Sevastopol or traditionally Sebastopol ( or  (same in Ukrainian); ; ) is a city located in the southwestern region of the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea. The city is currently a subject of territorial dispute, as a result of annexation of Crimea, between Ukraine, which considers Sevastopol as a city with special status, and Russia, which itself considers it a federal city within the Crimean Federal District.
Sevastopol has a population of 342,451, concentrated mostly near the Bay of Sevastopol and surrounding areas. The location and navigability of the city's harbours have made Sevastopol a strategically important port and naval base throughout history. The city has been a home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which is why it was considered as a separate city in Crimea of significant military importance.
Although relatively small at , Sevastopol's unique naval and maritime features provide the basis for a rich and vibrant economy. The city enjoys mild winters and moderate warm summers; characteristics that help make it a popular seaside resort and tourist destination, mainly for visitors from the former Soviet republics. The city is also an important centre for marine biology; in particular, dolphins have been studied and trained in the city since the end of World War II.
In the 6th century BC a Greek colony was established in the area of the modern day city. The Greek city of Chersonesus existed for almost two thousand years, first as an independent democracy and later as part of the Bosporan Kingdom. In the 13th and 14th centuries it was sacked by the Mongol Horde several times and was finally totally abandoned. The modern day city of Sevastopol has no connection to the ancient and medieval Greek city, but the ruins are a popular tourist attraction located on the outskirts of the city.
Under the Russian Empire
Sevastopol was founded in June 1783 as a base for a naval squadron under the name Akhtiar (White Cliff), by Rear Admiral Thomas Mackenzie (Foma Fomich Makenzi), a native Scot in Russian service; soon after Russia annexed the Crimean Khanate. Five years earlier, Alexander Suvorov ordered that earthworks be erected along the harbour and Russian troops be placed there. In February 1784, Catherine the Great ordered Grigory Potemkin to build a fortress there and call it Sevastopol. The realisation of the initial building plans fell to Captain Fyodor Ushakov who in 1788 was named commander of the port and of the Black Sea squadron. It became an important naval base and later a commercial seaport. In 1797, under an edict issued by Emperor Paul I, the military stronghold was again renamed to Akhtiar. Finally, on April 29 (May 10), 1826, the Senate returned the city's name to Sevastopol.
One of the most notable events involving the city is the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–55) 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 chose 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 originally was created by Franz Roubaud. After its destruction in 1942 during WWII, it was restored and is currently housed in a specially constructed circular building in the city. It portrays the situation at the height of the siege, on 18 June 1855.
Under the Soviet Union
During World War II, Sevastopol withstood intensive bombardment by the Germans in 1941–42, supported by their Italian and Romanian allies during the Battle of Sevastopol. German forces were forced to use railway artillery and specialised heavy mortars to destroy Sevastopol's extremely heavy fortifications, such as the Maxim Gorky naval battery. After fierce fighting, which lasted for 250 days, the supposedly untakable fortress city finally fell to Axis forces in July 1942. It was intended to be renamed to "Theodorichshafen" (in reference to Theodoric the Great and the fact that the Crimea had been home to Germanic Goths until the 18th or 19th century) in the event of a German victory against the Soviet Union, and like the rest of the Crimea was designated for future colonisation by the Third Reich. It was liberated by the Red Army on May 9, 1944 and was awarded the Hero City title a year later.
In 1957, the town of Balaklava was incorporated into Sevastopol.
Sevastopol as part of Ukrainian SSR
On October 29, 1948 the Presidium of Supreme Council of the Russian SFSR issued an ukase (order) which confirmed the special status of the city. Soviet academic publications since 1954, including the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, indicated that Sevastopol, Crimean Oblast was part of the Ukrainian SSR (Great Soviet Encyclopedia 1976, Vol.23. pp 104).
At the 1955 Ukrainian parliamentary elections on February 27, Sevastopol was split into two electoral districts, Stalinsky and Korabelny (initially requested three Stalinksy, Korabelny, and Nakhimovsky). Eventually Sevastopol received two people's deputies of the Ukrainian SSR elected to the Verkhovna Rada A.Korovchenko and M.Kulakov.
