The promenade of Yalta, naberezhnaya imeni Lenina
This morning we spent on the train to Simferopol
, the capital of the Crimea. The Crimea was the homeland of the Crimean Tatars, a Turkic people who formed the Crimean Khanate within the Ottoman Empire between 1441 to 1783. The Khanate was once one of the most powerful forces in Eastern Europe, and a centre of Islamic civilization. In 1783 they were annexed by the Russians, who proceeded to destroy every sign of Tatar culture and architecture in order to portray the region as unsettled except by nomads and to replace Islam with Christianity. The Tatars were especially devastated by the Crimean War (1853-1856) when France, the UK, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire joined forces to invade the Russian Crimea. This caused a continued exodus of the Tatars to the Ottoman Empire, with those left behind becoming a minority in the Crimea (25%).
Swallow's Nest, Yalta
During the Russian Civil War, the Crimea was a strong hold of the White Russians, and during the Nazi occupation a minority of Tatars collaborated with the Germans. This may be part of the reason why Stalin persecuted the Tatars, deporting the entire population to central Asia on May 18th
, 1944. The region was never considered part of the Ukraine until February 19th
, 1954, when it was transferred from Russian SFSR to the Ukranian SSR to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav that unified eastern Ukraine with Russia. The Tatars were only permitted to return home in 1989, in time to vote for independence for Ukraine in 1991, then independence for the Crimea in 1992 (14 days later, on the 19th of May, they agreed to stay within the Ukraine as The Autonomous Republic of the Crimea). With the ongoing return of the Tatars they now constitute 12% of the Crimea, another 60% is Russian, with ethnic Ukrainians 24%.
Ukrainian, Russian and Tatar are all official languages of the Crimea. Despite the freedom to return, most of the land of the Tatars is now private farmland, so there is a big problem with ownership issues and Tatars squatting on their former land.
The most beautiful of the many girls posing in front of Swallow's Nest
We didn’t stop to see Simferopol at all, driving strait to Yalta, the main resort in the Crimea (between Simferopol and Yalta is the longest trolley line in the world). We caught a boat out to see the Swallow’s Nest, a famous castle perching on the edge of the Black Sea, originally called the “Castle of Love” and now a restaurant. It was a truly picturesque castle, built in 1912 as a mock medieval castle for Baron von Steinheil, a German noble.
We then walked along the promenade of Yalta, naberezhnaya imeni Lenina, and had dinner in a jungle theme restaurant, watching all the little kids in the square drive small electric cars and rollerblade around.