, Akkerman fortress and Soroka fortress (XV century), as well as the ruins of the fortress of Gusha on the Dniester near the village of Chobruchy, Bendersky district, which was destroyed by the Cossacks of Khmelnytsky."

In particular, the following is said about Bendery town: “Bendery existed even during the Getae and, by the formation of Troyanova Dacia, under the name Tigichiula served as one of the control centers of the lands conquered by the Romans, in the X century, Bendery was called Tungaty and it was inhabited by the Danube Russian Slavs. At the beginning of the XVth century, the Lithuanian-Russian prince Vitovt, having taken possession of Podolia and lands to the Black Sea, built the Tyagin fortress (Tigin) on the site of the Tungat, then the Tigin was conquered by the Genoese, who built the Citadel and, in general, expanded and strengthened the area.”

The historian Batyushkov P. wrote the following in his work “Bessarabia. Historical Description ”(1892): “... As for Tegin, its foundation or restoration is attributed to the Great Duke of Lithuanian-Russian Vitovt ... In some of these towns, such as Akkerman, Bendery and Soroki, as well as in Khotyn, the Genoese also lived, who established their trade colonies and castles here ... The Sultan (Suleiman) made a campaign against Moldavia and destroyed the Moldavian fortresses of Akkerman, Kilia, Bendery and Soroka, which had Genoese trading posts and castles."

GENOESE MERCHANT SHIP (12TH CENTURY)

Veltman A. wrote the following in his work “The Inscription of the Ancient History of Bessarabia” (1828): “In the XII century the Genoese appear. Everywhere their power and influence crept in. The sea and rivers were covered with the threatening vessels of the Genoese. At that time they turned the products of the generous nature of Moldavia, Walachia and Bessarabia, Podolia and other surrounding lands into gold. Along the rivers Danube and Dniester, they inhabited colonies, built fortifications, and possessed the trade of these places.”

 The Genoese version of the origin of the fortress can be confirmed by the letter of the governor Stefan Petricheyku dated back to March 30, 1673 to the people of Genoa; in his letter he speaks about the Tigin fortress and directly calls it belonging to the Genoese (Genovese).

What do all the respected encyclopedias say about Bendery?

Geographical encyclopedia: "In the XII century (here) arose the Slavic Tigin, in the XIII century it was captured by the Genoese, who built the citadel, in the XIV century (captured) by the Moldavian dukes, in 1538 – by the Turks."

Great Soviet encyclopedia: "In the XII century, the Genoese built a fortress on the site of an ancient settlement."

Soviet historical encyclopedia: "In the XII century, the settlement of Tyagin was conquered by the Genoese, who built a citadel with towers."

The Brockhaus and Efron encyclopedia: "... Bendery was first fortified during the era of Genoese dominion on the Black Sea coast."

In the encyclopedia dedicated to the history of the rivers, in the section on the Dniester river the following is said: "In the XII century, Russian Chronicles indicate the existence of the Belgorod colony at the mouth of the Tiras, which arose on the site of the Greek Polis of Tyras. Since that time, the trade influence of the Genoese has been increasing on the Dniester. They establish a number of trading posts on the river; for their protection they build fortresses in Bendery (Tyaginya Kyacha), Soroki (Olkhion), Khotyn and Belgorod."

Let’s return to the works of historian Zashchuk A. In another section of his work devoted to the description of the tribes, manners and customs of the peoples of Bessarabia, Zashchuk A. writes the following: "In the XII century, the Genoese came here. Along the rivers Danube and Dniester, they inhabited colonies, built towns, and possessed the trade of these places for about four centuries. Walls, towers and gun-slots of the castles of Khotyn, Olchinskiy (Soroki), Tighina (Bendery), Palankovski [1] and Moncastro (Akkerman) remind them until now."

Colonies and strongholds of Genoa on the Black Sea coast

The 1874 edition of the Chisinau eparchial statements does not just mention the Genoese in Bendery, but even describes the fortress itself: “When the Genoese lived in Bendery, the town of Bendery was limited to a single castle, which still exists, and an insignificant group of huts, incorrectly scattered on three sides of the castle. This castle consisted of eight high towers... In the houses located on the outside of the castle lived the following people: partly Genoese’s servants, partly Moldovans natives, the latter were engaged in fishing, as well as got Genoese vessels across ... When exactly did the Genoese lose control of the castle of Tigrina, i.e. whether they ceded it to the Moldavian ruler Stephen the Great... or whether they gave it up to the power of the weapons of the terrible conqueror of the Turkish Bayazet the 2-nd -it is unknown."

