History of Crimea

crimea maps
Ancient times

Since the Ancient times the peninsula was known as Taurica (derived from the Tauric aboriginal tribes). The name Crimea was established in XIII century (derived from Turc). In 1783, when Ekaterina the Great conquered this land, it was named Taurida.

According to the ancient sources, the first inhabitants of Crimea were Cimmerians (XII century B.C.) In the middle of VII century B.C. Scythians ousted the Cimmerians into the mountains. The tribes coming from Dnieper region settled in the north-west of Crimea. The Taurus inhabited the foothills, mountainous Crimea and the south coast.

In the VI-V centuries B.C. the Scythians ruled the steppes. Greek settlements, such as democratic slave-trading republic of Tauric Khersoness, Kingdom of Bospor with its capital Pantikapei, were formed on the Black Sea coast. The Greek colonists grew grapes and olives, built vessels, temples, theatres, stadiums, erected great historic monuments and literary works.

By the end of the III century B.C. the Scythian state diminished under the invasion of Sarmatians, their capital was moved to the Salgir river (near present-day Simferopol) and named Scythian Neapol.

In the I century the Romans established protectorate over Khersoness and greatly influenced the Bospor Kingdom’s politics. However the population remained mainly Greek. The Taurus lived in the mountains, the northern steppes were invaded by nomads from time to time. The Roman legions were in based in Crimea from the middle of the II century to the middle of the III century, negating the Scythians’ attacks. In the beginning of the III century, Goths tribes settled in northern Crimea.

Middle Ages

In 520-530 years the Ancient period entered into Byzantine. Byzantium gained control over the Bospor Kingdom. In the VI century, the Turkic and nomadic Bulgarian have appeared in Crimea. At the beginning of XIII century these lands were divided by Byzantium and Khazaria. In the period of Byzantine iconoclasm (VIII century), the monks moved to the outskirts of the empire, including Crimea where they have founded cave temples and monasteries.

The feudal relations thrived in Crimea’s south-west during the period of V-XII centuries. There were fortified settlements – “the cave cities”. Pechenegs and Hungarians have come here in the 9th century. At the beginning of X century Ruses and Khazars battled over the influence. After the death of Khazarian khaganate, part of Crimea fell under the control of the county of Tmutarakan (ancient Russian kingdom). In 988 the Kievan ruler Vladimir took over Khersoness and demanded to marry Byzantine princess Ann.

After weakening of Byzantium, the Crimean Ghots founded the orthodox county Theodoro. In 1223 steppe Crimea became possession of the Golden Horde. In XIV century, part of Crimean lands were purchased by the Genoese and Crimea has obeyed to Mamai leaning by the Genoese colonies. In 1397 Crimea was again intruded by Lithuanian prince Vitovt. Kherssoness turned to ruins after the passage of Edigey (Golden Horde army leader) in 1399.

The Crimean khanate was formed in the steppe and foothill part of Crimea after the disintegration of the Golden Horde in 1441. Tatars switched from nomadism to settled agriculture. Crimea was divided between the Crimean khanate, the mountain principality of Feodoro and the Genoese colonies. In 1475, Ottoman Turks have landed in Crimea and Priazovye. The coastal cities and the mountain part of Crimea joined the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottomans built fortresses in river creeks, which created the deserted "Wild field". The Crimean khanate frequently raided the neighboring Russian state and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, capturing slaves. Having overthrown the yoke of the Golden Horde, the Russian state began to fight for access to the Black Sea. Having crushed the Kazan and Astrakhan khanates, Russia approached the “Wild field", new lands were developed by farmers, built up with the cities.

XVIII century

The Russian Empire aimed to take control of the Crimean peninsula, and during the Russian-Turkish war (1735-1739) its army captured Ottoman fortifications at Perekop and gained control over Bakhchisarai and Karasubazar. Catherine II dreamed to connect these territories to Russia, but sultan Turkey didn't surrender. The Ottomans were expelled from Crimea after the Russian-Turkish war (1768-1774) by the great Russian commander Alexander Suvorov. He expelled the Turkish fleet from the Crimean waters and helped local Christians to become Russians and to move on new lands. Ottoman Port confirmed the independence of Crimea and agreed to allow unrestricted access of Russian merchant ships through Bosphorus strait and Dardanelles. After the manifesto of the empress the Crimean peninsula, Taman and Kuban became part of the Russian Empire. Crimean khanate ceased to exist. Prince Potyomkin took the oath of new citizens of Russia.

