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Sudak Castle  (Судак)

Sudak

 

 

Location: Crimean Peninsula  Map

 

 

 

 

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Description of Sudak

Sudak Castle or Genoa Fortress as it is occasionally known stands on the Crimean Peninsula in Russia. It is probably one of the best preserved medieval Italian Genoese citadels in the basin of the Black Sea. Sudak Fortress was erected on the cone like mountain that consists of the ancient reef that was elevated from the sea floor.

 

Sudak History

Although these lands were settled since the time of the Stone Age, the city of Sudak foundation date back to 212 AD when colonists from Alani or Adigey tribes came to these lands. Unfortunately archaeological digs yielded no physical proof of their occupation here. This date was based on written documents and local legends that describe alleged foundation of the town. These legends claim that first settlers came from the Eastern Bosporan Kingdom in search of new fertile lands to expand their population and expand the empire.

 

In the 3rd century these lands were taken by the Ancient Roman soldiers. It remained a small agricultural settlement until 6th century when Eastern Roman/ Byzantine Emperor Justinian I ordered construction of line of fortress to guard his empire. Sudak became such frontier citadel. The town grew in size and importance it was attacked by many tribes including various Slavic nations. One of the more consistent attacks came from Rus (future Russian and Ukraine) chieftain Bravlin. They called this city Surozh. Additionally Khazars nations from the steppes of Southern Russian and Ukraine attacked the walls of Sudak. Eventually they managed to capture fortified town in the 7th century. They held the town for almost two centuries and their pronunciation of its name Sugdaq resembles its current name of Sudak. The importance of Sudak as a regional center rose and soon it became the private residence of a Tarhan, representative of Khazar Kagan or king. Khazar leader Georgeious Tsulo lost his major town in 1016 after Byzantines went back on the offensive to retake their lands. They managed to re- take Sudak citadel and resume shipping of grains, wheat, fish and other products.

 

Fourth Crusade was launched against Byzantine capital of Constantinople which ended in the conquest of this magnificent city in 1204. Venetians used this temporary weakness as their chance to seize important sources of grains in Crimea.  The took the city and renamed it Soldaia. Another Italian city state of Genoa conquered the city in 1365 and went on to erect expansive fortress that would defend the city inside. Much of the structures you see today date back to the 14th century. However walls and towers didn't save residents of Sudak when Ottoman Turks attacked the city in 1475. Turkish allies the Tatars did most of the fighting and eventually their persistence paid off. The fortress fell and last remaining defenders tried to seek refuge in the church. It was burned along with people inside. Their white bones are still visible in various parts of the Sudak Castle. Additionally there are few skeletons that are still visible exposed to the elements.

 

Sudak gradually lost its military and commercial importance since it lost its trade partners in the West that wanted to buy their products. Constant warfare further undermined willingness of people to move here. In fact most of the damage to the city walls was never repaired by dwindling population. However Sudak fortress had a sizeable garrison to keep an eye on Russians to the North. This caution didn't save the Turks from an attack of Cossacks. Under leadership of Ukranian- Russian hero Bogdan Khmelnitsky they captured the city in 1656 killing most of its defenders. Sudak was basically left in ruins after the attack. When Russian army under leadership of Rumyantsev captured Crimea in 1771 it was a mere village. In 1982 it was recognized as a town, but it still has a fairly low population of 15,000+ residents.

 

 

Sudak Castle Layout

Military fortifications of the Sudak Castle consists of two defensive walls. The lower wall measures 6- 8 meters in height and 1.5- 2 meters in thickness. The wall is reinforced by 14 defensive towers that measure 15 meters in height. They also defend the main gate that leads to the Sudak citadel. The upper Sudak Castle consists of Consular Castle and several towers connected by a wall. Additionally it contains a watch tower on the top. Between military fortifications of the Lower Stronghold ordinary people constructed their residences, established shops and lead their everyday life. Remains of the city blocks are clearly visible to this day. They are particularly apparent during sunrise and sunset times of the day.

 

A two story Watch Tower at the highest point of Sudak was constructed in a shape of the irregular rectangular. It was erected on this strategic point to keep an eye on surrounding trails on land as well as approaches from the direction of the Black Sea. Today only three walls remain in place. The fourth walls of the tower fell after an earthquake that is common in the Sudak area. Next to Watch Tower you can see Corner Tower. The inscription on a plate allowed historians to date the construction of this military fortification. It was erected in 1386. Another 27 plates are found around the perimeters of the Corner Tower. They were created in a shape of a Christian cross. Its architects probably hoped this will keep these towers and the whole Sudak safe from the enemy attacks from heavens. Archaeological digs that were carried out in Sudak in the 20th century discovered remains of the ancient origins of the original town underneath this tower. It is quiet possible that Italians simply used older fortifications to erected their own fortress.

 

Consular Castle is a citadel within a fortified city. It consists of several buildings defended by walls and towers. Its main structure is the dungeon. Its first floor has a rounded niche that today is empty. In the medieval times it contained icon or a sculpture of Saint George, patron saint of common soldiers. This also gave dungeon its official name- Tower of Saint George. The western wall of the tower had a plate with the coat of arms of Italian city of Genoa (province of Liguria, Italy) with two winged griffons on the sides.

 

A small square mosque with a light blue dome is situated in the corner of the Sudak Fortress. It was constructed by Seljuk Turks in the 13th century. When the Genoese captured Sudak they converted it to a Catholic Church. Turkish Ottomans recaptured their city and turned it into a mosque again. After Russian Empire conquered Sudak and all of Crimea this religious building served as a Russian Orthodox Church, German Protestant church and Armenian Christian Church.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Transportation

 

 

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

 

 

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

 

 

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

 

 

Interesting information and useful tips

 

 

 

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