1911 encyclopedia text:
Crimea a peninsula on the north side of the Black Sea, with the mainland of which it is connected by the Isthmus of Perekop (3-4 miles across). It measures 200 miles between 44° 23’ and 46° 10’ N., and 110 miles between 32° 30’ and 36° 40’ E. Its area is 9700 square miles.
The shores are broken by several bays and harbours—on the west side of the Isthmus of Perekop by the Bay of Karkinit; on the south-west by the open Bay of Kalamita, on the shores of which the allies landed in 1854, 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 of the same.
The south-east coast is flanked at a distance of 5 to 8 m. from the sea by a parallel range of mountains, the Yaila-Dagh, or Alpine Meadow mountains, and these are backed, inland, by secondary parallel ranges; but 75% of the remaining area consists of high arid prairie lands, a southward continuation of the Pontic steppes, which slope gently north-westwards from the foot of the Yaila-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 south-west extremity of the peninsula, Cape Fiolente (anc. Parthenium), supposed to have been crowned by the temple of Artemis in which Iphigeneia officiated as priestess.
The picture which lies behind the sheltering screen of the Yaila-Dagh 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 all along the, south-east coast from Cape Sarych (extreme S.) to Feodosiya (Theodosia), and is studded with summer sea-bathing resorts— Alupka, Yalta, Gursuv, Alushta, Sudak, Theodosia. Numerous Tatar villages, mosques, monasteries, palaces of the Russian imperial family and Russian nobles, and picturesque ruins of ancient Greek and medieval fortresses and other buildings are found.
The earliest inhabitants of whom we have any authentic traces were the Celtic Cimmenians, who were expelled by the Scythians during the 7th century B.C A remnant, who 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 of king of Bosporus, a state which 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 (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), flourishing trading towns, which existed down to the conquest of the peninsula by the Ottoman Turks in 1475.
Meanwhile the Tatars had got 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 under a descendant of Genghis Khan, who is known as Hadji Ghirai. He and his successors reigned first at Solkhat (Eski-krym), and from the beginning of the 15th century at Bakhchi-Sarai. But from 1478 they ruled as tributary princes of the Ottoman Empire down to 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.
Crimea was the scene of some of the most bloody battles in the Great Patriotic War (Second World War) with Sevastopol heroically, though unsucessfully, defended from December 17, 1941 and July 4, 1942 agsinst the Nazi invaders.
In the Soviet era Crimea was governed as part of 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 therefore became part of the newly indpendent 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.
See also Crimean War of 1854-65.