1902 Encyclopedia > Crimea


CRIMEA, the ancient Tauric Chersonese, called by the Russians by the Tatar name Krym, or Crim, a peninsula in the Black Sea forming part of the Russian government of Taurida, with the mainland of which it is connected by the Isthmus of Perecop, about six miles wide. It is situated between 44° 22' and 46° 10' N. lat. and 32° 30' and 36° 40' E. long ; is rhomboid in from, the angles being directed to the cardinal points; measures 12.5 miles from N. to S. and 200 miles from W. to the E. extremity of the peninsula of Kertch, at the east angle of the quadrilateral ; and contains an area of between 9000 and 10,000 English square miles. Its coasts are washed by the Black Sea, except to the north-east, where is the Sivash, "Putrid Sea," a shallow lagoon connected with the Sea of Azoff by a very narrow opening, and separated from it by a low sandy tongue of land called the Tonga or Arabat Spit.

Three parts of the Crimea are a continuation of the steppe of South Russia, the remainder on the south and south-east coast consisting of hills and mountains (if calcareous rocks that have been disturbed by volcanic agency, and exhibit in various parts diorite, melaphyre, aphrite, diabase, amygdaloid, and diorite porphyry. The volcanic eraptions are more manifest near Cape St George, and at Cape Laspy, Kastropolo, Aloupka, Yalta, and Byouk Lambat, and have formed the eminences at Ayou-dagh, Kastel, Ouragou, and Kara-dagh, and to the south of Sympheropol and Kara-sou-bazar. The mountains rise almost abruptly from the sea to an altitude in some parts of fully 4000 feet, the highest, called by the ancients Trapezus, "the Table Mountain" from the flatness of its summit, and now called by the, Tatars Tchadyr-dagh, "Tent Mountain," being 4800 feet above the level of the sea. Stalactite and stalagmite caverns are numerous, two of the most remarkable being on the Tchadyr-dagh. Criumetopon, the "ram’s bead" of Strabo, was at the south part of the range, and may have been Cape Aïa to the east of Balaclava, or the range of cliffs that extends from that promontory to Aïtodor. The coast of the mountainous region is exceedingly picturesque, and numerous vineyards have been formed along its sunny slopes; the soil consists of decomposed rock, the chief com-ponent part being slate clay. The mud baths on the sea shore at Saky are celebrated for the relief they afford in cases of rheumatism, paralysis, skin diseases, &c.; there is a hospital for naval and military patients, and a private bathing, establishment. In the peninsula of Kertch are clusters of mud volcanoes near the town of Kertch and village of Yeny-Kaleh, where the mud, quite cold and black, bubbles actively but silently out of the earth; it is not utilized.

The principal rivers are the Salghyr, its tributary the Kara-sou, the Belbeck, Katcha, Alma, and Boulganack. They all rise on the northern slopes of the mountain range; their beds are almost dry in autumn, but they become rapid and dangerous torrents in spring.

The general climate from the end of March to December is most salubrious and delightful, the beat being moderate and the nights cool and serene ; but the summers are irregular, the thermometer sometimes rising to 90° and 100° Fahr. in the shade—the mean annual temperature at Sympberopol being 10°, at Sevastopol 55°, and at Yalta 58°. The weather in the steppe and mountainous parts differ, the former being subject to high winds, hailstorms (sometimes destructive), snowstorms, and frost. In summer long, droughts prevail, completely parching up the verdure, which in July and August is quite burnt up. In some winters the mountain tops are covered with snow, which continues on the higher Summits until May, yet their tem-perature is moderate. Ice is rarely seen on the south slopes, and snow seldom falls, the winters throughout being mild, though rains are heavy and winds variable. The greater heats, which last from May to September, are en-durable owing, to sea and land breezes, the prevalent Winds being S.E and E., when the weather is clear mid dry; S. and S.W. winds are invariably accompanied with rain. The autumn, particularly in August and September, is unhealthy on the sea-shore of the south coast, fever and ague being prevalent but not dangerous ; an altitude, however, of 40 feet or 50 feet is security against attack. Dense fogs Occur in March, April, and May, sometimes lasting many hours, but hey seldom overspread the land.

