March 01, 2008

The Tauride Connection



April 1783: Crimea joins the Russian empire

The Crimean Peninsula is an ancient land. Its steppe was once wandered by Scythians, and the ancient Greeks sailed here for grain to feed their cities. Roman legions marched across this land, perplexed that the Emperor had sent them to such a wilderness. In the Middle Ages, Genoese merchants settled here, finding it an advantageous location for acquiring goods coming from the East via the Great Silk Road. It was also a destination for Russian Grand Dukes who had lost their domains as a result of internecine conflict. Later, Mongolian horsemen reached the peninsula and Crimea became part of the Golden Horde, the dominion established by the descendents of Genghis Khan. Under the Horde, the steppe continued to be wandered by herds and the cities were filled with the sounds of Italian, Greek, Russian, and Tatar speech.

Centuries passed, and the Golden Horde dissolved into several khanates, among which the Crimean Khanate was one of the most powerful. In the wondrous Palace of Bakhchisaray, the khan's wives lounged idly, lulled by the murmur of the Fountain of Tears.


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