The harbor on the southwest coast of the peninsula was selected as the base for the Black Sea Fleet – so Sevastopol was established. Catherine II personally travelled to Crimea in 1796 to oversee its construction and the peninsula was included into the Novorossiysk province. In 1802 the independent Taurian province appeared on the map. In the beginning of the 19th century Crimea experienced economic growth and prosperity: record grape harvests, naval fleet construction and paving of roads. During the rule of count Mikhail Vorontsov the magnificent Vorontsov Palace & Park complex was built. The southern coast of Crimea turned into an aristocratic resort.

ХIХ century

The Crimean war (1853-1856) was fought between the Russian Empire and the coalition of Great Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and the Sardinian kingdom. The Russian emperor Nicholas I wished to deprive the Ottoman Empire of its Balkan possessions. Great Britain sought to force Russia out from the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus, Transcaucasia and from North America, and France was eager to get revenge for the loss of 1812.

The coalition managed to capture the main base of the Russian fleet in Sevastopol. In 1856, opponents have signed the Parisian treaty. Russia agreed to return the Kars fortress to Turkey in return of southern part of Sevastopol. Russia also conceded the creek of Danube and part of Southern Bessarabia to the Moldovan kingdom. The autonomy of Serbia and the Danube principalities was confirmed. The Black Sea and the Bosphorus Straits and Dardanelles remained open for trade navigation.

In the 19th century, Crimea became a popular resort destination for the elite. Palaces, estates and mansions of the Russian nobility, including members of the imperial family were constructed here. During the rule of Alexander ΙΙ Yalta has turned into "the summer capital" of Russia. The Livadia palace (3 km from Yalta) which has passed from Alexander ΙΙ to Alexander III, and then to Nicholas II became the official southern summer residence of the Royal family. Imperial arrivals were important for the development of Crimea and overall improvement of the city (Yalta).

First half of the ХХ century

After the events of February 1917, Crimean Tatars tried to seize control on the peninsula but in 1918 the Bolsheviks proclaimed it the Soviet Socialist Republic of Taurida. Soon after, Crimea was occupied by French, German and Ukrainian troops. The remains of Russia's white army headed by general Denikin, having handed over Don and Kuban, have created "the Government of the South of Russia". Wrangel has taken the offensive, but the Red army has broken through the defenses at Perekop and entered Crimea. Red terror has begun. In 1921, the Autonomous Crimean Socialist Soviet Republic was created as a part of RSFSR.

At the beginning of World War II (1941-1945) the Red Army left Crimea but a significant force remained to defend Sevastopol. The invaders (Nazi Germans) have formed the general District of Crimea, killing communists and other "racially imperfect elements". Partisan guerrillas formed active resistance. Liberation has begun in April 1944. War has aggravated ethnic tensions. By order of Stalin, 60 thousand Crimean Germans were deported from Crimea in 1941 and 183 thousand Crimean Tatars were deported in 1944. By the end of the war, Crimea’s population has decreased by three times.

In February 1945, the famous Yalta conference took place in Livadia palace. The leaders of three great powers of the anti-Hitler coalition: Soviet Union (Stalin), United States of America (Roosevelt) and Great Britain (Churchill) met here to lay the foundation of the post-war world of the second half of the 20th century.

Second half of the ХХ century – present day

After World War II, Crimean republic was transformed to Crimean region. Recovery of the economy has begun. In 1954, The Crimean region has passed from RSFSR to USSR (Ukraine). In 1991, following the results of the all-Crimean referendum, Crimea once again became an autonomous republic (ASSR), and in 1992 it was renamed to the Republic of Crimea.

After the collapse of Soviet Union, the destiny of USSR's Black Sea Navy Fleet was decided. In 1994, Russia and Ukraine have signed a 20 year lease agreement allowing Russia to rent the Sevastopol bay, an arsenal of ammunition, navy and rocket bases, landing grounds and two airfields.

In 2013-2014, pro-Russian protests of the population were caused by political unrest & then crisis in Ukraine. Following the results of an all-Crimean referendum, on March 21, 2014 the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol were included into the Russian Federation as the Crimean federal district.

Despite reports in western media, todays situation in Crimea is calm and peaceful. The majority of people of Crimea have voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation in the 2014 referendum. The peninsula is currently undergoing a "rebirth" after many years of decline under the rule of Ukraine. Huge investments have been made recently in infrastructure projects including construction of highways, hospitals, parks and other public places. We invite you to come and witness this for yourself.

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