{short description of image}  


Micha Jelisavcic
John Sloan

The region now known as Crimea was inhabited by the Early Paleolithic era. A large number of Neolithic dwellings have been found in the Crimean Mountains. More than 170 burial sites of the Kemi-Obinsk culture of the Neolithic period have been discovered.

There are many Mousterian culture settlements in Crimea. The earliest settlers, mentioned in historical records were the Cimmerians, who lived in the central and northern parts of the peninsula from the 15th to 7th centuries BC. The coastal and mountainous regions were inhabited by the Taurians, after whom the peninsula was named Taurica. At least 100 Taurian settlements have been located by archeologists.

In the 7th century BC. the Cimmerians were forced out by the Iranian-speaking Scythian tribes who had come from Asia. By the 4th century BC. a Scythian kingdom was established in the steppes of northern and central Crimea. Its capital became Neapolis, which was situated in the south-eastern part of present-day Simferopol.
By the 5th century BC Greek colonists arrived from Miletus and then other cities. They founded Panticapaeum, Tipitaca, Nimfei, and Mirmeci, which were united in the Bosporan Kingdom around the straits of Kerch. The great colony of Chersonese was established in the district of present-day Sevastopol. And smaller Greek cities were laid out along the western and northwestern Crimean coasts. In the first century BC. Chersonese became a vassal state of the Roman Empire. Later it served as the main base of the Roman army. A garrison was located in the fortress of Kharaks, 9 km from present-day Yalta.

At the beginning of the new era the Scythian kingdom was conquered by the Germanic Goths. In the 4th century AD. the Crimea was invaded by the Huns who destroyed the greater part of the peninsula's population. Later Khazar tribes, whose descendants some consider to be the Karaites, appeared from the Volga - Kuban region. They were eventually ousted by the Pechenegs, and later, by the Polovetsi. The former Greek coastal colonies by then were under the control of Byzantium.
In the 3rd century AD. Byzantine Orthodox Christianity arrived in the Crimea. It played a significant role during the 5th to 9th centuries. After waging a campaign against Chersonese, the Kievan prince Vladimir spread Christianity from Crimea throughout Kievan Rus. His military campaigns helped the Slavs to gain a foothold in the Crimean Peninsula, where in the 10th c. they established the principality of Tmutorokan.

In the 13th c. some of the coastal lands were captured by Italian traders from the city-republics of Venice and Genoa. In 1223 the Mongol army of Subodai and Batu Khan passed through. The Mongols returned in 1238 - 40 to become overlords of the Kypchak (Cuman) Turkic nomads throughout the steppes. They gave the peninsula its present name -Kyrym (Krym). For two centuries Crimea was controled by the Golden Horde from Sarai on the Volga. As part of their emphasis on deriving wealth from control of international commerce the Horde rulers allowed Italian merchants to reestablish trading posts along the Crimean coast. And an independent principality, Feodoro, continued to exist in the mountaneous region between the coastal ports and the northern steppes.

With the breakdown of Horde power, in the 15th century control over the Tatar (Turkic) population fell to the Crimean Tatar Khanate. The Khanate rulers had the distinction of being the last to claim direct decendency from Chingis Khan. They continued a policy of coexistance with the Christian inhabitants of the mountains and coastal enclaves. One major source of their wealth was derived from campaigns against Ukraine and Russia in which people, livestock and moveable goods were carried off. The Crimean sea ports became one of the largest slave-trading markets. All of Crimea came under the control of the Ottoman Turks in 1475. They eliminated the Italian coastal trading posts and stormed the remaining Christian mountain fortresses.

The Crimean Tatars and Ottoman Turks continued to wage war against both Poland and Muscovy. Neither Poles nor Muscovites were able to mount successful campaigns deep into Crimea. But the growing communities of Cossacks along the Don and Dnieper were more effective by sea. During Zaporozhian Cossack campaigns against the peninsula they captured Hezlev (present-day Yevpatoria) in 1589 and in 1616 they stormed Kaffa (present-day Feodosiya).

During the regency of Sophia, the Muscovite Russians launched two major overland campaigns against Crimea, both of which failed before even reaching the Perekop isthmus. Peter I conducted two large-scale offensives against the Ottoman fortress at Azov, capturing the place in the second effort, but never dared attempt a campaign into Crimea. During the reigns of his successors Russian power increased and offensive campaigns gradually reached deeper across the steppe and into Crimea. After winning a decisive victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, Russia annexed the Crimea. It was settled by Ukrainians and Russians, as well as by Bulgarians and Germans. In 1854-1855 the peninsula became the main theatre of the Crimean War between England, France, and Russia.

In 1918 the Crimea became a part of the Ukrainian Peoples' Republic. In 1920 the Bolsheviks occupied the Crimea. In 1921 the Crimean ARSR was established. During World War II its territory was the arena of savage battles between the Soviet Army and the Germans. Sevastopol suffered from first German and then Soviet sieges. In 1944, after being unjustly accused of collaborating with the Germans, the Crimean Tatars were deported from the peninsula. In 1954 the Crimea became a part of the Ukrainian SSR.
In the course of our trip to Crimea in 1997 we visited archeological sites pertaining to the Scythians, the ancient Greeks and Byzantine empire, the Khazars, the medieval Feodoro (Mangup) principality, the Kariates (both Chufut - Kale and Evpatoria), the Genoese at Sudak, Chembalo, and Kaffa, and of course the Great Eastern (Crimean) War. Discussion and illustrations of all of these will appear on these pages as quickly as we can prepare the material. Return to Crimea.

Return to Xenophon. Return to Ruscity. Return to Rushistory. Return to Ukraine.