Crimea (Russ. Krym), a peninsula at the southern extremity of the Russian empire in Europe, forming a part of the government of Taurida, between lat. 44° 25' and 46° 10' K, and lon. 32° 30' and 36° 40' E.; greatest extent from E. to W. 190 m., from N. to S. 123 m.; area, 7,654 sq. m.; pop. about 200,000. This peninsula is connected with the main body of the empire by the narrow isthmus of Perekop, the breadth of which is about 4 m. The Crimea, in consequence of its geographical, commercial, and strategical position, is one of the most important divisions of the empire, commanding as it does the navigation of the Black sea. It has a coast line of 650 m. Along its N. E. shore there extends a long and narrow inlet of the sea of Azov, from which it is separated by a tongue of land, or rather a sand bar, about 70 m. long and 1 to 1 1/2 m. wide. This inlet is so shallow that in some places it has the appearance of a morass, and its name (Sivash, or Putrid sea) indicates its general aspect. The eastern part of the Crimea forms a minor peninsula, stretching eastward to the strait of Yenikale, the Cimmerian Bosporus of the ancients.
While the 1ST. portion of the peninsula is only a continuation of the steppes of S. Russia, mostly barren, cheerless, and swept by chilling winds, the S. portion, sloping from a mountain chain which stretches from Sebastopol to Kaffa as a barrier to the north winds, enjoys a semi-tropical climate, which is particularly delightful in spring, and a great richness and variety of vegetation. Hence the N. portion has from time immemorial been occupied by nomadic tribes, eking out a scanty subsistence by cattle raising; while on the S. slope higher forms of culture have been developed by the Greeks, the Genoese, the Tartars, and the Russians, successively. There is only a comparatively narrow belt of arable soil on the N. slope, and on this belt the most important towns are situated, such as Sebastopol, Bakhtchiserai (the old capital of the Tartar rulers), Simferopol, Staroi Krym, and Karasu-Bazar. To the northward of this belt extends the steppe, its monotony relieved only by numerous herds of cattle, and thousands of cranes, storks, and gulls, swarming around the salt-water lagoons and marshes.
The climate of this region is not as healthy as the more southern part, the winters being cold and damp and the summers excessively warm; it is also subject to sudden changes from long droughts to severe rain storms. The Tauridian mountain chain (Yaila) appears to be a western continuation of the Caucasus, from which it is separated only by the strait of Yenikale. It rises almost precipitously from the sea, girdling the whole southern coast. At the Tchatirdagh, or Tent mountain (anc. Tra-pezus Mons), it attains an elevation of 4,740 ft. above the sea, and terminates to the southward of Sebastopol in the promontory called Orion Metopon (Ram's Face) by the Greeks and Ai Burun (Holy Cape) by the Tartars. As it advances toward the north it divides into several parallel chains, which gradually decline in elevation till lost in the northern steppes. This range presents a succession of lofty mountains, picturesque ravines, and wide basins, well watered and teeming with vegetation. Wherever the slope of the hillsides is not too steep, they are covered with vineyards and country houses; the valleys, watered by numerous small streams, produce rich crops of grain and fruit. The mountains abound in valuable timber.
The steppe, on the other hand, is mostly destitute of fresh-water springs and rivers, and its soil is generally impregnated with salt. It abounds, however, in excellent pastures. - The two principal rivers of the Crimea are the Salghir, which rises S. E. of Simferopol, and, flowing mainly N. E., empties into the Putrid sea, and its S. affluent the Karasu. Of the smaller streams, the Alma and the Katcha, running W., N. of Sebastopol, are chiefly to be noticed. - The products of the peninsula are varied. Maize, hemp, tobacco, and almost all European and tropical fruits are produced. Of wild animals, only deer, wolves, badgers, foxes, hares, weasels, and jerboas are found. Camels are employed on the northern steppes, where also buffaloes and oxen, sheep and goats, are raised. The horses of the Crimea are more remarkable for activity and intelligence than beauty. The birds most common are crows, owls, thrushes, blackbirds, partridges, quails, kingfishers, pigeons, poultry, geese, swans, ducks, teals, and gulls. Among the insects, the hideous rana variabilis, scorpion, tarantala spiders, centipedes, and scolopendras may be mentioned. Bees are abundant. Fish abound on the coast, but not in the rivers.
The salt manufacture is monopolized by government; the most celebrated salt mines are those of Perekop, Eupa-toria or Kozlov, and Kertch. The grape has been of late years extensively cultivated, and produces some excellent wines, vines being imported from Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhine, Hungary, Spain, and Portugal. The principal forest trees are the oak, beech, plane, poplar, and ash. In consequence of the thinness of the population and their aversion to labor, the Crimea produces but a very small part of what it might do. The Tartars, who form the bulk of the population, though they have renounced their roving habits, have not much aptitude for husbandry. Besides milk and other animal food, they subsist chiefly on millet. The mineral wealth of the Crimea is insignificant. There are a few coal mines, porphyry, and fine red marble. The industry of the country is also unimportant; cutlery, morocco, lamb-skin caps, saddles, blankets, carpets, sacks, and cordage are manufactured. Commerce is likewise limited, and is chiefly carried on by Greeks and Jews. The principal articles of export are salt, wine, honey, wax, leather, hides, wool, lamb skins, and morocco leather; and an active transit trade exists, corn, seeds, tallow, tobacco, and silk being brought here for barter with European, and especially Russian manufactures.
