Home / THE DESCRIPTION OF BENDER OF 1789 YEAR BY P. CAMPENHAUSEN

... THE DESCRIPTION OF BENDER OF 1789 YEAR BY P. CAMPENHAUSEN ...

Picture by Ivanov. Beneder Fortress. Crossing.1790.

Bender, the capital of Bessarabia is located on the river Dniester ... The fortress is notable only for the huge moat that surrounds it, since its fortifications were built very unreasonably. It surrendered during the last war, because the pasha, commander of the city, and the serasker, commander of the camp outside, were at odds with each other. The Janissaries were mainly engaged in trade and worried about their rich shops.

We [the Russian army] found here 300 guns, 50 of which were iron, 25 mortars and 3 howitzers. The fortress was provided in abundance with gunpowder, kernels, rice, food, etc. There was 12-pound gun, which was donated to Emperor Leopold I by the city of Landau. On the muzzle of this there was a German inscription “Antoni Uth het mik gegoten” (“Anthony Ut made me”). Next to the firing hole there was a crown with linden and the words "Fusum est hoc tormentum bellicura tempore judicis Goldschmittii pro suae patriae gloria et memoria 1646." In addition, I noticed that one mortar was made in Venice. On the inner wall of the castle or the Ancient Fortress, there are two inscriptions. One of them is half-erased, except for a few words and the year of the Hijra. The other is in Arabic and translated as follows: “Built by order of the Istanbul padishah Bayazid [Beyza-Devoly] under the authority of the padishah, Sultan Selim Khazi [i] [Selim I, Yavuz (Grozny) -?; 1512-1520 R.Kh.]. 

All Turkish emperors call themselves Istanbul emperors or Constantinople emperors, as can be seen on the “lion piastres” or kurush and double piastres. The city of Bender has 2 suburbs, 12 mosques, 6 khans or inns and 7 gates. 

The names of the gates are as follows: Stambul Kapisy or the Gate of Constantinople [as in the original]; Tabany Kapisy or Tanner's Gate; Varnitsa Kapisy or Varnitsa Gate; Su Kapisy or Water Gate; Ulu Kapisy or the Big [Main] gate, Army or Military [Orda] gate and Tasch Kapisy or Stone gate. Two of these gates have inscriptions, one of which I will translate, partly because it is a good example [of a letter] of oriental style, but also because it says: the city of Tegin was not taken because of treason, as Hungarian historians claim, but as a result of the assault [ii]. The following is its literal translation: “I, by the grace of the highest, the first in the world of all emperors, the sultan, born of God and his prophet Muhammad, interlocutor of the Lord, conqueror of the world, governor Peter and Bogdaniya. I am Suleiman, the imprint of the banner of the temple of the only God, I pulled out the fortress of Tegin and its garrison from the king of Germany. I stormed her, in the presence of my invincible army. And I ordered, taking the stones from Palanca Castle, to build this wall and gate, and to call the fortress Ben-Derim. In the year of Hijrah 965 [1558 from the year of Christ]. ” 

People gather in the main mosque called Muynkar-Dgaramid only on Fridays. This mosque is considered a cathedral in which one is allowed to pray for the Sultan. The second mosque is called the Dagestan [Dagestan-Metsched], and the third - the mosque [of the Sultan] Selima [Selima Metsched]. All the rest are of little importance. 

About 150 Armenian families live here. Their church is a miserable building. I saw their wedding - a crowded procession through the streets. Men walked slowly away from women. Two torches were carried in front of them. About 20 steps behind them there were two boys in a white, gold-embroidered dress carrying wax candles. Three young men led the groom behind them, also in a white dress. The groom had a cane decorated with white ribbons in his right hand. Behind him there was a bride in a red silk veil, which completely covered her; she was led by two young girls. The procession ended with a crowd of women who emitted loud mournful cries. The priest, walking at some distance in front of the bridegroom, lifted his rod up and every five minutes repeated some words. They all walked so slowly that their steps were barely noticeable. 

The streets in Bender are extremely gloomy, narrow and dirty. The impurity inherent in Turkish cities is almost unbelievable and forms a stark contrast to the frequent ablutions that guide the Mohammedan religion. Dead horses, bulls, dogs lie and rot in the streets, and perhaps to a large extent give rise to the plague that so often devastates these countries. 

Inns, called khans by the Turks, are large square buildings that partially resemble monasteries. Most of them are double-decker. Their windows face the courtyard, which is surrounded by a high wall. In these khans there are a large number of small chambers [rooms], which have no connection with each other and which can be accessed from a long gallery or corridor. Travelers live in them, and foreign merchants put up for sale goods. There are not any furniture. All Turkish houses are weakly built and unable to withstand bad weather during severe winter. They have long corridors leading from one end of the house to the other, on each side of which there are rooms that look like cells in the monastery.

