Map of Crimea showing relative position of Russia and Ukraine

Peninsula in the northern Black Sea, called by the ancient Greeks Chersonesus Taurica, the peninsula of the Tauri (the people living there).

The southern shores of the peninsula were colonised intermittently by Greeks and Byzantines, the northern lands were usually held by whoever controlled the steppelands to the north.

In the later middle ages the Crimea was held by the Khans of the Golden Horde, and Genoese traders settled in the south, particularly at Kaffa (now Feodosiya) in the southeast.

The Khanate of the Golden Horde broke up in the 15th century and in 1441 a separate Khanate of Krim emerged. It held not only the peninsula, but the lands to the north that adjoined the peninsula, and most of the lands around the Sea of Azov, so that the Khanate extended to the northwestern end of the Caucasian range.

At that time the power of the Ottoman Empire was also growing and the Khans of Krim were soon obliged to acknowledge the Sultans as overlords. Turkish hostility to the Genoese ensured that they were driven out of their Crimean settlements by 1475, when they lost Kaffa.

Raids launched from the Khanate of Krim were a constant irritation to Poland and Russia, long after the other Tatar Khanates had fallen, and necessitated the use of fortresses and of Cossacks as border fighting men.

In the 18th century Russia advanced towards the Black Sea and fought a long war with the Ottoman Turks, 1768-74. In 1774, by the Treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji, the Ottoman government surrendered its claims to suzerainty over the Khanate of Krim, which became independent. It was the independence of the dying, and in 1783 Russia annexed the Khanate.

The peninsula and most of the lands to the north became the province of Taurida; some northern lands went to that of Ekaterinoslav; the Caucasian districts became the province of Kuban.

In 1918, after the military collapse of Russia, followed by the Bolshevik Revolution, the Crimea briefly became the Republic of Taurida, but it soon fell under the control of the Whites and served as the principal base of Admiral Wrangel, until the Ukrainian anarchists drove the Whites out in 1920. It was the Communists who ultimately won and the Crimean peninsula was made into the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921.

It was the principal autonomous republic of the Tatars, whose proportion of the population had fallen to about a third by the end of the 19th century, but who were now able to encourage Tatar culture. Eventually they fell foul of Stalin, then in 1941-4 they endured German occupation and the racialist nonsense of the Nazis.

The German withdrawal benefited the Crimean Tatars nothing. In 1944 they were deported to Central Asia, travelling in harsh conditions and on arrival subject to strict regulation. Unlike some of the other departed peoples they were not rescued by Khrushchev. Only during the last years of the Soviet Union came the beginning of the putting right, in so far as it was possible, of the wrongs done. By 1992 about 200,000 Crimean Tatars, about half the population, had returned to the Crimea.

After the deportations of 1944 the autonomous republic was reduced in 1945 to the status of a region (oblast) in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic and in 1954 it was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the only part of the Soviet Union with which it was linked by land. The Russians however were the largest national group in the Crimea – some 61% of the population in 1992 – so that when the Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991 and Ukraine became independent, there was trouble between Ukraine and the Crimea.

The local assembly voted Crimea an autonomous republic in 1991 and this was accepted by the Ukrainian government in 1992, but a declaration of independence by the assembly was unacceptable and the Crimean constitution was suspended by Ukraine. Fresh elections in 1994 changed the government at the centre and led to a reiteration of Crimean independence. In 1995 the Ukrainian President assumed control for a few weeks. New elections to the Parliament made it less ardently Russian nationalist. The Ukrainian President withdrew.

In 1996 a new constitution for the Ukraine recognised the autonomy of the Crimea, while the Crimean Parliament recognised that the autonomous republic formed an integral part of the Ukraine.

This entry was posted in Greece, Italy, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Crimea

  1. davidseurope says:

    As I explain in the introduction:- this blog is slowly releasing the articles from my Dad’s unpublished book ‘Provinces and Principalities of Europe’. As such the manuscript was last worked on in the ‘noughties’ and that is why the annexation of the Crimea by Russia is not mentioned. There is a link to the Wikipedia article on that subject here>>>

    Thanks for using davidseurope.

    Mike Sanders 03-August-2017

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