April 1, 2014
Crimea is not a foreign territory to Russia, which has suddenly decided to join her. It is an essential element of its history, without which Russia today could not exist. The Oriental Review sheds light on the physical bond that unites them.
On March 18, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a historic speech about the reunification of Crimea and Russia. A referendum held in Crimea two days before in full compliance with standard democratic procedures and the rules of international law, shocked many by it’s results: there was an 82% turnout rate, with almost 97% of those casting their ballots in favor of reunification with Russia. These numbers were so astonishing that there still seem to be many people in the West who cannot bring themselves to believe how much the Crimeans truly longed to return home. And indeed, without an awareness of this land’s heroic history that has been so liberally washed in Russian blood, this public enthusiasm might seem irrational, or even artificial.
|Baptism of St. Grand Prince Vladimir in Chersonesus in 988 AD (icon).|
In the tenth century, Russian princes founded the Tmutarakan principality on the shores of the Black and Azov seas, which sat on the Crimean shore on the Kerch Peninsula, along with the city of Korchev (now known as Kerch). This was the historical period during which the Slavs of Kievan Rus gradually put down roots throughout Crimea. It was in Old Crimea, Sudak, Mangup, and Chersonesus that the Slavs comprised the most significant part of the population.
Tmutarakan quickly become the world’s second most important port, after Constantinople, through which passed almost all 11th-12th century trade routes that crossed the sea or steppe. The son of Grand Prince Vladimir, Mstislav, who ruled the principality until 1036, consolidated and expanded its borders. At the end of the tenth century, the remnants of the restored Byzantine Bosporan Kingdom were incorporated into the principality. Much later, a marble slab was found on the Taman Peninsula with an inscription dating to 1068: