Along the Crimea's northeast shore are a series of shallow, stagnant, but mineral-rich lagoons, known collectively as the Sivash or Putrid Sea, which are linked to the Sea of Azov by the Arabatskaya Strelka. The northern part of the Crimea is a semiarid steppe, drained by a few streams; this region supports fine wheat, corn, and barley crops. In the south rises the Crimean or Yaila Range (Yaltinskaya Yaila), with its extensive meadows and forests. The tallest peak rises to c.5,000 ft (1,520 m). In the Crimean Range is a major astronomical observatory. Protected by steep mountain slopes, the Black Sea littoral, once called the "Soviet Riviera," has a subtropical climate and numerous resorts, notably at Yalta and Sochi. During the years of Soviet rule, the resorts and dachas of the Crimean coast served as the prime perquisites of the politically loyal. In this region are vineyards and fruit orchards; fishing, mining, and the production of essential oils are also important. Heavy industry in the Crimea includes plants producing machinery, chemicals, and building materials.
Ethnic Russians constitute more than half of the Crimea's population; Ukrainians more than a quarter. Since 1989 there has been a movement back to the area of native Tatars who had been exiled to Central Asia in the Stalin era, and they now form more than a sixth of the population. There are also smaller minorities of ethnic Armenians, Greeks, Bulgarians, and Germans.