Crimea has long been a strategic and geopolitical prize. Ancient Cimmerians and Greeks, followed by the Goths and Venetians, were just a few of the embattled peninsula’s many occupiers over the centuries. (National Geographic News)
- Why is Crimea in the news?
- Ukraine is experiencing massive civil unrest (read about some reasons why here). The Crimean Peninsula has become a major site in the conflict between pro-Russia and pro-Western factions of the Ukrainian population. Armed gunmen patrol airports and city streets, something Ukraine’s leaders have called an “invasion” by Russia. Overall, the population of Crimea is more pro-Russian than the rest of the country.
- In fact, political leaders in Crimea have asked to leave Ukraine and become a part of Russia. A referendum is scheduled to be held on March 16.
- Take a look at the six maps in the Nat Geo News article. Crimea’s history is tightly bound with its big neighbors, Ukraine and Russia. What other political or regional powers have exercised influence on the peninsula?
- The introduction mentions the Cimmerians, ancient people who lived in what is today Iran and the Caucasus, a region between the Black and Caspian Seas.
- The introduction also mentions three ancient Western European groups: Greeks, Goths (often associated with what is today Germany, but really a general Northern European people), and merchants from the city-state of Venice (in what is today Italy).
- Crimea was a “vassal state” of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 300 years.
- Crimea was under Western (Nazi) control for most of World War II—a fact that made the most well-known conference of the war’s “Big Three” (in Yalta, Crimea) that much more interesting.
- Although not really mentioned in the article, the Crimean War was a major event in the region’s history. The Crimean War was a conflict between powers from the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe on one side and the Russian Empire on the other. (Russia lost.) The conflict resulted in an exchange of political, cultural, and economic influence.
- The Nat Geo News article says Crimea is a “geopolitical prize.” Why do you think the peninsula has such strategic value? Take a look at our MapMaker Interactive (focused on the region around Crimea) for some help.
- The Crimean Peninsula sits at a juncture between Europe and Asia. Its warm-water port is home to Russia’s powerful Black Sea Fleet, and the peninsula is an access point for trade and communication between Europe and the Central Asian interior.
- The rich strategic history of Crimea stretches even further back than the maps in the Nat Geo News article. What mythological explorer ventured to the Black Sea? Hint: The Yalta Conference was nicknamed the “Argonaut Conference.”
- Jason, the ancient Greek hero, traveled to the Black Sea in his ship, the Argo, with his crew—the Argonauts. The Argo actually bypassed Crimea, but picked up the Golden Fleece and Jason’s wife, Medea, on the nearby Black Sea coast of Georgia. The stories of Jason, Medea, and the Argonauts are great reads, and great indicators of the region’s strategic importance. (The Greek gods were afraid of Medea’s power!)