In ancient times the Crimea, the Tauric Cliersonese, produced a great quantity of corn, which was exported to various parts of Greece; we read that 2,100,000 medimni (a medimnus = 12 gallons) were sent in one year from Theodosia to Athens by Leucon, king, of the Bosphorus (393-353 B.C.). The population is now in some measure supplied with corn from Russia, the drought that has prevailed for many years preventing the district from being a grain-producing country; but where the land is capable of irrigation it is grown, and there is rich pasturage; much good land, however, remains uncultivated from a dearth of manual labour. The grains sown are wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize, millet, and peas; flax and tobacco are also planted. The vine overspreads the declivities of the south coast, from the valley of the Boulganack to Aloushta, and again at Soudak and Theodosia, 13,500 acres yielding annually about 3,050,000 gallons of wine, sold new at 4s. 10d. to 5s. 6d. the vedro (2-86 gallons). A small proportion is exported. Orchards are interspersed with the vineyards, but the best apples are the produce of the valleys of the Alma, Belbeck, Katcha, and Salghyr, the estimated value of the supply sent yearly into Russia being £150,000. The more common indigenous trees and shrubs are the Tauric pine, juniper, yew, oak, beech, which is abundant and attains a large size, elm, wych elm, maple, ash, poplar, and fir; the last grows well on the highlands and on the south slopes, where it reaches a great height ; the Babylonian willow and tamarind grow thickly by the side of streams ; there is also the hide sumach (Rhus coriaria), hawthorn, honey-suckle, barbariss, and the dog-rose, which becomes quite a tree, bearing white, pink, and yellow blossoms. The wild fruit-bearing trees are the mountain ash, kyzyl, a small red plum, the apple, pear, and vine; it is said that the wild olive is occasionally to be found. In the gardens of the south coast large numbers of plants have been acclimatized, and trees of all kinds grow to perfection, especially the cypress and magnolia. Wild flowers, such as the white and violet crocus and sweet-scented violet, appear as early as February, lilies of the valley and white and sweet peas being plentiful in May, and in summer the woods are filled with peonies, Asphodelus taurica, veronica, geranium, and orchids. In the highlands the vegetation is always vigorous. In July they are covered with Thymus, Sideritis, Galium, Myosotis, and Odontarrhena, Gentiana cruciata, and Symphytum txuricum. Ta the gardens are cultivated the following fruits:—melons, karpouz, "water-melon," large, of excellent flavour, and greatly consumed ; strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, and currants ; pomegranates, pears, figs, plums, peaches, apricots, cherries, mulberries, quinces, walnuts, almonds, hazel-nuts, and chesnuts; also many sorts of vegetables.

Wolves, foxes, weazels, and hares are about the stoppe and in the mountains, where are also the Persian and roe deer ; while the steppe is infested with the souslyk (Spermophilus). The forests of Tchadyr-dagh are preserved for the crown, but permission to shoot, from June 29 (July 11), may be obtained. Domesticated animals include double-humped camels, buffaloes, beeves, and several kinds of sheep, one sort being distinguished by short curly hair of a bluish-grey colour the merino sheep was introduced in 1804, and the breed is well maintained. The horses are small, hardy, and intelligent, but uncouth in appearance. The birds consist of eagles, vultures, hawks, ospreys, storks, herous, and some other birds of prey ; partridges, which on the steppe are strong on the wing by the end of July; the ordinary, double, and jack snipe, quails, pigeons, bustards, swans, geese, bitterns, and wildfowl of every description, especially on the Sivash and north-west coast ; also crows, owls, thrushes, blackbirds, king-fishers, &c. Serpents that are harmless, lizards, and frogs are abundant. The scorpion, mentioned by Pallas, is now very rare, but tarantula spiders and scolopendra, both noxious, frequently make their appearance in dwellings. Caterpillars and the mole cricket (Gryllo Valpa vulgaris) are very destructive in gardens. Bees are abundant, and produce excellent honey and a great deal of wax. In the rivers are taken trout, roach, dace, and cray-fish, and at their estuaries the sturgeon is sometimes found, and the salmon is speared. A great variety of fish haunt the coast, such as red and grey mullet, herring, mackerel, turbot, soles (at Eupatoria), plaice, whiting, bream, haddock, pilchard, soudak (the pike perch), whitebait, eels, and a variety of shell-fish, crabs, &c., but no lobsters.

