Khotyn Fortress

Khotyn Fortress (Хотинська фортеця)
State Historic-Architectural Sanctuary
Entrance view of the Khotyn Fortress
Country  Ukraine
Region  Chernivtsi Oblast
District Khotynskyi Raion
Municipality Khotyn
Landmarks Church of Alexander Nevsky, Former Military Academy, Ruins of Turkish minaret, Fortress well
River Dniester
Coordinates 48°31′19″N 26°29′54″E / 48.52194°N 26.49833°E / 48.52194; 26.49833
Founded Fortress
Date 1325
Management Khotyn municipality
Leader Larysa Pastukh[1]
Recognition Seven Wonders of Ukraine[2]

The Khotyn Fortress (Ukrainian: Хотинська фортеця, Polish: twierdza w Chocimiu, Turkish: Hotin Kalesi, Romanian: Cetatea Hotinului) is a fortification complex located on the right bank of the Dniester River in Khotyn, Chernivtsi Oblast (province) of western Ukraine. It is situated on a territory of the historical northern Bessarabia region which was split in 1940 between Ukraine and Moldova. The fortress is also located in a close proximity to another famous the Old Kam'yanets Castle of Kamianets-Podilskyi.

Construction on the current Khotyn fortress was started in 1325, while major improvements were made in the 1380s and in the 1460s.

The fortress is a large tourist attraction for the area and Ukraine. In 2007, the fortress was named one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine.[3] It is also a National Ukrainian Architectural Preserve as of 2000.[4]



As a Rus' stronghold

The Khotyn Fortress's beginning goes back to the Khotyn Fort, which was built in the 10th century by Prince Vladimir Sviatoslavich as one of the border fortifications of southwestern Kievan Rus', after he added the land of present-day Bukovina into his control. The fort, which eventually was rebuilt into a fortress, was located on important transportation routes, which connected Scandinavia and Kiev with the Ponyzia (lowlands), Podillia, Genoese and Greek colonies on the Black Sea, through Moldavia and Wallachia, on the famous "trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks".

The fortification was located on a rocky territory, created by the tall right hand shore of Dniester and the valley. At first it was just a huge mound of dirt with wooden walls and protective equipment. It was designed to protect the settlement of Khotyn across the river. The first stone construction was rather small. It was located exactly where the northern tower is located today. Throughout the centuries, this fortress underwent many reconstructions and expansions, and was damaged by new conquerors, who would later rebuild it.

At the end of the 11th century Khotyn fortress belonged to Terebovlia principality. During the 1140s the fortress became part of Halych Principality, and in 1199 was part of the Halych-Volhynian Kingdom.

Panoramic view of the fortress's walls.

Reconstruction and fortification

In 1250-64, Prince Danylo of Halych and his son Lev, rebuilt the fortress. They added a half-meter (20 in) stone wall and a 6-meter (20 ft) wide moat around the fortress. In the northern part of the fortress, were added new military buildings as well. In the second half of the 13th century, it was rebuilt by the Genoese.

During the 1340s the Fortress was taken by Moldavian prince Dragos, a vassal of the Kingdom of Hungary. After 1375 it was a part of the Principality of Moldavia. Under the rule of Stephen the Great of Moldavia the fortress was greatly expanded. Under his leadership, new 5–6-meter (16–20 ft) wide and 40 meters (130 ft) high walls were built. He also added three towers and raised the courtyard by 10 meters (33 ft). The courtyard was divided into princes' and soldiers' halves. He also dug deep basements which served as barracks to soldiers. This reconstruction brought the fortress to the structure it has today. During 14th-16th centuries the Fortress served as a residence to Moldavian Princes.

In 1476, the garrison successfully held the Fortress against Turkish army of Sultan Mehmed II. By the end of the 16th century Moldavia became a tributary principality of the Ottoman Empire. A janissary unit was stationed inside the fortress since then, alongside the Moldavian troops. During this time the Turks expanded and fortified the Fortress.

The Fortress was captured by the Commonwealth forces under the leadership of Great Crown Hetman Jan Tarnowski in 1538. Commonwealth forces undermined the walls of the Fortress, destroyed three towers and part of the western wall. After it was captured, the Khotyn Citadel was renovated between 1540-1544. In 1563 Dmytro Vyshnevetsky with five hundred Zaporozhian Cossacks captured the Fortress and held it for a time.

Control by different entities

The Khotyn Fortress is represented on Khotyn's city flag.

In 1600 father of Petro Mohyla, Semen, previous ruler of both Moldavia and Wallachia, and his brother Prince of Moldovia Ieremia Movilă, with Polish support, took refuge in the Fortress.[5] They fought a dynastic battle against the forces of Moldavia and Wallachia led by Michael the Brave, who was trying to capture it, then took refuge to Poland.

In 1615 the Polish army again captured Khotyn, and in 1620 the city was captured back by the Turkish army.

