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Inside the fortress of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi


Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi ( , transliteration: Bilhorod-Dnistrovs’kyi) is a city situated on the right bank of the Dniester Limanmarker (on the Dniestermarker estuary leading to the Black Seamarker) in the Odessa Oblastmarker (province) of southwestern Ukrainemarker, in the historical region of Bessarabiamarker. In 2004, its population was estimated at 48,100.

Names

View of the fortress
The city of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi is also referred to by alternative transliterations from Ukrainian as Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky or Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyy. It was added Dnistrovsky to differentiate it from Bilhorodmarker that was part of the Sloboda Ukraine and carried a similar name.

Previous settlements on the current site of the city were called Ophiusa (Οφιούσα) or Tyras (Τύρας) , also the name for the Dniestermarker) by the ancient Greeks and Album Castrum ("White Castle") by the Romans.

The Byzantine fortress was first noted as Asperon, a name deriving from the local Turkic Pecheneg word for "white," after the appearance of the shoreline with its high content of white seashells. The word "white" as a basis for the name of the city has persisted ever since.

Greek forms of the name were Leukopolis (Λευκόπολις), meaning "white city", Asprokastron (Ασπρόκαστρον) from Asperon, and Maurokastron (Μαυρόκαστρον), ironically meaning "black castle". The latter was modified to Latin Maurocastrum and Moncastrum and, later, became Italian Moncastro or Maurocastro.

From 1503 to 1918 and 1940 to 1941, the city was known as Akkerman ( ), Turkish for "white rock". From 1918 to 1944 (with a short brief in 1940-1941), the city was known by its Romanian name of Cetatea Albă, literally "white citadel" (or, alternatively, as Bolgrad). From 1944 to 1991, the city was most commonly known by its Russian name of Belgorod-Dnestrovskiy (Бе́лгород-Днестро́вский), literally "white city on the Dniester". Currently, the city is most commonly referred to by the Ukrainian version of the same name Bilhorod-Dnistrovs’kyi (Білгород-Дністровський).

The city is known by translations of "white city" or "white rock" in a number of languages including Белгород Днестровски (Belgorod-Dnestrovski) in Bulgarian, Akerman (Акерман) in Gagauz, Białogród nad Dniestrem in Polish, Dnyeszterfehérvár in Hungarian, עיר לבנה (Ir Levana) in Hebrew, and Walachisch Weißenburg by local German speakers (although Akkerman was usually used).

In western European languages, including English, the city has typically been known by the official name of the time or a transliteration derived from it.

Administrative status

Serving as the administrative center of the Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi Raion (district), Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi itself is a city of oblast subordinance, thus being subject directly to the oblast authorities rather to the raion administration housed in the city itself.

History

In the 6th century BC, Milesian colonists founded a settlement named Tyras on the future location of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, one which later came under Roman and Byzantine rule. The Byzantines built the fortress and named it Asprocastron ("White Castle" - a meaning kept in several languages). The Voskresensk Chronicle lists Bilhorod "at the mouth of the Dniester, above the sea" among the towns controlled by Kievan Rus.

In 14th century the city was briefly controlled by the Republic of Genoa and by King Louis I of Hungary. Sfântul Ioan cel Nou (Saint John the New), the Patron saint of Moldavia, was martyred in the city in 1330 during a Tatar incursion. In 1391, Cetatea Albă was the last city on the right bank of the Dnister to be incorporated into the newly-established principality of Moldavia, and for the next century was its second major city, the major port and an important fortress.

In 1420, the citadel was attacked for the first time by the Ottomans, but defended successfully by Moldavian Prince Alexander the Kind.

Under the walls of the fortress
In 1484, along with Kilia, it was the last of the Black Sea ports to be conquered by the Ottomans. The Moldavian prince Stephen the Great was unable to aid in its defence, being under threat of a Polishmarker invasion. The citadel surrendered when the Ottomans claimed to have reached an agreement with Prince Stephen, and promised safe passage to the inhabitants and their belongings; however, most of the city-dwellers were slaughtered. Later, attempts by Stephen the Great to restore his rule over the area were unsuccessful. Cetatea Albă was subsequently a base from which the Ottomans were able to attack Moldavia proper. In 1485, Tatars setting out from this city founded Pazardzhikmarker in Bulgariamarker.

It was established as the fortress of Akkerman, part of the Ottoman defensive system against Poland-Lithuania and, later, the Russian Empiremarker. Major battles between the Ottomans and the Russians were fought near Akkerman in 1770 and 1789. Russia conquered the town in 1770, 1774, and 1806, but returned it after the conclusion of hostilities. It was not incorporated into Russia until 1812, along with the rest of Bessarabiamarker.

On September 25, 1826, Russia and the Ottomans signed here the Akkerman Convention which imposed that the hospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia be elected by their respective Divans for seven-year terms, with the approval of both Powers.

In 1918 the city, along with the rest of Bessarabia, became part of Romania. In the interwar period, projects aimed to expand the city and the port were reviewed. Romania ceded the city to the Soviet Union following the 1940 Soviet Ultimatum but recaptured it in 1941 during the invasion of the USSR by the Axis forces in the course of the Second World War and held it until 1944 when the Red Army advance re-established the Soviet control over the area. The Soviets divided Bessarabia and its southern sides (including Bilhorod) became part of the Ukrainian SSR, and after 1991, of nowadays Ukraine.

According to the 2001 Ukrainian census, the majority of city population are Ukrainians. The rest are Russians (28%), Bulgarians (4%) and Moldovans (2%).

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