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The recorded history of the Crimean Peninsula, historically known as Tauris (Greek: Ταυρική), Taurica, and the Tauric Chersonese (Greek: Χερσόνησος Ταυρική, "Tauric Peninsula"), begins around the 5th century BC when several Greek colonies were established along its coast. The southern coast remained Greek in culture for almost two thousand years as part of the Roman Empire (47 BC – 330 AD), and its successor states, the Byzantine Empire (330 AD – 1204 AD), the Empire of Trebizond (1204 AD – 1461 AD), and the independent Principality of Theodoro (ended 1475 AD). In the 13th century, some port cities were controlled by the Venetians and by the Genovese. The Crimean interior was much less stable, enduring a long series of conquests and invasions; by the early medieval period it had been settled by Scythians (Scytho-Cimmerians), Tauri, Greeks, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Kipchaks and Khazars. In the medieval period, it was acquired partly by Kievan Rus', but fell to the Mongol invasions as part of the Golden Horde. They were followed by the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire, which conquered the coastal areas as well, in the 15th to 18th centuries.

In 1783, the Ottoman Empire was defeated by Catherine the Great. Crimea was traded to Russia by the Ottoman Empire as part of the Treaty provision. After two centuries of conflict, the Russian fleet had destroyed the Ottoman navy and the Russian army had inflicted heavy defeats on the Ottoman land forces. The ensuing Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca forced the Sublime Porte to recognize the Tatars of the Crimea as politically independent. Catherine the Great's incorporation of the Crimea in 1783 from the defeated Ottoman Empire into the Russian Empire increased Russia's power in the Black Sea area. The Crimea was the first Muslim territory to slip from the sultan's suzerainty. The Ottoman Empire's frontiers would gradually shrink, and Russia would proceed to push her frontier westwards to the Dniester.

In 1921 the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created. This republic was dissolved in 1945, and the Crimea became an oblast first of the Russian SSR (1945–1954) and then the Ukrainian SSR (1954–1991). From 1991 the territory was covered by the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol City within independent Ukraine. However, during the 2014 Crimean crisis, the peninsula was taken over by Russia and a referendum on whether to rejoin Russia was held. Shortly after the result in favour of joining Russia was announced, Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation as two federal subjects: the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol.

Prehistory

Archaeological evidence of human settlement in Crimea dates back to the Middle Paleolithic. Neanderthal remains found at Kiyik-Koba Cave have been dated to about 80,000 BP.Ottoman navy and the Russian army had inflicted heavy defeats on the Ottoman land forces. The ensuing Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca forced the Sublime Porte to recognize the Tatars of the Crimea as politically independent. Catherine the Great's incorporation of the Crimea in 1783 from the defeated Ottoman Empire into the Russian Empire increased Russia's power in the Black Sea area. The Crimea was the first Muslim territory to slip from the sultan's suzerainty. The Ottoman Empire's frontiers would gradually shrink, and Russia would proceed to push her frontier westwards to the Dniester.

In 1921 the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created. This republic was dissolved in 1945, and the Crimea became an oblast first of the Russian SSR (1945–1954) and then the Ukrainian SSR (1954–1991). From 1991 the territory was covered by the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol City within independent Ukraine. However, during the 2014 Crimean crisis, the peninsula was taken over by Russia and a referendum on whether to rejoin Russia was held. Shortly after the result in favour of joining Russia was announced, Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation as two federal subjects: the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol.

Archaeological evidence of human settlement in Crimea dates back to the Middle Paleolithic. Neanderthal remains found at Kiyik-Koba Cave have been dated to about 80,000 BP.[1] Late Neanderthal occupations have also been found at Starosele (c. 46,000 BP) and Buran Kaya III (c. 30,000 BP).[2]

Archaeologists have found some of the earliest anatomically modern human remains in Europe in the Buran-Kaya caves in the Crimean Mountains (east of Simferopol). The fossils are about 32,000 years old, with the artifacts linked to the Gravettian culture.[3][4] During the Last Glacial Maximum, along with the northern coast of the Black Sea in general, Crimea was an important refuge from which north-central Europe was re-populated after the end of the Ice Age. The East European Plain during this time was generally occupied by periglacial loess-steppe environments, although the climate was slightly warmer during several brief interstadials and began to warm significantly after the beginning of the Late Glacial Maximum. Human site occupation density was relatively high in the Crimean region and increased as early as c. 16,000 years before the present.[5]

Proponents of the Black Sea deluge hypothesis believe Crimea did not become a peninsula until relatively recently, with the rising of the Black Sea level in the 6th millennium BC.

The beginning of the Neolithic in Crimea is not associated with agriculture, but instead with the beginning of pottery production, changes in flint tool-making technologies, and local domestication of pigs. The earliest evidence of domesticated wheat in the Crimean peninsula is from the Chalcolithic Ardych-Burun site, dating to the middle of the 4th millennium BC[6]

By the 3rd millennium BC, Crimea had been reached by the Yamna or "pit grave" culture, assumed to correspond to a late phase of Proto-Indo-European culture in the Kurgan hypothesis.

Antiquity

Tauri and Scythians

The Scythian treasure of Kul-Oba, in eastern Crimea.

