Home / Aivazovsky and Bendery Fortress

... Aivazovsky and Bendery Fortress ...

You can ask any self-respecting resident of the town Bendery what the Swedish king Charles XII and the Ukrainian hetman Mazepa, the minion of the Russian empress Potyomkin and the Russian rebel Emelyan Pugachev, have to do with our fortress, and you will receive an exhaustive reply. Many will proudly tell you that the well-known Baron Munchhausen made his flight on a cannonball here. And lovers of mystic will add that at full moon on the citadel appears the ghost of the wife of John-Voda the Lute with a baby in her arms, and disappears on the top of the fortress wall. And this is not surprising. An ancient castle should have its own history, its legends and riddles. And what a castle without ghosts?!

Surprisingly is another. If you ask how the Bendery fortress is related to the fate of Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, the absolute majority of us will answer: "None." And they will be wrong. The fate of the Aivazovsky family, His Majesty Chance decided here. He miraculously saved a Turkish newborn child, who became the father of the great Russian painter. Thus, in the veins of Aivazovsky flowed the Turkish blood, although, for some reason he was considered to have Armenian blood. Most biographers do not show this fact in modern editions. The biography of the famous Russian marine painter Aivazovsky usually begins with his birth in an Armenian family. Why? Probably, because of the sympathy to this nation, that was subjected to cruel violence many times. However, the fact does not cease to be a fact.

We are opening the magnificent edition of O. I. Bulgakov “I. K. Aivazovsky and his works”, published in St. Petersburg in 1901. The annotation indicates that “the text was compiled by N.N. Kuzmin on the basis of the autobiography of I.A. Aivazovsky, his letters and printed editions”. The book was published one year after the artist’s death, and he was probably familiar with the contents of its manuscript. Therefore, there is no doubt that the facts cited in it are authentic.

In the chapter one, "Childhood and Youth", we can read: "The ancestors of Aivazovsky were Turkish subjects, followers of Koran." Further, the author quotes Countess Antonina Dmitrievna Bludova, who, speaking of Aivazovsky's Turkish origin, noted that "the Mohammedan East, with all its hatred for Russia, gave it two poets: Zhukovsky and Pushkin, and one painter - Aivazovsky."

N.N. Kuzmin writes that once I.K.Aivazovsky in the family circle recalled the following interesting details about his origin: “I was born in Feodosia in 1817, but the real native land of my close ancestors, of my father, was far away, not in Russia. Who would have thought that the war, this all-destroying scourge, served to save my life, and that I saw the light and I was born in Russia and on the shore of the Black Sea that I love. Meanwhile it was like that.

In 1770, the Russian army, led by Rumyantsev laid siege to Bendery. The fortress was taken, and the Russian soldiers, irritated by the stubborn resistance and death of their comrades, scattered around the city and, listening only to the feeling of revenge, did not spare either gender or age. Among the victims was the secretary of the Bendery Pasha. He was deadly wounded by one Russian grenadie, he bled to death, holding a baby in his hands, which was preparing the same fate. The Russian bayonet was already brought over the little Turk, when one Armenian kept his punishing hand exclaiming: “Stop, this is my son! He is a Christian! ” Noble lie served to salvation, and the child was spared. This child was my father.”

In a footnote, the author points out that the story given here is written down from the words of I.K. Aivazovsky and is kept in the painter’s family archive.

As known, the beneficence of the unknown Armenian did not end. He became the second father for the Muslim orphan, christened him by the name of Constantine, and gave him the surname Gaivazovsky. Thus, the family of Aivazovsky got its surname from the secretary of the pasha who died in the Bendery fortress (the word “gayzov” means “secretary” in Turkish). Then the family of Gayvazovsky moved from Turkey to Galicia, where till nowadays the family of landowners Aivazovsky, whose great-grandfather was ennobled by the Austrian emperor, has survived near the city of Lviv. According to the document on their nobility, the Gaivazovsky brothers, Ivan and Gabriel, from 1840 changed the spelling of “Gaivazovsky” to the more correct, from their point of view, “Ayvazovsky”, which they adhered to from that time.

Aivazovsky-father  lived for a long time with his benefactor in Galicia, but due to family disagreements he moved and lived in Wallachia and Moldova, where he was engaged in trade. He perfectly knew many languages: Turkish, Armenian, Hungarian, German, Jewish, Gypsy, and almost all adverbs of the present Danube nations. Then Konstantin Aivazovsky moved in Feodosia, where he married a young Armenian beautiful girl and engaged in commercial operations, at first successfully. However, in course of time the happiness betrayed him. In 1812, as a result of the plague, Aivazovsky was broke and, having lost most of his property, soon became poor. Therefore, the childhood of his sons was spent in a very modest conditions. From that moment usually the story about Ivan Aivazovsky begins.

The biographers of the famous marine painter write that Ivan Konstantinovich not only ardently loved people who helped him in his life, but generally attached to people and places. He had a passion for them no less than for art. And despite he spent his whole life traveling, he always returned to his native Feodosia. He was compared to a migratory bird, "looking for a freedom in one or the other side, but always returning to his homeland."

He always warmly remembered the places that he or his ancestors visited. Surely remembered and Bendery. The city mentioned in the family stories. Unknown Armenian who saved the life of his father. Bendery fortress - intersection of history, tragic and happy for the fate of the Aivazovsky family.

O. Rossolov, chief custodian of the A.V. Losev Republican Art Gallery

Actually - Count Panin. The author of the quote made historical inaccuracy. 

^ Top