When considering the Genoese version of the origin of the Bender fortress (and not only it), the question always arises: “Why aren't Genoese mentioned in any of the sources as owners of a particular colony, territory, trading post, fortress, despite the fact that they invested a lot of money in the construction of trading posts?” To find the right answer, you should study the general political and economic situation of the time. It is also very important to understand that these territories had a master, no matter what he was called: "Supreme ruler" or "Prince", but not the Genoese these masters were. The Tatar khans were the supreme owners of these lands and everything that was on them (including the Genoese colonies) at that time. They gave the Genoese "permits" for construction and trade, but provided them with complete independence. In 1380, Genoese infantry even participated on the side of Mamay in the battle of Kulikovo. Despite this vassalage, the Genoese colonies in the Northern black sea region were repeatedly attacked and destroyed by the Tatar Khans.

Slave market in a medieval Kafa (Feodosiya)After the Crusades, striving to expand the scope of their trading operations and wishing to monopolize trade in the Black Sea altogether, with the support of Byzantium, the Genoese seek the retired Golden Horde in Crimea, Mangu Khan, transferring Kafa (modern Feodosiya) to them in 1266. Kafa becomes the base and center of Genoese trade. In 1357, the Genoese capture Chembalo (Balaclava), in 1365 – Soldaya (Sudak). At the mouth of the Dniester, the largest trading factor of the Genoese is Samastro (or Moncastro, modern Belgorod-Dniester); on the Black Sea coast –  Ginestra (Odessa), and at the mouth of the Danube –  Licostomo (Kiliya). They also lay small, above-mentioned trading posts directly already and on the Dniester.

If you track the above-mentioned localities from the Dniester estuary , up to the sources of the Dniester (upstream): Belgorod (Moncastro), Palanka, Tigina, Soroki, Khotyn, then everywhere there is one or another activity of the Genoese. These colonies were inhabited by representatives of different peoples. They were inhabited by Greeks, Armenians, Italians, Jews, Tatars, Adygs and other peoples. Trading posts were usually well fortified, with military garrisons in the fortresses.

On the Dniester, the Genoese carried wheat from Poland to Belgorod, but not only - the goods were different and varied, including slave slaves and Slavs, who were bought from Tatars and Turks for the purpose of further resale. Kafa was notorious for one of the largest centers of the slave trade. Quite accurate information about the types of merchant ships that the Genoese used to deliver goods along the Dniester reached our times; they were called galleys, they were wooden structures of a rectangular shape, with a total capacity of up to 12 tons of cargo, had a very low landing, thanks to which they easily passed the shallow sections of the Dniester. It is known that the Dniester river was a river branch of the "Via Tatarica" - the Tatar trade route, which brought wheat and other goods from Podolia to Ak-Kerman. The Florentine manual "The practice of trade" indicates that in 1324-1336, grain from the Danube and Pridnestrovie entered the markets of Peru and Genoa.

In the middle of the XIV century, the Golden Horde lost the territory of the Dniester estuary. The fortress of Moncastro (henceforth it becomes Chetatya Albe ) is transferred to the administration of the Moldavian hospodars. As a result, the Genoese are deprived of the formal right to use the fortress. However, the Romanian historian Yorga N. suggests that it was in the middle of the XIV century that the actual power in Moncastro (Ak-Kerman) passed from the Golden Horde to Genoa.

Nevertheless, Chetatya Albe remains the main financial and commercial center of the Principality,and a significant part of the capital there is Genoese. The Moldavian hospodars did not interfere with the trade and penetration of the Genoese up the Dniester, even including them in the list of merchants with special privileges, along with German and Armenian merchants. And the main trading capital of the Genoese was located in Belgorod or Kilia, which were under the control of the Moldavian hospodars. At the same time, despite very close and mutually beneficial relations with the Moldovan authorities, the Genoese received permission to sail on the Dniester river from the Tatars in 1436, and not from the hospodars of Moldova. Apparently, the three-way relations between the Moldavian hospodars, Tatars and Genoese were very complex and complicated.

