The cave city of Chufut-Kale invariably attracts the attention of tourists. Why is it interesting? Where is? What legends are associated with it? About this and many other things we will tell in this article.
Where is Chufut-Calais? The cave city is located on the Crimean peninsula in the Bakhchsarai district. The nearest city (Bakhchisaray) is about 2.5-3 kilometers away. The city-fortress is situated on the high precipitous mountain plateau of the spur of the inner Crimean mountains, which is surrounded by three deep valleys.
Chufut-Kale is a cave city, the address of which can not be found on any map. The location in the guidebooks indicated an approximate: Bakhchisaray district, the Crimean peninsula.
In order not to go astray, going to the cave city of Chufut-Kale, the coordinates for GPS navigators are as follows: N 44 ° 44'27 "E 33 ° 55'28".
How to get there?
One of the questions that arises with those who want to visit the cave city of Chufut-Kale - how to get there? There are two options: by yourself, take the city transport to the final stop "Staroselie" (Bakhchisaray) and then follow the signs to the fortress on foot or go to Chufut-Kale as a part of the excursion group (this option is chosen by most tourists who vacation at the resorts of the southern coast of the Crimean Peninsula).
Variations of names of caves
The cave city for many centuries of its history changed its name more than once.
According to one of the versions, the first name of the city was Fulla. A populated place with such a name has been repeatedly mentioned in the annals of the 1st and 2nd centuries of our era, but the scientists could not determine exactly where it was.
From the 13th century in the sources this city is already referred to as Kirk-Or (another variant of Kirk-Er), which literally translates as "Forty Fortifications". Also, during the reign of the Crimean Khan, you can find the name Gevkher-Kermen (in translation - "fortress of jewelry"), this name can be explained by the fact that the Tatar ulema decorated with precious stones all the gates, walls and gates of the castle.
In the middle of the 17th century the citadel was transferred to the Karaites and was given a new name - Calais. In translation from the Crimean dialect of the Karaite language "kaale" ("kala") means "brick wall, fortification, fortress".
After the annexation of the Crimean peninsula to the Russian Empire, the settlement of Kale is transformed into the cave city of Chufut-Kale, which means "Jewish" or "Jewish" fortress in the translation from the Crimean Tatar language (çufut - Jew, Jew, qale - fortress). This name of the fortress was given to merchants, who came here for various needs, gradually the name Chufut-Kale becomes official, it is used in scientific works of Soviet scientists and in the literature of Karaite authors from the middle of the 19th century to 1991.
Since 1991, the Crimean leaders of the Karaites have renamed the cave city-fortress Chufut-Kale in Jyft-Kale (in translation - a steam or a double fortress), but this renaming was informal.
Along with the names of Chufut and Dzhuft-Kale, other names for the cave city are found in the Karaite literature: until the middle of the 19th century it was called "Sela Yukhudim", and after that "Sela ha-Karaim".
History of foundation
There are several versions of the founding of the cave city. According to one of them, the first settlement here founded Sarmatians and Alans in the 4th century AD. According to the second version, which most scientists are inclined to believe, in 550 (during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian) three cave fortress cities were founded to protect the approaches to Chersonesos: Chufut-Kale, Mangul-Kale and Eski-Kermen. However, data on these villages were not included in the treatise "On the Buildings", information about them became available as a result of archaeological excavations.
Unbreakable cliffs and high cliffs, formed by nature, were framed by human high walls and fortifications. The Citadel turned into a reliable shelter and an excellent defensive structure.
Fortress in the times of the Crimean Khanate
In the second half of the 11th century, the Kipchaks (more known as the Polovtsians) gained control over the fortress, renaming it Kirk-Er.
In 1299, the troops of Emir Nogai took this reinforcement by storm after a long and stubborn siege, plundered, expelling the Sarmatian lancers that inhabited the citadel. The conquered cave city of the Tatars called Kirk-Or.
In the 13th and 14th centuries (during the reign of Jani-Bek Khan), one of the garrisons of the Crimean ulus, which split from the Golden Horde, was located here.
The cave city of Chufut-Kale received an active and rapid development in the 15th century. The reason for such rapid development of the citadel was the fact that Kyrk-Or became the first capital of the Crimean Khanate. Khan Hadji-Giray arranged here his residence after having defeated the ruler of the Kirk-Orsk khanate Eminek-bey. Haji Girey became the founder of a whole dynasty of Crimean rulers. During his reign, the Khan's palace was built on the territory of the fortress, the madrassah was built, the mosque was built under the auspices of the Janibek. There is a suggestion that in the first years of the Khan Khirei Khan's rule, a mint was built, where silver coins with the inscription "Kirk-Or" were printed (the remains of this structure were found in the fortress by archaeologists).
History of the fortress after the deprivation of the status of the capital
In the middle of the 17th century, Khan Mengli Girey ordered the construction of a new palace in Solonchak and transferred there the khan's residence. The fortress was given to the Karaites and renamed to Calais, and later received its final name - Chufut-Kale. The Karaites increased the area of Chufut-Kale almost two-fold due to the defensive system attached to the east, behind which was formed a trade and handicraft settlement.
The ancient wall, composed of large rectangular blocks of stone and cemented with calcareous mortar, has now become the middle one, dividing the plateau into the eastern and western parts, each of which could hold an independent defense. So there was one more name of the fortress - Dzhuft-Kale (steam or double fortress). Before the walls of the citadel, a wide moat was dug, insurmountable for the stenobitic tools, pedestrian bridges were thrown across it.
