Crimea () or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (; ; ) is an autonomous republic of Ukraine on the northern coast of the Black Sea occupying a peninsula of the same name.
The territory of Crimea was conquered and controlled many times throughout its history. The Cimmerians, Greeks, Iranians, Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Khazars, the state of Kievan Rus', Byzantine Greeks, Kipchaks, and the Mongols all controlled Crimea in its early history. In the 13th century it was partly controlled by the Venetians and by the Genoese; these were followed by the Crimean Khanate and Ottoman Empire in the 15th–18th centuries, the Russian Empire in the 18th–20th centuries, the Russian SFSR and later Ukrainian SSR within Soviet Union in the rest of 20th century, Germany in World War II, and now, the independent Ukrainian state.
The total area of the republic is 26,200 km². As of 2007, Crimea has a population of 1,973,185 inhabitants. The capital of Crimea is the city of Simferopol.
Crimea is the homeland for the Crimean Tatars, an ethnic minority who now make up about 13% of the population. The Crimean Tatars were forcibly expelled to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin's government, but have begun returning to their homeland in recent years.
Etymology of the nameThe name Crimea takes its origin in the name of a city of Qırım (today's Stary Krym) which served as a capital of the Crimean province of the Golden Horde. Qırım is Crimean Tatar for "my hill" (qır – hill, -ım – my). However, there are other versions of the etymology of Qırım. Russian Krym is a Russified form of Qırım. The ancient Greeks called Crimea Tauris (later Taurica), after its inhabitants, the Tauri. The Greek historian Herodotus mentions that Hercules plowed that land using a huge ox ("Taurus"), hence the name of the land.
In English, Crimea is sometimes referred to with the definite article, the Crimea, as in the Netherlands, the Gambia, etc. However, usage without the article has become more frequent in journalism since the years of the Soviet Union.
Early historyThe earliest inhabitants of whom we have any authentic traces were the Cimmerians, who were expelled by the Scythians (Iraniags) during the 7th century BC. The remaining Cimmerians that togok refuge in the mountains later became known as the Tauri. According to other historians, the Tauri were known for their savage rituals and piracy, and were also the earliest, indigenous of the peninsula. In 5th century BC, Greek colonists began to settle along the Black Sea coast, among those were the Dorians from Heraclea who founded a sea port of Chersonesos outside Sevastopol, and the Ionians from Miletus who landed at Feodosiya and Panticapaeum (also called Bosporus).
Two centuries later (438 BC), the Archon (ruler) of the latter settlers assumed the title of the Kings of Cimmerian Bosporus, a state that maintained close relations with Athens, supplying the city with wheat, honey and other commodities. The last of that line of kings, Paerisades V, being hard-pressed by the Scythians, put himself under the protection of Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus, in 114 BC. After the death of this sovereign, his son, Pharnaces II, was invested by Pompey with the kingdom of Bosporus in 63 BC as a reward for the assistance rendered to the Romans in their war against his father. In 15 BC, it was once again restored to the king of Pontus, but since ranked as a tributary state of Rome.
Throughout the later centuries, Crimea was invaded or occupied successively by the Goths (AD 250), the Huns (376), the Bulgars 4th-8th century), the Khazars (8th century), the state of Kievan Rus' (10th–11th centuries), the Byzantine Empire (1016), the Kipchaks (the Kumans) (1050), and the Mongols (1237).
In the mid-10th century, the eastern area of Crimea was conquered by Prince Sviatoslav I of Kiev and became part of the Kievan Rus' principality of Tmutarakan. In 988, Prince Vladimir I of Kiev also captured the Byzantine town of Chersones (presently part of Sevastopol) where he later converted to Christianity. An impressive Russian Orthodox cathedral marks the location of this historic event.
In the 13th century, the Republic of Genoa seized the settlements which their rivals, the Venetians, had built along the Crimean coast and established themselves at Cembalo, Soldaia, Cherco and Caffa, gaining control of the Crimean economy and the Black Sea commerce for two centuries.