The situation was not easy for the Genoese themselves in the future. The aggravation of the internal situation in Genoa itself, the growth of social and national-religious contradictions, the fierce struggle between various trade groups and usurious capital, and the rivalry with Venice led to the deterioration and decline of the Genoese colonies in the Northern Black Sea region . In the 15th century, after the fall of Byzantium (1453), Genoa ceded the Black Sea colonies to its bank of San Giorgio.

The international situation of the colonies also deteriorated very much: they became an indispensable prey in the internecine wars of the Mongol-Tatar Khans. The Genoese tried to interfere in the struggle of the Tatar feudal lords for power, but only further aggravated the situation. In 1475, almost all the Genoese colonies were captured and plundered by Turkey and the Tatar Khans. Gradually, colonies on the periphery, in particular, on the banks of the Dniester, began to decline.

After Belgorod had fallen in 1471, the Genoese were forced to leave the city and move to Soroki, at their Olkhoniya trading post, which would also soon be left to the Moldavian governors. Apparently, a similar fate befell the Tigina fortress, and its first Genoese builders were somehow forgotten because they were the owners (managers, administrators), but not the legal owners of their colonies and trading posts; the Italians received this or that territory or object as a label for use in Moncastro or for participating in the construction of Khotyn in the second half of the 13th century. It is most logical to assume that the same situation happened with Tigina. The Genoese were not subjects of law, even if they invested their own money in the construction of new factories. If it was they who built the citadel (or a similar fortress in Bendery), formally the structure still belonged to that state entity, whose power, at that time, extended to this territory. And this circumstance, already in our time, has led to serious scientific disputes, various interpretations and discussions on the true origin of the Bendery fortress.

Fortress Soroca (Moldova) in place of the factory Olihoniya

The second version of the origin of the Bendery fortress is the Moldavian one. Its essence lies in the fact that long before the Turks came to this region, the fortress in this place was built by Moldovan governors. The version is also partially supported by documents and has its supporters, but, nevertheless, it is very controversial one. The defense system of Moldova at that time is quite well studied, covered in historiography and Tigina fortress is almost not mentioned there.

The defense system of the Moldavian state consisted not of fortified towns, but of nine fortresses, six of which were located near the town settlements of the same name. These are the following fortresses: Belgorod, Kiliya, Khotyn, Suceava, Neamt and Roman. The remaining three are of military-wooden-earthen purposes: Tsetsin (Chechun), Khmel (Khmelev) and Soroki. Moreover, it is unlikely that anyone will dispute the fact that some of these fortresses are not of Moldovan origin; these are former Genoese trading posts and fortifications of other eras and states.

Thus, on the site of the Genoese trading post in Olkhoniya, in 1499, Stefan the Great built the Soroki fortress – at first it was wooden one, and then, under the reign of Peter Raresh, in 1543, a stone fortification has already been built. The beginning of building of Belgorod fortress was laid in the 13-th century by the Golden Horde Khan Berke under the name Ak-Libo, on the site of the ancient Greek town of Tyras. The Mongol-Tatars also built a large town called Shehr-al-Jedid (new Town), next to which the Moldavian fortress Orhei will subsequently be erected. The Kiliya fortress was known even under the Romans under the name Achilliya.

Equally, no one will dispute the fact that the Moldavian hospodars invested enormous forces and funds in the reconstruction and strengthening of these fortresses. Stefan cel Mare seriously improved and strengthened Belgorod and Kiliya; the Belgorod fortress was generally modernized, received the most modern at that time additional fortifications, which simply absorbed and obscured the preserved Genoese citadel.