History from the time of accession to the Russian Empire
During the reign of Peter I's niece Anna Ioanovna, the Russian army captured Bakhchisaray and destroyed Chufut-Kale. After the accession of the Crimea to the Russian Empire, the Empress decree lifted restrictions on the living of the Krymchaks and Karaites, many left the citadel walls, only a small Armenian community and some of the Karaites who did not want to leave the settled life remained.
By the end of the 19th century, all residents had left Chufut-Kale, only the caretaker's family remained here. The last inhabitant of the citadel, the famous Karaite scholar, author of many scientific works of AS Firkovich, left its walls in 1874.
Defensive value of the fortress
The priority of Chufut-Kale is defensive. In addition to high strong walls and a wide moat, several more tactically important solutions were applied here. The road to the fortress passes by the Assumption Monastery, in which there is a source of drinking water, along the Maryam-Dere girder, then rises steeply up - past the cemetery - to the southern (small) gate. These gates were built as a trap: they can not be seen until you come close to them. Most likely, before there was a gate, because on the walls at the gate there were oak leaves.
The path to the cave town of Chufut-Kale went along the steep slope of the ravine in such a way that the enemies were forced to go up to the citadel, turning to it the right, least protected, side (shields carried in the left hand and weapons in the right hand). During the ascent, the enemies were attacked by arrows, which they were showered from the defenders of the fortress, specially equipped in the walls of the loopholes. It was almost impossible to knock out the gate with a ram: there was a steep slope before them, and a sloping path right before the wicket made a sharp turn. But even if the enemy penetrated the gate, another trap awaited him: the storming citadel warriors had to make their way through a narrow corridor specially knocked out in the rock. From the wooden flooring, arranged on top of the corridor, stones poured onto the heads of the conquerors, boiling water poured, and archers, hiding in caves, shot without a miss.
On the east side, the city was protected by a high wall and a wide ditch in front of it, and the southern, northern and western walls did not need protection, since the plateau on these sides breaks vertically down, only experienced climbers can climb here.
Chufut-Kale is a cave city, the photo of which, unfortunately, can not convey its former power. Until now, only a part of the caves and few buildings of the Karaites have survived, most of the buildings are ruins.
On the south side, the complex of the oldest caves, the main purpose of which is defensive or combat, is not bad. In the old part of the city, most of the caves have already collapsed, but two farm buildings have been preserved. These are large artificial structures, which are connected with each other by a stone staircase cut in the rock. Presumably, these caves were used as a prison for prisoners who could be kept here for years (the assumption is based on the remains of lattices on the windows of the lower cave and the notes of Count Sheremetyev who spent nearly 6 years in the Chufut-Kale prison). Above these caves in the 17th century was built a dwelling house.
Not far from the caves there is a beautiful example of architecture of the 15th century - the mausoleum of Janice Hanım, whose name is associated with many legends. According to one of them, Janike lived in a palace next to the barracks for 1000 soldiers, under her leadership the soldiers heroically defended Chufut-Kale, but Hanim was killed during the siege. Her father Tokhtamysh-Khan ordered the erection of an octagonal mausoleum, decorated with a high portal and carved columns, on the site of her death. In the depth of the mausoleum is still the gravestone of the tomb of the famous empress.
Well preserved and Karaite kenasses, located near the mausoleum. These rectangular buildings, surrounded by open terraces with columns and arches, served for general meetings, services were conducted and courts were administered by spiritual elders. At the end of the 19th century, a large library of ancient manuscripts, collected by the scientist AS Firkovich, was kept in the small kenassa building.
On the narrow main street of the city there are ruts from the wheels, their depth in some places reaches 0.5 meters, they testify to the centuries-old and active life that once boiled here.
Also, it will be interesting to visit the last inhabitant of Chufut-Kale (A.S. Firkovich), overhanging over the precipice. You can wander through the defensive structures in the eastern part of the fortress.
Cave city Chufut-Kale: reviews of tourists
Tourists who visited the city-fortress, are very advised to go to here, accompanied by an experienced guide who will tell the story of this unique place, will show in all its glory the cave city of Chufut-Kale. At an altitude of just over 550 meters there are beautiful monuments of antiquity, looking at which you do not believe that people once lived here. Often, looking at these caves, people do not believe that they were uninhabited: here all the "residential" buildings were located above the ground, and the caves were ancillary or household purposes.
What to see next?
Departing to Chufut-Kale - a cave city, photo of which will be for many years to remind of this amazing trip - on the way back it is worth visiting the Holy Assumption Monastery, founded in the 8th century. Here you can attach to the icon of the Holy Assumption of the Virgin, order services, pray or give notes. On the territory of the monastery there is a spring with delicious drinking water.
It is also necessary to visit the most beautiful Khan's palace in Bakhchisaray, founded in the 16th century. This beautiful palace is similar to the scenery to a beautiful eastern fairy tale. In the palace you can get acquainted with the way the Khan lived, visit the art museum and the exhibition of weapons, and be photographed against the backdrop of Pushkin's Fountain of Tears.
Chufut-Kale is one of the few remaining cave towns in the Crimea and the most visited among them. The caves and fortress walls, kenassas, mausoleum and narrow streets of the city breathe history and antiquity, making us think about the meaning and transience of life.