Discoveries reveal Ottoman, Turkish traces in Russia’s Phanagoria


Recent discoveries in the ancient city of Phanagoria, known as the Atlantis of Russia, created excitement, especially among archaeologists and historians as they unveil the Turkish history of these archaic lands.

The ancient Greek city of Phanagoria on the Taman Peninsula, located in the Krasnodar region in the south of Russia, is estimated to be about 2,500 years old. It was first discovered thanks to a tombstone that washed ashore in the 18th century.

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Another feature of Phanagoria, one-third of which is underwater, is that there are many traces of the Turks and the Ottoman Empire.

An aerial view from the ancient city of Phanagoria, Russia, Oct. 1, 2021. (AA Photo)
An aerial view from the ancient city of Phanagoria, Russia, Oct. 1, 2021. (AA Photo)

Recently, the discovery of a 16th-century coin thought to belong to a Turkish officer in the Ottoman army has created excitement, especially among historians. The coin is believed to have been brought to Phanagoria as a trophy by the Turkish military after victories in Cyprus.

While it is known that the Ottoman Empire fleet once established a base in Phanagoria, a few Ottoman-era structures in the region are also among the recent discoveries.

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Although Phanagoria is a region in the south of Russia today, it was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 17th centuries. Experts consider it a strong possibility that more traces of Turks will emerge over time. The region is of great importance for Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin had also gone scuba diving in the region in recent years.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin carries artifacts he recovered while diving at the archaeological site of Phanagoria off the Taman peninsular in southern Russia, Aug. 10, 2011. (Reuters Photo)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin carries artifacts he recovered while diving at the archaeological site of Phanagoria off the Taman peninsular in southern Russia, Aug. 10, 2011. (Reuters Photo)

Importance of Phanagoria in history of Black Sea

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Dr. Vladimir Kuznetsov, excavation director at the ancient city, said that the region is very suitable for excavations because it is in an undeveloped area.

Pointing out Istanbul as a challenging area for historical excavations, Kuznetsov said that in Phanagoria, there is a huge and powerful cultural layer that allows for the tracing of not only the history of the city but also the region.

Jugs found in the ancient city of Phanagoria, Russia, Oct. 1, 2021. (AA Photo)
Some artifacts found in the ancient city of Phanagoria, Russia, Oct. 1, 2021. (AA Photo)

Noting that the region is of great interest to Turkey, Kuznetsov said: “As for Turkey, of course, the northern and southern coasts of the Black Sea have always been closely linked. In the ancient period, Turkey’s Black Sea province of Sinop was an important trading city and Phanagoria houses many Sinop jugs from the third and second centuries to the present.”

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Ottoman officer’s coin

Pointing out that the direct route between the north and the south of the Black Sea was discovered before the fourth century, Kuznetsov said that Turkish sailors were among the best in Europe. They were captains who knew all the subtleties of seafaring, and they regularly sailed to Phanagoria.

“The southern and northern shores of the Black Sea were always connected, and we can see the trace of this with archaeological materials,” he added.

On the coin that was discovered in the region recently, believed to belong to an Ottoman officer, Kuznetsov said, “Our numismatist found that Venetian money was brought here after a military operation in Cyprus.”

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“There was a Turkish village called Alibey on the beach in the Phanagoria region. Although there is not much left from the village, we found quite a lot of tobacco sticks. Here we also found two anchors of large Turkish ships,” he added.

Coins found in the ancient city of Phanagoria, Russia, Oct. 1, 2021. (AA Photo)
An official shows artifacts found in the ancient city of Phanagoria, Russia, Oct. 1, 2021. (AA Photo)
A coin found in the ancient city of Phanagoria seen through a magnifying glass, Russia, Oct. 1, 2021. (AA Photo)
Some artifacts found in the ancient city of Phanagoria, Russia, Oct. 1, 2021. (AA Photo)

“This Venetian coin was certainly brought from the place where these wars were fought, that is, a Turk brought it and we think it is a commemorative coin because it has a hole in it,” he explained. “It is clear that the officer in question participated in battles on behalf of the Turkish army,” he added.

Numismatist and archaeologist Mikhail Abramzon of Russia-based Magnitogorsk State Technical University emphasized that the coin was an extremely important discovery in terms of the history of the region.

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Noting that the Ottoman Empire conquered the region at the end of the 15th century, Abramzon said, “Many castles housing Turkish garrisons appeared here and the Ottoman navy was in Taman.

“The Taman Peninsula was included in the administrative system of the Ottoman Empire,” he explained. “In the 16th century, there was also a Turkish settlement on the territory of Phanagoria. The smoked pipes, kitchen utensils, and coin finds belonging to the sultans of that century prove this,” he added.

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