Orhei takes its name from the medieval city of Old Orhei, about 10 miles (16 km) below the modern city on the Răut River, which was destroyed by the Crimean Tatars in the 14th to 16th centuries. It was the Ottoman-occupied military center of northern Bessarabia until it was ceded to the Russian Empire in 1812. The word "orhei" was used by local population, meaning "strengthened hill, fortress, deserted courtyard". The name "Orhei" is, according to one theory, derived from the Hungarian word Őrhely, meaning "lookout post", dating from the 13th century, when Hungarian forces built a series of defences in the area. Regardless of origin, Orhei gets its name from Orheiul Vechi, an active monastery near the village of Ivancea.
Orhei was the first place in what was then known as Bessarabia, to have a successful tobacco industry. The area is also known for wine production.
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