Genoese fortress
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This builds, that destroys… About the current state of the Genoese fortress

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Genoese fortressThe complex of fortifications in Sudak, now known as the Genoese fortress, has repeatedly been destroyed, changed its name, affiliation, restored, rising from the ruins.

As far as historians can claim, the erection of walls here in Surozh (or Soldai) began in the third century AD. Khazars, Goths, Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese, Ottomans…. The fortress suffered a new invasion in 2014 – and, as was often the case in its history, the horde came again from the East.
The conquerors of the past did not celebrate the artistic or historical value of the fortress – for them it was a military building, not a monument of Byzantine, Gothic or Italian history. The Ottomans rebuilt the Catholic church into the Padishah Jami Mosque, and from 1771 the Russians stationed their Kirillov Regiment in the fortress and built barracks for it, and turned the mosque into an Orthodox church.

Since 2001, the Genoese Helmet Festival of Medieval Martial Arts has been held annually in Sudak, the Genoese Fortress; participants of clubs of historical reconstruction gather on it, arrange demonstration battles, imitating those conquerors who once destroyed this fortress. Riders are jumping, dressed-up fighters are firing small arms and artillery weapons of ancient times, “amusing” battles are taking place, team by team…

Everything is not so apolitical, because the war (even the battle of the Reconstructors) always remains a continuation of politics. At the first post-occupation festival in 2014, the organizers “on the run” banned the arrival of four Ukrainian “knightly” clubs of reconstructors, who successfully and without any “unsportsmanlike” conflicts performed here in previous years. Political prejudices did not escape this event, far from the hustle and bustle of modernity.

It is a very interesting event, and, of course, it is better to hold such a festival in a city that is really involved in medieval Europe, and not somewhere in the semi-Asian, with completely different traditions, hinterland.

Everything is not as free as it seems at first glance. The contribution made by the participants is left out of the picture, and for spectators the ticket to the festival costs 600 rubles (while visiting the Genoese fortress at other times is only 200 rubles). The organizers of the festival advertise the exotic walls of the fortress, the romance of the sea and natural landscapes, the rich history of the ancient city, which together create ideal conditions for a medieval festival. Of course, exoticism, romance, the richness of history – that’s why Crimea was needed, because Russia has nothing to boast about, except for the Kremlin, built on an Italian project.

The obligatory element of the program – firing from artillery also raises questions. Although it is being conducted, it must be thought, not really, but idle, a certain risk of damage to the fortress remains.

Since 1958, the Genoese Fortress has been a branch of the Sophia of Kyiv National Reserve. Back in 2007, Ukraine submitted this monument as a candidate for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List (St. Sophia Cathedral itself in this register since 1990). Unfortunately, consideration of the application has been suspended due to circumstances that are infinitely far from culture. After separating from the “Sophia of Kiev”, the Russian invaders created the so-called “State Budget Institution of the Republic of Crimea Museum-Reserve Sudak Fortress.” Even under the current circumstances, the fortress museum is visited by two hundred thousand tourists every year. The ticket costs 150-200 rubles. This is quite a profitable business, it is not surprising that the “museum” dealers who have seized control of this object, seek to create even more comfortable conditions for visitors. History can be ignored – hotel rooms and additional toilets have even started to be built on the territory.As a result, something irreparable happened: on the night of November 16-17, 2015, one of the towers of the fortress collapsed. A little over a year was enough for the occupiers and their local landowners to destroy the building that had stood for centuries. And the so-called management of the newly created museum of the State University of Culture “Sudatska Fortress” instead of properly restoring the monument, decided to quickly “fix the irreparable”, ie showed criminal negligence. They hastily carried out a “restoration” – builders were hired without experience in the restoration of historic sites, especially ancient ones like this, simply made a concrete foundation and built an authentic copy of the tower from authentic stone, using modern cement mortar.A little over a year was enough for the occupiers and their local landowners to destroy the building that had stood for centuries. And the so-called management of the newly created museum of the State University of Culture “Sudatska Fortress” instead of properly restoring the monument, decided to quickly “fix the irreparable”, ie showed criminal negligence. They hastily carried out a “restoration” – builders were hired without experience in the restoration of historic sites, especially ancient ones like this, simply made a concrete foundation and built an authentic copy of the tower from authentic stone, using modern cement mortar.A little over a year was enough for the occupiers and their local landowners to destroy the building that had stood for centuries. And the so-called management of the newly created museum of the State University of Culture “Sudatska Fortress” instead of properly restoring the monument, decided to quickly “fix the irreparable”, ie showed criminal negligence. They hastily carried out a “restoration” – hired builders without experience in the restoration of historic sites, especially ancient ones like this, simply made a concrete foundation and built from authentic stone essentially a copy of the tower, using modern cement mortar.They hastily carried out a “restoration” – hired builders without experience in the restoration of historic sites, especially ancient ones like this, simply made a concrete foundation and built from authentic stone essentially a copy of the tower, using modern cement mortar.They hastily carried out a “restoration” – builders were hired without experience in the restoration of historic sites, especially ancient ones like this, simply made a concrete foundation and built an authentic copy of the tower from authentic stone, using modern cement mortar.