The Tatar population, the largest in the peninsula, amounted in 1874 to 127,682, according to the census taken a few months after the, promulgation of the oukaz on the new system of general conscription, in which the Tatars were included. There are also Russians, Armenians, Gypsies, Greeks, Jews, and some Germans. The Nogai of the steppe have long since disappeared as natives, and are replaced by Tatars of almost pure Turkish descent, and speaking a language closely assimilating the Turkish. The Tatars on the south coast are a mixed race, largely alloyed with Greek, Italian, and Ottoman blood, and greatly despised by the former; but all are Mahometans, and strict observers of the Koran. The Tatars are extremely indolent, and never think of learning a trade ; they busy themselves about their fields and gardens from the end of May to about the third week in August, but remain quite idle throughout the rest of the year. They are most hospitable to strangers, every Tatar of means keeping an óda, or house of call for travellers, the first duty of a Tatar being the exercise of hospitality, on which be prides himself. Their cottages are constructed, when possible, on the slopes of rising ground, the rock forming the back of the habitation, which is usually whitewashed and kept scrupulously clean, ensconced by fruit trees and verdure. The Tatars are very abstemious, drinking milk and bouza, a fermented liquor made of millet; koumyss, "mare’s milk," is much employed by them medicinally. The men wear baggy trowsers, a short embroidered jacket, and a cap of lamb skin; the women colour their nails, eyebrows, and frequently their hair, made up into numerous thin plaits, with kna, a mineral dye, and wear loose trowsers tightened at the ancles, a loose coat, and a red cap ornamented with numerous coins; they tie a kerchief round the waist, the opposite corners hanging down behind. The females, more especially on the south coast, have quite given up wearing the yashmak, "veil," since the occupation of the country by the allies in 1854-56. The mourzas, "nobles," live in retirement, shunning intercourse with Christians, but their women are not kept in seclusion , every village has its molla, who is also the "elder," and responsible to the authorities. The Armenians and Greeks hold the trade, as do also the Jews who are Karaims , "readers" of the Holy Scriptures, adhering strictly to the text of the Old Testament, and rejecting all oral traditions and rabbinical writings, keeping themselves quite apart from the Talmudists, to whom they are most odious. There are about 5000 Karaims in the peninsula. Russians and Germans are chiefly engaged in agriculture, while the gypsies are the artificers. The Russian language is very general throughout the peninsula.

Sympheropol, the chief town and seat of government (population, 17,000), is situated on the Salghyr, where Toi was Ak-mesjyd, the second capital of the khanate. Like all Russian towns, it has fine broad streets at right angles to each other, and the usual whitewashed churches with green domes. Baghtebasarai and Kara-sou-bazar were given up by Catherine II. to the exclusive occupation of the Tatars, and have remained purely Oriental towns. Baghtchasarai, "garden palace," was the capital of the khans after the destruction of Solkhat, now Esky-Crim; their palace is preserved to this day. Kertch, at the cast end of the peninsula, is a fairly thriving port of transit for produce from ports in the Sea of Azoff, and imports into Russia of cattle and horses from the plains of the Kouban and of Circassia. It is a military station of some importance, the entrance to the straits of Kertch, or Yeny-Kaleh, the ancient Cimmerian Bosphorus, being protected by the formidable Pavlovsky fortress, a combination of masked batteries and covered ways over an extent of two miles. Theodosia, formerly Caffa, where a small export and import trade is carried on, thrives as a favourite watering-place. Sevastopol, in the superb harbour that bears its name, created a military port and fortress by Catherine II., was bombarded and occupied by the Allies in September 1855. Eupatoria, formerly Khezlevé and Kozloff, is the great emporium for salt, and during Turkish occupation was the principal port in the Crimea its inhabitants are chiefly Karaims, who have here a "spiritual institution" under their Gahan. Balaclava, the Symvolou limen of Strabo, Cembato of the Genoese, is a small Greek fishing village in a splendid land-locked harbour to the east of Sevastopol, remarkable as being occupied by the British during the war. Yalta is a small but fashionable watering-place on the south coast, with excellent hotels and many inducements to visitors, the season lasting from May to September. Near Yalta is Livadia, the residence of the empress, and other imperial properties.

The most valuable commercial production is salt, of which the yearly supply is 15,000,000 pouds (a pond = 36 lb English). Salt entering Russia is excised at 30 copecks (9d.) per pond, and the entire revenue to the Government from the salt-lakes in the Crimea is estimated at £1,785,714. There are no manufactures, but the principal articles of export are wine, kil (i.e., fuller’s earth), honey, wax, hides, lambskins, and wool. A reddish marble from quarries near Tchadyr-dagh is exported in small quantities. Communications in the peninsula are maintained by excellent post-roads and bridle-paths; and a railroad which connects Sevastopol, Baghtchasarai, and Sympheropol with the south of Russia was opened for traffic in January 1875.

The earliest known inhabitants of the Crimea were the Cimmerians, who were driven out by the Scythians about 680-631 B.C., and fled into Asia Minor, leaving only a remnant, who took refuge in the mountains and were after-wards known as the Tauri. These appear to have been a savage people, from the fact that all strangers that landed, or were cast on their coast, were sacrificed to the virgin goddess Iphigenia, afterwards apparently identified with a goddess of their own mythology by the Grecians, who named the country the Tauric peninsula after their pre-decessors, whence the Russian name Taurida. The numerous crypts existing about the rocky heights were in all probability the troglodyte caves of the Tauri ; in some parts they were converted into hermitages and retreats by the Greeks during Byzantine occupation, and were again so utilized by their successors in the last century ; these caves are to be seen at Ak-Kaya, Tepe-Kerman, Katch-Kalen, Tcherkess-Kerman, Mangoup, Mangoush, Tehyfout-Kaleh, Inkerman, &c.

