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Eastern Europe

The Ukraine

Ukraine, in Eastern Europe, is the second largest country in Europe after Russia. The Crimean Autonomous Republic — encompassing the Crimean Peninsula, or Crimea, in the South — has been included in Ukraine's borders.

Ukraine by J. Blaeu, 1662.

Richly endowed in natural resources, Ukraine has been fought over and subjugated for centuries. Its landscape is  filled with the remnants of cultures and peoples: classical Greeks, Goths, Byzantines, Mongols, imperial Russians, and, most importantly, Crimean Tatars.

The Tatars

For centuries Crimea had been the subject of a tug of war between the Byzantine and Khazar empires, Kievan Rus (the fore-runner of modern Russia) and nomadic tribes such as the Cumans and the Kypchaks. Then in 1223 a new force appeared on the scene. Chingiz Khan's Golden Horde entered Crimea, sweeping all before it. Originating in current day Mongolia, the Tatars were a collection of nomadic tribes who had united under Chingiz (Genghis) Khan's banner, and gathered Turkic people to swell their army as they rode and marched across Central Asia and into Eastern Europe. Crimea and the Tatars. Paul Robvert Magocsi.

Renowned for his ruthlessness, the Great Khan's success also lay in his ability to impose discipline and order in place of old tribal rivalries. He introduced laws forbidding, among other things, blood feuds, theft, the bearing of false witness, sorcery, disobedience of a royal command, and bathing in running water. The last was a reflection of the Tatars' animist belief system. They worshipped "The Eternal Blue Sky," the almighty spirit controlling the forces of good and evil, and believed that powerful spirits lived in fire, running water and the wind.

Crimea became part of the huge Tatar empire, stretching from China in the east to beyond Kyiv and Moscow in the west. Because of its sheer size, it was impossible for Chingiz Khan to govern his empire from Mongolia, and the Crimean Khans enjoyed a considerable amount of autonomy. Their first Crimean capital was at Qirim (now Stary Krym), and remained there until the 15th century when it moved to Bakhchisarai.

Taguri, Tartars, Crimea, Russia. Rennoldson. 1782.

The breadth of the Tatar empire, and the power of the great Khan meant that for a while merchants and other travellers under his protection could journey east and west in comparative safety. The Tatars concluded trading agreements with the Genoese and the Venetians; Sudak and Kaffa (Feodosia) prospered in spite of the taxes levied on them. Marco Polo landed at Sudak on his way to the court of Kublai Khan in 1275.

Like all great empires, the Tatar empire was influenced by the cultures it encountered during its expansion. In 1262 the Egyptian Mamluk Sultan Baybars, who had been born in Qirim, wrote to one of the Tatar Khans suggesting that the Tatars should convert to Islam.

The Ottoman Empire

In 1475 the Ottoman Turks overran Crimea, taking the Crimean Khan Mengli Girei prisoner at Kaffa and releasing him to rule Crimea as their representative. Thereafter the Crimean Khans were appointed by Constantinople. Over the next three hundred years the Tatars remained the dominant force in Crimea.

The 18th and 19th Centuries

During the 18th century there was still a sizeable Greek population in Crimea, but in 1778, only a few years before Catherine the Great finally took Crimea from the Ottoman Empire, 18,000 Crimean Greeks, along with other christians tired of living under Tatar rule successfully petitioned the empress for permission to move to Russia; they emigrated to the shores of the sea of Asov, where they founded the city of Mariupol. Known as the "archipelago Greeks" because they came mainly from the Greek islands, they also provided soldiers for the Balaklava battalion which later reinforced Russian authority in the area. Some of the officers of this Greek regiment built substantial estates at Oreanda and Livadia near Yalta. Memoirs of Catherine the Great.

Catherine the Great took Crimea from the Ottoman Turks in 1783 and also established protectorship over Georgia, giving Russia access to the Black Sea coast from two sides. In 1787 the 58 year old empress travelled from St. Petersburg to Crimea, with a retinue of 2,300 people. She was met by 12,000 Tatar horsemen in ceremonial dress who escorted her to the Khan's Palace at Bakhchisarai. From there she travelled to Sevastopol, where she met Prince Potemkin, her governor-general (later rewarded with the title Prince of Tavrida) and saw the Black Sea fleet at anchor. She was here to make a point - that Crimea was now part of the great Russian empire.

However, soon afterwards the Ottoman Empire again declared war on Russia, and it took four years before the Turks capitulated after a series of naval defeats at the hands of the Black Sea fleet, and accepted the reality of Crimea's transfer from the Ottoman to the Russian empire.

Catherine then set about consolidating her new acquisition. She realised that the only way that Russia would hold on to Crimea in the long term was to change the population balance in favour of those sympathetic to the Russian cause. Not only Russians, but also substantial numbers of Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Armenians, and Germans were encouraged by Catherine to settle in Crimea, a process which continued into the 19th century. Some Tatars emigrated to Turkey, although most stayed. By 1863, the immigrants outnumbered the Tatar population.

The Crimean War

The decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century led to a complex international power struggle between the major states of europe.

The ostensible cause of the Crimean War was a squabble over custodianship of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, then under Ottoman control. In 1852 the French persuaded the Turks to take the church away from the Greek Orthodox Church and place it in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. Nikolai I of Russia, officially protector of the Orthodox population under Ottoman rule as a result of a treaty made under Catherine the Great, demanded that the right be restored to the Orthodox. When the Turks refused, he ordered Russian troups into Moldavia, then part of the Ottoman empire.

What led Britain and France to come to the Turkish Sultan's aid was not a pious desire to protect the rights of the Catholic Church, but rather the fear that, left unchecked, the Russians would now have an excuse to destroy the ailing Ottoman empire and gain control of the passage from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean.

