Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine

The Russian Black Sea Fleet is still stationed in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea. Crimea's largest city attracts half a million tourists every year with its monuments and magnificent buildings.

Sevastopol on the Black Sea is the largest and probably best-known city on the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, with a population of just under 400,000. Every year it is visited by about half a million tourists, mainly from Russia and Ukraine.

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Sevastopol was (re)founded in 1783 under Russian occupation and is today the educational centre of the autonomous Republic of Crimea and the seat of numerous scientific institutes and organisations. In terms of area, Sevastopol is huge, about the size of Berlin or New York, and encloses 38 bays and several river courses.

Travel tips for Sevastopol

The journey to Sevastopol is via Kiev or Simferopol by plane and then by bus or taxi. Another (more lengthy) alternative is the ferry from Istanbul, but this takes 24 hours.

The climate in Sevastopol is almost subtropical with summer temperatures of up to 40°C. However, the heat remains bearable due to the constant breeze from the sea. In winter, temperatures sometimes drop below freezing, but the port of Sevastopol has never frozen over.

Although the city is not a holiday and seaside resort in its own sense, it exudes a unique flair with its very special sights.

Black Sea Fleet

Sevastopol is the main base of the Ukrainian navy and to this day also the home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which was divided between Russia and Ukraine after Ukraine 's independence. Sevastopol was then on Ukrainian territory, but the use of the Black Sea port by the Russians was regulated by treaty. And so Ukrainian and Russian warships are now anchored side by side in Sevastopol. The Ukrainian ships are easily recognisable by their ship number with the "U" and the blue and yellow flag. The stationing of the Russian Black Sea Fleet is also the reason why the (pro-)Russian authorities and institutions have a very strong presence in Sevastopol and connections to the West are rejected.

Both Russian and Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet ships are anchored in Sevastopol, Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine - © Stepanyuchenko CC BY2.0/W
© Stepanyuchenko CC BY2.0/W

Balaklava Bay

The former military installations can best be visited in Balaklava Bay, which is part of Sevastopol, a picturesque inlet in the south of the city. Here you will also find an underground yard driven into the mountain and a fortress from which a breathtaking view opens up over Balaklava, its bay and the Black Sea.

Vladimir Cathedral

The Vladimir Cathedral (not to be confused with the Vladimir Cathedral in Khersones) is located on Suvorov Street on the highest hill in Sevastopol. The first Byzantine construction of the cathedral began in 1854 after the then admiral of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Alexei Samuilovich Greig made a request to Tsar Alexander I to build a memorial to Saint Vladimir. In 1966, the Vladimir Cathedral had to be completely rebuilt after being destroyed in the Second World War.

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Today, the Vladimir Cathedral shines in its old splendour and still houses the tombs of some important admirals of the Black Sea Fleet under its 30 m high tower, whose names are also immortalised in black marble on the church façade.

Other churches worth seeing are the Peter and Paul Church and the Pokrovsky Cathedral.

Museums in Sevastopol

The Panorama Museum in Sevastopol is a circular building on the fortress hill Istorichesky bulwar. Its sole purpose is to present a single painting. A panoramic painting by the Russian battle painter Franz Roubaud "The Defence of Sevastopol 1854-1855″ stretches across the entire inner wall of the museum on a canvas over 100m long.

Tip: Close to the Panorama Museum is the Inkerman Cave Monastery, where you can taste Sevastopol's excellent wine.

The Museum of the Black Sea Fleet, one of Ukraine's oldest naval museums, chronicles Sevastopol's turbulent history as a naval base, and a small art museum at Nakhimova 9 exhibits works by Russian and Western European painters from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

The Museum of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine - © Елизавета Резник CCBY-SA3.0/W
© Елизавета Резник CCBY-SA3.0/W

Chersones

On the cape of Servastopol, you can visit the excavation site of the ancient Greek settlement of Chersones, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013. Here you will also find the Vladimir Church, whose golden cross shines over the entire city and is listed on all international nautical charts.

St. Vlaidimir's Cathedral at the Khersones excavation site on the Crimean peninsula dates from the 19th century, Ukraine - © Andrew Butko CC BY-SA3.0/Wiki
© Andrew Butko CC BY-SA3.0/Wiki

Monuments in Sevastopol

There are over 2,000 monuments to discover in the heroic city of Sevastopol. At the harbour, for example, there is the Eagle Column in memory of the Russian ships sunk in the Crimean War. Also commemorating the Crimean War is the statue of the Russian admiral Pavel S. Nakhimov, who organised the defence of the home port during the siege of Sevastopol. On Sapun Hill outside the city gates, a monument and museum commemorates the terrible days of the siege and storming of Sevastopol in World War II.

Sevastopol and the Malakov Cake

The famous Malakov cake, a magnificent composition of sponge cake, vanilla cream and whipped cream, has its origins in Sevastopol. On 8 September 1955, during the Crimean War, the Malakov fortress was captured on a hill in Sevastopol (a defence tower of the fortress can still be seen today) and the French marshal at the time was named "Duke of Malakov". In his honour, the Malakov cake was created, which is still known and loved throughout Central Europe - only in Sevastopol no one knows it. The Swiss cheese balls called Malakow, which are known mainly in Vaud, were also named after the duke.

History of Sevastopol

Sevastopol was already settled by the Greeks in the 7th century BC. This is where its name comes from: "sebastós" and "pólis" together mean something like "majestic city". Even then, Sevastopol was the largest city on the Crimean peninsula. Under Byzantine and Roman rule, Sevastopol continued to exist for a time, but it was not until the 14th century that it was razed to the ground by the Tartars and completely rebuilt. When Crimea was conquered by the Russians, the re-foundation of Sevastopol followed in 1783 under the then Tsarina Catherine the Great.

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However, Sevastopol's heyday was long over. Its renewed destruction followed in the middle of the 19th century during the Crimean War after an eleven-month siege. However, the city was rebuilt and was considered the strongest fortress in the world during the Second World War. Nevertheless, it fell again in the Battle of Sevastopol in 1941 to 1942 and was briefly in German hands before being recaptured by the Soviets in the Battle of Crimea in 1944. In 1945, Sevastopol was declared a Hero City, and over 2,000 monuments still commemorate the past events of the war.

In 1954, the later head of government Nikita Khrushchev (himself a native Ukrainian) gave the entire Crimean peninsula - and with it Sevastopol - to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic - with devastating consequences. Sevastopol had always been the home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet - which was divided in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russians received most of the fleet, but lost the area of the port to the new Republic of Ukraine. No alternative to Sevastopol on Russia's Black Sea coast was found. Protracted negotiations finally assured Russia that the Russian Black Sea Fleet would remain in Sevastopol. The first contract was valid until 2017 and was extended in 2010 by Russian President Putin and Ukrainian President Yanukovych until 2042 in exchange for cheaper natural gas supplies. For this agreement, Russia pays one hundred million US dollars to Ukraine every year, which is 25% of the total Ukrainian state budget.

Since 1994, Sevastopol is no longer a restricted zone, but open to Crimean residents and tourists alike. However, the city is not Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, but is the only settlement on the peninsula directly subordinate to the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

After the unrest in Kiev in February 2014 and the flight of President Yanukovych, however, compliance with the treaty was no longer assured from the Russian point of view and the Russians invaded the Crimean pen insula, which even led the media to speak of a revival of the Cold War. Russia has been trying for some time to bring about the independence of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in order to secure its naval base.

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