The citadel of the Moldavian fortress of Neamt

Somewhat, Suceava, Neamt, Roman and Tsitsin, founded directly by Moldavian hospodars inside the country, can be considered as the original Moldavian fortresses. These are large or geographically important fortifications. But there was still a number of fortresses, which, one way or another, are mentioned in the documents, but, for some reason, were considered less important for the Moldavian state: Krechun, Shkeya, Jurgic-Kermen (Palanca) and some others. Judging by the frequency of references in historiography, the Tigina fortress belonged to this category; almost nothing is known about it at that time. Rare references to Tigina fortress are found in the following sources: in the work of the historian Sadovyanu M., dedicated to the biography of Stefan cel Mare, and published in 1934 in Bucharest, it is said the following: “…Lepushenskaya (land) with the fortress of Tigina, Orhei, Sorokskaya, Budzhakskaya, Kiliiskaya and Belgorodskaya stretches futher… There was a fortress, connected with Tigina and the Belgorod stronghold on the estuary, located on the Dniester.” Sadovyanu M. writes in the fourth chapter of the same research the following: "And then the Hospodar ordered to lay without delay, a stone fortress with earthen rolls at Orheev on the Dniester...and add more soldiers in the Soroki and Tigina fortresses."

Indirectly, Tigina is mentioned in the description of the fact that in 1482, on the way to Belgorod, Stefan III visited Tigina, where he prayed in the Orthodox Uspenskaya Church. However, when describing this visit, the source speaks of a locality, not a fortress.

The already mentioned historian Miron Kostin in the 17-th century suggested that on the basis of the old , already existing, fortifications in Tigina, Moldavian voivodes recreated, that is , rebuilt new fortifications.

 In the 20-th century, the historian Nikolai Iorga wrote that the fortress, located on the old Dniester river crossing, already existed in the middle of the 16-th century. According to Constantin Giurescu, the old fortifications in Bendery were most likely built of wood and earth, as it was accepted in the Moldavian Principality when its borders were extended to the banks of the Dniester and the Black Sea in the period of 1370-1380.

The only evidence directly indicating the existence of a real fortress on the site of Bendery, possibly built of wood and earth, is found in the Polish-Moldavian chronicle, dated to the middle of the 15-th century. In the description of the Ottoman conquests of 1538, it is explicitly stated that the Turkish sultan Suleiman “captured the Moldavian fortress of Bendery”.

The historian Ion Kirtoage states that in order to eliminate the danger of Tatar raids, which increased significantly at the end of the 15-th century, Stefan the Great continued to strengthen the defense system on the banks of the Dniester river. For this purpose, he built a small fortress of wood and earth at the end of the 15-th century, near the old fortifications of the Moldavian Tigina. It was primarily directed against the Tatars, from their invasion of Moldova through the crossing at this point. The Turks built a stone fortress on the site of the old fortress Against those Tatars who took part in the war against Stefan in the companies of 1478 and 1484 and already in the period between 1538 and 1539.
 Moldavian ruler Stefan the Great

The architect Valentin Voitsiechovski, having studied the walls of the Bendery fortress, came to the unequivocal conclusion that the main fortifications of the Moldavian fortress of Tigina were rebuilt by the Ottomans. According to his mind Moldavian architectural elements can be traced throughout the complex. Carefully watching the walls of the castle, the author found that they are formed vertically from two layers; that fact indicates the existence of a fortress here even before the Ottoman invasion. In his opinion, the second layer of walls was added already by the Turkish builders of Sinan. For the sake of justice, it is worth noting that in his report Voitsiechovski does not separate the walls of the citadel and its towers, which could be built or reinforced with shell-like masonry at different periods of time. The author pointed to three periods in the evolution of this medieval fortification. At the first stage, the fortress (citadel) was built by Moldovan governors with thin walls at the end of the 15-th century. At the next stage, starting from 1538, the Turks fortified the walls of the Moldavian citadel, and already at the final stage, in the 18-th century, an external fortress was built.

But any assumptions and versions should be confirmed, and, preferably, not by one, but by several sources. This is what the Moldavian version of the Bendery fortress origin lacks; based on the available data, it is not yet possible to call it native Moldavian.

The third version of the Bendery fortress origin is Tatar. On the one hand, it is very well known among the population thanks to the work of Astvatsaturov G.; on the other hand, it is the least discussed and recognized in scientific circles, although it is also very seriously supported by evidence and evidence. In short, its essence is as follows: the Tatars controlled this area for a long time and had a significant influence on its development. According to some experts, it was the Tatars who first built a fortress on the steep bank of the Dniester river, and one of the historical names of the city of Bendery comes from the toponym "Tyagyanya-kyachu", meaning "house of Tegin".