The peninsula is divided into four districts: Simferopol, Feodosia, Yalta, and Eupatoria. The capital, Simferopol, or Akmetchet, has 17,000 inhabitants, and has lost all vestiges of its former splendor as a residence of the Tartar khans. It had been outgrown by Sebastopol before the destruction of that place in 1855, and by Eupatoria (Kozlov), Bakhtchiserai, Feodosia (Kafta), and Kertch. The last, situated on the strait of Yenikale, which is often designated as the strait of Kertch, is almost the only town in Russia that is built entirely of stone; its population amounts to about 20,000. Karasu-Bazar, situated N. E. of Simferopol and containing about 15,000 inhabitants, is the principal seat of what little industry the Crimea can boast of. The population of the peninsula is a mixture of the Tartar, Greek, Italian, and Slavic nationalities. There are, besides, Armenians, Caraite Jews, Greeks, gypsies, and also German colonies established since 1804. The Tartars (Mohammedans), in former times so numerous that they were able to muster 100,000 warriors, still constitute the principal part of the population. - The aboriginal inhabitants were the Cimmerians. About the 7th century B. C. their country was invaded by other Scythians and they were driven to the mountains, where they received the name of Tauri; hence its ancient name Tauris, or Chersonesus Taurica. It was celebrated in the legends of Iphigenia and Orestes. About the 6th century B. C. Greek colonies from Miletus settled here, and founded Theodosia (now Feodosia or Kaifa), Panticapaeum (now Kertch), and other cities; and the Heracleans who settled on the S. W. part of the peninsula founded Chersonesus. It was the chief part of the kingdom of the Bosporus, the struggles between the Greeks and Scythians continuing till about 112 B. C, when Mithridates acquired possession of the peninsula, and made Panticapaeum the capital. (See Bosporus.) It was subsequently conquered by the Sarmatians. Early in the middle ages it belonged to the Byzantine empire.
Toward the end of the 12th century the Genoese and Venetians obtained a foothold. The Tartars overran the peninsula in the 13th century, and maintained their rule for more than 200 years, when they became subject to the Ottomans. All their municipal institutions were left undisturbed by the conquerors, who even allowed them to retain their own khans (princes), though as vassals of the sultan. In the latter portion of the 17th century the Russians began to covet the Crimea. In 1736 they first invaded it under Marshal Munnich, and in 1771 they made another invasion under Dolgorouki. They succeeded so far as to wrest it from Turkey and clothe it with a nominal national independence under the khan Shahin Gherai, who in 1783, having'been expelled by the anti-Russian party, ceded his country to Russia; and in 1784 the peninsula and its adjoining provinces were annexed to the empire. - In 1854-'5 the Crimea was the principal theatre of the war (begun on the Danube in 1853) between Russia and the allied powers England, France, Sardinia, and Turkey. The armies of the allies, consisting of 65,000 men with 5,000 horses and 80 pieces of artillery, effected a landing at the bay of Eupatoria, Sept. 14, 1854. On their southward march toward Sebastopol they encountered the Russian forces, commanded by Prince Menshikoff, on the heights on the southern bank of the Alma. A bloody battle was fought (Sept. 20), in which the Russians were compelled to retreat.
Menshikoff fell back on Sebastopol, where he made preparations for the defence of the fortress, and on the night of the 24th marched to Bakhtchiserai to unite with the advancing reinforcements. On Sept. 25 the British forces seized Balaklava, and on Oct. 9 the regular siege of the southern portion of Sebastopol commenced, the first batteries opening fire upon the town on the 17th. The Russians had sunk vessels in the entrance to the harbor, rendering the city unassailable by maritime force. On Oct. 25 and Nov. 5 the Russians attacked the besieging forces in the battles of Balaklava and Inkerman, but afterward confined themselves mainly to the defensive, the frequent sorties being intended more to harass and retard the siege than to relieve the place definitively. Among these conflicts some assumed almost the character of regular field battles; such were the unsuccessful attack of the French upon a new redoubt (Feb. 23, 1855), their first assault upon the Malakhoff and Redan (June 18), and the battle of the Tchernaya (Aug. 16), in which the Russians, numbering 50,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry, made a last effort to break the aggressive force of the enemy.
The trenches having been driven so near the Russian defensive works that another assault could be ventured, the final bombardment was opened Sept. 5, and lasted for three days. On Sept. 8 the Malakhoff and Redan were stormed and taken by the allies after a desperate struggle. The Russians, after having blown up their extensive fortifications on the southern shore of the harbor, retreated to the north side, which the allies never seriously attempted to capture. The latter, having destroyed the costly docks, arsenals, and ship yards of Sebastopol, remained inactive in their camp, and, with the exception of the capture and sack of Kertch, no further feats of arms were accomplished. The forces of the allies were withdrawn in the summer and autumn of 1856. Since the war the Russians have made considerable efforts to restore Sebastopol, and it has been rebuilt on an improved plan, and will doubtless again become a great naval arsenal. - See Kinglake, "History of the Crimean War" (London, 1863-'8).