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The Crimea is a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea, in modern SE Ukraine. It was called Tauric or Scythian Chersonese (Chersonesus Taurica or Scythica) by the ancient Greeks. The current name is derived from the Tatar name Qırım, via the Russian: Крым (Krym).


The Crimea is connected to the mainland by the 3-4 mile wide Isthmus of Perekop. At the eastern tip is the Kerch peninsula, which is directly opposite the Taman peninsula on the mainland. Between these two peninsula lay the 2-9 mile wide Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov. The total area of the Crimea is approximately 10,000 sq mi (25,900 sq km).

The Crimean coastline is broken by several bays and harbours. These harbors lie on the west side of the Isthmus of Perekop by the Bay of Karkinit; on the south-west by the open Bay of Kalamita, with the ports of Eupatoria, Sevastopol and Balaklava; by the Bay of Arabat on the north side of the Isthmus of Yenikale or Kerch; and by the Bay of Kaffa or Feodosiya (Theodosia), with the port of that name on the south side.

The southeast coast is flanked at a distance of 5 to 8mi from the sea by a parallel range of mountains, the Yaila-Dagh, or Alpine Meadow mountains ( also known as the Crimean Range). These mountains are backed by secondary parallel ranges. 75% of the remaining area of the Crimea consists of semi-arid prairie lands, a southward continuation of the Pontic steppes, which slope gently to the northwest from the foot of the Yayla-Dagh. The main range of these mountains shoots up with extraordinary abruptness from the deep floor of the Black Sea to an altitude of 2000 to 2500 ft., beginning at the southwest point of the peninsula, called Cape Fiolente (anc. Parthenium). It was this cape that was supposedly crowned with the temple of Artemis, where Iphigeneia is said to have officiated as priestess.

Numerous kurgans, or burial-mounds, of the ancient Scythians are scattered across the Crimean steppes.

The terrain that lies beyond the sheltering Yayla-Dagh range is of an altogether different character. Here the narrow strip of coast and the slopes of the mountains are smothered with greenery. This "Russian Riviera" stretches along the southeast coast from Cape Sarych, in the extreme south, to Feodosiya (Theodosia), and is studded with summer sea-bathing resorts such as Alupka, Yalta, Gurzuf, Sudak, and Theodosia. During the years of Soviet rule, the resorts and dachas of this coast served as the prime perquisites of the politically loyal. In this region are also vineyards and fruit orchards; fishing, mining, and the production of essential oils are also important. Numerous Tatar villages, mosques, monasteries, and palaces of the Russian imperial family and nobles are found here, as well as picturesque ancient Greek and medieval castles.


The earliest inhabitants of whom we have any authentic traces were the Celtic Cimmerians, who were expelled by the Scythians during the 7th century B.C. A remnant that took refuge in the mountains became known subsequently as the Tauri. In that same century, Greek colonists began to settle on the coasts, e.g. Dorians from Heraclea at Chersonesus, and Ionians from Miletus at Theodosia and Panticapaeum (also called Bosporus).

Two centuries later (438 B.C) the archon, or ruler, of the last-named assumed the title King of Bosporus, a state that maintained close relations with Athens, supplying that city with wheat and other commodities. The last of these kings, Paerisades V, being hard pressed by the Scythians, put himself under the protection of Mithradates VI, king of Pontus, in 114 B.C. After the death of this latter sovereign, his son Pharnaces, as a reward for assistance rendered to the Romans in their war against his father, was in 63 B.C invested by Pompey with the kingdom of Bosporus. In 15 B.C it was once more restored to the king of Pontus, but henceforward ranked as a tributary state of Rome.

During the succeeding centuries the Crimea was overrun or occupied successively by the Goths (AD. 250), the Huns (376), the Khazars (8th century), the Byzantine Greeks (1016), the Kipchaks (1050), and the Mongols (1237).

In the 13th century the Genoese destroyed or seized the settlements which their rivals the Venetians had made on the Crimean coasts and established themselves at Eupatoria, Cembalo (Balaklava), Soldaia (Sudak), and Kaffa (Theodosia). These flourishing trading towns existed until the conquest of the peninsula by the Ottoman Turks in 1475.

Meanwhile the Tatars had obtained a firm footing in the northern and central parts of the peninsula as early as the 13th century, and after the destruction of the Golden Horde by Timur, they founded an independent khanate in 1427 under Hadji Ghirai, a descendant of Genghis Khan. He and his successors reigned first at Solkhat (Eski-krym), and from the beginning of the 15th century, at Bahēesaray. After 1478, they ruled as tributary princes of the Ottoman Empire until 1777, when having been defeated by the Russian general (future generalissimo) Suvorov, they became dependent upon Russia, and finally in 1783 the whole of the Crimea was annexed to the Russian Empire.

The Crimean War took place in 1854-1856.

Crimea was the scene of some of the most bloody battles in the Great Patriotic War (Second World War). The German invaders suffered heavy casualties as they tried to advance through the isthmus linking Crimea to the Ukrainian mainland at Perekop in the summer of 1941. Once the Germans broke through, they occupied most of Crimea, with the exception of the city of Sevastopol (Hero City). Sevastopol held out heroically from October 1941 until July 4, 1942, when the Germans finally captured the city. Only in 1944 was Sevastopol finally liberated by Soviet troops.

In 1944 the Crimean Tatar ethnic people were forcibly deported by the Soviet government. An estimated 46% of these deportees died from hunger and disease.

In the Soviet era, Crimea was governed as a part of the Russian SFSR until, in 1955, it was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR to mark the tenth anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Crimea became part of the newly independent Ukraine, a situation resented by the majority of its population. With the Black Sea Fleet based on the peninsula, there were worries of armed conflict.

With the electoral defeat of the more radical nationalist political forces in Ukraine tension slowly eased.

The Crimea proclaimed independence on May 5, 1992 but later it agreed to remain as part of Ukraine as the autonomous Republic of Crimea.

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.

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