They have long corridors leading from one end of the house to the other, on each side of which there are rooms that look like cells in the monastery. The walls of the rooms are neatly inlaid with various types of wood. Each room also has a niche or a small toilet in which the Turks wash themselves and where there is a sewage system to get rid of dirty water. Along all the walls of the rooms stretch low sofas. Among the noble people, they are painted and covered with carpets, velvet and golden brocade. Among the poor they are usually made of clay and painted with dark yellow paint. A few inches above the sofa are very wide windows, covered with paper soaked in wooden oil. Glass is considered a luxury; I saw them only in mosques and houses of some nobles. The authorities of St. Petersburg often send window glass as a gift to the Sultan. Glass in the Munkar Hamid Mosque has an area of about three inches. The doors of houses in Turkish cities are decorated in a special way. They are usually equipped with two, three or more locks and are upholstered with tin, sometimes completely. Those who cannot afford such a big expense are lining the doors with lots of brass nails. 

The Grand Mosque [Munkar-Hamid] - the most beautiful building in Bender, has a length of 58 steps. A verse from the Koran is written in gold letters above the doors. Directly opposite the doors in a niche on the chain there is a metal washstand, which the Turks call as schadrivan. To its left there were the images of the Kaaba and the tombs of Mohammed, but they were removed upon the arrival of Russian troops here. To the right of the shadrivan there is a small pulpit resembling a guardhouse in which the imam stands while reading the Koran. Ten steps covered with red cloth lead to it. The floor of the mosque is covered with beautiful carpets, and sofas are made along the walls. In the middle of the building there is a dome decorated with a mahogany star and Koran verses written in gold. Under the star’s center hangs a copper chandelier, called a scherfe [iii], on the branches of which several hundred glass lamps of different colors are suspended, which are never lit except for the holiday of Bayram. In this case, every person present in the mosque had to pay a few parahs. Several ostrich eggs and artificial flowers made of tinsel or gold leaf are hung over the scherfe. Near the pulpit, a prayer against the plague is written on the wall, and next to it is a color image of the Aliyev saber [the sword of the prophet Muhammad who passed to Ali ibn Abu Talib]. In Turks, only three colors are used in wall painting: blue, green and yellow. I saw here a large hall, on one wall of which there was a drawing of a tree, and on the other side was shown something blue, similar to a ship. Minarets are tall, thin, tending to the sky, and their tops are upholstered with tin. They are built, as a rule, of stone and stand a few steps from mosques. I saw only one exception to this rule, which I already spoke about [in Akkerman]. They have a spiral staircase inside that reaches the highest point of the building. There is a balcony [gallery] outside, from which the imam calls for prayer or announces death. For this last service he is paid kurush [dollar], which equals approximately four shillings. Two galleries of the main mosque in Bender are built with a certain taste, and the spaces [between them] are decorated with blue glass [mosaic smalt], which creates a good effect when the sun shines. 

Priests (imams, and among Tatars mullahs) receive part-time bonuses in alms, from what they receive from the flock for fulfilling the duties of priests, and also from schools where they teach young men (each of which pays two parahs a week). Each Muslim during the Great and Small holidays of Bayram [Kurban-bayram and Uraza-bayram] is obliged to give a certain part of his property to mosques. In addition, imams use the income from each burial (nikia), circumcision (sikunnet), and marriage (masut). Upon the death of a wealthy Turk, 10 or 12 people are hired to wash his body; and the imam, meanwhile, reads prayers. At the birth of a girl, the imam reads the prayer Alla Gebker [Allah is Great] in her ear and gives her a name. The Turks' contempt for everything concerning other nations is so great that they do not know the incidents that happened before their eyes. 

They did not hear anything about Charles XII. Only the miserable ruins of the house in which he lived here, and his camp in Varniza are the only monuments to the monarch, who for several years filled the Russian empire with alarm and aroused the admiration of Europe. Two small [earthen] embankments cover the remains of Colonel Müller [iv] and Baron Stein, who served in the army of Count Panin and died during the first siege of Bender, when the town was taken. 

[i] If this unpreserved inscription was read correctly, it can be said that, at least, the archaic octagonal tower of the Bendery castle (No. 6) was built in 1512-1520, and the rest of the towers and walls of the citadel later, at Suleiman the Magnificent , which confirms the information of Evliya Çelebi [34] 

[ii] The source of this information is not named. 

[iii] Most likely, we are faced with a mistake, since şerefe is a ring balcony on the minaret, as well as honor and dignity (in Turkish). 

[iv] Apparently we are talking about Colonel Matthias Miller, one of the commanders of the assault column, who died during the beginning of the assault on the fortress in 1770.

Published as a Supplement to I. Sapozhnikov’s article “Bender’s Mosques and Churches until the Mid-19th Century” in the scientific quarterly journal “Eminak” No. 4 (20) October-December. Kiev-Nikolaev, 2017 pp. 74-75

Information about the author of the description Bender - the full name of the author of the book is Pierce Balthasar von Campenhausen; January 14, 1746, Riga - September 8, 1807, Riga. Peter entered the military service in St. Petersburg (1786), participated in the war with the Turks near Ochakov, Akkerman, Bender, and was in charge of foreign correspondence in the office of Prince G. A. Potemkin. After the war, he lodged together in the Izyum hussars in the Dnieper, participated in the Polish war (1792), suppressed the uprising in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus (1794), served in Smolensk, from where in 1797 he was transferred to the Riga Cuirassier Regiment, from which he was discharged the following year. Peter devoted the last 10 years of his life to writing and publishing scientific and artistic works.

A collection of descriptions of the cities and fortresses of Moldova and Ukraine by Campenhausen was published in the Journal of Newest Travels in 1810.

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