After the Soviet dissolution
Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Moscow refused to recognise Ukrainian sovereignty over Sevastopol as well as over the surrounding Crimean Oblast, using the argument that the city was never practically integrated into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic because of its military status.
On December 11, 1992, the President of Ukraine called the attempt of the Russian deputies to charge the Russian parliament with the task of defining the status of Sevastopol as an "imperial disease". On December 17, 1992, the office of the Ukrainian presidential representative in Crimea was created, which caused a wave of protests a month later. Among the protesters who organised the unsanctioned rally were the Sevastopol branches of the National Salvation Front, the Russian Popular Assembly, and the All-Crimean Movement of the Voters for the Republic of Crimea. The protest was held in Sevastopol on January 10 at the Nakhimov Square.
On July 10, 1993, the Russian parliament passed a resolution declaring Sevastopol to be "a federal Russian city". At the time, many supporters of the president, Boris Yeltsin, had ceased taking part in the Parliament's work. On July 20, 1993 the United Nations Security Council denounced the decision of the Russia parliament. According to Anatoliy Zlenko, it was for the first time that the council had to review actions and come up with qualification of them for a legislative body.
On April 14, 1993, the Presidium of the Crimean Parliament called for the creation of the presidential post of the Crimean Republic. A week later, the Russian deputy, Valentin Agafonov, stated that Russia was ready to supervise the referendum on Crimean independence and include the republic as a separate entity in the CIS. On July 28, 1993, one of the leaders of the Russian Society of Crimea, Viktor Prusakov, stated that his organisation was ready for an armed mutiny and establishment of the Russian administration in Sevastopol. In September, Eduard Baltin accused Ukraine of converting some of his fleet and conducting an armed assault on his personnel, and threatened to take countermeasures of placing the fleet on alert.
In May 1997, Russia and Ukraine signed the Peace and Friendship Treaty, ruling out Moscow's territorial claims to Ukraine. A separate agreement established the terms of a long-term lease of land, facilities, and resources in Sevastopol and the Crimea by Russia.
As in the rest of the Crimea, Russian remained the predominant language of the city, although following the independence of Ukraine there was some attempts at Ukrainisation with very little success. The Russian society in general and even some outspoken government representatives never accepted the loss of Sevastopol and tended to regard it as temporarily separated from the homeland.
In July 2009, the chairman of the Sevastopol city council, Valeriy Saratov (Party of Regions) stated that Ukraine should increase the amount of compensation it is paying to the city of Sevastopol for hosting the foreign Russian Black Sea Fleet, instead of requesting such obligations from the Russian government and the Russian Ministry of Defense in particular.
On April 27, 2010, Russia and Ukraine ratified the Russian Ukrainian Naval Base for Gas treaty, extending the Russian Navy's lease of Crimean facilities for 25 years after 2017 (through 2042) with an option to prolong the lease in 5-year extensions. The ratification process in the Ukrainian parliament encountered stiff opposition and erupted into a brawl in the parliament chamber. Eventually, the treaty was ratified by a 52% majority vote—236 of 450. The Russian Duma ratified the treaty by a 98% majority without incident.
2014 Crimean crisis
On March 6, 2014, in response to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, the city council of Sevastopol unilaterally declared that it wished to join the Russian Federation as a federal subject. The city council on 11 March released a joint resolution with the Supreme Council of Crimea to unite as an independent republic between the potential passing of the referendum and union with Russia. Ukrainian authorities and the international community strongly criticized the referendum decision.
On March 16, a controversial referendum on leaving Ukraine took place in the city, along with the rest of Crimea. During the voting the Building of the Supreme Council of Crimea was controlled by the Russian military. The official reports by the organizers of the referendum were that a majority of 95.6% voted to become a part of the Russian Federation, albeit these results are contested (see Crimean status referendum, 2014#Alternative estimates of results for details). This referendum resulted in the establishment of the short-lived Republic of Crimea, which consisted of both Sevastopol and Crimea.
On March 18, 2014, the treaty on the adoption of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol to Russia was signed between Russia and the Republic of Crimea, with the following content: