Soroca Fortress - the protection symbol of Moldova

Vladlena Martus | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Not many countries nowadays can brag about having a unique fortress on its territory. However, Moldova is one of the countries that can. World’s most known symbol of Moldova is a legendary stork with a bunch of grapes in its beak. Did you know that it has nothing to do with the Moldavian wine? Well, that is true. This stork is related to the protection symbol of Moldova – Soroca Fortress, that is located on the north of the country. During the turbulent times, people that were stuck inside the fortress during the rivals’ attacks could survive only thanks to the storks that brought them grapes. Soroca Fortress is the only stronghold left from the period of the Moldavian principality.  

A unique fortress of Eastern Europe 

Being built in the Soroca city in 1499, by Stefan cel Mare, Soroca Fortress has no analogues in Eastern Europe. Its shape is unusual for the forts that were built in the 15th-16th centuries. They, as a rule, were rectangular, square or polyhedral. However, Soroca Fortress is unique – its shape is round and based on the highest laws of harmony. They often say that Soroca Fortress is made using the "golden section", which was quite rare in those times. The enormous historical value of the fort is in the fact that it has been preserved to the present day, the same as it was originally built by the masters of the Middle Ages. In addition, a small military church located above the central gates has been preserved too. That is why it is still a unique monument of the defensive architecture of Europe in general.  

Picture © Credit to starush

The rivals’ attacks repelled

The history of Soroca, like many other fortresses, is filled with a considerable number of dramatic events. If there was a stronghold somewhere, it was to protect the country from the enemies. It also means that the wars and rivals attacks were frequent. In the second half of the 16th and almost the entire 17th century, there was a small Moldavian garrison in the fortress, consisting of no more than 80 or 100 soldiers. They heroically repelled the country from the Poles and Zaporizhia Cossacks attacks. The Moldavian soldiers didn’t let the enemies cross the right bank of the Dniester to conquer the principality. In 1711, in the stronghold, the army of the Moldavian Prince Dmitrii Cantemir was united with the Russian army under the command of Sheremetyev. That is how the Prut campaign took place, the movement against the Ottoman Empire, in which personally participated the Emperor Peter the First. Together with the armies, Soroca Fortress became a significant part of the world’s history by winning the battle against the enormous Ottoman Empire. In 1738, Soroca citadel suffered greatly during its capture by the detachment of Colonel Kapnist. However, the enemy didn’t enter the country. In fact, it was the last battle in the military history of the stronghold and clearing up the damage has taken too long. The first restoration work at Soroca Fortress after the defensive campaigns was carried out only in 1968. 

Picture © Credits to tankist

The storks and underground tunnels

We shouldn’t forget about the legends associated with Moldova and its land. Soroca Fortress has several of them too. Let’s look through. One of the most famous legends is about a stork with a bunch of grapes in its beak, as I mentioned – one of the symbols of Moldova. During the enemy invasions, the defenders of the fortress resisted the enemy for a long time. Suddenly, they ran out of food, and they were dying of thirst. To the aid, the storks flew in. They threw the grapes to the defenders and thereby saved them from thirst and hunger. The second legend tells us about the secret underground tunnels from the well of the fortress through the Dniester to the other side. It is curious how the scientists of different epochs reacted to this myth. Some claimed that the tunnel was flooded with water and therefore it remained unknown. Others think that there was no tunnel at all. The thing is that this kind of tunnel construction at Soroca was impossible in the Middle Ages because of the rocks in the tunnel. They could not stand the riverbed, and the building simply couldn’t be possible.   

Picture © Credits to Thorsten Spoerlein

The only fortress left in Moldova

Soroca Fortress is** the only citadel left in Moldova, that is preserved until nowadays. The architectural uniqueness makes it not just a cultural monument, but also a national protection symbol of Moldova. We, Moldovans, put the picture of Soroca Fortress on the banknotes and one side of passport. This place of interest is always next to us reminding everyone of the enormous role it had in the protection of our country. So, if you come to Moldova – don’t forget to explore this significant place**.

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