In the year 658 B.C. the Heracleotes crossed the Axine, as the Black Sea was then called, and founded a colony near where is now Sevastopol, the territory they occupied becoming known as the Heracleotic Chersonese, to distin-guish it from the Tauric Chersonese. The city of Chersonesus flourished under its own free institutions dur-ing the space of 1000 years, and even longer, though it became a dependency of the Eastern empire ; it was taken in 988 by the Russian grand-prince Vladimir, who there received baptism and was completely destroyed in 1363, by Olgerd, grand prince of Lithuania. In the 7th century B.C., other Grecians, the Milesians, settled at Theodosia, and later at Nymphaeum and Panticapaeum (Kertch), which last city became their metropolis under the authority of an archon, and afterwards of a king, whose dominion, the kingdom of the Bosphorus, included Phanagoria on the eastern shore of the Cimmerian Bosphorus, a city founded with others at the same time as Panticapaeum, and the emporium of the people on the Asiatic shores of the strait. Parisades, sovereign in 115 B.C., being hard pressed by the Scythians, voluntarily ceded his dominion to Mithridates, king of the Pontus whose son Pharnaces, after his own downfall, was permitted by Rome to assume the sovereignty of the Bosphorus, a sovereignty that continued until a late period under the protection of the Roman empire. The peninsula was overrun successively by the Alans (62 A.D.), the Goths, whose descendants, peaceably employed in agriculture, remained until the early part of the 14th century, the Huns in 376, the Khozars in the 8th century, expelled by the Byzantines in 1016, and the Kiptchaks, who possessed themselves, about 1050, of Khazary, by which name the peninsula was called, after the Khozars, they being in their turn expelled by the Mongols, about 1237. Penticapaeum, or Cerchio (Kertch), was for a time (1343), occupied by the Venetians, their successors being the Genoese, who had established themselves at Caffa (Theodosia) in 1263-67, and to whom the seaboard known as Gothia, extending to Cembalo (Balaclava), was ceded in 1315. Cembalo, Soldaia (Soudak), and Caffa were strongly fortified by them, Caffa being the centre of an extensive Asiatic trade that included Persia, India, and China. The ruins of the Genoese fortifications still remain.

After the destruction of the Golden Horde by Tamerlane, the Tatars of the Crimea elected, about 1428, a khan for themselvez, a descendant through Toktamish of Jinghis Khan, one Hadgy, who assumed the name of Ghyrey, his capital being at Solkhat, now Esky-Crim. This khanate continued independent until the conquest of Crim by Mahomet II. (1475), who made the khan prisoner, and sent the Genoese and other Christians into servitude and slavery. The khans, thenceforth the vassals of the sultans, were at the head of a warlike race, by whom the Russian provinces were being continually devastated until the year 1777, when Suwaroff dispersed the troops of Dyvlett Ghyrey, who fled to the Caucasus, and the usurper Selim Ghyrey ascended the throne under the protection of Catherine II. He was, however, forced to appeal to Russia for succour against revolt amongst his own subjects, and the Crimea was eventually annexed to the Russian empire by order of the empress, August 1, 1783, the treaty for its cession by the Porte being signed January 9, 1784.

The Crimea was occupied by the allied forces of Great Britain, France, and Sardinia during the Russo-Turkish war of 1853-56. The British and French troops landed near Eupatoria, September 14, 1854, and did not evacuate the peninsula until July 12, 1856, during which period were fought the battles of the Alma, Tchernaya, Balaclava, and Inkerman, and the formidable fortress of Sevastopol was reduced by siege.

See Dubois de Montpéreux,
Voyage autour du Caucase, &c., 6 vols., Paris, 1839; Kohl, Reisen en Sudrussland, 2 vols., Dresden, 184l.; Bossoli, Scenery of the Crimea (52 large drawings), 1855 ; Ph. Brunn, Notices Hist. et Top. concernants les colonies Italiennes à Gazarie, St Petersburg, 1866; Commr. J. Buchan Telfer, R.N., The Crimea and Transcaucasia, 2 vols. London, 1876. (J. B. TE.)

The above article was written by Commander J. Buchan Telfer, R.N., F.R.G.S.; author of The Crimea and the Transcaucasus, The Strange Career of the Chevalier D'Eon de Beaumont; translated Bondage and Travels of Johann Schiltberger from the German.

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