In the early Iron Age, Crimea was settled by two groups: the Tauri (or Scythotauri) in southern Crimea, and the East Iranian-speaking Scythians north of the anatomically modern human remains in Europe in the Buran-Kaya caves in the Crimean Mountains (east of Simferopol). The fossils are about 32,000 years old, with the artifacts linked to the Gravettian culture.[3][4] During the Last Glacial Maximum, along with the northern coast of the Black Sea in general, Crimea was an important refuge from which north-central Europe was re-populated after the end of the Ice Age. The East European Plain during this time was generally occupied by periglacial loess-steppe environments, although the climate was slightly warmer during several brief interstadials and began to warm significantly after the beginning of the Late Glacial Maximum. Human site occupation density was relatively high in the Crimean region and increased as early as c. 16,000 years before the present.[5]

Proponents of the Black Sea deluge hypothesis believe Crimea did not become a peninsula until relatively recently, with the rising of the Black Sea level in the 6th millennium BC.

The beginning of the Neolithic in Crimea is not associated with agriculture, but instead with the beginning of pottery production, changes in flint tool-making technologies, and local domestication of pigs. The earliest evidence of domesticated wheat in the Crimean peninsula is from the Chalcolithic Ardych-Burun site, dating to the middle of the 4th millennium BC[6]

By the 3rd millennium BC, Crimea had been reached by the Yamna or "pit grave" culture, assumed to correspond to a late phase of Proto-Indo-European culture in the Kurgan hypothesis.

In the early Iron Age, Crimea was settled by two groups: the Tauri (or Scythotauri) in southern Crimea, and the East Iranian-speaking Scythians north of the Crimean Mountains.

Taurians intermixed with the Scythians starting from the end of 3rd century BC were mentioned as  Tauroscythians and Scythotaurians in the works of ancient Greek writers.[7][8]

The origins of the Tauri, from which the classical name of Crimea as Taurica arose, are unclear. They are possibly a remnant of the Cimmerians displaced by the Scythians. Alternative theories relate them to the Abkhaz and Adyghe peoples, which at that time resided much farther west than today.

The Greeks, who eventually established colonies in Crimea during the Archaic Period, regarded the Tauri as a savage, warlike people. Even after centuries of Greek and Roman settlement, the Tauri were not pacified and continued to engage in piracy on the Black Sea.[9] By the 2nd century BC they had become subject-allies of the Scythian king Taurians intermixed with the Scythians starting from the end of 3rd century BC were mentioned as  Tauroscythians and Scythotaurians in the works of ancient Greek writers.[7][8]

The origins of the Tauri, from which the classical name of Crimea as Taurica arose, are unclear. They are possibly a remnant of the Cimmerians displaced by the Scythians. Alternative theories relate them to the Abkhaz and Adyghe peoples, which at that time resided much farther west than today.

The Greeks, who eventually established colonies in Crimea during the Archaic Period, regarded the Tauri as a savage, warlike people. Even after centuries of Greek and Roman settlement, the Tauri were not pacified and continued to engage in piracy on the Black Sea.[9] By the 2nd century BC they had become subject-allies of the Scythian king Scilurus.[10]

The Crimean Peninsula north of the Crimean Mountains was occupied by Scythian tribes. Their center was the city of Scythian Neapolis on the outskirts of present-day Simferopol. The town ruled over a small kingdom covering the lands between the lower Dnieper River and northern Crimea. In the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, Scythian Neapolis was a city "with a mixed Scythian-Greek population, strong defensive walls and large public buildings constructed using the orders of Greek architecture".[11] The city was eventually destroyed in the mid-3rd century AD by the Goths.

The ancient Greeks were the first to name the region Taurica after the Tauri. As the Tauri inhabited only mountainous regions of southern Crimea, at first the name Taurica was used only to this southern part, but later it was extended to name the whole peninsula.

Greek colonies along the north coast of the Black Sea in the 5th century BCE.

Greek city-states began establishing colonies along the Black Sea coast of Crimea in the 7th or 6th century BC.[12] Feodosiya and Panticapaeum were established by Milesians. In the 5th century BC, Dorians from Heraclea Pontica founded the sea port of Chersonesos (in modern Sevastopol).

In 438 BC, the Archon (ruler) of Panticapaeum assumed the title of the King 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

Greek city-states began establishing colonies along the Black Sea coast of Crimea in the 7th or 6th century BC.[12] Feodosiya and Panticapaeum were established by Milesians. In the 5th century BC, Dorians from Heraclea Pontica founded the sea port of Chersonesos (in modern Sevastopol).

In 438 BC, the Archon (ruler) of Panticapaeum assumed the title of the King 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 the Cimmerian Bosporus in 63 BC as a reward for the assistance rendered to the Romans in their war against his father. In 15 BC,

In 438 BC, the Archon (ruler) of Panticapaeum assumed the title of the King 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 the Cimmerian 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 from then ranked as a tributary state of Rome.

In the 2nd century BC, the eastern part of Taurica became part of the Bosporan Kingdom, before being incorporated into the Roman Empire in the 1st century BC.

During the AD 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries, Taurica was host to Roman legions and colonists in Charax, Crimea. The Charax colony was founded under Vespasian with the intention of protecting Chersonesos and other Bosporean trade emporiums from the Scythians. The Roman colony was protected by a vexillatio of the Legio I Italica; it also hosted a detachment of the Legio XI Claudia at the end of the 2nd century. The camp was abandoned by the Romans in the mid-3rd century. This de facto province would have been controlled by the legatus of one of the Legions stationed in Charax.

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).

Crimean Gothic, an East Germanic language, was spoken by the Crimean Goths in some isolated locations in Crimea until the late 18th century.[13]

Middle Ages

Rus' and Byzantium

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 Chersonesos (presently part of Sevastopol) where he later converted to Christianity. An impressive Russian Orthodox cathedral marks the location of this historic event.

At the same time, the southern fringe of the peninsula was controlled by the Byzantine Empire as the Cherson theme.

Mongol invasion and later medieval period