Charge of the Light Brigade.

In 1854 a large British and French expeditionary force landed at Balaklava, near Sevastopol, the home of the Russian Black Sea fleet, which had inflicted a major defeat on the Turkish fleet soon after hostilities began. The Russians scuttled their fleet in the harbour mouth at Sevastopol to block the entrance, and a lengthy siege began. Battles were fought at various points around the western Crimean coast, including Balaklava, scene of the disastrous charge of the Light Brigade.

The war was essentially a stalemate, with terrible casualties on both sides. Many more soldiers died of disease than died in battle. Tsar Nikolai I died in 1855, and his successor, Alexander II realised he could not continue the war in the face of growing social discontent at home. The Treaty of Paris ended the war in 1856.

Development of Yalta

In 1825, the Oreanda Estate near Yalta had been bought by the crown as a summer residence for Alexander I. His successor, Nikolai I built a palace there and approved a development plan for the newly designated district of Yalta. In1860, after the end of the Crimean War, the Livadia Estate was bought for Alexander II and construction of the Livadia Palace began. The presence of the royal families attracted aristocrats and rich merchants, bringing investment and prosperity to Yalta and the surrounding area, and turning it into imperial Russia's most fashionable resort.

April 13, 1751


#175 by George Cadwallader, Gent.
London, United Kingdom

Petersburgh, March 26. By a courier dispatched from the Ukraine, news has been received, that some Hordes of Tartars had lately appeared upon the Frontiers of that Province, and had committed great Violences upon the Subjects of Ruffia Whereupon Orders were sent to the Generals of the Troops there to defend the Inhabitants from the Incursions of these Hordes.

Review of The Black Sea Fleet. 1849.
Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky.
Review of the Black Sea Fleet.

Review of the Black Sea Fleet.

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky was born into the family of a merchant of Armenian origin in the town of Feodosia, Crimea. His parents were under strained circumstances and he spent his childhood in poverty. With the help of people who had noticed the talented youth, he entered the Simpheropol gymnasium, and then the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, where he became interested in marine landscapes. In the autumn of 1836 Aivazovsky presented five marine pictures to the Academic exhibition, which were well-regarded. In 1837, he went to the Crimea to paint coastal towns.


(From the London Gazette.)

ADMIRALTY, May 18, 1854

Dispatches have been received at this office from Vice-Admiral Dundas, Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's ships and vessels in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, of which the following are copies: (No. 172.) Britannia, off Odessa, April 22, 1854.

Sir, I beg you will lay before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty the accompanying correspondence, relative to the fire of the batteries at Odessa on the Furious and her boat when flying each a flag of truce, which will, I trust, fully explain to their lordships the exact nature of this uncivilised act of aggression, and the false statements by which General d'Osten Sacken has been led to attempt to justify it. And as, in addition to the fortress of Odessa, the Russians were labouring day and night in strengthening the moles and erecting formidable sea defences, and had also collected between 20,000 and 30,000 men for the protection of this military depot, as well as for the security of vessels seeking shelter under the guns of the place, Admiral Hamelin and I decided on sending the joint demand to the governor, of which the Enclosure No. 5 is a copy.

Tatar Village in the Crimea. Alexander Osmerkin.

As no answer had been received up to seven A.M. this morning, the combined steam division noted in the margin, with six rocket-boats, under the immediate orders of Captain Jones, opened fire on the Imperial fort and mole, and Russian vessels lying there. By three P.M. the magazine was blown up, the forts were destroyed, and the ships sunk or burnt.

The city of Odessa, and the mole containing the merchant vessels of all nations, were not molested, agreeably to the commands of Her Majesty to respect private property as much as possible.

The Battle between Russians and Tatars, 1916
Sergey Nikolayevich Arkhipov
Battle Between the Russians and Tatars. 1916.

Battle between Russians and Tatars. 1916.

Our loss has happily been small one killed and ten wounded; and the damage to the ships by the enemy's fire can be repaired at sea.

It is my pleasing duty to state, that between the two squadrons the greatest cordiality exists, and that the conduct of the French steam-frigates calls for my warmest praise. The Vauban was set on fire by redhot shot, but by the cool courage and activity of her captain and crew, the fire was extinguished.

I recommend all the officers, seamen, and Royal Marines employed on the service, to their lordships's notice, particularly Captain Jones, the senior ofliccr of the steam division; and Commander Dickson, of the Britannia, who, in charge of the rocket-boats, did good service.

I enclose a copy of a letter I have received from Captain Jones, and a list of the killed and wounded.

On the Shore of the Black Sea

Konstantin A. Korovin

Konstantin was born in Moscow to a merchant family officially registered as "peasants of Vladimir Gubernia." His father, Aleksey Mikhailovich Korovin, earned a university degree and was more interested in arts and music than in the family business established by Konstantin's grandfather. Konstantin's older brother Sergey Korovin was a notable painter. Konstantin's relative Illarion Pryanishnikov was a prominent painter and a teacher at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.

Making of Eastern Europe. Author Phillip Longworth.The Making of Eastern Europe.Eastern European History
Phillip Longworth
In the revised edition of this controversial book, Philip Longworth argues that Eastern Europe's predicament is only partly due to the imposition of the Soviet system but rather that they are the heirs of misfortune which dates back centuries. In exploring the origins of current problems, this sweeping history ranges from the present day to the time of Constantine the Great, the Urals to the Mediterranean and the Baltic, and emphasizes culture and society, as well as politics and economics. In an additional new chapter, Philip Longworth analyses the collapse of Communism and the advent of postcommunism. This book will be of immense value to all who want to understand Eastern Europe's past and present.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

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Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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