In September-October 1621, the Commonwealth army under command of hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz and Petro Sahaidachny, Yatsko Borodavka (about 50,000 troops) successfully held off the army of Turkish sultan, Osman II (estimated at 100,000), in the Battle of Khotyn. On October 8, 1621 the Khotyn Peace Treaty was signed, stopping the Ottoman advance into the Commonwealth and confirming the Commonwealth-Ottoman border on the Dniester river (the border of the Principality of Moldova).[6]

Bohdan Khmelnytsky, came first as an ally of Principalities of Moldova and Wallachia, then occupied the Khotyn Fortress for a period of time in the spring of 1650. In 1653, in the Zhvanets Battle on the left bank of Dniester, a garrison of Turks from Khotyn were fighting in the battle along with the forces of the Principality of Moldova. In November 1673, the Khotyn Fortress was lost by the Turks and Jan Sobieski started to occupy Khotyn with a Polish-Cossack army.[7]

With the 1699 Karlowitz Peace Treaty, the fortress was transferred from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to Moldavia.[8] In 1711, Khotyn was again taken over by the Turks.

In 1739, after the Russians defeated the Turks in the Battle of Stavuchany (today Stavceane) in which Ukrainians, Russians, Georgians, and Moldovans fought, they laid siege on the Khotyn fortress. The commander of the Turkish forces, Iliaş Colceag surrendered the fortress to the Russian commander Burkhard Christoph von Münnich.

In 1769 and 1788, the Russians again successfully stormed the fortress, but every time it was given back according to peace treaties. Only after the Russo-Turkish War (1806-1812) did Khotyn become a permanent part of Russia and a district center in Bessarabia. However, when the Turks were retreating, they almost completely ruined the fortress.

In 1826, the city of Khotyn was given a coat of arms.

In 1832, the new church of Oleksandr Nevskiy was built on the territory inside of the fortress.

In 1856, the government ended the status of the Khotyn Fortress as a military entity.

20th century

The First World War and the Russian Civil War took a heavy toll on the people of Khotyn. In 1918, Khotyn was occupied by 5 states: Russia, Ukraine, the Moldovan National Republic, Austria-Hungary, and Romania. On November 10, 1918, Khotyn was taken over by the Kingdom of Romania.

In January 1919, an anti-Romanian uprising took place. The Khotyn Directory gained authority in more than one hundred villages in the area and Y. I. Voloshenko-Mardaryev (Й. І. Волошенко-Мардар'єв) was in charge. The uprising lasted only ten days and on February 1, the Romanians got into Khotyn. Khotyn stayed under the rule of Romania for 22 years and was the district center the Hotin County.[4]

On July 6, 1941, Khotyn was again taken over by the German-Romanian armies. In the city, starting from the first days of occupation, an anti-fascist organization was created. It was active for one year and its head was Kuz'ma Halkin (Кузьма Галкін) and in August 1942, it was discovered and destroyed. Khotyn was freed from the Axis on April 3, 1944. .[4]


Today, Khotyn is one of the biggest cities of the Chernivtsi oblast, an important industrial, tourist, and cultural center of the Bukovina region. In September 1991, during the celebration of 370 years since the Battle of Khotyn of 1621, a monument made in honor of Ukrainian Hetman, Petro Sahaidachnyi by sculptor I. Hamal' (І. Гамаль).[4]

Taking into consideration the rich historical traditions of the city, the Khotyn fortress architectural prereserve was created by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in 2000.[9] In September 2002, the ancient city celebrated its 1000-year anniversary.[4]


Close up view of the dark spot.

The fortress has often been used as a setting for movies. It has represented various French and English castles, historical locations, and fortifications. Most recently, it appeared in a Russian movie Taras Bulba, based on Nikolai Gogol's novel of the same name.[10] The Khotyn fortress was the site of the filming of many other popular movies: Hadyuka, Zakhar Berkut, Ballade about gallant knight Ivanhoe, The Three Musketeers, Black arrow, Old Fortress, and Arrows of Robin Hood.[4]

There are also many legends about the fortress, created over the hundreds of years of its existence. Some popular legends involve the origins of the large dark spot on the side of the wall of the fortress. One legend says that the spot was created by the tears of the Khotyn rebels against the Ottoman Turks that were killed inside fortress. Another legend has it that the spot was created from the tears of a girl named Oksana, whom the Turks buried alive in the walls of the fort.[11]


  1. ^ (Ukrainian) Description of fortress
  2. ^ Seven Wonders of Ukraine
  3. ^ "State historical-architectural reserve "Khotyn Fortress"" (in Ukrainian). Seven Wonders of Ukraine. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Klymenko, Sergiy (July 2004). "On the southwest of Kiev, July 2004. Fourth day: Chernivsti -> Khotyn -> Kamianets-Podilskyi -> Chornokozyntsi -> Chernivsti" (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  5. ^ Ohloblyn, Oleksander. "Mohyla, Petro". Encyclopedia of Ukraine.\M\O\MohylaPetro.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  6. ^ Podhorodecki, Leszek (1971). "Chocim, 1621" (in Polish). Muzeum Pałac w Wlianowie. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  7. ^ History of cities and villages of the Ukrainian SSR. Kiev. 1971. 
  8. ^ Khvorostenko, Sergey (2005). "Khotyn Ancient and Modern" (in Russian). Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  9. ^ Laws of Ukraine. Cabinet of Ministers decree No. 1539: About the governmental historical-architectural reserve "Khotyn Fortress". Passed on 2000-10-12. (Ukrainian)
  10. ^ "Khotyn - Chocim". Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  11. ^ Khotyn Fortress — Newspaper article from Shepetivskyi Vistnyk (Ukrainian), Accessed 16 July 2008.

External links

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