A Brief History of Crimea

By Tim Lambert

Early Crimea

The ancient Greeks founded colonies in Crimea after 600 BC. They built cities and ports but they did not conquer the whole peninsula.

In the 1st century BC, the Romans conquered parts of Crimea. However, people from central Asia called the Goths conquered eastern Crimea in the 3rd century. Later, in the 4th century, an Asiatic people called the Huns conquered Crimea.

In the 13th century, the Mongols or Tatars conquered Crimea and it became part of a huge empire. However, the empire soon broke up into fragments. In the 15th century the Crimean Tatars became independent but not for long. In 1475 Crimean Tatars came under Turkish rule. For centuries Crimea was part of the Turkish Empire.

In 1783 the Russians captured Crimea from the Turks. The Russians created a naval base and fortress at Sevastopol. Then in 1853, Russia went to war with Turkey. However, Britain and France feared the Russians were growing too powerful and they might take too much Turkish territory so they went to war with Russia in 1853. They sent an expedition to Crimea and besieged Sevastopol for a year. The war ended in 1856.

Modern Crimea

Following the Communist Revolution of 1917 Crimea was made an autonomous part of the Soviet Union in 1921. However, in 1941 the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. They captured Sevastopol in 1942. In 1944 the Russians liberated Crimea but Stalin accused the Crimean Tatars of co-operating with the Germans. Stalin deported vast numbers of Crimean Tatars to other parts of the Soviet Union. Crimea lost its autonomy and became part of Russia. (In 1954 it was made part of Ukraine. From the 1950s onward large numbers of Russians and Ukrainians went to live in Crimea).

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 many Tatars returned to Crimea. However, most of the population of Crimea are Ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. Only a minority are Tatars.

In 2014 Russia annexed Crimea. Today the main industries in Crimea are tourism and agriculture. The population of Crimea is 2 million. The largest city is Sevastopol with a population of 380,000.