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The Arabian arrow, which looks like a thin bone on the map of Ukraine, is not only a unique natural phenomenon. She has long been a bearer of certain associations and stereotypes. For example, a laundry board and desert beaches are the two most striking and common characteristics of these places. This is how she is shown in the film “Such Beautiful People”, which was shot in 2013.
Although after 2014, the northern part of the Arabat Arrow, which is part of the Kherson region, ceased to be uninhabited. North Arabat is a tiny piece of the peninsula that can be reached without communicating with Russian border guards. That is why Ukrainians are willing to come here to rest.
However, the occupied part of the spit is completely empty.
The Arabian arrow is another example of a desert land located under the feet of civilization. Crimea has always amazed with the vastness of space and the inability to cope with that space.
This spit-peninsula, 112 km long, appeared relatively recently. The formation of the Arabat Arrow began in 1100-1200 AD due to the shallowing of Lake Sivash and the Sea of Azov, because it was here that salt began to be extracted by evaporation. (It is said that the Chumaks went for salt on the Arabat arrow). The arrow became a full-fledged land only in the seventeenth century.
Later, the Arabian Arrow became a place of strategic importance, because through it it was also possible to get to the Crimea.
According to one version, the arrow got its name from the fortress – Rabat (military post). Over time, the word began to be pronounced as Arabat. It is unknown when the fortress was built. Instead, we know that Arabat Fort has been rebuilt many times as needed and depending on the situation.
The fortress was first mentioned in 1651 in the book “Description of Ukraine” by Guillaume de Beauplan – a French military engineer and famous cartographer. Boplan wrote: “Arabat, or Orbotec, is a stone castle with a tower located on the isthmus of the peninsula, which is closed between the sea of the Liman [la mer de Limen] and the Thin Water [Tineka Woda]. This mouth is not wider than one-eighth of a pound, where a fence stretches from one sea to another. Our Cossacks call the peninsula Kosa [Kosa] because it looks like a spit. In this place the khan keeps his herd, which is said to have up to 70 thousand horses. Tinkawoda is a strait between land and the Kosa. It is only 200 steps wide and can be reached calmly on horseback. The Cossacks cross her camp when they go to steal horses from the khan’s herd, about which we will write soon. ”
However, on the map of Southern Sarmatia, created by Bernard Vapowski in 1526, there is already the word Arabat. This barely visible mark at the mouth of the Tsuryuk-Su River indicates that the fortress existed during the Turkish conquest.
Evliya Chelebi, a Turkish writer who traveled through the Crimea in 1666-1667, also wrote about the fact that the fortress was built long before 1651.
In his “Book of Travels” he tells a legend about the reason for the construction of a defensive fort. Celebi writes: “This large and strong round tower stands on a cape of the Crimean land, which protrudes into the Sea of Azov, on a flat place, among meadows and grasses. It was built by our master Muhammad Geray-khan… And the reason for its construction is as follows: several Crimean Cossacks from Cossack slaves swam across the Azov Strait to the side of the steppe Heitat and reached the Kalmyk Tatars. “The Sea of Azov at this Arabian cape turned out to be shallow,” they said. “We fled and ran to you.” Now we will return there, strike at the Crimean island, take a lot of shop from the Tatars and free many of our people from slavery. ” Having found a weak spot in the system of defense of the peninsula, the Cossacks really seduced many Kalmyks with promises of rich booty in the Crimea,and crossed the Sea of Azov to the Arabian Arrow.
Of course, this was unexpected, and the first Crimean settlements could not repel the Cossacks and Kalmyks.
At that time, the nearest garrison was located in Perekop, in the fortress of Or-Kapu. From there, a detachment left, which eventually “passed the Kalmyks through the teeth of Muhammadan swords.” And the Cossacks were executed.
That is, according to Celebi, the fortress was built during the reign of Khan Mehmed II Geray (1577-1584).
And in the XVII century, during the reign of Khan Mehmed IV Hero, it was rebuilt for the needs of the time – to protect against the attacks of the Don Cossacks.
However, measures to strengthen the fort did not prevent the Zaporozhian Cossacks, led by Kosh Ivan Zhdan-Rog, to storm Arabat and destroy everything that was there. This happened in 1668, almost immediately after the visit of the writer Evliya леelebi, who pathetically claimed that “after the construction of this high tower, the Cossacks and Kalmyks even stopped mentioning the name Crimea and forgot about it.”
