Релігійна і культурна політика царизму
Мечеть і медресе хана Узбека в Старому Криму.

Solkhat (Staryi Krym or Old Crimea). Consequences of the occupation for cultural heritage.


Staryi Krym was first inhabited as far back as in the 3rd millennium BC. At the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, the Taurian settlement of Kariya (Karea, Kareon) is mentioned. In the 12th century, there was a settlement called Surkat (Surkhat). In 1263, a small settlement of Kyrym was mentioned, inhabited by Kipchaks, Alans, Goths, Ruthenians and Greeks. The city of Solkhat (Genoese name) originated in the 13th century as the residence of the vicegerent of the Golden Horde khan. Until the 14th century, it was the center of the yurt (an administrative unit), a rich trading center, governed and partially inhabited by Muslims, while having a significant Christian population: Armenians, Greeks, Italians. Solkhat received its main income from the transit of oriental goods from the Genoese colonies of Kafa and Soldaya (modern Feodosia and Sudak) to Europe and back. With the creation of an independent Crimean Khanate in the 15th century, its capital was established in Bakhchisarai. As a result, Solkhat lost its political significance and declined. International trade was hit by the then fall of the Byzantine Empire and the capture of Kafa by the Turks.

Remains of a madrasa building in Solkhat. Photo by E. Kravchenko, 2004

Later names of the town, after which the whole peninsula was named, formerly called Gazaria or Taurica, were Kyrym, Eski Kyrym (from the Crimean Tatar  “Old Crimea”, another variant is “old ditch”). In 1783, after the conquest of Crimea by the Russian Empire, the town received the pseudo-Greek name Levkopol (“Quiet City”), which did not take root. In 1787 the town was renamed the “Staryi Krym” (Old Crimea) and became part of the Feodosia district. At that time it had 6,000 inhabitants; most Muslims emigrated to Turkey, Catholics to Italy and Spain.

The original core of the town, dating back to ancient times, is covered with medieval archaeological layers. Monuments of ancient architecture or their remains have been preserved in Staryi Krym: Uzbek (Özbek) Khan Mosque, the ruins of the madrasa, the mosques of Baybars, Kurshum-Jami and Musk-Jami, the Karaite kenasa, the caravanserai (bazaar), the church of John the Baptist.

Uzbek Khan Mosque is the oldest surviving mosque in Crimea. Its foundation was laid in 1314, at the beginning of the reign of the Khan of the Golden Horde named Uzbek. In 1332 a madrasa was added to the building of the mosque on the initiative of a rich woman Injibek-khatun, who was buried there in 1371. The Solkhat Madrasa is considered to be the oldest known school in Eastern Europe, where children of the Crimean Tatar elite were educated. Now it remains in ruins. The shape of the mosque is simple, rectangular, with a gabled roof. There is one minaret, on the side of the entrance. The portal and the mihrab are decorated with carvings and inscriptions, which record the date of construction. The mosque is active, but it is also visited by tourists.

The Church of John the Baptist, considered the first Christian church in the city, was built in the 11th – 14th centuries. The ruins are located in the northeastern part of the city, on the abandoned territory of a tobacco factory. It is quite difficult to determine the confessional affiliation of the temple, due to the architectural features inherent in both Greeks and Armenians. It probably belongs to the type of rural Byzantine temple (a small single-chamber single-apse basilica). Worship services were held there until 1930.

The Baybars Mosque was built at the expense of the Sultan of Egypt Baybars I, who, according to legend, was born in Staryi Krym. The building dates back to about 1287-1288. Thus, it is believed to be the oldest mosque in Crimea. At the end of the 18th century, its minaret was still preserved which is now lost.

Musk-Jami (“musk mosque”) was built in the first half of the 14th century. Back in the 1860s, around the mosque, there were found remains of arabesques, somewhere gilded. Above the entrance, there was an inscription glorifying Allah and the information that the mosque was built by Abdul-Ghazi-Yusuf during the reign of Uzbek Khan in 714 after the Hijrah (1314). A madrasa was located near Musk-Jami.

Kurshun-Jami (or Kurshum-Jami, “lead mosque”) is a mosque, probably built in the early 14th century (1396) as a takyeh (shelter) for dervishes by order of Bai Bugla Khatun, the granddaughter of Kutlug Timur. In 1398 it became a quarter mosque. It was destroyed in the 16th century, in 1625 during a skirmish, in 1944 due to the fall of an air bomb. The ruins are located on the territory of the former estate of the artist Ivan Aivazovsky.

