Izmail is the largest Ukrainian port on the Danube Delta. As such, it is a center of the food processing industry and a popular regional tourist destination. It is also a base of the Ukrainian Navy and the Ukrainian Sea Guard units operating in Danube. The World Wildlife Fund's Isles of Izmail Regional Landscape Park is located nearby.
From the end of the 14th century, Izmail was under the rule of Moldavia. In 1484, the Ottoman state conquered the territory, which became from that moment an Ottoman protectorate (under direct rule from 1538). Since the early 16th century it was the main Ottoman fortress in the Budjak region. In 1569 Sultan Selim II settled Izmail with his Nogai subjects, originally from the North Caucasus.
After Russian general Nicholas Repnin took the fortress of Izmail in 1770, it was heavily refortified, so as never to be captured again. The Sultan boasted that the fortress was impregnable, but during the Russo-Turkish War of 1787-1792 the Russian Army commander Alexander Suvorov successfully stormed it on December 22, 1790. Ottoman forces inside the fortress had the orders to stand their ground to the end, haughtily declining the Russian ultimatum. The defeat was seen as a catastrophe in the Ottoman Empire, while in Russia it was glorified in the country's first national anthem, Let the thunder of victory sound!.
Suvorov announced the capture of Ismail in 1791 to the Tsarina Catherine in a doggerel couplet, after the assault had been pressed from house to house, room to room, and nearly every Muslim man, woman, and child in the city had been killed in three days of uncontrolled massacre, 40,000 Turks dead, a few hundred taken into captivity. For all his bluffness, Suvorov later told an English traveller that when the massacre was over he went back to his tent and wept.
At the end of the war, Izmail was returned to the Ottoman Empire, but Russian forces took it for the third time on September 14, 1809. After it was ceded to Russia with the rest of Bessarabia by the 1812 Treaty of Bucharest, the town was rebuilt thoroughly. The Intercession Cathedral (1822-36), the churches of Nativity (1823), St. Nicholas (1833) and several others date back to that time. Izmail's oldest building is the small Turkish mosque, erected either in the 15th or 16th centuries, converted into a church in 1810 and currently housing a museum dedicated to the 1790 storm of Izmail.
After Russia lost the Crimean War, the town was ceded to Moldavia Principality and soon after transferred to the United Principalities. Russia gained control of Izmail again after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. Region had been occupied by Romanian army amid breakup of the Russian Empire in 1918. Between 1918 and 1940, Izmail was, with the rest of Bessarabia, part of the Kingdom of Romania.
In 1940, and again during World War II, it was occupied by the Soviet Red Army and included (August 1940) in the Ukrainian SSR; the region was occupied in 1941-1944 by the Romanian Army participating in Operation Barbarossa. During the Soviet period many Russians and Ukrainians migrated to the town, gradually changing its ethnic composition. The Izmail Oblast was formed in 1940 and the town remained its administrative centre until the oblast was merged to the Odessa Oblast in 1954. Since August 24, 1991, Izmail has been part of independent Ukraine.