Crimean Khanate: 1441-1783A number of Turkic peoples, now collectively known as the Crimean Tatars, have been inhabiting the peninsula since the early Middle Ages. The ethnicity of the Crimean Tatars is quite complex as it absorbed both nomadic Turkic and European components (in the first place, the Goths and the Genoese) which is still reflected in their appearance and language differences. A small enclave of the Karaims, possibly of Khazar (i.e. Turkic) descent but members of a Jewish sect, was founded in the 8th century. It existed among the Muslim Crimean Tatars, primarily in the mountainous Çufut Qale area.
After the destruction of the Golden Horde by Timur in 1441, the Crimean Tatars founded an independent Crimean Khanate under Hacı I Giray, a descendant of Genghis Khan. He and his successors reigned first at Qırq Yer, and from the beginning of the 15th century, at Bakhchisaray.
The Crimean Tatars controlled the steppes that stretched from the Kuban and to the Dniester River, however, they were unable to take control over commercial Genoese towns. After the Crimean Tatars asked for help from the Ottomans, an Ottoman invasion of the Genoese towns led by Gedik Ahmed Pasha in 1475 brought Kaffa and the other trading towns under their control.
After the capture of Genoese towns, the Ottoman Sultan held Meñli I Giray captive, later releasing him in return for accepting Ottoman sovereignty above the Crimean Khans and allowing them rule as tributary princes of the Ottoman Empire. However, the Crimean Khans still had a large amount of autonomy from the Ottoman Empire, particularly, followed the rules they thought were best for them: Crimean Tatars introduced raids into Ukrainian lands, which were used to get slaves to be sold on markets. In 1553–1554, Cossack Hetman Dmytro Vyshnevetsky gathered together groups of Cossacks, and constructed a fort designed to obstruct Tatar raids into Ukraine. With this action, he founded the Zaporozhian Sich, with which he would launch a series of attacks on the Crimea peninsula and the Ottoman Turks. In 1774, The Crimean Khans fell under Russian influence with the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca. In 1783, the entire Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire.
Russian Empire and Civil War: 1783-1922
The Crimean War (1853–1856) devastated much of the economic and social infrastructure of Crimea. The Crimean Tatars had to flee from their homeland en masse, forced by the conditions created by the war, persecution and land expropriations. Those who survived the trip, famine and disease, resettled in Dobruja, Anatolia, and other parts of the Ottoman Empire. For the first time in their history, Crimean Tatars became a minority in their own land, with the majority spread out as a diaspora. Finally, the Russian government decided to stop the process, as the agriculture began to suffer due to the unattended fertile farmland.
During the Russian Civil War, Crimea was a stronghold of the anti-Bolshevik White Army. It was in Crimea that the White Russians led by General Wrangel made their last stand against Nestor Makhno and the Red Army in 1920. After the resistance was crushed, many of the anti-Communist fighters and civilians had to board the ships and escape to Istanbul.
Soviet Union: 1922-1991
On October 18, 1921, the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created as part of the Russian SFSR. However, the establishment of the Crimean ASSR did not fully protect the Crimean Tatars from Joseph Stalin's repressions of the 1930s. The Tatars constituted about 25% of the Crimean population.
The Greeks were another cultural group that suffered. Their lands were lost during the process of collectivisation, in which farmers were not compensated with wages. Schools which taught Greek were closed and Greek literature was destroyed, because the Soviets considered the Greeks as "counter-revolutionary" with their links to capitalist state Greece, and their independent culture.
Crimea experienced two severe famines in the 20th century, the Famine of 1921-1922 and the Holodomor of 1932-1933.
During World War II, Crimea was a scene of some of the bloodiest battles. The leaders of the Third Reich were anxious to conquer and colonize the fertile and beautiful peninsula as part of their policy of resettling the Germans in Eastern Europe at the expense of the Slavs. The Germans suffered heavy casualties in the summer of 1941 as they tried to advance through the narrow Isthmus of Perekop linking Crimea to the Ukrainian mainland. Once the German army broke through (Operation Trappenjagd), they occupied most of Crimea, with the exception of the city of Sevastopol, which was later awarded the honorary title of Hero City after the war.