According to this version, during the period of 13-14-th centuries on the spot where now stands the Bendery fortress, as well as in the area of the present village of Parkany was the place of nomadic huts of the Tatar Prince Tegin-beya Shirina (later he became the founder of the Russian princely family Shirinsky). Hence the Tatar version of the origin of the name of the city – Tigin, Tegin, and the ending kyac, kyachu, could serve as a designation of housing from the Tatar term kyeshk (kiosk, camp, temporary fortified housing).

Actually, there were quite a lot of such Tatar winter quarters called "Khan-Kyshla" (Khan's winter quarters) in our region.

The Tatar version of the origin of the fortress and the name of the town is confirmed in historical sources. So, back in the 17-th century, the Turkish chronicler Ibrahim Pechevi (1618) found a family Tatar cemetery on the left Bank of the Dniester river opposite Bendery. Describing the ruins of the high building, the chronicler found an inscription on it, which he translated as "This is the grave of Shirina". It was probably about the ancestral crypt of the Crimean Khan Tegin-beya, who died in 1456.

In the 19-th century the married couple Stepkovskiy discovered in the Bendery region about four hundred burial mounds, in which they found coins of the Golden Horde Khans of Tokta (1291-1313), Uzbek (1313-1342).

The testimony of a Turkish official who gave a brief historical account of the Bender Fortress in the 18-th century states that: “Previously, Bendery was less significant and served as the seat of the bey with a one-tailed bunchuk appointed by the Crimean Khan [2].”

The Turkish traveler Evliya Chelebi, describing the Bendery fortress, in the preamble expressed a very interesting idea, mentioning that on the site of Bendery, at the end of the 15-th century, there was a small fortress built by the Turks at the request of the Tatars in 1484: "Bayazid II Khan gave the instructions and the great vizier Gedik Ahmet Pasha built a small tower, but useful for crossing."

Italian G.B. Motalbani, in 1620, called Tigina the former Tatar fortress, and, quite confidently, said that for 76 years the region had been in Turkish possession. The Turkish chronicles themselves consider Moldova conquered by the Ottoman Empire since 1476, i.e. a year after the fall of Kafa in the Crimea.

The following fact indirectly confirms the Tatar version: the Turks although gave a new name to the fortress and the village (Bendery), but for a very long time continued to use the old one – Tekin. Under the name Tekin, the fortress was displayed on both Turkish and European maps. On the map of the Ottoman Empire in the mid-17th century, the Bendery fortress is indicated by two of these toponyms at the same time: "Bender, Tekin."

Some opponents of the Tatar version of the origin of the Bendery fortress refer to the fact that the Tatars, being, in fact, a nomadic people, could not build fortresses. But this opinion is wrong – the Tatars were perfectly able to build both fortresses and entire towns, and very efficiently. During the heyday of the Golden Horde, it was not inferior to Ancient Russia in the number of towns and their sizes; even surpassed Russia in this regard. The largest towns of Russia, Kiev and Chernihiv, were inferior to the average towns in the Horde, such as Madjara, for example. What can we say about the capital town Shed, where only town quarters occupied an area of up to 10 square kilometers.

Pechevi Ibrahim EfendiIn the 60s of the 13-th century, the Golden Horde Temnik Nogai settled in the Dniester-Prut interfluve, and, already 10 years later, his possessions were the western ulus of the Horde, well developed economically. The borders of the ulus extended along the left bank of the Danube from the Hungarian fortress Turnu Severin to the Dniester. Some archaeological digs have revealed numerous Tatar settled settlements in the region directly and in the Dniester River basin with the characteristic features of the Golden Horde culture.

If we talk about Tatar towns in our region, we have already mentioned Akkerman, which was founded by the Tatar-Mongols. The town of Kiliya was the westernmost city of the Golden Horde, exploited simultaneously by the Tartars and Genoese. The ancient settlement is Kosteshty (the Tatar name is unknown), the remains are located near the Moldavian village of Kosteshty – Gyrlya of Kotovsky district - the area of the city is about 4 square kilometers within the 14-th century. Archaeologists have established that the town was a major trade and craft center. The town of Shehr-al-Jedid (Yangi-Shehr), also mentioned above, had large monumental stone buildings - mosques, baths, palaces and stone residential buildings.