By order of the Government of the Russian Federation № 2073-r dated October 17, 2015, the Uzbek Khan Mosque and the ruins of the Church of John the Baptist were put on the list of “cultural heritage sites of federal significance included in the single state register of cultural heritage sites (monuments of history and culture) of the peoples of the Russian Federation”.[1] The ruins of the Baybars Mosque and Kurshum-Jami were listed as “cultural heritage sites of regional significance” by the “Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea №627” dated December 20, 2016.[2]  By “Order № 248-OKN” dated July 5, 2021, the “Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Crimea” approved the protection zones of the Uzbek Khan Mosque and the ruins of the madrasa.[3]


In the period 2014-2019, a group of specialists from the State Hermitage (led by a leading researcher of the Oriental Department of the State Hermitage, a member of the editorial board of the journal “Tatar Archeology”, a member of the International Committee of Turkish Art M. Kramarovsky) under the guise of “archaeological research” illegally excavated the object of the cultural heritage of Ukraine in Crimea, the medieval settlement of Solkhat. Archaeological artifacts were unlawfully seized from the site during these works.[4] Ancient samples of indigenous cultures of Ukraine (Crimean Tatars, Karaites, Crimean Tatars), as well as ancient Greek and other cultures, were damaged.


A medieval street adjacent to the south wall of the architectural complex of the madrasa dating back to the beginning of the 14th century was excavated. Behind the south wall of the madrasa on an area of about 150 square meters, there was excavated a cultural layer of the street of the late 13th – 17th centuries, as well as the remains of several buildings, including a stone canal of the 4th century,  designed to discharge rainwater, and several utility pits associated with the housing of the 13th – 15th centuries. A platform of the base (2.7 × 4.1 m) of a rectangular fountain in the center of the madrasa yard was also found. The neck of the water-collecting well was found at the level of the floor of the courtyard (the diameter of the upper part is 2 m, the diameter of the trunk is 0.9 m, and the depth is 3.5 m). 5 lighting wells, 4 galleries of hydraulic system and 23 fountains were registered. A “pillow” of the colonnade (1.2 × 1.5 × 1.3 m) made of stone on a clay solution was discovered in the south-western sector of the building. More than 200 coins of the Golden Horde and adjacent territories and the Crimean Khanate, as well as a large number of household and tableware, metal and glassware were unlawfully seized from the site.[5]


On the outer side of the southern wall of the Solkhat madrasah, there were excavated a rainwater drainage channel (2nd half of the 13th – beginning of the 14th century), the remains of a well, a tandoor and two household pits older than the madrasa, as well as the remains of a Karaite kenasa (approximately 2nd half of the 13th century). The length of the western and eastern walls is about 18.13 m, the length of the southern and northern walls is about 14.79 m, thickness is about 0.9 m, the interior area of the object is about 214, 3 square meters. In the center of the southern wall, there are the remains of an altar niche, part of which has preserved plaster with traces of unreadable graffiti. A large amount of pottery and more than 200 coins were unlawfully seized from the site.[6]


On 6 plots, with a total area of 130 square meters, the excavation of the remains of a synagogue or kenasa of medieval Solkhat was continued. Remains of stone outbuildings and an ash-mound formed in the 13th – at the turn of the 14th century, as well as remains of a water supply made of ceramic pipes of the 13th – 14th centuries were found. A large number of fragments of pottery and 128 coins of the 13th-17th centuries were unlawfully seized from the site: two anonymous small copper coins of Mengu-Timur times (1267–1280); an anonymous small copper coin minted in Crimea in the end of the 13th century during the reign of Tula Bug (1287–1290) with the inscription “48 makes up one yarmaq“ (yarmaq – a silver coin); denominations of the Crimean Khanate of the times of Muhammad Geray (1517); akche (a small silver coin) of the times of Devlet Geray I (1577) and others.[7]


During the excavation of the complex of the madrassa and Uzbek Khan Mosque, a furnace was discovered, which was likely to be used for working with metal products. Spheroconical vessels, fragments of amphorae and container jars, tableware and kitchen utensils were found on the southern slope of Maly Agarmysh Mountain during the excavation of the building. Later these objects were unlawfully seized from the site.[8]


In the north-eastern sector of the pre-portal square of the architectural complex “Madrasa – Uzbek Khan Mosque”, a Muslim cemetery of the 16th century was discovered and 6 burials in stone boxes were excavated. A well (depth 6 m, diameter 1.5 m) was excavated, where archeologically complete profiles of ceramic vessels, metal products, and coins were found. The lower masonry of a stone mausoleum not older than the 14th century with a filling lined with Golden Horde flat bricks were found at the site in the south-eastern sector of the settlement near the town water reservoir. A large collection of pottery, including imported, Golden Horde flat bricks and coins of the 14th-17th centuries, was unlawfully seized from the monument.[9] 


A Muslim mausoleum (durbe), dating back to probably the late 14th –  early 15th centuries, was excavated on the eastern outskirts of Staryi Krym. On 11 plots, 5 × 5 m each, with a total area of 104.5 square meters, there were excavated glazed bricks and tiles with green glaze (20 × 20 × 2 cm), remains of a woman’s skeleton, paired earrings made of yellow metal with a transparent insert, fragments of a bronze mirror, a pendant made of yellow metal, two beads, as well as 26 coins (silver dang of Uzbek Khan (720 AH) with overprint “Khan”, minting of Crimea al-Mahrus; silver akche of Sahib Geray, Crimea; the rest of the coins are copper, two of which belong to the Anatolian districts of the Ottoman Empire, the rest were minted in the Golden Horde in the 13th – 14th centuries). Subsequently, these objects were unlawfully seized from the site.[10]

The federal budgetary institution of culture “The State Hermitage” is involved in unlawful activities at the Solkhat site (Staryi Krym, AR of Crimea, Ukraine). The State Hermitage is included in the list of entities to which sanctions are applied according to the Decree of the President of Ukraine of May 14, 2020, №184 “On the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine of May 14, 2020 “On the application, abolition and amendment of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions)”.

