Peninsula surrounded by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The Crimea is separated from mainland Ukraine by an isthmus (at its narrowest the isthmus is 8 km wide). The area of the Crimea is 29,590 km^2, the population is about 2.5 million. The Crimea is now controlled by Ukraine altougth there is limited autonomy.
The mountains near the southern coast of the peninsula shelter a narrow strip of land allowing a sub-tropical climate to persist there. The southern city of Yalta is famous for its thermal and mineral baths (which attract wealthy Russian tourists) and the Yalta conference during World War II. The summer palaces of the Tsar can still be visited.
To the north, low lying steppes stretch out across the peninsula. Iron, Coal and manganese can found here. Farming, fishing and tourism are major contributors to the local economy. The major cities are Simferopol (the capital), Sevastapol and Feodosia.
Neanderthal remains have been discovered here. The Cimmerian and Tauris people lived in the Crimean peninsula before 7BC. Ancient Greek traders established contacts and established a kingdom in the region. In 1BC the Roman protectorate of Pontus was established. Over subsequent years Ostrogoths, Huns, Khazars and Cumans arrived.
In 1239, the Mongols of the Golden Horde established a khanate in the Crimea. The Byzantine empire clung onto areas on the southern shore up to the 12th century. Even merchants from Genoa established prosperous coastal settlements in the 13th century. In 1475, the Tatars established an independent khanate.
The Tatars soon became vassals of the Ottoman empire but still wielded considerable power. The Russian Czar was forced to pay tribute and Moscow was sacked.
In the 18th century, the tables had turned and Catherine II annexed the Crimea using Cossack cavalry. Many Moslem Tatars fled to Turkey and were replaced by Christian Russians,Ukrainians and others.
Between 1853 and 1856, the Crimean War raged. Russia fought against the allied Ottoman, British,French and Sardinian forces. The defence of Sevastapol was mounted heroically by the Russians under Totleben.
In 1921, the Crimea became an Autonomous SSR within the Soviet Union. During WWII, German troops captured the peninsula after an eight month siege. Suspected of collaboration, many Tatars were exiled to Siberia after the war and the republic was demoted to the status of region with the Ukraine.
In 1989, some Tatars began to return from exile but they still make up just 6% of the population (Russians 68%, Ukranians 23%). In 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was some uncertainty about the future of the Crimea as Russia and Ukraine wrangled over its fate (and that of the substantial Soviet Black Sea fleet at Sevastapol). In 1992 Crimea made an abortive declaration of independence. Following negotiations, the Crimea went to the Ukraine but Russia were awarded a twenty year lease on the Sevastapol naval base.