The exact date of the founding of the city of Izmail is unknown. In the 12th century there was a Genoese fortress at this place, in the 16th century it was taken over by the Turks.
According to an alternative version the story, the multi-national history of the city goes even deeper and that the beginning of Izmail was actually an ancient Greek trading centre named Antifila. Later it was taken over by the Romans and named Smornis. Slavic tribes, who settled here in the 9th century, called the town Smeel (Sinil). At that time, the city was part of Galicia-Volhynia until the 11th century.
But let’s focus on proven facts. Since 1538 and for over 274 years Turks governed here and named the city Ishmasl (hear, oh God). The end of the 18th century was a time of exhausting Russo-Turkish wars. For both Turkish and Russian forces the fortress was of great military importance. However, at first Russia had no claims to Izmail and twice after Russia won wars the fortress was returned to Turkey. Izmail was finally taken by the Russian Empire after the war of 1806-1812.
Unfortunately, the legendary fortress, which was taken by assault troops of Suvorov in 1790, was almost completely destroyed and was bought literally to the ground. After the peace treaty in 1856 it was blown up. An old mosque from the 16th century is the only part remaining from the fortress. Inside the temple the one can visit a diorama of the “Storming of Izmail”. At that time the fortress consisted of 11 bastions with 260 cannons. It was strengthened and reinforced by French and German military engineers. The garrison consisted of 35,000 soldiers. Suvorov sent an ultimatum to the Turks: “24 hours for reflection – you can surrender and will be freed; my first shots mean no more freedom, assault means death. I leave it for your consideration.” The ultimatum was rejected. Suvorov’s troops captured the fortress in one day. The defeat was seen as a catastrophe to the Ottoman Empire and the forces inside the fortress had orders to stand their ground until the end. Nearly every Muslim man, woman, and child in the city was killed in three days of uncontrolled massacre. 40,000 Turks were dead with just a few hundred taken as prisoners. Though this was a glorious victory for Russian Empire the fortress was returned to the Ottoman Empire.
The frequent changes of empires is explained by the facts that Izmail is located on the main trade route of the region and that the city-fortress was very important for military purposes, standing just 80 kilometers from the flow of the Danube River to the Black Sea. Among other sites in Izmaiz are the Suvorov Museum, a branch of the Odessa museum, a branch of the Odessa Art Gallery, and the House of Artists.