Sevastopol held out from October 1941 until July 4, 1942 when the Germans finally captured the city. From September 1, 1942, the peninsula was administered as the Generalbezirk Krim (general district of Crimea) und Teilbezirk (and sub-district) Taurien by the Nazi Generalkommissar Alfred Eduard Frauenfeld (1898–1977), under the authority of the three consecutive Reichskommissare for the entire Ukraine. In spite of heavy-handed tactics by the Nazis and the assistance of the Romanian and Italian troops, the Crimean mountains remained an unconquered stronghold of the native resistance (the partisans) until the day when the peninsula was freed from the occupying force.
In 1944, Sevastopol came under the control of troops from the Soviet Union. The so-called "City of Russian Glory" once known for its beautiful architecture was entirely destroyed and had to be rebuilt stone by stone. Due to its enormous historical and symbolic meaning for the Russians, it became a priority for Stalin and the Soviet government to have it restored to its former glory within the shortest time possible.
On May 18, 1944, the entire population of the Crimean Tatars were forcibly deported in the Sürgün (Crimean Tatar for exile) to Central Asia by Stalin's Soviet government as a form of collective punishment on the grounds that they had collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces. An estimated 46% of the deportees died from hunger and disease. On June 26 of the same year Armenian, Bulgar and Greek population was also deported to Central Asia. By the end of summer 1944, the ethnic cleansing of Crimea was complete. In 1967, the Crimean Tatars were rehabilitated, but they were banned from legally returning to their homeland until the last days of the Soviet Union.
The Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was abolished in June 30, 1945 and transformed into the Crimean Oblast (province) of the Russian SFSR. On February 19, 1954, the oblast was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR. As it stated in the Supreme Soviet Decree, the transfer was caused by close (1) geographic, (2) economic, and (3) cultural ties to the Ukrainian SSR.
In post-war years, Crimea thrived as a prime tourist destination, built with new attractions and sanatoriums for tourists. Tourists came from all around the Soviet Union and neighbouring countries, particularly from the German Democratic Republic. Also, Crimea's infrastructure and manufacturing also developed, particularly around the sea ports at Kerch and Sevastopol and in the oblast's landlocked capital, Simferopol. Populations of Ukrainians and Russians alike doubled, with more than 1.6 million Russians and 626,000 Ukrainians living on the peninsula by 1989.
Autonomy within independent Ukraine
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimea became part of the newly independent Ukraine, a situation largely unexpected by its population that was ethnically and culturally Russian for the most part. This led to tensions between Russia and Ukraine. With the Black Sea Fleet based on the peninsula, worries of armed skirmishes were occasionally raised.
After the All-Crimean Referendum was conducted on January 20, 1991, the Crimean Oblast was transformed into the Crimean ASSR as part of the Ukrainian SSR and the city of Sevastopol was granted special government status in the UkSSR. When the results came in on the Ukrainian referendum on independence on December 1, 1991, it showed that 54.19% of residents from Crimea and 57.07% from Sevastopol city voted in favor of Ukrainian independence. Based on the resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea on February 26, 1992, the Crimean ASSR was renamed into the Republic of Crimea. Crimea later proclaimed self-government on May 5, 1992. On the next day, the first Crimean constitution was put into effect. On May 19, Crimea agreed to remain as part of Ukraine and its Verkhovna Rada of Crimea annulled their proclamation of self-government. On June 30, Crimean Communists had forced the Kiev government to expand on the already extensive autonomous status of Crimea. In the same period, Russian president Boris Yeltsin and Ukraine's Leonid Kravchuk agreed to divide the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet between Russia and the newly-formed Ukrainian Navy.
On October 14, 1993, the Crimean Government introduced the post of the President of Crimea, a short-lived post that was later removed. During the second round of voting in the Crimean presidential election held on January 30, 1994, the pro-Russian Yuriy Meshkov was announced the winner of the election. After a long conflict between the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea and the rada's chairmen, the rights of the President of Crimea were annulled on September 7 of the same year. On September 11, President Meshkov disbands the Crimean Parliament and announces his control over Crimea. After amendments to the Constitution of Crimea, the conflict slowly eased off.
