The Natural and History Museum of the City of Bendery
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Once upon a time, 300 years ago

Once upon a time, 300 years ago

Two fugitives knocked at the gates of the Bendery fortress. Swedish king Karl XII and Ukrainian hetman Mazepa hurried to hide behind its walls from the cavalry of Peter I. 27 of June 1779 the battle took place under Poltava (the Ukraine). Two main participants ran away from the field of the battle. What was happened with them in Bendery? Some people considered that they left there for ever. There is a grain of truth in it.

Wars were his happiness

- How can I get to Stockholm?

- Stockholm? It's quite near, on the right from Bendery.

Such dialog may be heard in Bessarabia in the 18th century. It is not an old anecdote in new manner, but a historical fact. Stockholm was situated near the Bendery fortress for the whole three years. And Karl XII ruled Sweden from there.

At the beginning of the 18th century the Swedish language sounded near Bendery, brave Swedish soldiers were on a guard, and the king ordered to ministers of his state. Couriers scurried between Bessarabia and Sweden. The name of a little Turkish town Bendery was heard in the studies of the VIP-persons of the whole world. Smelling perfume French diplomats, prim messengers of English court often visited Bendery.

And the king wrote to his sister Ulrika-Eleanor from the Dniester banks, complaining about boredom.

It was 300 years ago, but Swedish king conquered the army of fans nowadays. They've been living in different states, but adore the same idol. Swedes treat Karl XII differently. Wars were his happiness. He lived by battles and perished in 36.

Stockholm on the Dniester

There is the monument to Karl XII in:the kitchen-garden of a peasant of the country Varnitsa near Bendery. People forgot about its appearance, and the inscription on it vanished.

But it was the real sensation! The remains of an old foundation were discovered on the Dniester bank. The building began there. Suddenly spades met a stone. Working was stopped. Karl XII appeared to live there in his camp.

And the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin had went there in search of Karl's traces. He mentioned about it in his poem "Poltava".

Then the government of Sweden asked the king of Rumania to mark this place in Varnitsa. The monument was erected there.

Meanwhile the king-soldier had established three towns near Bendery.

Karl XII and his Achill's heel

Karl XII and Mazepa rushed to Bendery from the Poltava battle-field. The captivity meant a shameful death for the hetman and nothing good for the king. Karl was wounded in his heel like Achill. He couldn't manage without stretches for a long time.

The Turks weren't delighted with appearing the fugitives. But they didn't refuse in the shelter. The uninvited guests weren't allowed to enter the fortress. They were advised to habit nearly.

Karl XII built three town-camps on the left and right banks of the river. It is interesting that one of them was named Karlopolis. The last one in the country Varnitsa the king called "My new Stockholm". There were about 10000 men - remains of Swedish and Cossack troops.

Hopelessly sick and despaired Mazepa didn't want to inhabit "Stockholm". The old hetman preferred the peasant's house in Varnitsa and soon had died "eaten by lice" as rumor was about.

But young and zealous Karl was full of ambitious projects. What did he search for in Bendery? The most part of the army was lost, the ally Mazepa was died. He could only intrigue against Russia. He wished the Turks to conflict with Peter I. England and France supported him firstly. But Turkey had its own plans. It didn't hurry to quarrel with Russia. Karl was furious.

The Prut campaign of Peter I to be seemed the fulfillment of Karl's desire.

The strong drought was this summer. Illness, thirst and starvation killed many people and horses. The battle near Stanileshty must be finished. Karl XII rushed there to look at the falling of his rival. But Mahmud-pasha made peace with Peter I. The disappointed Swede returned to Bendery.

The uninvited Swede is worse than the Tartar

The Turks had already tired of their uninvited guest. They even complained about him to:the Russians.

But Swede didn't want to move away. Then the Turks assaulted his camp. Karl accepted the challenge. At first he had shot down the Arab races (the gift of the Turkish sultan) and gave them his always hungry army for eating.

At second Karl locked in his house with 300 devoted soldiers. This building turned to the real fortress. The Swedish soldiers fought as a lions. As for their king he played chess with himself.

The pasha ordered not stand upon ceremony with the Swedes. Only Karl must be captured without harm. He decided to hold out till the end. He was wounded several times. What a pity! The tip of his nose was shot off.

For smoking the guest off his house had been burnt. Karl with his rapier jumped out of the window. But unfortunate followed him. His rapier was caught, the king had fallen down. He was captured, tied, sent to Adrianople, then home.

Karl is for ever in Bendery

You can't find Karl's traces in Bendery now; nevertheless he had left there for ever. He is depicted in the old town emblem since the times of the Russian Empire. There are the lion with the human face in it. The beast is full of peace. This is the unique case in the world practice.

Even color plays its own role in heraldry. There is the gold lion against the background of the black Bendery fortress. These details mean intelligence, knowledge, generosity, modesty of town inhabitants.

But let's return to the lion. This way Karl XII had left in Bendery for ever.

The buried hidden treasures in Bendery

The buried hidden treasures of Mazepa and Karl XII have been found in the Ukraine and Bendery since 1709.

I wonder if Mazepa himself had created that myth. In the eve of his treachery the hetman advised his comrades-in-arms: "Bury your treasures". And he did the same.

- In our childhood my friends and I desired to find the Mazepa's treasures, - the old inhabitant of Bendery Ivan Stepanovich Ternov remembers. - We believed that they were underground. Our neighbours dug the cellar and found remains of ceramic Turkish pipes, old buttons. They presented them to me. I was in admiration. But these things weren't rare. Somebody had searched a cannon-ball in his kitchen-garden. When in the beginning of the 60-th of the last century the truck fell through the Lenin-street, the whole crowd gathered. People were sure that the underground secret passage to the Bendery fortress was discovered. Even our parents believed: there were a lot of these passages in surroundings. How much the likely places we inspected! We didn't find gold but got marvelous recollections. I am sure that the next generation follows us. My grandson excites about Mazepa's treasures and discusses this topic with his friends in the Internet-forum. Boys are ready to organize the real searching expedition. By the way this hobby helps them to learn the history of our town.

It is known that a lot of gold, silver and jewelry were in Mazepa's baggage. He also had his hetman's exchequer. And Karl XII even borrowed him 240 thousand thalers.

What else had Mazepa got? It is considered to be the next precious things except "ordinary" gold and silver coins and precious gems. Firstly the gold coach. Secondly the diamond of 90 carats of sultan Mohammed IV. This famous gem exists in reality. But where? Somebody thinks that in the Bendery fortress.

To cut a long story short Karl XII isn't forgotten in Bendery. There is a memorable stone on the place of Karl's camp in the outskirts of the town. There are the exhibits devoted Karl's visiting Bendery in the town historical and natural museum.

Natalia Barbier.

Sovetskaya str., 40, Bendery, MD3200, Pridnestrovie, Moldova. tel. +373-552-28839, [email protected]
© 2009 The Natural and History Museum of the City of Bendery