Chufut-Kale is the best preserved cave town in the Crimea. It is located on a plateau at 200-meter height above the surrounding valleys and bordered with 50-meter steep cliffs. One still can see defense towers, walls, gates, narrow streets and residential estate consisting of two buildings, Karaite shrines – kenesa, Janike-Kanym Mausoleum, cells and storage rooms carved in rocks.
Having been founded as a Byzantine Fortress and named supposedly Fully somewhere back in 6th century, the place had become home for Kypchaks and renamed Kyrk-Er (40 fortifications) in the 13-14th centuries. Later it had become Khan Janibeck Princedom .And this was Janibeck’s granddaughter – Janike-Kanym- whose Mausoleum we can see nowadays in the cave town. Most probably she had been a ruler of Kyrk-Er. Janike-Kanym is widely known as a savior of the Fortress, legends relate about her outstanding personality and popularity among her people.
In the 15th century Kyrk-Er becomes a capital of the Crimean Khanate and residence for the first Crimean Khans – Giray Dinasty. And some hundred years later, when the capital and the Khan Residence have been moved to the new location, Bakhchisaray, the Fortress still had the Mint there and was a place for high-ranked prisoners of war. Population of Kyrk-Er consisted of a small Armenian community and Karaite inhabitants majorly. Karaits belonged to pre-Talmudic Judaic confession. Thus the Fortress name changes for Chufut-Kale (Judaic-Fortress). It happens in the 17th century, by the end of which the population becomes Karaite solely due to the Christian resettlement in 1778.
When the Crimea becomes a part of the Russian Empire Karaite start leaving Chufut-Kale and settling in other places in the Crimea. By the end of the 19th century there were no inhabitants left, the last one was the Karaite archeologist Fyrkovych who lived there till the end of his days. It is the house he lived in you will see in Chufut-Kale. Karaite cuture and history exposition is located inside of it. Karaite temples kenesa are restored by the Crimean Karaite Community numbering 800 persons. Another 1000 of people of this small nation live now in the Western Ukraine, Poland and Baltic countries.
Chufut-Kale is the most visited cave town of the Peninsula. And it is not surprising – the age of the place and what has still remained there is outstanding.