Spatial Grammar

One of the very first modern guidebooks published in the Russian Empire elaborated on the intimate, inescapable connection between Crimea and the Black Sea. The peninsula was, according to the authors, “washed, from the west and south by the Black Sea, from the east by the Kerch strait and Azov Sea” and linked only “by way of the Perekop isthmus, which is never more than 7 versts wide, to the mainland steppes of southern Russia.”

The authors underscored the flimsy nature of the tissue connecting Crimea to the mainland by noting the popular belief, to which certain contemporary treaties lent credence, in a prehistoric water route that had once linked the Black and Azov seas and made Crimea an island.

Despite the fact that Crimea is a place composed of coastlines and harbors, the vast majority of work on Crimean history situates it in a distinctly terrestrial landscape, working out its struggles and entanglements with neighbors beyond Perekop.