The actions of the occupation authorities, which resulted in unlawful appropriation, unlawful archeological excavations, during which archeological artifacts were seized are a violation of international humanitarian law.

These actions of the Russian Federation, together with other actions of the Occupying Power in their entirety may constitute a war crime in the form of extensive destruction and appropriation of cultural property, not justified by military necessity, and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.


The group of monitoring experts of the Regional Center for Human Rights,

the working group of the expert network “Crimean Platform – Humanitarian Policy”


[1] Government of the Russian Federation. Order dated October 17, 2015, No. 2073-r. Access mode:


[2] Republic of Crimea. Council of Ministers. Resolution dated December 20, 2016, No. 627. Access mode:      https://okn-mk.mkrf.ru/maps/show/id/2734265

[3]Order of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Crimea dated 05.07.2021, No. 248-OKN “On approval of the boundaries of protection zones, land use regimes and requirements for urban planning regulations within the boundaries of protection zones of the federal cultural heritage site “Mosque and Madrasah, dated 1314 “(ensemble) located at the address: Republic of Crimea, Staryi Krym, 5, Chapaev alley”. Access mode:      https://mkult.rk.gov.ru/ru/get-attachment/e75dc1ccebc173530cb2af91f89e36cde5ea6f5e51b39f48f0b93a379977953b35d299af62cc3445746b6084493750563abf227d299bc6713547d6e7d63dee14

[4] Golden Horde (Staryi Krym) expedition. The State Hermitage. Access mode: https://archive.is/1bmZ6

[5] The State Hermitage report. 2014 / The State Hermitage. – SPb.: Publishing house of the State Hermitage Museum, 2015. 244 p., ill.: P. 156-157. – Access mode:            https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/0868d170-3ae8-4699-8e41-9f644a0a0f73/%D0%9E%D1%82%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%82+%D0%93%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE+%D0%AD%D1%80%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%B6%D0%B0+2014.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CONVERT_TO=url&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-0868d170-3ae8-4699-8e41-9f644a0a0f73-l4fSHkd

[6] The State Hermitage report. 2015 / The State Hermitage. – SPb.: Publishing house of the State Hermitage Museum, 2016. 228 p., ill.: P. 122. – Access mode:         https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/c6c40776-75e6-449e-843c-47a7fed28774/otchet_2015.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&amp%3BCONVERT_TO=url&amp%3BCACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-c6c40776-75e6-449e-843c-47a7fed28774-m1kGC20

[7] The State Hermitage report. 2016 / The State Hermitage. – SPb.: Publishing house of the State Hermitage Museum, 2017. 204 p., ill.: P. 127-128. – Access mode:            https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/f93842af-ecd8-4446-a954-3d66054e15c4/report2016r.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-f93842af-ecd8-4446-a954-3d66054e15c4-lZjycIk

[8] The State Hermitage report. 2017 / The State Hermitage. – SPb.: Publishing house of the State Hermitage Museum, 2018. 216 p., ill.: P. 141. – Access mode:       https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/7b60549f-4fe9-4878-bb3f-4f45626e7591/%D0%9E%D1%82%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%82+%D0%93%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE+%D0%AD%D1%80%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%B6%D0%B0+2017.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-7b60549f-4fe9-4878-bb3f-4f45626e7591-muIYRB2

[9] The State Hermitage report. 2018 / The State Hermitage. – SPb.: Publishing house of the State Hermitage Museum, 2019. 228 p., ill.: P. 141-142. – Access mode:       https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/c9220123-12be-47bf-924f-beae36983491/otchet_2018.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-c9220123-12be-47bf-924f-beae36983491-mWT9VLJ

[10] The State Hermitage report. 2019 / The State Hermitage. – SPb.: Publishing house of the State Hermitage Museum, 2021. 244 p., ill.: P. 166-167. – Access mode:  https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/4d36cdb4-263a-47fe-b419-cfd9d4b00347/otchet19.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-4d36cdb4-263a-47fe-b419-cfd9d4b00347-nz6QdmO


Implemented within the project “Information Platform” Voice of Crimea. Culture “- about Crimea honestly, qualitatively, actually” with the support of the Media Development Fund of the US Embassy in Ukraine. The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the official position of the US government.

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