The NMSTU professor studied a rare artifact found during the archeological excavations in Phanagoria

The NMSTU professor, participating for over a quarter of a century in the archeological excavations of an ancient town, Phanagoria, studied a rare coin of Shahin Girai, the last Khan of Crimea. This coin was lost on Taman 237 years ago. An amazing item found brought back history of the inclusion of Crimea and Kuban into the Russian Empire in the late 18th century.

This found coin is rare for Phanagoria. It arouses a deep interest among scientists: how did it come to pass that the coin of the Crimean Khanate minted in Bakhchisaray in the third year of reign of Shahin Girai, the last Khan of Crimea, was found on the Taman peninsula?

Professor Mikhail G. Abramzon, one of well-known Russian experts on antique coins, numismatist of the Phanagorian Expedition, lead researcher of the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of the Research Institute of Historical Anthropology and Philology at NMSTU, gives the following explanations:

“This small copper coin denominated in beshlik (note: the coin of the Crimean Khanate) hides an amazing story related to the inclusion of Crimea and Taman in Russia, with the involvement of Shahin Girai, the last Khan of Crimea, by a twist of fate.

Shahin Girai, a member of the dynasty of Ottoman Girai, was a head of the Kuban Horde. After Crimea’s separation from the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Khan Sahib II Girai, he was the second person in the state and visited Saint Petersburg on a diplomatic mission, becoming a guide of the pro-Russian policy in Crimea. When the khan was overthrown, Shahin Girai supported by the Russian Empire, became a head of the Kuban Nogais and then received the throne in Bakhchisaray.

His pro-Russian policy and reforms were unpopular with the Kuban Horde. The Crimean mirzas even applied to Saint Petersburg claiming for his curbs and injustice. However, the tsarist government, headed by Grigory Potemkin, supported its political appointee. The uprising of the Nogais flared in Kuban, they invited Shahin Girai’s blood brother living in Kuban to be their khan and Shahin Girai ran away from Bakhchisaray to Kaffa (Feodosia) and then to Kerch under the protection of Russia. In the meantime, Bakhchisaray evidenced an anti-Russian uprising, when about one thousand Russian soldiers died.

Catherine the Great ordered Prince Grigory Potemkin to support her appointee and suppress the uprising in the Crimean Khanate. One Russian corps entered Crimea and the second one, headed by Alexander Suvorov, went to Kuban. The corps was moving along the Phanagorian road, passing by our archeological site. Shahin Girai’s warriors were also among this corps and someone lost this coin on their way. It could be also lost by his subjects living on the Taman peninsula and leading a nomadic life among hills of ancient Phanagoria.

After these events Shahin Girai returned to Bakhchisaray. However, in 1783 Crimea was included into the Russian Empire. The Crimean Khanate was liquidated and Shahin Girai renounced the throne. He received the instruction from Catherine the Great to leave Crimea and move to central governorates of Russia, but used any opportunities to stall for time. Then he was exiled from the peninsula under armed guard. Shahin Girai went to Taganrog and then again to Taman. Then he lived in Voronezh and Kaluga. In 1787 he migrated to his native land, the Ottoman Empire, where he was put to death under the order of a Turkish sultan.”

237 years later this coin surprisingly found its way into the hands of Professor Abramzon.

The largest antique archeological site of Russia Phanagoria is excavated by the Phanagorian Expedition of the Institute of Archeology, the Russian Academy of Sciences, headed by professor Kuznetsov, a well-known archeologist. Professor Abramzon has been working in the Expedition, being its main numismatist, since 1993.

Other numismatic items found in the 2020 field season include gold coins of Byzantine emperors Basil I the Macedonian and Nikephoros III Botaneiates, and early Bosporan coins of the 5th century BC.

At present, the Phanagoria museum houses thousands of artifacts: amphoras, terracottas, works of antique sculpture and painting, jewelry, coins, gravestones and other abundant evidence of daily and spiritual life in the ancient city, existing from the 6th century BC till the 11th century AD. Scientists state that only a minor part of the site and necropolis of the large city was studied.


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