History of the Crimea
The acquaintance with the history of the Crimea, its historical monuments and architectural masterpieces is a great pleasure for the curious travelers. Because its history goes back with its roots to the depth of the centuries.
Here, on the peninsula, the destiny of many nations, states and the whole civilizations are interconnected. The events and the culture of different periods are reflected in different monuments. It’s not by chance that the Crimea is called the unique historical and cultural recreation.
The man settled down here since ancient times – about 100 thousand of years ago.
Almost in all Crimean historical museums one can meet the unique exhibits – the archeological findings found by the scientists in the caves, under the cave roofs that served as a natural shelter to a primitive man.
Some of them, for example, the funeral of Neanderthal man in the cave Kiik-Koba are related to the most ancient in Europe.
Not so numerous monuments of ancient aborigines of the peninsular – the Tauri – came up to nowadays. The ancient Greeks started to call the place Taurica by the name of the Tauri.
Their stony boxes are found in many places of peninsula. But another ancient nation – the Cimmerians – left almost no material traces. Just some ancient traces like the Cimmerian walls, Bosporus Cimmerian, Cimmeric…. remind about this.
Approximately in the 7th century B.C. the Greek colonization of the North Black Sea Coast and the Crimea was started.
Clever ancient Greeks (the Hellens) usually founded their colonies taking into account the exploration of the new lands and the opportunities of developing the trade ways to the local population.
Those who left Milet founded the city of Panthicapeum (Kerch) on the shores of Bosporus Cimmerian. This happened in the first half of the 6th century B.C.
On both sides of the strait around Panthicapeum the Greek settlements started to appear.
Nimfeus, Tiritako, Mirmekii, Cimmerian and other settlements started to appear along the Crimean Coast. Approximately at the same time the inhabitants of Milet founded Feodosia (the only city that preserved its name from that ancient period).
In about 480 B.C. the Kingdom of Bosporus was founded from originally independent Greek cities. The city of Panthicapeum became its capital. Later Feodosia was attached to it.
In the 4th cent .B.C. some settlements on the Western Coast of the Black Sea were founded. The largest of them – Kerkinitida (Eupatoria) and Kalos-Limen (Chernomorskoye).
In the last half of the 5th. Cen. B.C. the descendants from the Greek city of Heraclea founded the city of Chersonesus. Now this is the territory of Sevastopol.
By the beginning of the 3th cent. B.C. Chersonesus became the independent city from the Greek Territory. It becomes one of the largest cities of the Northern Black Sea Coast.
It was the republic of slavery as for the political regime, different from Monarchial Bosporus.
Chersonesus became the large city-port in its best period, surrounded by strong walls, also commercial, industrial and cultural centre of all the South-Western Crimea.
Later Kirkinitida (Eupatoria), Kalos-Limen (Chernomorskoye) and some other settlements of Western Coast became its part.
Approximately from the middle of the 1st till the beginning of the 4th cent. A.D. the whole Black Sea Coast and the Taurica as well made the sphere of interest of the Roman Empire. Chersonesus was the base of Romans in the Taurica.
Even today the monuments of antique period and first of all the ruins of the cities founded by the Hellenic Greeks attract the travelers’ attention as well as the Neapolis Scythian (Simferopol) – the capitals of the late Scythian state, Roman fortresses and fortification.
A lot of tribes, peoples and nations visited the peninsula in the medieval epoch: Sarmathians and Goths, Huns and Hazars, Greeks and Slaves, Venetians and Genuese, Mongol-Tatars and the Turks.
In the 4th cent. after the collapse of the Roman Empire when it was split into the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire and Western Empire, the Southern part of Taurica became the part of the Eastern Empire.
Chersonesus ( it was named Cherson at that time) became the main Byzantine base on the peninsula. Byzantine garrison was based there the fortress itself was considerably fortified and expanded. The city had a certain independence though sometimes got under direct Byzantine influence.
The Southern and mountainous Taurica and the local peoples: the Goths, Sarmathians-Alans, Tauri descendents, Scythians, Greeks quite friendly accepted Byzantine influence, as they understood its benefits.
Their cave towns in the mountains and coastal fortresses constructed with the help of the Byzantines in the early Middle Ages are still one of the most interesting historical Crimean monuments.
