Azov, Siege of

Azov, Siege of


the heroic defense of Azov by the Don Cossacks, 1637–42.

Azov was a powerful Turkish fortress with a garrison of 4,000 men and 200 cannons; the Crimean and Nogai Tatars used it as a base for their destructive raids in the south of Russia. In the summer of 1637, the Cossacks took advantage of internal struggle in the Crimea to seize Azov, which they held for the next five years. At the beginning of June 1641, a huge Turkish and Tatar army besieged Azov. However, the Cossacks—about 5,500 people, including 800 women—showed exceptional fortitude and skill in its defense, repelling numerous enemy assaults. The Turks suffered heavy losses and were forced to lift the siege at the end of September.

Having successfully defended the fortress, the Cossacks proposed to the Russian government that it take Azov under its authority. The Russian government summoned a Zemskii sobor (Assembly of the Land) to decide the question in 1642. A number of the deputies favored the Cossacks’ proposal; however, to avoid war with Turkey, the government decided to renounce Azov and suggested that the Cossacks abandon it. The Cossacks destroyed the fortifications and left Azov in the summer of 1642.

The heroic defense of Azov was reflected in 17th-century literature about the siege.


Voinskie povesti drevnei Rusi. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Popov, M. Ia. Azovskoe sidenie. Moscow, 1961.