Nelya Kukovalska, director general of the Sofia Kyivska Museum-Reserve, says: “They did the same with the walls next to them. And these are horrible things that are unacceptable in restoration. They are a barbaric interference in the body of the monument. This situation demonstrates the inability of the so-called management of the Sudak Fortress Museum-Reserve and the occupying authorities of Crimea to set priorities in their work and shows criminal negligence in the protection of cultural heritage.

The fact that the collapse of the tower in the Genoese fortress is a crime, of course, but the principle of “shito-krito” in Russia, which now rules in the Crimea, no one has canceled. And impunity allowed to continue construction work, and immediately in the following 2016 to start digging a pit for construction directly under the walls of the fortress. The soil was removed by trucks, although in such conditions, the violation of the precarious balance can lead to the complete destruction of the priceless monument any day.

Not only that, two tongues of landslides hung over the fortress, which could destroy part of the wall at any moment. Nelya Kukovalska says that she monitors what is happening with Sudak’s “business card”, although she does not have direct access to the facility, which is still de jure subordinated to the institution she heads. According to Ms. Kukovalska: “After the annexation of the peninsula, illegal and unprofessional works are being carried out at the facility, and no one is involved in the development of the landslide situation. The fact is that we are seeing an increase in seismic activity there, and there is a danger that these two tongues of landslides will move towards the western wall of the fortress.

Unfortunately, as long as the occupation continues, there are no levers of influence on those who, through negligence and incompetence, lead this building to destruction.
“We are concerned about the fate of the Genoese fortress, because the specialists of the National Reserve” Sophia of Kyiv “devoted a lot of their time and effort to it. From 2006-2008, the intensification of landslide processes was observed, ie seismic activity increased, – says Nelya Kukovalska. – To work ahead, we set up a monitoring system and put up markers. In 2012, during the annual inspection of the technical condition of the monuments, the appearance of a vertical longitudinal crack with the opening of the body of the masonry was recorded, and a corresponding act was drawn up. And when Crimea became annexed, one of the towers, as you know, collapsed. ”

Since last year, the restoration of this unique monument of medieval fortification art has been entrusted to the notorious company “Meander” from St. Petersburg, which is also working on a dozen architectural monuments of the peninsula: Bakhchisaray Palace, Mithridates in Kerch, Vorontsov Palace Museum Surb-khach monastery in the Old Crimea, Pallas’s estate in Simferopol, Chekhov’s house in Yalta, Swallow’s nest, etc.

“Ukraine continues to promote the Sudak Fortress as a cultural heritage site on the UNESCO list, but without the admission of international experts to the temporarily occupied territory and ensuring their security, the completion of the project becomes problematic,” said Nelya Kukovalska.

In exchange for acknowledging the result of the aggression, Russia will, of course, be ready to admit UNESCO experts and provide them not only with security but also with the most comfortable conditions, but if the annexation is not recognized, anything can be done.

What, besides, of course, a bad memory, will remain after they leave?

There will be only scenery and ruins, ruins and scenery. Such ancient European buildings are a rarity in Russia; on the territory of Russia proper, they do not exist at all – only on the annexed by force of the western and southwestern suburbs. So it is not surprising that a movie is being shot in the Genoese fortress. Unfortunately, filmmakers do not always “clean up” after themselves. In the pictures received in August of this year, we see the scenery built for the shooting of a Russian film, which is clearly not the first year. How much longer do they have to stand? And if the gray wooden barn only annoys with its untidy appearance against the backdrop of a fabulous landscape, then the additional arch very much spoils the whole panorama.

The invader always sees in the occupied territory someone else’s and hostile, not his own. He is proud to have annexed this land and all that is to it, as if it were a battle trophy, like deer antlers on a hunter’s wall. Therefore, the history of the conquered territory begins from the moment of conquest, the previous population remains strangers, their history and culture – alien and hostile, everything that was before the conquest is of little value, and therefore should not hope to improve attitudes to historical memory. slaughterhouse.

And will not save the millions of rubles released from the “state treasury” for restoration and restoration-reconstruction, will not save the search for culprits in case of the worst developments (and in search of culprits, the Kremlin has always been unsurpassed). Moreover, it will not save the monument to restore it from improvised materials using modern cement – it will be an attraction instead of history and reconstruction instead of the spirit of chivalry.

Valery Verkhovsky

The project was implemented with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation

Valery Verkhovsky

Author of culturological articles, journalist of the newspaper "Crimean svitlytsia"

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