Sevastopol (Ukrainian: Севастополь, Russian: Севастополь, Crimean Tatar: Aqyar) (see pronunciation below) is a port city in Ukraine, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea peninsula. It has a population of 342,451 (2001). The city, formerly the home of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, is now a Ukrainian naval base mutually used by the Ukrainian Navy and Russian Navy.
The unique geographic location and navigation conditions of the city's harbours make Sevastopol a strategically important naval point. It is also a popular seaside resort and tourist destination, mainly for visitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.
The trade and shipbuilding importance of Sevastopol's Port has been growing since the fall of the Soviet Union, despite the difficulties that arise from the joint military control over its harbours and piers.
Sevastopol is also an important centre of marine biology research. In particular, studying and training of dolphins has been conducted in the city since the end of World War II. It was first conducted as a secret naval program to use the animals for special undersea operations.
Sevastopol together with Kronstadt and Gibraltar is one of the most famous naval citadels in Europe. It was founded in 1783 by Grigory Potyomkin, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula. It became an important naval base and later a commercial port. In 1797 under an edict issued by Emperor Paul I, the military stronghold was renamed Akhtiar. Finally, on April 29 (May 10), 1826, the city was returned to the name of Sevastopol.
Panorama Museum of SevastopolOne of the most notable events involving the city is the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855) carried out by the British, French, Sardinian, and Turkish troops during the Crimean War, which lasted for 11 months. Despite its efforts, the Russian army had to leave its stronghold and evacuate over a pontoon bridge to the north shore of the inlet. The Russians had to sink their entire fleet to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy and at the same time to block the entrance of the Western ships into the inlet. When the enemy troops entered Sevastopol, they were faced with the ruins of a formerly glorious city.
A panorama of the siege created by Franz Roubaud and which was restored after its destruction in 1942 is housed in a specially constructed circular building in the city. It portrays the situation in the height of the siege, on 18 June 1855.
Eduard Totleben Monument in Sevastopol (1909).During World War II Sevastopol withstood bombardment by the Germans in 1941–1942, during the Axis siege which lasted for 250 days before it fell in July 1942. The city was renamed as "Theodorichhafen" in 1942. It was liberated by the Red Army on May 9, 1944 and was awarded with the Hero City title a year later.
In 1957, the town of Balaklava was incorporated into Sevastopol.
During the Soviet era, Sevastopol, became a so-called "closed city". This meant that any non-residents had to apply to the authorities for a temporary permit to visit the city. It was directly subordinate to the central Russian SFSR authorities rather than the local oblast and later (after 1978) to the Ukrainian administration.
On July 10, 1993 the Russian parliament passed a resolution declaring Sevastopol to be "a federal Russian city". At the time many supporters of then President Yeltsin had ceased taking part in the Parliaments work. In May 1997, Russia and Ukraine signed the "Peace & Friendship" treaty ruling out Moscow's territorial claims to Ukraine.
Like in the rest of the Crimea, Russian remains the predominant language in the city, although following the independence of Ukraine there have been some attempts at Ukrainization that have had very little success. Ukrainian Government-appointed authorities retain formal control of Sevastopol's life (such as of taxation and civil policing) and try to avoid confrontation with the Black Sea base command and pro-Russian groups. A few years ago, the Communist-dominated city council rejected a EBRD loan to renovate Sevastopol's poor sewage system, declaring that the project was intended to increase the city's dependence on the Ukrainian government and the West.
The WE Youth Political Organization, which advocates Russian citizenship for Sevastopol residents, published a poll in 2004 claiming "72% of the Sevastopol citizens support the idea of the independent status of Crimea... Besides, 95% of the respondents support the constant stationing of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol even after 2017, when the time of the corresponding agreement between Russia and Ukraine is up. Also, 100% of the interrogated people are for the accordance of the having a double citizenship, Russian and Ukrainian, right to the Sevastopol citizens. Although it is notable those in case of obtaining the Russian citizenship only 16% of the Sevastopol citizens are ready to give up the Ukrainian one.
The population of Sevastopol proper is 342,451 (2001), making it the 15th largest city in Ukraine and the largest in Crimea. City agglomeration has population 961,885 (2008). According to the Ukrainian National Census, 2001, the ethnic groups of Sevastopol include Russians (71.6%), Ukrainians (22.4%), Belarusians (1.6%), Tatars (0.7%), Crimean Tatars (0.5%), Armenians (0.3%), Jews (0.3%), Moldovans (0.2%), and Azerbaijanis (0.2%).