Russia Geography Crimea


Crimea is a diamond-shaped peninsula on the northern shores of the Black Sea. The unique climate and geographic location of this territory mean that it has always been a popular place of habitation and relaxation – and a focus of interest for the major European and Asian powers.

The history of Crimea is closely associated with Ancient Greece and Rome, the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, the Golden Horde and the Republic of Genoa. The region has been inhabited at various times by Scythians, Greeks, Romans, Khazars, Cumans, Pechenegs, Armenians, Goths, Tatars, Turks and many other nationalities.

In the eighteenth century, during the reign of Catherine the Great, Crimea became part of the Russian Empire following a series of Russo-Turkish Wars (1768–74, 1787–91). The region’s rapid development after these events was a reflection of its new rulers’ appreciation of its geopolitical importance and unique natural resources.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the Crimean War was fought between Russia and the forces of Great Britain, France, Turkey and Sardinia. Britain and France sent their navies to Crimea in September 1854, defeated a Russian army at the Battle of Alma and besieged the naval port of Sebastopole for almost a year, from 17 October 1854 to 9 September 1855. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in March 1856.

Throughout the nineteenth century, right up until 1917, Crimea was one of the favourite places of relaxation for the imperial family. The Romanov residence of Livadia near Yalta was the final abode of Tsar Alexander III, who died there in October 1894. It was from here that many members of the Russian aristocracy, headed by Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna, sailed into exile aboard a British cruiser, HMS Marlborough, in April 1919.

In the twentieth century, Crimea witnessed many more dramatic events. The peninsula was the scene of heavy fighting during the First World War, the Russian Civil War and the Second World War. For two years, from 1942 to 1944, Crimea was occupied by German forces. In February 1945, the region hosted the Yalta Conference, when the Allied powers met to decide the fate of post-war Europe.

In February 1954, the Soviet government passed an administrative reform, removing Crimea from the composition of the RSFSR and awarding the peninsula to the Ukrainian SSR. This decision was justified by economic reasons and made little difference inside the single territory of the Soviet Union. However, when the USSR collapsed in 1991, this meant that the region was now part of the newly independent state of Ukraine.

Crimea existed as an autonomous republic of Ukraine until the Russian take-over of February 2014. Following a very contentious referendum in March 2014, the peninsula was incorporated into the Russian Federation. The territory is now administered by Russia as two federal subjects – the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sebastopole.

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