HOTYN FORTRESS

Hotyn fortress is well preserved and is one of the most spectacular places of the kind in Ukraine.

Every year, thousands of tourists from all over the world visited the fortress. It hosts festivals of historical reconstruction. Thanks to its excellent state of preservation, the fortress has repeatedly served as the scenery for movie production. Such movies as «D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers», «The Ballad of the Valiant Knight Ivanhoe», «The Arrows of Robin Hood», «Zahar Berkut», «Black Arrow», «Taras Bulba» and many others have been filmed here.

The archaeological examination of the fortress indicated that back in the 5th – 10th centuries there was a fortified site of the Slavic tribe of Tyvertsi here. Stone fortifications appeared here during the times of the principality of Galicia and Volyn. Archaeologists have discovered fragments of walls and princely chambers dated to the 13th century. This castle occupied about a third of the current area of the fortress, particularly its northern part. To the south of it there was a fortified trading quarter, protected by ramparts and a wooden palisade. In the 14th century, Hotyn became a part of Moldovan Principality. It was the time when major construction works had been performed. They resulted in creating one of the most impregnable strongholds in the Western Ukraine. The fortress area was expanded to the south, and the level of the courtyard was raised, by putting an additional layer of earth inside it. Due to this mound, the evidence of earlier buildings has been preserved in the thick of ground. The fortress walls were 40 meters high and about 6 meters thick.

The castle courtyard is divided into two parts: the commandant’s yard, where the fortress commander and higher officers resided, and the garrison yard, where banacks were located, and combat training were held. The yards are divided by the commandant’s palace, the walls of which are fashioned like a chessboard, with white and red brick blocks, and windows are framed in late Gothic style. The northern part of the fortress is completed by the strong Northern tower, which is the largest of Hotyn towers. It was designed to ensure successful defensive action even when enemies managed to break into the courtyard.

Being a large border town, Hotyn played an important role in the economic life of the principality. Protected by the fortress, there worked a customs office, the building of which has been preserved. Merchants from other places attended Hotyn to engage in active trading operations, and take part large trade fairs that were held here.

In 1621, a grand battle between the forces of the Commonwealth and troops of the Ottoman Empire took place near Hotyn fortress. Having defeated Polish troops in the 1620 battle of Tsetsora (Cecora), the Turkish Sultan Osman II took a huge army for the conguest of Poland and Ukraine. His army consisted of 130,000- 150,000 soldiers, assisted by 60,000 of Crimean Tatars.

The Polish nobility managed to gather only 35,000 soldiers who were mostly foreign mercenaries, ready to flee or go over to the enemy at any moment. Both of the warring sides appealed for support from the Zaporizhyan Cossacks, promising them any reward imaginable. In spite of being largely outnumbered, which gave little chances of victory, Cossacks decided to support the Poles. The army of 45,000 Cossacks led by Petro Sahaidachniy left for Hotyn. Five thousand Cossacks were killed before they reached the outskirts of Hotyn, sacrificing their lives to prevent Turks from approaching the fortress before the Polish army managed to bring its troops up to the city.

Sultan Osman II, who just turned 16 but already proved himself as a cruel tyrant, led the Turkish army. On the morning of the first day of the battle, Osman II said at breakfast that he would have the dinner in the fortress. Yet his plans for the easy capture of Hotyn failed: the battle lasted for 37 days. The Polish army settled in the fortress, while the Cossacks encamped under its walls on the banks of the Dnister. They had to take the main burden in repelling the enemy attacks. Sahaidachniy’s tactic was active defense in the daylight and rapid pinpoint attacks at night.

After several unsuccessful attacks and the loss of about 80,000 soldiers, Osman II was forced to sign a peace treaty with the Poles. After the defeat at Hotyn, the Turks abandoned their plans to invade Europe for a long time. The authority of the sultan had been undermined, and soon after his return to Istanbul Osman II was killed by the Janissary rebels. However, for the Cossacks the conseguences of the battle were negative. Under the Polish-Turkish peace treaty, the Poles were bound «to curb the willfulness of the Cossacks and to prevent their attacks against Turkey». The Cossack hetman Petro Sahaidachniy had received a serious wound to his hand from the poisoned Tatar arrow and died in a few months.

In 1713, during the Northern War, the Turks managed to capture Hotyn fortress. Almost for a hundred years, up to 1812, Hotyn had remained under the Turkish governance and had a strong garrison. In the castle, the Turkish governor resided and even had a harem there. During the Turkish governance, the outer ring of fortifications that had received the name of Nova Fortetsia (the New Fortress) appeared around Hotyn fortress. It was a ring made of scarped ramparts, fortified by bastions and battle grounds. One could go through the ring of ramparts by three gates, which were protected by ravelins. The New Fortress area was 22 hectares; there were barracks, warehouses, and a mosgue. Despite the powerful fortifications, the Russian troops captured the fortress for four times in 1739, 1769, 1788 and 1807 during the Russian-Turkish war.