St Vladimir Cathedral on the site of Chersonesos near Sevastopol. Picture: Val Boje
St Vladimir Cathedral on the site of Chersonesos near Sevastopol. Picture: Val Boje

Crimea: A look at Sevastopol and its turbulent past

By Val Boje Time of article published Nov 22, 2019

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Pretoria - Sevastopol is a historic city, founded in 1783 on the rocky south-western tip of the Crimean peninsula. Throughout its history, it has been a strategically important Black Sea port and naval base and it is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

It takes its name from a fortress that Catherine the Great had built in the 18th century, and in the port entrance there is a monument to Russian ships sunk in the Crimean War to blockade the harbour after British and French forces attacked the city in 1854.

The Battle of Balaclava and the “Charge of the Light Brigade” - immortalised in a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson - are among the famous battles of this war, which is also remembered for the work done among the wounded by Florence Nightingale and her volunteer nurses.

The city, rebuilt after the Crimean War, took a hammering again during the Siege of Sevastopol, a campaign on the Eastern Front of World War II, waged by the Axis powers (Germany and Romania) against the Soviet Union.

The city is known locally as a “hero city” for its defence in this siege, which led to more than 200000 Soviet casualties.

It has a number of memorials reflecting on its turbulent past, and road signs point to wartime cemeteries of German, French and Russian soldiers, as well as a tomb of the unknown soldier.

After World War II, Sevastopol - bombed intensely by the German Luftwaffe to the extent it had only a handful of undamaged buildings left - was entirely rebuilt with the help of architects and engineers and thousands of workers from all parts of the Soviet Union.

Since 2014, the Russian Federation has administered Sevastopol as one of three federal cities, the others being the capital Moscow and St Petersburg in the north.

Not far from the city are the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Chersonesos (meaning peninsula), founded by settlers in the 5th century BC.

This city existed for almost 2000 years but was abandoned after the collapse of the Byzantine Empire.

For centuries the ruins were covered, until archaeological excavations began in the mid-19th century. Today Chersonesos is a tourist attraction where one can marvel at the scale of the ancient city with its houses, streets, squares, theatre and temples.

Among its famous landmarks is the St Vladimir Cathedral, which is open to the public, and the Foggy Bell - a beacon for ships, which was cast from Turkish cannons in 1778 and returned to the site in 1913. Val Boje

Pretoria News

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