Micha Jelisavcic
John Sloan


In the course of our studies of the remaining fortresses of eastern Europe, we visited the Carpathian region of western Ukraine and plan to visit the coastal area around Odessa and Belgorod-Dnestrovskii. The Ottoman Empire held both areas steadfastly until, they were finally compelled by Treaty to relinquish their posession of these territories. Khotin or Khoteen (also sometimes spelled Khochim, Choczim, and Chocim) is a formerly fortified town, now in Ukraine. The fortress is in the south and south-east part of the town, which is in the Chrrnovitskaya region of Ukraine. It is located at 48 degrees 30 min N and 26 degrees 30 min E, on the right bank of the Dniester, near the Rumanian border. Please see the section of a map showing the location of Khotin south of Kaminetz. The population in 1897 was 18,126. At the turn of the century there were local industries making leather, candles, beer, shoes and bricks. But over the centuries it was mostly important as a military outpost defending the trade route along the Dniester. In the middle ages the Genoese had a colony and stronghold here to facilitate their trade communications with Crimea and the Black Sea coast. The town has been at various times controlled by Poland, Ottoman Empire and Austria as well as Russia. The main events that took place here included the capture of the Polish fort by the Turks on 7 October, 1620; and the defeat of the Turks in 1621 (2 Sept - 9 October) by King Ladislaus IV of Poland (actual commanders were the Lithuanian Hetman Ya. K. Khodkevich and the Ukrainian Hetman P. K. Sagaidachnyi). They had 65,000 troops against the 120-150,000 troops of Sultan Osman II and in a series of battles freed the fortress. (Please see Khotin War for the translation of a Russian article on this war.) An especially interesting aspect of the Polish operations in this battle is the fact they threw a bridge across the wide Dnieper in order to cross prior to the battle.
Then on 11 November 1673 Crown Hetman (King) John Sobieski of Poland defeated the 65,000 man Ottoman army of Khousein-pasha. In 1711 the Turks again re-captured the fortress. Russian troops during the several Russo-Turkish wars of the 18th and 19th centuries repeatedly assaulted the fortress or fought Ottoman field armies in the vicinity. In 1739 the Russians under Marshal Munnich defeated the Turks. In 1768 the Turks defeated the Russians. But the Russians won and captured it in 1769. The Austrians defeated the Turks in 1788, and the Russians won again in 1806. But the fortress was restored to the Ottomans by peace treaties after 1739, 1769, and 1788. It finally passed to the Russians by the Treaty of Bucharest in 1812.

A fortress was built here by Prince Daniel of Galicia. The present fortress was built by the Poles in the 16th century on the site of the ancient castle from the 13th century. The bastioned trace was built by French engineers at the request of the Ottoman Turks, after they recaptured the fortress in 1711. They added to the high embankment a new stone wall some10 meters in height and 6 meters thich with 4 gates, 7 bastions and underground mining galleries. A dry moat encircled the walls. The renovated fortress was used by the Turks, as a support base in their military campaigns against Russia and Poland. The fortress was closed in 1856. The Church of Good News ? was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the victory over Napoleon in 1812, and was consecrated in the presence of Tsar Nicholas II. At present the fortress is preserved as a monument of military-historical art of the 16th - 18th centuries.
Yan Karol' Khodkevich (1560-1621) was the Polish/Lithuanian military commander and statesman of the end of the 16th and first quarter of the 17th centuries. In 1596 he took part in the suppression of the peasant-cossack rebellion in the Ukraine that was led by S. Nalivaiko. From the 1600's he was a Polish hetman. From 1602 during the Polish-Swedish wars of 1600-11 he commanded troops in the Baltic coastal region, and was victorious over the Swedes at the battle of Kirkhgol', now Salispils, fighting with four thousand troops against eleven thousand Swedish army. From 1605 he was the Great Hetman of Lithuania, and commanded the suppression of the Polish Shlyakhta, which had risen against the Polish king in 1607 and again in 1611, 1612, and 1620-21. He lead the Polish/Lithuanian troops that intervened in Russia. In the Polish Turkish war of 1620 he commanded the Polish troops and Ukrainian cossacks. He died in the course of the victory at Khotin.


