In course of centuries Izmail, a powerful fortress of Southern Europe, was situated on the bank of Kiliyske mouth of the Danube River. Those who strived for controlling the Danube realized the strategic importance of this locality long before the beginning of Common Era. The nomad masters (in their time they were many: the Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians) were replaced by detachments of militant vagabonds. After the fall of Rome hard times came to the land of the Danube mouth – first the Slavonic tribes became established there, then nomads, the young state of Kyivan Rus, the Bulgarians and Polovtsians, the omnipresent Galician-Vohynian voevodes. Later, the Golden Horde and the Moldavian principality established their rule there for some time. Even the Genoese tried to gain a foothold in this area. However, none of them had left behind any noticeable cultural, military or political center until 1484, when these lands were seized by the Turks. They considered the Danube from the mouth to Budapest and Vienna a zone of their special interests. It was at that time that they built a powerful fortress with the pompous name of “Hear, Allah!”- in Turkish “Izmail.” Quite a large city grew up nearby the fortress. The local population was engaged in trading in all sorts of things, but Izmail became notorious due to its slave market, the largest one in the Black Sea maritime regions. Naturally, since then the city became an object of incessant attacks by Zaporozhian Cossacks, in particular troops led by the Hhetman Konashevych-Sahaidachny and the Cossack chieftain Sirko – according to Cossack military ethics liberation of brother-Christians from captivity was considered a special knightly virtue. The fortress remained unassailable, but thousands of captives were liberated. After Zaporozhian Sich was destroyed by Catherine II, a political split took place, which had happened in the Ukrainian history before more than once. Most of the Cossacks, despite the empress’s perfidy, decided to remain in the native land, and continued to fight against their habitual enemies – Poles and Turks, now as part of the Russian army. They formed the “Black Sea army,” which played an important role in fighting for the Black Sea maritime regions. At the same time several thousand Cossacks did not forgive the empress, and retreated beyond the Danube, at that time the Turkish territory. Turkish sultan received them very civilly, granting privileges to the newly formed “Sich Beyond the Danube.” There is no wonder -these Cossacks seemed to Istanbul an important card in the forthcoming political games. Many a time in their history the Ukrainians died under the banners of foreign rulers… A few decades later the Cossacks beyond the Danube returned, and formed a new “The Danube-Mouth Army.”
Meanwhile, the strong bastions and the janissary garrison did not manage to hold the Turkish Izmail. In December 1790 the Black Sea Cossacks and the Russian troops under the command of A. Suvorov took the fortress by storm. Another famous Russian general, Mikhail Kutuzov, became its commandant. Thus the strategically important Izmail changed hands more than once. In the long run, in 1809 the Russian army commanded by Bagration retook the fortress from the Turks. During the siege the brave Captain I. Kotliarevsky, the author of the famous “Aeneid,” and actually the founder of the new Ukrainian literature, distinguished himself.
After the Crimean war, when Izmail, according to a treaty, was to pass to Moldavia, the Turkish vassal, the Russians blew up the fortress “at their parting.” The rest was completed by the local inhabitants who pilfered the remains of the impregnable fortress for their “household needs.” Twenty years later the Russians returned, but the fortress was not restored any more. So, unfortunately, you won’t be able to see the formidable walls and towers – what has been preserved is the Kiliyska gate (a typical example of Turkish military architecture), and the garrison mosque, which today contains an interesting diorama “The Taking of Izmail”.
In 1918, availing itself of the disorder of the civil war, the royal Bucharest began to realize its arrogant dream of creating the “Great Romania.” Among other Ukrainian and Moldavian territories it occupied Izmail as well. In 1940 the Soviet Union gained revenge, and Izmail became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. During World War II Romanians returned, but for a short time.
Now Izmail is a rather large (population of 100,000) and picturesque city of Odesa oblast. Despite its stormy history, historical relics in Izmail are not many, but the tourist will not regret his visiting the city. Apart from the aforementioned remains of the legendary fortress, a monument to Suvorov, the Museum of History and Local Lore of the Danube Regions. several churches and buildings of the 19 th century, worthy of note is the small and good-looking central district of the city, not some of its structures, but the center as a whole. A large modern office not far away from the Danube is the main head-quarters of the Danube steam navigation. Some tourists may become interested in the memorial of the period of the USSR -the rusty watch-towers located near the Danube beach, and needed by nobody today. However, the frontier remained in its former place – Romania begins on the opposite riverside of the Danube.