The northern part of the Crimea consists of low steppes which cover three quarters of the Crimea, and the land gradually rises in the south to the Crimean mountains that hug the coast from Yalta to Feodosiya. The mountains drop steeply into the Black Sea, and shield the narrow coast lands from the wind. The climate here is subtropical. The grassy plains of the north furnish pasture for sheep and horse, and grains are grown on the flat steppes. The climate on the steppes is quite different, and winters are severe due to the cold Arctic winds that blow across the steppes from the north. In the south, where the climate is much more mild, grapes are grown in vineyards that dot the
mountainsides. Salt is dried along the coasts, as the Black Sea is a salt water body. Resorts and health centers dot the the coasts, especially in the area from Yalta to Feodosiya, and here you can find the summer palaces of the Tsars.
The highest point of the Crimea is Roman-Kosh which is approximately 5,000 feet tall, or 1,545 km.. The Crimean Mountains are divided into three ridges that run for 180 km from Sevestaspol to Feodosia. Along the South Ridge there is a narrow valley on the south side of the mountains, between the mountains and the sea. In present day Crimea, a canal which is 402 km long, provides water to the peninsula's towns and grain fields. The canal flows from north to south across the steppes and it is called the North Crimea Canal.
The distance from Simferopol to Yalta is 96 km, and the distance can be spanned in modern day Crimea by what is the longest and highest trolley bus road in Europe. The capitol of Crimea is Simferopol, and other large cities include Sevastopol, Yevpatoria, Feodosia, Yalta, Kerch, Sudak, and the once famous capitol of the Khans, Bahchisaray. Yalta is the region's most famous health resort. Sevestopol is an important naval base and was the site of the Crimean War conflict in 1854-1856.
The history of the Crimea is long and varied. It was first settled in the Early Paleolithic period and its earliest settlers were called the Cimmerians and they lived on the peninsula in 15-7 BC. The coastal and mountainous regions were inhabited by the Taurians, after whom the peninsula was named Taurica. (UN Internet Project, copyright 1995-1998)
In 4 BC, the Scythian kingdom was established on the Steppes of the Crimea. The Greeks also formed colonies nearby. The colony of Chersonese was established in the district of present day Sevastopol. At the beginning of the new era, the Scythian kingdom was conquered by the Germanic tribes of the Goths. In the 4th century, the Crimea was invaded by the Huns who destroyed the greater part of the peninsula's population. Later the Khazar tribes, whose descendants are the Karaims, appeared on the land. They were first ousted by the Pechenegs, and later, by the Polovtsians. (UN Internet Project, copyright 1995-1998)
The Slavs gained a foothold in the Crimea in the 10th century, and established the principality of Tmutorokan. In the 13th century, some of the coastal lands were captured by Italian traders. Also, during this century, Taurica was captured by the Mongols who gave the Crimea it's present day name of Kyrym (Krym). (UN Internet Project, copyright 1995-1998) For two centuries, the
Crimea was the seat of the Golden Horde and the Crimea became one of the largest slave trade markets. In 1441, the Crimean Khanate was established by Haci Giray Khan, a direct descendent of Ghengis Khan. The Giray dynasty ruled Crimea without interruption until April 8, 1873. (Crimean Tatar Home Page, Crimean Fact Sheet: Chronology)
After winning a decisive victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, Russia annexed the Crimea under the rule of Catherine II. Due to the oppressive tsarist policy towards the Crimean Tatars, hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars left the Crimea in waves of massive migrations, which continued throughout Russia's rule of the Crimea.. The Crimean Tatar population was
estimated to be over 5 million during the height of the Khanate rule, and decreased to less than 300,000 at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution.. (The Crimean Home Page, Crimean Tatar Fact Sheet: Chronology)
After the annexation of the Crimea by Catherine II, the peninsula became the home to Ukrainians,
Russians, Bulgarians, Germans, and Swiss. Many of the deserted Tatar villages were inhabited by these peoples who migrated into the Crimea at the invitation of Catherine II, and the Tatar village names were retained at the insistence of the Russian government. Villages also sprung up on the now vacant estates of the once bourgeois Tatars, and in many of these cases, the villages were
named after the previous Tatar estate owners. You will find many German villages in the Crimea bear two names, one Tatar, one German. One such village is Byten (or Bjuten), which is the Tatar village name, and is also called Herrenhilf, which is the German village name.
Sources include the following:
Comptons Online Encyclopedia, v2.0, copyright 1997, The Learning Company, Inc.
The Standard American Encyclopedia, copyright 1937, The University Society
The World Book Encyclopedia, copyright 1997,
"Crimean History," web site, copyright 1995-1998, UN Internet Project
"Crimean Tatar" web site, no copyright information given