The Crimea
and the Taman Peninsula

The Crimean Peninsula is not a large region, being almost exactly the size of the American State of Maryland, or a little smaller than Belgium. Within it's compact territory, however, have dwelt a bewildering variety of peoples over the course of a very long time. A widely divergent collection of climates and a variety of natural barriers have not encouraged unity, and in fact the Crimea has been in several hands at once until comparatively recently. This small page is a preliminary exercise in detailing some of the nations and peoples who have occupied this place over the course of it's history. Included are polities in the Taman Peninsula, the stretch of land on the other side of the Kerch Straits; this region has much in common culturally and politically with the Crimea.

Aside from a general survey of the Peninsula, this also contains Anapa, the (Cimmerian) Bosporus Kingdom, Capa, Cembalo, Cherson (Sevastopol), Doros, Feodoro, Gazaria (Genoese possessions), the Girai Khanate of Krym, the Keremi Huns, Matrega, Sudak, Tmutarakan, and Vosporo.

Files for neighboring regions: Anatolia, (Eastern) Balkans, Caucasus, Russia, Ukraine.


A General survey of the Crimea Here is a listing of the various peoples who have occupied most, if not all of the Crimean peninsula. Bear in mind that as a practical matter, this means northern, western, and central Crimea. Where other states or nations existed, it was generally as littoral districts in the south, southeast, and east.

ANAPA (Gorgippa)
Not within Crimea itself, Anapa is another of the Hellenic colonial eastablishments in the region. A Black Sea port on the southern shore of the Taman Peninsula, the modern city is located 55 miles (88 km.) southeast of Kerch and 85 miles (136 km.) west of Krasnodar.

The (Cimmerian) BOSPORUS (modern KERCH) A Classic-age Kingdom located in Eastern Crimea, and centered on what is now the town of Kerch.

CHERSON (Sevastopol) Colony of Cherson founded by Milesian Greeks in the 5th century BCE. For an important ecclesiastic establishment in this neighbourhood, see Doros.

DOROS (now Mangup Kale, near Sevastopol) Doros, located on a plateau about  9 miles (15 km.) east of modern Sevastopol, was a more-or-less autonomous state existing in southwestern Crimea. It is not clear from the sources what it's exact status was, some commentaries describe it as being a dependency of the Khazars and later conquerors, while others regard it as having been entirely independent, at least until the 780's. These rulers are of significance, for many of them were of Tauric Goth extraction, and thus leaders of the last remaining East Teutonic peoples until their disappearance as an identifiable ethnic group in the 18th century.

GAZARIA A considerable territory within Crimea, especially the southern coast. The most important town was Caffa (Kaffa, Theodosia, Feodosia). Between 1266 and 1289 the Mongols of the Golden Horde (the rulers of Russia or Cumania) gave Genoese merchants permission to establish a trading settlement and Free Port at Caffa on the southern coast of Crimea. In the course of the following century the Genoese gradually extended their power over what they referred to as "Gazaria" (cf. the Khazars), an authority which endured until the late 15th century. They held Sudak (Soldaia) from 1365 and an enclave at Cembalo (Balaklava)  from 1380, by which time they ruled the whole southern coast of the Crimea. Genoa also had posts elsewhere: at Vosporo in eastern Crimea, at Capa (near Anapa), and Matrega (Phanagoria)  - both in the Taman peninsula of the Kuban region. Note that Matrega was not under the direct rule of the Genoese state, but was granted to lords of the Ghisolfi, a Genoese family trading with Mongolia. (unfortunately only two names survive - see Tmutarakan).

The GIRAI KHANATE of KRYM The Girai Tatars are often regarded as the last vestiges of the Mongol Golden Horde that once governed all the Russias during the Middle Ages. This is largely accurate, but it minimizes the fact that the Tatar people derive not only from Mongols, but also owe much of their ancestry to other Eurasian hordes who roamed the area at one time or another. There is a considerable admixture of Cuman, as well as smaller elements of Alan, Goth, Khazar, and Hun within these people.

KEREMI (Crimean) HUNS A Hunnic horde occupying the region between Cherson and Kerch in southern Crimea.

SUDAK (Soldaia) Sudak is a city on the southern shores of the Crimean Peninsula, 50 miles (80 km.) northeast of Yalta and 24 miles (38 km.) west-southwest of Kaffa (Feodosiya). Founded in the 3rd century, in the Middle Ages it was known as "Sugdak", or "Soldeya" (meaning "Sogdian"). The Khazars ruled Sudak during the second half of the 9th century and the 10th century; and it was a major trade center for centuries thereafter.

TMUTARAKAN Not in the Crimea itself, but rather on the eastern shore of the Kerch straits, overlooking the eastern end of the Crimean Peninsula and dominating the approach to the Sea of Azov. As such, it deserves a place on this page, representing the eastern flank of the old Bosporan Kingdom, and subsequently holding a position of vital influence over Crimean affairs. The ancient Greek colony of Phanagoria occupied roughly the same site; in modern times the site is occupied by the village of Taman in Krasnodar oblast of Russia. Tmutarakan was annexed to Kiev when the Khazarian town of Tamatarkha was seized and a fortress built to secure the district. The people of this region derived from many sources: Slavonic, Khazars, Goths, Cumans, Greeks, Alans and others. In their internal affairs, they governed themselves by a kind of military democracy, a condition very reminiscent of later Cossacks in the same region, and the city-state of Berlad, in northern Romania.