Control of Crimea, currently an autonomous republic within Ukraine, has shifted many times throughout its history. The Black Sea peninsula had at one point or another been home to Greeks, Scythians, Goths, Huns, Golden Horde Tatars and the Mongols, just to name a few. The Russian Empire wrested control of Crimea from the Ottomans and French and British armies during the Crimean War (1853–1856). Sevastopol was the site of bloody, protracted sieges during both the Crimean War and World War II, when the city held out against Nazi forces for eight months from October 1941 until July 1942. After the Soviet Army finally drove out the Germans in 1944, Joseph Stalin’s government forcibly relocated the entire population of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia for supposedly collaborating with the Nazis. During the height of the Soviet Union, on February 19, 1954, Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean Oblast from Russia to Ukraine, largely a symbolic gesture at the time. Russia’s historic ties to Crimea and its economic and strategic interest has put the territory at the heart of East-West conflict in Ukraine ever since. [28 photos total]

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1855: Victorious soldiers (Zouaves) pose after the taking of Malakoff in the Crimea. (Felice A Beato/Getty Images) #
25th October 1854: Charge of the heavy cavalry at Balaklava, in the Crimea. Original Artwork: Engraving by J J Crewe. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images) #
The British 4th Light Dragoons encamped in the Crimea, circa 1855. (Roger Fenton/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) #
1855 - Group of Tatars at work repairing roadway in Balaklava; wooden hut, "Store 14th Regiment", in the background. (Roger Fenton Crimean War photograph collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division) #
A French vivandiere, or cantiniere, with French soldiers in the Crimea during the Crimean War, 1855. Vivandieres were women attached to regiments as canteen keepers and as unofficial nursing staff. ( Hulton Archive/Getty Images) #
circa 1855: Officers of the 89th Regiment, Princess Victoria's Royal Irish Fusiliers, at Cathcart's Hill in the Crimea. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images) #
19th June 1869: A Tartar shepherd-boy in the Crimea. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images) #
A group of Ukrainian peasants at Yalta, Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union, July 1930. (Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) #
MASSANDRA, UKRAINE: A picture taken at the beginning of the 19th century shows the last Russian Tsar and founder of the Massandra winery Nicolas II (L) walking along his vineyards in Massandra, not far from the Crimean resort of Yalta. (MASSANDRA WINERY/AFP/Getty Images) #
As the German invasion of the Ukraine continues, soldiers of the invading Wehrmacht troops are seen in the cover of a shell-marked wall, at an unknown location on the Crimean peninsula, in November 1941. (AP Photo) #
22nd November 1941: Locals watch as a German column passes through the city of Simferopol, the Crimean capital, which they had captured on 2 November. (Keystone/Getty Images) #
As the German invasion of the southern Ukraine continues, soldiers of an advance division are seen at an unknown village, somewhere between the Crimean Mountains and the Black Sea, on March 12, 1941. A military convoy is moving down a street in the background. (AP Photo) #
This picture shows Nazi Stuka bombers in flight heading towards their target over coastal territory between Dniepr and Crimea, towards the Gate of the Crimea on Nov. 6, 1941. Apparently the narrow neck of the Russian black-sea Peninsula ris where the Germans are reported to be steadily pushing forward. (AP Photo) #
The rock-like defence of Sevastopol, the Malta of the Crimea, on June 12, 1942, shows no signs of weakening under a new all-out offensive by General von Mannheim’s armies. Symbolic of the heroic garrison is this Russian girl sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who has killed by her accurate shooting the magnificent total of 300 Germans before Sevastopol. (AP Photo) #
The bodies of two fallen Soviet soldiers lie at roadside, while a truck of the Romanian Army, with an artillery gun in tow, advances towards the city of Kerch, in June 1942, during the Battle of the Crimea in World War II. (AP Photo) #
October 1942: German troops making a dash to escape in the Crimea are cut off by Russian forces. An armoured personnel carrier is seen rushing through a burning Russian village on their way to the Dnieper River. (Keystone/Getty Images) #
circa 1944: Germans in the Crimea making their escape from the approaching Russians. (Keystone/Getty Images) #
February 1945: American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945), right, with Admiral William D. Leahy (1875 - 1959) and General George C. Marshall (1880 - 1950) at the conference in Yalta, in the Crimea. Russian premier Marshal Joseph Stalin (1879 - 1953), left of centre at the table, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965), with his back to the camera, are also amongst those present at the conference. (Keystone/Getty Images) #
President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Marshal Stalin, accompanied by Foreign Secretaries, Chiefs of Staff and other Advisors, met at Yalta in the Crimea in February 1945. (AP Photo) #
With their foreign secretaries behind them, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin sit on the patio of Livadia Palace, Yalta, Crimea, Feb. 4, 1945. Standing, from left: Foreign Sec. Anthony Eden, Sec. of State Edward R. Stettinius, and Foreign Commissar Vyasheslav Molotov. (AP Photo) #
circa 1950: A shady bus stop in Yalta. (Three Lions/Getty Images) #
Black Sea Fleet sailor adjusts a former Soviet navy flag atop a fleet submarine, Wednesday, March 20, 1996 at the Sevastopol naval base, the Crimea, Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine so far have failed to divide their shares of the fleet ships, which still carry old Soviet naval flags along with Russian ones. (AP Photo/Sergei Volkov) #
Some of 100 thousand Tatars, (Turkic ethnic group) who returned to their native land, stare from behind a barbed wire fence in a ìghettoî in Crimea on Sunday, Oct. 30, 1990, which they built with official permission near small village Koreis in Cremea, the slogan reads Motherland or death. (AP Photo/Vladimir Lagrange) #
Crimean Tatars wipe their tears at a mourning rally during the 60th anniversary of deportation of ethnic Tatars under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 18, 2004. Thousands of people gathered in Simferopol main square to honor the memory of victims of the Soviet regime (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #
SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MAY 18: A woman carries a flag during a demonstration for the Crimean Tartars May 18, 2003 in Simferopol, Ukraine. The demonstration marked the 59th anniversary of a mass deportation by Stalin's regime during World War II of the Crimean Tarters, the name given to Turkic people living in the Crimean Peninsula in what is now the Ukraine. Approximately 15,000 participants took part in this demonstration. (Sergei Svetlitsky/Getty Images) #
CRIMEA, UKRAINE - AUGUST 18: Sunbathers lay out on the rugged beach of Yalta August 18, 2003 in Crimea, Ukraine. After the number of annual visitors to the Black Sea peninsula dropped from 8 million in the late Soviet era to just 3 million in the mid 1990's, about 4.5 million vacationers traveled to Crimea in 2002. (Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images) #
SEVASTOPOL, UKRAINE - AUGUST 15: Russian sailors tend to a "Varshavyanka" submarine August 15, 2003 in Sevastopol, Crimea in the Ukraine. Sevastopol is the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Russia and the Ukraine have an agreement keeping the base in Sevastopol through 2017. (Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images) #
SEVASTOPOL, UKRAINE - AUGUST 15: Russian sailors linger on a street August 15, 2003 in Sevastopol, Crimea in the Ukraine. Sevastopol is the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Russia and the Ukraine have an agreement keeping the base in Sevastopol through 2017. (Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images) #

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