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A bastion of proud military traditions, the historic port of Sevastopol overlooks the Black Sea from the southern tip of the Crimean peninsula. It is best known as the home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, whose battleships continue to patrol the waters under a 1997 treaty with Ukraine. Throughout Sevastopol, the sight of crisply attired Russian sailors is common.
Sevastopol was founded in 1783 as a Russian naval base, shortly after Russia annexed Crimea. It was famously besieged by the British for 11 months during the Crimean war; a drama that concluded with the Russians sinking their own fleet to block the harbour. In World War II it was bombarded again for 250 days by the Nazis, who eventually occupied it until its final liberation by the Red Army. Throughout the cold war and Soviet era, Sevastopol was designated a ‘closed city’, requiring non-residents to seek official permission before visiting. Today, it is predominantly ethnically Russian, politically sympathetic to Russia and Russian speaking. As such, Moscow has long objected to Crimea’s incorporation into Ukraine.Read more
Sevastopol was heavily rebuilt after the World War II, drawing the best architects from the Soviet Union. It retains numerous historic buildings and the downtown area faintly recalls the Mediterranean. There are numerous Soviet statues, including one of Lenin and a Museum of the Black Sea Fleet for those who wish to delve further into the city’s military history. The Panorama, created by Franz Roubard, depicts the siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War with a massive canvas inside a specially designed round building. Not far from the city lies the Valley of Death, where the British Light Brigade, in what is believed to have been the result of a fatal miscommunication, charged headfirst into a line of Russian artillery cannons.
Most visitors to Sevastopol make a trip to Chersonessus, an ancient Greek colony founded in 421 BC. A fine cathedral marks the spot where Vladimir the Great, the first leader of Kievan Rus, was baptised and converted to Christianity. There are also several Byzantine basilicas, including one with marble columns, and a small beach where locals like to swim.