Taurica had been under Byzantine influence for a bout 1000 years. Christianity, the Greek language and cultural traditions came from Byzantium to the peninsula.
Kievan Rus played a certain role in the Crimean history. The Tmutarakan Principality, part of Kievan Rus, was founded on the Strait of Kerch shores in the 10th century. The town of Korchev (Kerch) was part of that principality.
On the other hand, Taurica also played a significant role in the history of Kievan Rus.
Vladimir, the prince of Kiev, was baptized in Khorsun (Chersonesus) in 988.
The Mongol-Tatars of the Golden Horde several times made raids on Taurica during the 13th century. Then they started settling down on the territory of the peninsula.
In the middle of the 13th century they captured Solkhat that became the centre of the Golden Horde yurt and got the name of Kyrym. The name was later spread all over the peninsula.
It was the Crimean residence of the Golden Horde Khan’s representative. The invade local inhabitants of the peninsula the Greeks, Karaites and others had to pay tribute to the Golden Horde.
The Genoese port towns paid tribute as well. Moreover, at Genoese port markets the Tatars sold their slaves kidnapped during raids.
Since the14th century the Golden Horde started capturing the South-western Crimean lands.
Step by step they settled down not only in steppes and highlands, but also in the mountains and became settled population.
The local Christian population assimilated with the Muslim population that made up the majority of the Crimean inhabitants.
At the beginning of the 15th century due to inner fighting within the Golden Horde, an independent Crimean Khanate was founded, having Bakhchisarai as its capital.
From the 13th to the 15th centuries al the Crimean coastline was part of the Genoese colonies. The Genoese territories were united into the so-called Gothland. It was a military and administrative unity headed by the Consul of Kaffa who was appointed by Genoa. Kaffa (Feodosiya) became the main Genoese town and port.
The Genoese garrisons were stationed in Balaklava, Gurzuf, Alushta and Sudak. The remains of the Genoese fortresses in these towns remind us of that period in the Crimean History.
The Christian principality of Theodoro with Mangup as its centre was founded during that very period of time.
The ottoman Turkey captured approximately 10 % of the Crimean territory at the end of the 15th century. The Genoese principalities and Theodoro disappeared from the Crimean map.
A Turkish military and administrative body Sandjak was established on their former territory.
The Turkish Pasha who stayed in Kefe (present Fodosiya) ruled Sanjak.
The Crimean Khanate kept its independence, but was considerably influenced by Turkey. After numerous Russian-Turkish wars the Crimea was annexed to the Russian Empire and became part of its Tauric region with the centre in Simferopol.
In the second half of the 19th century Livadia became the Tsar’s family summer residence. Aristocrats and later merchants, manufacturers discovered the Crimea.
Yalta, just like all the Crimea, became a popular health resort. The architectural monuments of that period (palaces, villas. Churches) still decorate the peninsula.
The Crimea didn’t eye witnessed severe fighting and battles. The most loud-shed war of the 19th century in Russia was named the Crimean war (1853-1856).
On September, 1854 the British-French troops 62 000 men strong with 134 guns landed in the Crimea, close to Yevpatoriya and Saki and moved towards Sevastopol.
During all 349 days of the siege that came down into history as the first defense of Sevastopol, the most severe fighting was for the key point of the city defenses Malakhov Hill. The assault was repulsed.
The events of that day are depicted on the “Defense of Sevastopol of 1854-1855” Panorama canvas.
The Civil War (1918-1920) played a significant role in the Crimean history. The Red and the White Armies furiously fought for power.
The Crimea changed hands several times. In 1920 it became part of the Soviet Russia, a year later the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was established as its part.
During World War II the Crimean peninsula experienced severe fighting. That war revealed many heroic, tragic and cruel pages of the Crimean history.
The most striking episode of that war the heroic defense of Sevastopol of 1941-1942, Kerch-Feodosiya landing operation and, surely, the liberation of the Crimea from the German troops in April-May 1944.
After that heavy trial the Crimea survived and was reconstructed getting a new inimitable image, but it preserved numerous monuments as attribute to its history. Nowadays, the Crimea is the Black Sea highlight and the site of major international conferences and summits.
The Crimea is one of the most prominent Black Sea health resorts, recreational and tourist destinations.