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Finely Illustrated Map of the Bendery Fortress in Moldova with Ottoman Punishment Scene

Excellent rendition of the area near present-day Bender (Tighina), Moldova showing military and topographical landmarks with a fascinating accompanying illustration of Ottoman authorities punishing a Janissary.

This plan details the Bendery Fortress and its surrounding topography and regions. Its main title states, “Plan of the Bendery Fortress on the Dniester River, between Moldavia and Western Nogai and Bessarabia, [built] atop a morass.” At top right, alongside a simple but pleasing compass illustration, the area is described as, “A Part of Western Nogai, Tatary,” acknowledging the influence of nomadic, ethnically Turkic tribes in the area.

Several place names are noted around Bender, as is the river Botna, a tributary of the Dniester. Great care was taken to detail the extent of the morass surrounding the Bendery Fortress, perhaps meant to emphasize it as a difficult fortress to capture. As noted at bottom right, its neighboring region was known as Bessarabia, modern-day Moldova and Ukraine.

At left, the mapmaker included a detailed illustration of Ottoman authorities punishing a Janissary in their camp. The scene’s caption reads, “punishing one of their Janissaries for coming too close to the Serail [harem].” As was common with European maps inspired by traveler’s accounts of the East, the accompanying illustration is meant to stand out from other maps and capture the interest of a European audience increasingly fascinated by the Orient and its different customs.

Carol XII in Bender

This map dates from a particular episode in Bender’s bellicose history, when Carol XII of Sweden was in the vicinity. Coincident with the Russo-Turkish Wars were other conflicts, including the Great Northern War (1700-1721), during which the Swedish Empire tried to expand its power in Europe. After a series of victories, Sweden’s Carol XII was defeated by the Russians in 1709 at the Battle of Poltava.

Carol took refuge in the Ottoman Empire, near Bender, but locals did not appreciate the growing Swedish population. In 1713, they rose up against the Swedes and their King, who was then taken to Constantinople, where he was put under house arrest.

Bender’s Importance in the Russo-Turkish Wars

The Bendery Fortress was also the site of numerous skirmishes and battles in the Russo-Turkish Wars, a series of conflicts that spanned the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Bender was ruled by the Ottomans from 1538 and served as a northern point of military pressure on Poland and the growing Russian Empire. Situated on the Dniester River, which empties into the Black Sea, Bender was a key fortress for Russia to overtake as it fought for a warm water port and expansion into the Black Sea region.

The Russians took the fort in 1770 and 1789, but they lost it again each time.  Only in 1806 was the Bendery Fortress finally and definitively captured by Russia, marking the demise of the Ottoman Empire in the region.

This map is the perfect choice for those interested in the Ottoman history of Eastern Europe, power relations between the Russian and Ottoman Empires, or Western European depictions of the Orient. It is an excellent depiction of the historically-relevant Bendery Fortress on the Dniester River and the area surrounding the fortress in modern-day Moldova, with a fascinating and finely-detailed accompanying illustration.

Alex Lapedatu and Ioan Lupas, Anuarul Institutului de Istorie Nationala, 1928-1930 (Cluj: Institutul de Arte Grafice, 1930); G. W. Prothero, ed., Bessarabia (London: H.M Stationery Office, 1920); “Russo-Turkish Wars,” in Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed July 7, 2019.; Kaan Üçsu, “Cartographies of the ‘Eastern Question’: Some Considerations on Mapping the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea in the Nineteenth Century,” Philosophy of Globalization, 253-68 (2018). ACA.