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Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky

Aleksandr Pushkin wrote in his time that a noisy Gipsy crowd was traveling through Bessarabia, which was perhaps the outset of “green” tourism. However, joking apart, this land has been created for any kind of tourism – the sea, the sun, steppes and vineyards, woods and sails attract here the extreme lovers, historians, sybarites, and gourmets alike…

In September 1999 Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky marked the 2500 th anniversary of its foundation. It is not only the oldest city in the territory of Ukraine. According to UNESCO rating Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky is one of the ten oldest cities of the world. To get into this honorable list a city must preserve the regularity of its existence in the course of long centuries. Bilhorod proved to be lucky in this respect…

It is considered that the city-fortress was founded by ancient Greeks out of the Ionian city-state of Milet in the 6 th century B.C. The Greek historians of that time called the city in different ways – some named it Ofiuss, others, Tira. Most likely these names existed concurrently. Only the first one was of Greek origin, and the second, of Scythian one. The point is that the possessions of the huge Scythian state reached these lands. Fortresses, temples and public buildings, warehouses, cobbled streets – such was the city of the period of ancient flourishing. Tira minted its coins, produced arms and precious adornments. Brisk trade was the main source of the city’s wealth – it became one of the mediators between the Scythians and Greek colonists. At the beginning of Common Era the Romans gained a foothold in the city; they even had a naval base there. Since then many interesting memorials have been preserved in this land.

It is not known when the city obtained Slavic name, most likely in the 10 th century. In the course of several centuries Bilhorod belonged to different owners – the Galician-Volhynian kings were replaced by Magyar rulers. The Mongol-Tatars appeared later. However, by consent of the horde’s governors the actual masters of the city became their “tenants”-the Genoese who laid the foundation of a powerful citadel in the late 13 th century. The Genoese were not disturbed at all when in 1362 Moldavian rulers came in place of the Tatars – they came to an agreement with them as well. The Moldavian name of the Dniester fortress was translated as “Bilyi ” (White city). Together with their allies, the Lithuanian princes of Podillia, the Moldavian masters began to strengthen the walls and towers of the city. In the 15 th century the Turks who managed to seize Constantinople and vast terrains on two continents had to retreat with a disgrace from the walls of the White city. It was only in 1484 that the Turkish-Crimean army 330 thousand strong managed to take the city-fortress after a siege of sixteen weeks. After getting control over it, the Turks acted simply and unpretentiously, and named the city “Akkerman,” which is also translated as White city.

The Turks fortified their position there for a long time. The Zaporozhian Cossacks attacked the fortress many times, but couldn’t take it. Later the Russians hoisted their flags over Akkerman three times, but finally the city passed to Russia only in 1806, when the army commanded by Duke de Richelieu, the famous “Duke,” governor-general of Novorossia, and town governor of young Odesa, made the Turkish garrison capitulate.

Before long the fortress lost its military significance. Aleksandr Pushkin, Adam Mickiewicz, and the well-known Ukrainian writer Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky sojourned in Akkerman. The former stronghold gradually turned into a quiet, green, country town known not for its fortified walls and cannons, but primarily for its busy commercial port, and luxuriant Bessarabian vineyards. In the early 20 century the region won the first place in the empire for the production of natural wines. In the 19 th century the Swiss settlers founded nearby the city the prosperous and flourishing colony of Shabo, where they engaged in making highest-quality wines.

The Swiss varieties of grape brought by Shabo colonists (Gaius Julius Caesar himself had brought noble vines to Switzerland) took roots excellently in Bessarabia. Even in Soviet times the officials did not manage to extirpate Shabo vines. Today Shabo wines are the proud of Ukrainian wine-making.

In the 20 th century, after the Romanian occupation during the interwar period, Akkerman received its old Slavic name at last. Now it is a charming, rather romantic city.

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