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Khotyn

The Khotyn Fortress is the most prominent among numerous Bukovynian historical relics. From the 11 th through 14 th centimes this land was part of Kyivan Rus, and later, of Galician-Volhynian principality. The international route from Krakow and Lviv to the Black Sea harbors ran through this territory. In the 13 th century, by order of king Danyloof Galicia, a stone fortress was built in place of a wooden one, which was reconstructed and improved more than once in the course of ensuing centuries. A hard battle between the Turkish army 250 thousand strong under the command of the sultan Osman II and the united forces of the Polish’-army, 35 thousand in number, commanded by Hetman Jan Karol Khodkievicz and the Cossack troops under Hetman Petro Sahaidachnyi, 40 thousand strong, took place near the Khotyn fortress. The Turks even brought combat elephants to the walls of Khotyn, but the staunchness of the defenders forced the sultan to make peace with Rzeczpospolita. This defeat cost him his life: before long the janissaries strangled him with a bow-string. The victory in the battle of Khotyn in 1621 saved Europe from Osmanli expansion.

In the early 18 th century the Ottoman Empire decided to turn Khotyn in its main advanced post on the Dniester to counteract the growing Russian expansion to the South. In 1715 Turkish administration was introduced in Khotyn district. From 1711 to 1718 the Turks, with the assistance of French engineers, turned the fortress into the most impregnable bastion of Centro-Eastern Europe. Near the old castle a new fortress was built that occupied an area of 250 x 1200 m. It was counted on quartering a 20-thousand strong garrison. Gates topped with towers were set into the ramparts: Kamyanetska, Yasska, Benderska, Ruska, and Podilska. A mosque and a minaret were built in the territory of the new fortress. In 1806 Russian army seized Khotyn fortress and held it until 1812, when Bucharest peace treaty was signed, under which the territory between the Dniester and Prut rivers became part of the Russian Empire, under the name of Bessarabia. On December 6, 1806, the Turkish mosque was re-consecrated as the Church of St. Nicholas. Another mosque, within the territory of the fortress, was reconsecrated as the garrison Church of St. Alexander Nevsky.

After the Crimean War the fortress lost its strategic significance and was transferred to local administration. The inhabitants of Khotyn found themselves on the frontiers of several countries, and switched over to vodka, tobacco, fabrics, and tea smuggling. In Soviet times the fortress gradually declined, though served as a scaffold for many historical films (from “Zakhar Berkut’to” Three Musketry”). Starting in the late 1990 s the fortress has been experiencing its new revival. Today Khotyr fortress is considered one of the seven miracles of Ukraine.


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