However, this is not the only example of Cossack attacks on the fortress. It is known that Cossack troops fought near Arabat in 1647, 1648, 1675, 1678, 1737, and in 1739 the Cossacks under the leadership of Colonel Onesimus the White helped Russian troops capture the fortress.
After 1784, the Arabat fortress became the location of a small garrison and gradually fell into disrepair. The fort was renovated only during the Crimean War of 1853-1856, when the need arose to defend the Arabat Arrow. But after the war, the military was withdrawn from the fortress, and Arabat was deprived of city status.
In the twentieth century, the Arabat fortress was mentioned again. The new age brought new wars. Initially, soldiers of the Red and White armies hid here. It all ended with the Perekop-Chongar operation and the Sovietization of Crimea.
During World War II, there were fierce battles. The Germans built an earthen rampart, which was then buried. The distant events of that war are reminiscent of those around.
In a few decades, the fort will be the location of the film “Two Comrades Served” with the participation of Vladimir Vysotsky. And that’s probably all. The fort is forgotten. Locals are gradually spreading the stones of the majestic fortress on the houses by the sea. Excavations are not carried out (and this despite the fact that near Arabat once stood the temple of Hercules).
The lack of any interest in the fortress is sad, but not surprising. Especially in the context of the events of the last five years, when monuments of architecture and archeology are being destroyed either due to the indifference of the occupying power or due to “reconstruction”. Don’t even realize what’s worse.
Near the Arabat fortress is the village of Ak-Monai (translated from the Turkic languages white forehead). In Soviet times, the village was renamed Kamyanske, because here they were engaged in stone mining.
The Ak-Monai stonemasonry is less well-known than the Adzhimushkai, but World War II also did not miss this multi-storey gallery. For four months, the positions of the Soviet army, which held the defense from January to May 1942, were located on the Ak-Monai Isthmus. The famous Soviet poet Konstantin Simonov dedicated the poem “Rains” to these events:
Over the Akmonai plain
It was winter rain, and it was getting heavier,
Everything was wet, even the
backs of the horses that carried us gloomily.
In those turbulent times, the Ak-Monai stonemasonry served as a shelter for personnel.
In the XXI century, the tunnel interested extremists, and here there were orienteering competitions. And at the end of 2013, the search for burials from the Second World War was carried out in the stoneworks. Employees of the East Crimean Center for Military History Studies went down to the stoneworks. As a result, the remains of fourteen Soviet soldiers were found.
After the annexation, the “ideologically correct” theme of the “Great Patriotic War” is gaining momentum on the Kerch Peninsula. In fairness, I will note that search expeditions existed before 2014. However, they have acquired a pronounced character of Soviet-Russian patriotism in the last few years. Here, for example, is the news from the portal “Kerch is my city”: “A chapel was erected near Kerch in memory of the heroes of the war.” The news reports that veterans of the Great Patriotic War, representatives of search teams of Crimea, hero cities of Kerch, Sevastopol and Moscow, military-patriotic club “Family” of Tula region, regiment of “people’s militia” of Crimea, as well as schoolchildren, residents and guests of Glazov district.
In order to understand the tone of the event, it is enough to quote the head of the search expedition: “Memory is our weapon in this war. Obviously, our overseas well-wishers, Western partners and some neighbors in the Soviet Union are still afraid of our fallen heroes, Russia’s enemies are still at war with them and trying to destroy their memory. ”
This lyrical digression about the Ak-Monai stonemasons perfectly illustrates the attitude of the Russian occupation authorities towards the Crimean peninsula. As the man said, “Memory is our weapon.” And he is right. However, if you live by his logic, not all memory is important.
For some reason, after World War II, this memory does not work. Although on the site of the village of Ak-Monai there was a settlement in the days of the Bosporus Kingdom. Arabat Fortress is an architectural monument. The Arabian arrow saw many peoples and events. But it is not profitable.
By the way, the Arab fortress is again, ironically, fulfilling its function: here is now the deployment of the Russian military. I wonder who they are defending themselves from? Are they really waiting for the Ukrainian Cossacks?
Ivan KLEPYK, Sights of Ukraine: National Heritage magazine, 2019