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We make a long detour by car along a dirt road, and then a military road built by the Soviet army, to defend against a NATO attack, thru a village across the Dniester from the castle to get an over all view. Note the outer defensive wall, a bastioned trace, with two covered gates and the garrison church to the left of the castle. We will enter by the gate on the far left in this photograph .Note how the castle sits in a valley and would be indefensible against even late medieval siege machines. The original castle constructed by Daniel of Galicia was on the ridge to the right, where part of the much later outer bastioned-trace ramparts were located. He was given a royal crown as a king by the Pope, and married the daughter of the duke of Lithuanian. But these efforts to obtain allies proved futile. Daniel of Galicia was beheaded by the Khan, after establishing the principality and organizing a crusade against the Tatars.


Having driven far north to cross the Dniester bridge and then back south, we arrive at the outer bastioned trace fortifications. Here we are in the ditch.


Now we view the outergate before entering.


Climbing on top of the rampart we view one of the faces of a bastion.


View of the outer ditch to the other side, toward the river, showing overgrown area.


As we enter the fortress the garrison church comes into view with the castle to the left and behind it. The church is still being used, at least for special occasions such as weddings.


Now the castle comes in view from the path.


View of the castle from the path near the church


Another view of the castle from the same general area


Another view of the castle



We approach the garrison church, but our way is temporarily blocked. A parishoner?



We stop to view the church. This white stone church was built to commemorate the victory in 1812 over Napoleon and was consecrated in 1912 in the presence of Tsar Nicholas II. We stood inside the church while a wedding ceremony performed by an Orthodox priest, who was very happy to tell us of the history of the church.


A close up view of the church.



Another view of the church



Before entering the castle we will walk around the outside. This is the view of the drawbridge from the ridge south of it.



The view from the top of the path leading around the base of the castle.



Starting to walk around the castle, this view is of the outside of the wall. Note that the outer and later (18th century) fortress wall went along the ridge in the background.



Here we are down in the valley and viewing the drawbridge from below.



Here we view the whole castle while standing in the valley. The large round tower covers the drawbridge and approaches from the south. The large square tower covers the northwest approaches.



View as we walk along the castle wall outside it.



From the outside we see the small round tower and curtain walls.



The view further along the path outside the castle wall.



Another view further along the wall with the side of the square tower, note just to the left of the opening to the river is the ruin of the end of the outer fortress rampart that extends from there up to the ridge north of the castle.



Standing near the water at the northern corner of the castle we view to the north the fortress outer wall, rampart with bastions that begins at water edge and goes up to top of the ridge and then to the right along the ridge.



Now we will cross drawbridge into the castle, here we view the entrance.



Before entering the castle we view from the drawbridge to right, toward river and retaining wall across moat.



View from drawbridge to left up valley toward outer wall and gate tower



Now we will enter the castle, Standing in entrance gate, view toward white church and covered well



Inside castle view of covered well, white church, and governor's quarters.



Governor's quarters and castle wall behind it



Square large corner tower and corner of governor's quarters in front of it



Telephoto view of gate tower in outer wall



Close up view of the gate tower in the outer wall



View up the valley from castle wall



Inside corner of governor's quarters showing small round tower



Large round tower on southwest corner



Square tower on northwest corner



Governor's palace wall and one round tower seen from second story window of church.



Governor's palace wall and one round tower seen from ground level.



View out church second floor window of round tower and roof of well



Here is the inside of the governor's quarters, showing the reenforcing beams used during restoration work.



Inside the governor's quarters, showing the reenforcing steel beams installed as part of restoration work



Square tower and corner of governor's palace



Round tower.


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