In the Dniester–Dnieper region, archaeologists found the following Tatar towns and fortifications:

-         Fortress Islam-Kermen (Kakhovka);

-         Tatar towns: Mayaki settlement, located near the mouth of the Dniester river, on the site of a former ferry;

-         Great Mosque settlement;

-         a large settlement near the confluence of the Kolyma and Sinyukhi rivers, dating back to the reign of the Uzbek Khan;

-         Solonoye settlement;

-         Arganakli-Saray settlement;

-         Ak-Mosque settlement, etc.

In the Black Sea region, the Tatar Khan Mengli-Girey in the 15-th century founded the fortress of Kazy-Kermen (Gazy-Kermen), now Berislav, on the site of Donganichita, then he built the fortress of Islam-Kermen, now Kakhovka. During his reign, the fortress Tyagin[3] and Khan-Burun were founded. Already in the XVI century, the Tatars built fortresses Mustrit -Kermen and Mubarek-Kermen in the same places. In 1509, the fortress of Or-Kalu (Perekop) was built under Khan Mengli I Gerai.

Such fortresses as Kazi-Kermen, Mustir-Kermen, Mubarek-Kermen and Aslam-Gorod were part of the system of fortifications of the Tavan ferry, whose stone citadels are well shown in Tarasevich's engraving "The Capture of Tavan Towns" in 1695. So the Tatars were able to build. And they did so.

In the book of Dmitry Kantemir about his father, the hospodar Konstantin Kantemir, we find a curious phrase: “Bendery is in Bessarabia. This region, constituting the third province in ancient times of the Principality of Moldavia, ... was taken away during the life of Stephen the Great (1429-1504) and ... went to the section to the Turks and Tatars." This is another indirect confirmation of the Tatar version of the Bendery fortress origin.

Khan Nogai

Moreover, it should be mentioned that, in addition to the three main versions of the Bendery fortress origin: Genoese, Moldavian and Tatar, there are a number of theories and assumptions that go back to much older times.

So, at the end of the last century, in Russian historiography, there was an idea that in the 10-th century, on the site of the current Bendery town, there was a Slavic town of Tungaty. This fact is written by P. N. Batyushkov in the work "Bessarabia. Historical description", which was mentioned above, refers to the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII (913 -959) who wrote in one of his works, in the chapter "About the people and the Pechenegs»: “You should know that on this side of the Dniester, in the province facing Bulgaria, at the river crossing there are empty fortresses. The first fortress is called Aspron by Pachinakity (Pechenegs), since its stones seem completely white; the second fortress is Tungaty, the third fortress is Kraknakaty, the fourth fortress is Salmakaty, the fifth fortress is Sakakaty, the sixth fortress is Gieukaty.  In the middle of the buildings of the ancient fortresses there are some signs of churches and crosses carved in sandstone, so some people keep the tradition that the Romans once had a settlement there.”

There is the following information in the comments on the translation of this work of 1989: “The names of the Pechenegs’ fortresses have a Turkic basis and can be translated. The second component of most of the names that sound in the transmission of Konstantin as “gatay” or “katay” means “strengthening”. The names of the fortresses shall be interpreted as follows: Tungaty – Tun-katay – "peaceful fortress»; Kraknakaty - Krak-katay - “watchtower”; Sakakaty – Saka-katay – “the fortress on piles”; Salmakaty – Salma-katay – “the trooper fortress”; only the name of the Aspron  fortress is not associated with the Turkic language and means "white" in Greek and is identified with Belgorod-Dniester".

When the Emperor mentions these towns, he speaks of them as fortresses located at the river crossings. If we discard the endings in the titles “Tynganty and Kraknakaty”, it is easy to recognize Tigina and Soroki, near which there are now river crossings across the Dniester.

Some archaeological digs conducted near the citadel of the Bendery fortress, in 1969, by Ion Hynku, revealed the remains of several residential complexes and a defensive moat dates back to the 15-16th centuries. The digs also led to the discovery that this site contained fortifications, presumably made of wood and clay, built before the middle of the 16-th century, on the site where a stone Bastion would later be built. According to the works of Ion Hynku, on the territory of the Northern outer side of the stone citadel, he discovered the remains of a moat and ravelins of the fortress, as well as houses where items of material culture of the 15-16-th centuries were found. The surface of the fortress had a round or oval shape, was covered with a layer of ash and burnt materials. Ceramic and metal objects also had traces of fire. Also, as a result of the digs, fragments of ceramics were found that belonged to the Gothic, Chernyakhov and Slavic cultures. Most of the discovered materials and structures belonged to the Moldavian and Turkish periods of the fortress history.

