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.
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
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