On March 17, 1995, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine scraps the Crimean Constitution and removes the post of President of Crimea. With the removal of the post, Yuriy Meshkov became the first and only President of Crimea. On April 4, 1996, a new constitution was put into effect. On December 23, 1998, the currently existing constitution was put into effect along with the name change from the Republic of Crimea to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Following the ratification of the May 1997 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership on friendship and division of the Black Sea Fleet, international tensions have slowly eased off. With the treaty, Moscow recognized Ukraine's borders and territorial integrity, and accepted Ukraine's sovereignty over Crimea and Sevastopol. In a separate agreement, Russia was to receive 80% of the Black Sea Fleet and use of the military facilities in Sevastopol on a 20-year lease.
However, other controversies between Ukraine and Russia still remain, including the ownership of a lighthouse on Cape Sarych. Because the Russian Navy controlled 77 geographical objects on the south Crimean Shore, the Sevastopol Government Court ordered the vacation of the objects, which the Russian military did not carry out. Since August 3, 2005, the lighthouse is controlled by the Russian Army. Through the years, there have been various attempts of returning Cape Sarych to Ukrainian territory, all of which were unsuccessful.
In 2006, protests broke out on the peninsula after U.S. Marines arrived to the Crimean city of Feodosiya to take part in the Sea Breeze 2006 Ukraine-NATO military exercise. Protesters greeted the marines with barricades and slogans bearing "Occupiers go home!", and a couple days later, the Crimean parliament declared Crimea a "NATO-free territory". After several days of protest, the U.S. Marines withdrew from the peninsula.
Return of Crimean Tatarsassociated main Crimean Tatars Another center of conflict on the peninsula is regarding land ownership. Since the Crimean Tatars were forcibly deported from their homeland in May of 1944, other people, particularly Russians, settled the peninsula and took control of the lands formerly belonging to the Crimean Tatars. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Crimean Tatars were allowed to return to Crimea, but conflict arose when they demanded the return of land seized after their deportation.
Government and politics
Crimea is a parliamentary republic that has no president. The legislative body is a 100-seat parliament, the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea.
The executive power is represented by the Council of Ministers, headed by a Prime Minister who is appointed and dismissed by the Verkhovna Rada, with the consent of the President of Ukraine. The authority and operation of the Verkhovna Rada and the Council of Ministers of Crimea are determined by the Constitution of Ukraine and other the laws of Ukraine, as well as by regular decisions carried out by the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea.
Justice is administered by courts that belong to the Judicial system of Ukraine.
Elections and parties
While not an official body controlling Crimea, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People is a representative body of the Crimean Tatars, which could address grievances to the Ukrainian central government, the Crimean government, and international bodies.
During the 2004 presidential elections, Crimea largely voted for the presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych and during both the 2006 Ukrainian parliamentary elections and the 2007 Ukrainian parliamentary elections the Yanukovych-led Party of Regions also won most of the votes from the region.
Following the Crimean parliamentary election, 2006, the following political parties are represented in the Verkhovna Rada bloc: "Za Yanukovycha!" (Party of Regions and the Russian Bloc): 32.55% (44 mandates); party "Soiuz": 7.63% (10 mandates); Kunytsyna Electoral Bloc: 7.63% (10 mandates); Communist Party of Ukraine: 6.55% (9 mandates); People's Movement of Ukraine: 6.26% (8 mandates); Yulia Tymoshenko Electoral Bloc: 6.03% (8 mandates); People's Opposition Bloc of Natalia Vitrenko: 4.97% (7 mandates); Opposition Bloc "Ne Tak": 3.09% (4 mandates).
Crimea is subdivided into 25 regions: 14 raions (districts) and 11 city municipalities, officially known as "territories governed by city councils". Each region consists of city, urban-type settlement and village communities. Note that Sevastopol Municipality, the uncolored region immediately to the west of Bakhchisarayskyi Raion (#1) is one of two special municipalities within Ukraine and is not part of Autonomous Republic of Crimea itself.