Transnistria - Some pictures of a short visit on a rainy day.
Fortress of Tighina (Bender).
The first traces of a settlement on the site of the present city Tighina (Bender) dates from 1st-2nd centuries AD, during the Dacians. Subsequently, mentions about a city appear in the early Middle Ages, the shoal from Tighina being protected by a fortress from the 9th-11th centuries. During Cuman domination (11th-13th centuries), the city is already named Tighina (in Cuman language means “pass”). The city was first mentioned as an important customs post in a commerce grant issued by the Moldavian voivode Alexandru cel Bun to
the merchants of Lviv in 1408. Later, Ştefan cel Mare builts a fortress of earth and wood (a palanca), conquered by the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538. The Ottomans rename the city Bender, meaning “transient enhanced”, and build here, within a year, under the supervision of the architect Koji Mimar Sinan, a fortress of stone.
Fortress resist several attacks over the centuries (the fort’s area was expanded and modernized by the prince of Moldavia Antioh Cantemir) and only during the Russo-Turkish wars of the late 18th century it is conquered and reconquered several times until it is permanently occupied by the Russians in 1812. In 1713 there was the site of skirmishes (kalabalik) between Charles XII of Sweden, who had taken refuge there with the Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa after his defeat in the Battle of Poltava, and Turks who wished to enforce the departure of the Swedish king.
After 1812, the city shares the history of Bessarabia, about which i wrote here. Tighina was part of the Moldavian Democratic Republic in 1917-1918, and after 1918 the city belonged to Romania. Along with Bessarabia, the city was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, but in in 1941 was retaken by Romania, and again by the USSR in 1944. Since 1991, the city has been part of the independent Republic of Moldova.
The fortress, rectangular and with six towers, is situated on the western bank of the river Dniester, the highest one, and is surrounded by three rows of walls. To enter in it, after climb a hill and pass the outer defense wall, have to cross a footbridge over a deep defensive ditch, formerly filled with water.
After a while, the defenders saw that the ditch without water is more difficult to past, so it has not been ever filled. Under the fortress lies a vast network of tunnels which leading to the city, where the soldiers quartered in recent years have found many artifacts, but they also have lost, one of them being found after three days.
Due to the city’s key strategic location, Bender saw the heaviest fighting of the War of Transnistria. Since 1992, Bender has been formally in the demilitarized zone established at the end of the conflict, but is de facto controlled by Transnistrian authorities. Some of the former outbuildings of the fortress were used as barracks for the 14th Army and now is used for training the Transnistrian army recruits. Only fortress itself was released for tourists.