The Autonomous Republic of Crimea is a relatively new territorial addition to Ukraine, which was transferred under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian SSR by the Russian Federation in 1954, an unprecedented act in the world’s history. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea is located on a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea. The largest part of the Crimean peninsula is covered by steppe, flanked by the Tarkhankut Upland in the west, and the Kerch peninsula in the east. In the south, the 180-km long range of the Crimean Mountains with their eroded rocks and steep cliffs rise high over the Black Sea, creating beautiful landscapes.
The earliest settlements in the Crimean peninsula, of whom the evidence was found, date back to the early Paleolithic era (ca. 100,000 years ago). Later the peninsula was invaded by Cimmerians, Scythians, Greeks, Romans, Khazars, and the Slavs. In the 12th c. the western part of the Crimean peninsula was under the feudal state of Theodore, while most of the Black Sea coast was colonized by the Genoese in the 13th c.
In 1441, the Crimean Tatars founded the Crimean Khanate, which accepted the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire in 1475. For three hundred years the Crimean Khans had been waging wars against their northern neighbours, until they finally succumbed to the mightier Russian Empire in 1774. In 1783 the entire Crimea passed to the Russian Empire, triggering a large-scale resettlement in the area, accompanied by the construction of the railroad network. At the end of the 1918— 21 Russian Civil War the Crimea was the last stand for the supporters of the fallen monarchy. Tourism and agriculture, which thrived in the region before the 1917 Russian Revolution, still account for a large part of the region s economy.
The Crimea is well known for its numerous architectural sights including ancient cave-towns. Spectacular palaces surrounded by orchards, temples, churches, and mosques reflect the cultural diversity that the region has experienced over the centuries.
The capital of the Republic of Crimea is Simferopol, located on the river Salgir at the Crimean Mountains’s foothill. The first settlement in the area was a Scythian head-city built in the 3rd с. ВС, was referred to as the Scythian Neapolis by the Greeks. In the early 16th c. it was eventually replaced by a Tatar town Ak-Mechet (White Mosque), when the oldest building of the area the 1508 Kebir-Jami mosque was built. The city of Simferopol was officially founded in 1784, by the order of Catherine II.
The city of Sevastopol, which holds a special municipality status within Ukraine, lies on the shores of the Black Sea. One of the most known historical sites in the area is the ruins of the ancient Byzantinyne town of Chersoneses, founded by Greek colonists in the 5th c. BC, and destroyed by the hordes of mur-za Yedigei in 1399. It became the museum in 1892, and later was turned to the Khersones-Tavriyskyy National Preserve.
The city of Sevastopol was founded as a fort and the Admiralty in 1784 by the order of Catherine II, and twenty years later it became the main Russian Navy port in the Black Sea. Even the civic port Grafska is known for being the place where the Russian fleet led by Admiral P. Nakhimov returned to the homeland after its victory over the Turkish Navy in 1846.
The city of Kerch stretches for 40 km along the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black and the Azov seas. The first settlement in the area was the town of Panticapaeum, built by the Greeks in the 5th с. ВС. The remains of the Greek Acropolis can still be seen on the Mt. Mitridat. Another historical site located in the Adjimushkai part of the city is the 17-m high Tsarsky burial mound, raised in the 41th с. ВС, and re-discovered in early 1900s. Another tourist attraction the John the Baptist Church was built at the Mt Mitridat’s foothill in the 10th—12th c.c.
The popular-with-the-tourists town of Yevpatoria stands on the shores of the Kalamitska bay. During the 6th—5th c.c. BC during Greek colonization the town was known as Kerkin-tida. In the 15th c. AD, under the Turkish rule it grew into the Gezlev Fortress, one of the largest slave markets on the Crimean peninsula. Several 15th-c. buildings, such as the Dervish Tekije (monastery), and Juma-Jami Mosque, built in 1552 by the order of Devlet-Girey Khan, have survived today. The 1803 Kenassa (Temple) has been the country’s largest karaite spiritual centre since 1837.
The city of Bakhchysaray on the river Churuk-Su was founded in the second half of the 15th c., after the capital of the Crimean Khanate was moved to Kirk-Аг (later Chufut-Kale). The true jewel of Bakhchysaray architecture is the unique Khans’ Palace, with the 1743 Great Khan Mosque. The palace is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs of a whimsical shape.
The dead city of Chufut-Kale (the Jews’ Castle), founded in the 6th—12th c.c., stands in the inside circle of the Crimean Mountains. It is one of the best preserved Medieval Crimean sites with Karaite Kinassa, and the Mausoleum of Dzhanike-Khanym, which was built in 1437. The traditional road to Chufut-Kale goes past the 8th-c. Assumption Cave Monastery, with a wide stairway with a bell tower leading towards the Assumption Church, carved in the face of the limestone mountain in the 13th—15th с.с.
The most noteworthy building of Sudak is the Genoese (or Sudak) Fortress, built in the 14th —15th c.c. by the Lingu-rean Sea colonists. The impressive two-storey fortress, which occupies over 300,000 sq. m, stands on the top of a 150-m high cone-shaped cliff. The Sudak Fortress, filled with numerous medieval architectural artifacts, has been part of the National Sofiyivsky Museum since 1958.
The main attraction of Alupka is the Vorontsov Palace, one of the largest palaces in the southern Crimea, built in 1837 by the order of the Governor-General Earl M. Vorontsov. The facade of the palace is adorned with a magnificent portal with the Arabic saying ‘There is no Victor other than Allah’, and marble lion statues guarding the wide stairway.
The small town of Levadia on the Black Sea shore is known for its 1911 Grand palace, built for the Tsar family as their summer residence. In 1945 the Yalta conference which hosted J. Stalin, W. Churchill, and T. Roosevelt, the heads of the three largest states among the WW II Allies took place here.
The most famous Crimea’s site, Swallow’s Nest, is located near Gaspra. The elegant palace with its three-tiered tower and incredible views of the Black Sea is perched on one of the three cliffs that make up the cape Ai-Todor.