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Current Name
Ancient Name
Medieval Name
Sugdea, Surozh, Soldaia, Sudaq
History of the name

Origin of the name has been a subject to debate, but it appears that all names of the city originated from the Byzantine Greek Σουγδαία meaning “holy” (Slavs pronounced it as Surozh and Genoese as Soldalia). Some researchers also suggest that name Sudaq which the city had during the Ottoman period and bears until now might also originate from a combination of Crimean Tatar words for “water” (suv) and “mountain” (dağ).

Place :

Geopolitical Unit
Autonomous Republic of Crimea
Administrative subdivision
Region of Sudak
On the shore of the Harbor of Sudak in the middle part of southeastern coast of the Crimean Peninsula, 105 km from Simferopol and nearly 880 km from the capital city of Kyiv (44°51'05'' N 34°58'21'' E).
Foudation Date
212 AD
Current condition
The present-day region of Sudak is a conglomerate of settlements consisting of the city of Sudak, 2 smaller towns and 13 villages with a total population of nearly 31,800 residents (as of January 1st, 2013). In the city of Sudak proper there reside almost 15,400 people (as of November 1st, 2012). Today this region is country-wide famous for its wines as well as a summer resort and a historic site attracting over 180,000 tourists every year.

On the basis of information from ancient manuscripts it is believed that the city was founded by a group of Persian-speaking Sarmatian tribes known as the Alans or the Alani in the year of 212 AD. In the 6th c the city along with Crimean coast from Chersonesos to the Bosporus fell under the rule of Byzantine Empire. It was under the Emperor Justinian I that a fortress was built in Sugdea. The city eventually grew into a large center of trade on the Silk Road in the 12th c.
In 1365 Sugdea fell under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Genoa where it was known as Soldaia. In 1475 the city was captured by Ottomans and since then eventually lost its importance as a military post and turned into a small administrative center of the Ottoman Empire.
Finally, in 1783 Sudak, as well as the entire Crimea, was annexed to Russian Empire, were it eventually turned into a small and almost deserted settlement. In 1804 there was opened the first in Russian Empire Wine-Making School and by the end of the 19th c Sudak had revived as resort area.


In the late 2nd – early 3rd cc Sugdea represented a fortified area enclosed by walls with no towers. Several mighty towers were erected outside of this fortress for defending the city from the seaside. Interior of the fortress remained undeveloped serving as a refuge area in case of danger. Unfortunately, almost no major construction remains have survived from this earliest period.
Starting from the beginning of the 8th c the city and the adjacent territories witnessed intensive construction of residential buildings and religious structures. In the late 10th – 11th cc fortification system was strengthened  by many towers.
During the Genoese rule walls of the fortress divided Soldaia into four parts: the citadel, the fortress, the port and the surrounding vicinities. Inside the walls there were residential and religious buildings, while outside the fortress there were houses and workshops of handicraftsmen. From the second half of the 17th c the Ottoman population of Sudaq resided in a small village to the west from the fortress. 
From 1771 to 1816 the fortress of Sudak housed a Russian garrison and many remaining in the fortress structures were taken down for purposed of building barracks for soldiers of the garrison. In following decades local inhabitants also made extensive use of remains of medieval fortress as construction material. Only in 1868 ruins of the fortress were passed under the jurisdiction of Russian Imperial Archaeological Commission.


Early Byzantine artifacts found during archaeological excavations in the area of the Harbor of Sudak indicate that port appeared here in the second half of the 7th c. Unfortunately, the general appearance of the port at that time remains largely unknown except for remains of fortifications intended to protect the area of the port.

By the end of the 12th c trading ties of the city had reached as far as Iberian Peninsula and Egypt. With the appearance of Italians on the northern coast of Black Sea from the second half of the 13th c until the late 15th c the port of Sugdaia served as an important trading post of Venetians and then Genoese. During the Genoese period the area of the port reached at least 7 ha.

Under the rule of Ottoman Empire and Russian Empire Sudaq no longer served as a significant port city. Nowadays there is no port in Sudak either.


The Fortress of Sudak as we can see it today was originally built under Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th c. Major rebuilding of the fortress by Genoese took place during the period from 1365 to at least 1414. Further reconstruction works in the fortress did not change general architecture of fortification system.
The fortress was composed of two defense lines: a citadel on a mountain and fortifications in the harbor area. The citadel represented a 580-m long line of fortification walls with three towers and four curtains and a castle with a watchtower on the very top of the mountain. The other defense line of 255 m in length blocked an access to the area of the port and contained at least three towers, three curtains and a gate.
The exterior line of fortifications was composed of 14 towers, 14 curtains and a barbican which protected the only city gates. The majority of the towers had three walls and four levels. The lowest levels were normally used as either guardhouses or ammunition depots. Walls of the second level contained narrow vertical embrasures, while those of the third level featured wide rectangular openings. Finally the forth level represented a defense stage protected by a battlement. Around the fortifications there was a rampart of some 860 m in length, at least 6 m in height and up to 10 m in width.

Medieval Sites


The vast majority of historic monuments from Sudak are found within the area of the former medieval fortress. Some of them are:

• Barbican, late 14th c (The Sudak Fortress Museum)

This semicircular structure is located in the central part of the exterior defense line before the City Gates. Its walls having a total length of nearly 72 m feature vertical embrasures. In the 17th -18th cc inside the barbican there was installed a small fountain.

