Crimea krīmēˈə [key], Rus. and Ukr. Krym, peninsula and republic (1991 est. pop. 2,363,000), c.10,000 sq mi (25,900 sq km), SE Europe, linked with the mainland by the Perekop Isthmus. The peninsula is bounded on the S and W by the Black Sea. The eastern tip of the Crimea is the Kerch peninsula, separated from the Taman peninsula (a projection of the mainland) by the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov. Simferopol is the capital of the Crimea. Other major cities include Sevastopol (politically independent of the rest of Crimea), Kerch, Feodosiya, Yalta, and Yevpatoriya. Part of Ukraine (then the Ukrainian SSR) from 1954, the peninsula was occupied and annexed by Russia in 2014, a move not generally recognized internationally. An autonomous republic in Ukraine, Crimea was made a Russian constituent republic; Sevastopol has been a politically independent city with the status of an oblast under Ukrainian and Russian administration.

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, including Crimea's Yalta. 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. The peninsula's territorial waters may have underwater petroleum and natural gas fields. A 10.5-mi (16.9-km) road bridge opened in 2018 connects Crimea with Russia across the Kerch Strait; an 11.9-mi (19-km) rail bridge opened in 2019.

Ethnic Russians now constitute some two thirds of Crimea's population. Ukrainians, once more than a quarter of the inhabitants, now make up about a sixth. After 1989 there was a movement back to the area of native Tatars who had been exiled to Central Asia in the Stalin era, and they grew to form more than a sixth of the population, but they now constitute about a tenth. These population changes have occured mainly since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea; tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Tatars have left for Ukraine, and a roughly comparable number of Russians have moved to Crimea. There are also smaller minorities of ethnic Armenians, Greeks, Bulgarians, and Germans.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: CIS and Baltic Political Geography