Simferopol: Gateway to the Crimea
Published: October 2, 2013 (Issue # 1780)
Simferopol, Ukraine — It’s no irony that Simferopol’s name comes from the Greek Simferopolis, meaning “city of usefulness.”
Each year about 7 million tourists pass through its railway station, and the city has earned a reputation as a stopover for vacationers waiting for their connection to the ports of Sevastopol or Yalta.
As a result, the city is one of the few places on the stunning peninsula that does not enjoy the status of a tourism hot spot.
But a new campaign by Simferopol City Hall aims to change the city’s reputation and take advantage of the financial possibilities created by the tourist traffic.
Simferopol is home to the main university and ministry buildings in the Crimean republic. But locals, despite taking pride in its role as an administrative and educational center, have not forgotten the city’s fascinating history.
It was here that the first signs of human habitation in the Crimea were found, dating back about 40,000 years. The discovery was made in 1927 by archeologists excavating the Chokurcha cave east of the city.
On the outskirts of Simferopol lie the remains of the ancient city of Scythian Neapolis, which functioned as the center of the Crimean Scythian tribes from the 3rd century BC and resisted repeated raids from the Sarmatians and Huns until its near-total destruction at the hands of the Goths six centuries later.
During the period of the Crimean Khanate in the 15th century, the Crimean Tatars founded the city of Ak-Mechet (White Mosque) on the site of modern-day Simferopol, and the city became the state’s second main center after neighboring Bakhchisarai.
Following the Crimea’s annexation by the Russian Empire in 1784, Catherine the Great designated the newly established city of Simferopol as the regional center. It eventually became the capital of the Taurida Governorate, which was created 20 years later.
Economic development accelerated in the second half of the 19th century when the Simferopol-Kharkov railway line was constructed and major factories were built.
With the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917,the Crimean Tatars seized an opportunity to re-assert their national identity and established the Crimean People’s Republic, the world’s first Muslim democratic state. It collapsed only a month after its proclamation when advancing Bolshevik forces captured Simferopol and imprisoned its president.
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