• City Gates, late 14th c (The Sudak Fortress Museum)

The main city gates were a part of the exterior defense line. Their present day appearance the gates acquired after their reconstruction in 1414. The gates represent a wall (6 m wide, 1.5 m thick and 12 m high) with a gateway (3.6 m wide, 5.8 m long and 4.7 m high) and a preserved mortise for a draw-grating.

• Donjon of the Consul’s Castle, second half of the 14th c (The Sudak Fortress Museum)

The 20.5 m high tower was the dominant structure in the entire architectural ensemble of the fortress and the city. This structure served as a part of the Citadel of Genoese Soldaia and the main tower of the castle of Genoese consuls (perhaps also functioning as a residence for administrative and military heads of the Genoese city).

• Round Cistern, first quarter of the 15th c (The Sudak Fortress Museum)

The circular structure nearly 5 m in diameter and 2.5 m in depth cut into bedrock. At the level of 2 m above the bottom the cistern was covered with a dome. In the past the dome was under the ground. A narrow doorway and a stone stairway led from the ground surface to the floor of the cistern. The latter was lined with stone plates.

• Watchtower, early 14th c (The Sudak Fortress Museum)

The pentagonal tower was the most protected and the most difficult to access place in the fortress at the elevation of 160 m above the sea level. In the Genoese Soldaia the tower also functioned as a lighthouse. It appears that in the past the tower was around 14 m in height but today the maximal height of the remaining walls reaches only 6.5 m. 

• Basilica of Twelve Apostles , late 13th c (The Sudak Fortress Museum)

Conventional name of the church referring to a wall painting of The Last Supper found in the interior in the 19th c. The church is located on a hill in the harbor area. Architecture of the church is typical for South Pontic region and the Empire of Trebizond in the 13th – 15th cc. Wall paintings including that of the Last Supper unfortunately have not survived into the present. The building is 8.5 m long, 4.6 m wide and 4.8 m high.

• Coastal Tower , date unknown (The Sudak Fortress Museum)

Located in the harbor area of the old city, this detached tower was built to defend the port against enemies’ attacks from the sea. Judging from thickness of the walls it appears that the tower had four levels reaching up to 15 m in height and looked similar to defense towers from the Late Roman and the Early Byzantine periods.

Some historic structures are also found in the present-day city outside the fortress such as:
• Church of Protection of the Holy Virgin, 1819 (27 Lenina Street)

The cross-shaped building with a dome of this Russian Orthodox church has three entrances each being decorated with four pillars and a triangular fronton. In 1840s there was erected a bell tower. Many historic figures used to visit the church including Empress Maria and her son, the future Emperor Alexander III (1868) and Emperor Nicolas II (1912).


• The Sudak Fortress Museum

This open-air museum is a branch of the St. Sophia National Historic Preserve. It represents a complex of archaeological remains and medieval architecture from the 3rd c to the 16th c occupying an area of nearly 28 ha.

• Museum of History of Sudak (Ushakova Street)

Located in a nice historic house built in Romantic style with Neo-Gothic features, the museum offers exhibits of artifacts, documents and research findings presenting prehistory of the region of Sudak (Hall # 1), its history from the Early Middle Ages to the 18th c (Hall # 2), cultural and economic development of the region in the period following annexation of Crimea to Russian Empire (Hall # 3) and recent history of Sudak from the late 19th c till the present.

Textual Sources

The only written information which refers to the date of foundation of Sudak comes from an anonymous author who lived in Sugdea in 1296 and left on margins of a synaxarion a note saying that the fortress of Sugdea in 5720 (i.e. 212 AD). The same date is found in the notes on two other synaxaria dated to 1312 and 1411-1412.
The earliest reference to Sugdea is found in the Ravenna Cosmography compiled by an anonymous author in the 7th c and containing, in particular, a list of all known at that time port-cities on the coast of the Black Sea.
Capture of the city by Slavs (Old Russians) in the late 8th c is described in the Russian version of the Life of St. Stephen of Sugdaea tentatively dated to the 15th - 16th cc.
Description of a Turkish military campaign against Sugdea in the early 13th c is found in Seljukname, an Ottoman Turkish adaptation of original Ibn Bibi’s memoir produced in the early 15th c.


• Baranov I.A. Tavrika v epohu rannego srednevekovia [Tauris in the Early Middle Ages] (in Russian). Kiev, 1990. 
• I genovesi in  Crimea: Guida storica [Genoese in Crimea: Historic Guide] (in Italian and Ukrainian). Kiev, 2009.
• Lopushanskaya E.I. Krepost v Sudake [Fortress in Sudak] (in Russian). Kiev, 1991.
• Polkanov A.I., Polkanov Y.A. Sudak (in Russian). Simferopol, 1982.
• Sekirinsky S.A., Volobuev O.V., Kogonashvili K.K. Krepost v Sudake [Fortress in Sudak] (in Russian). Simferopol, 1971.
• Timirgazin A.D. Sudak. Puteshestviia po istoricheskim mestam [Sudak. Travels to Historic Places] (in Russian). Simferopol, 2000.
• Tur V. Krymskie pravoslavnye monastyri XIX – nach. XX veka [Crimean Orthodox Monasteries of the 19th – early 20th cc]. Simferopol, 1998.

Links (Municipal Council of Sudak) (Committee for Preservation of Cultural Heritage in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) (The Sudak Fortress Museum) (Sudak Information Portal) (Tourist Website of Sudak)

Visual Material
Writer / Date
Sofronios Paradeisopoulos, Brach of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture Valeriy Suntsov 28/05/2013
This website has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of European Centre for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine monuments and can in no way reflect the views of the European Union