The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also Sarkel), a Khazar city, founded in the 830’s at the junction of land trade routes and the Don water route. The construction of the Sarkil fortress is mentioned in a tenth-century document of the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Por-phyrogenitus. The ruins of Sarkil are identified with the left-bank Tsimlianskoe Gorodishche, which was located on the old channel of the Don, 4 km from the cossack village of Tsim-lianskaia, on the site of the present-day Tsimliansk Reservoir.

The ruins of Sarkil were investigated between 1934 and 1936 and between 1949 and 1951 under the direction of M. I. Arta-monov. The rectangular fortress, measuring 193.5 × 133.5 m, was separated from the city by a ditch and had thick brick walls and towers. Inside it was divided into two sections by a wall. The larger section had two entrance gates; the smaller section formed a citadel and had no direct access to the outside.

After its construction, Sarkil quickly became a large commercial and artisan center. Its ethnically mixed population included Bulgars, Oghuz, and Khazars. In 965, Sarkil was captured by the Russian prince Sviatoslav. Although heavily damaged, it continued to function as a city until the mid-12th century. Sarkil later became a Russian steppe outpost, known by its Russian name, Belaia Vezha.

The cultural layer at the site is 3 m thick. Excavations of the lower layers, which date to Khazar times, have uncovered remains of semisubterranean dwellings and yurts, as well as many articles characteristic of the Saltovo-Maiatskoe culture. Excavations of the upper levels, which date from Russian times, discovered remains of characteristic Slavic pit houses and ground dwellings, which were built from the brick and adobe taken from the ruins of the Khazar fortress.


Artamonov, M. I. Istoriia khazar. Leningrad, 1962.
Tr. Volgo-Donskoi arkheologicheskoi ekspeditsii, vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1958–63. (Materialy i issledovaniia po arkheologii SSSR, nos. 62, 75, 109.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.