However, it should be clarified that these excavations were carried out only once and not on the entire territory of the fortress, so they do not give a comprehensive picture. At the same time, the results of Hynku’s digs were not officially published, apparently in order to maintain secrecy at a special object, which was then the Bendery fortress. Unfortunately, a lot of material objects on the territory of the fortress were irretrievably lost for scientific research. So, according to the military personnel who served in different periods in the Bendery fortress, it was possible to establish that structures made of wood and clay were found there repeatedly, at a great depth. Nobody examined them, and most of them were simply destroyed.

Another interesting fact should be mentioned: when studying the Bendery fortress, you should clearly separate the citadel as a complex from all its other fortifications, especially the outer defense belt.

The citadel is the most interesting structure of the fortress, and most likely the oldest, as evidenced by the masonry of its walls. Its archaism contrasts sharply with the masonry of other fortifications of the fortress, even the towers of the citadel itself, and is not repeated anywhere else. The walls of the citadel are made of different-sized (uncalibrated) blocks of local limestone, which differ significantly from each other in size. At the same time, the inner walls of the citadel and the outer walls are made of the same blocks. It seems that the citadel was built quickly and hastily, from the material that was at elbow. It is also interesting that part of the blocks bears traces of patterns that are clearly not of Turkish origin, but rather of Greek origin; that fact points at imported material from the nearest former Black Sea Greek Polis-cities.

 The Bendery fortress citadel. Plan from the book of N. A. Marx, 1917

Actually, during the construction of the citadel, no one even bothered with the correct architectural geometry of the structure. The rectangle of the citadel is broken by the removal of the North-Eastern corner far towards the coastal plateau, unless this, of course, is done on purpose, for some unknown reason. There is an assumption that the citadel towers were built into the already built structure later, or were rebuilt, including the application of additional shell masonry to the towers.

So we can conclude that a fortification already existed on the site of the powerful stone fortress of Bendery that was later built by the Turks and has been preserved to this day. The historians will still have to find out, how it looked like and whom it was built by. Every year more and more sources are put into scientific circulation, new research and archival materials appear, which will help to lift the veil of secrecy and answer a number of questions related to the history of our region, town and fortress.

The fortress here, on the site of a convenient river crossing, could be built in different eras, by different states and rulers, based on the political and economic situation of a particular period. It has always been one of the most important trade routes in the region; for many years, the Dniester river has remained the border between states with different socio-political and economic potential and different military and political aspirations. The protection of the trade route and the existing river crossing had to be carried out in any case, and by means available at different times.

It is possible that the fortress on this site was built in the time of Roman Dacia, and in the time of the Lithuanian Prince Vytautas. The fortress could be either completely or partially demolished by the Tatar-Mongols and rebuilt by Moldavian rulers. It is quite possible that there could be a stone Genoese trading post nearby, as well as a Tatar ancestral castle made of earth and wood. Unfortunately, descriptions of these fortifications have not reached our days, and further research is important in this question.

Some researchers believe that when talking about Tatar, Moldavian or Genoese fortresses on the site of Tigina, we are most likely talking about the same object. The citadel built by the Genoese was not legally their property, as it was already mentioned above, but was considered the property of their "owners" –  the Tatars; it is from the Tatars that they got a "label" (right to rent) to own Belgorod and the right to use the waterway- the Dniester. The Moldavian Principality also considered the citadel its own, since the territory was nominally part of the Principality, although it was actually torn away by the Tatars from the Moldavian lords.

As for the most famous period of the history of the Bender fortress – the Turkish one – it, fortunately, has already been thoroughly studied and will be described in the next section of the site "History".

Georgy Vilkov

[1] Apparently, it is said about the Yurgich-Kermen or Palanka fortress, built by Moldavian rulers, previously located on the Dniester 40 km. from the current village of Stefan-Vode.

[2] The rank corresponding to the rank of Major General in the Russian Imperial army. It corresponded to the position of the foreman.

[3] In historiography, it is often confused with Tyagina (Tigina) on the Dnieper

 

 

 

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