In the northern part of the Black Sea is a small peninsula in the form of irregular diamond. This is the Crimea. In anciend records it was called Tauria or Cimmeria. Its first known people were the Taurs. About 3.000 years ago tribes of the Cimmerians invaded from the East. They were Iranian-languaged people, their empire was strong and militant. Until another Iranian nation, the Scythians, came from the East and made the Cimmerians withdraw. Then many other nations have changed each other there. But the historic name has remained. The Kerch strait used to be called Bosphorus Cimmerian. Even now there is a village Cimmeric ih the Eastern Crimea.
Probably, the name "Cimmerians" was invented not by the Cimmerians themselves. The root "cmr" may come from Ancient-Jewish language, where it meant sudden darkness, threat, stronghold and the like. The island, connected to mainland by a narrow isthmus and settled by warlike strangers, suited it well. It is a hypothesis.
The ancient Greeks believed that here, in Cimmeria, was an entrance into the realm of the dead (remember Homer's "Odyssey"). They might mean extinct volcano Kara-Dag in the Eastern Crimea. No wonder – cyclopean walls of Kara-Dag, its bizarre bays, its dark and majestic beauty can not but impress. Encounters with the legendary giant sea snake happen here from time to time.
At the end of XIX century the Eastern Crimea became popular among Russian intellectuals. Some of them visited it in summer, other lived here permanently. There appeared painters, who discovered and depicted the special beauty of these parts. One can name I.Aivazovsky, A.Kuindzhi, L.Lagorio, A.Fessler.
The first painter, comprehended and dedicated to Cimmeria entirely, was Konstantin Bogayevsky. He invented Cimmerian landscape – an inscrutable fusion of dreams and reality. His magnetic pictures stay patterns by now.
But the most powerful figure was Maximilian Voloshin. Not only a painter, but great poet and thinker. His Cimmeria was half-real, half-imaginative. Transformed in his mind, it gives us new ideas of correlation between space and time, man and nature.
Now all the Crimea is a popular resort, belonging to Ukraine. There are many local and touring artists, working in "Cimmerian" manner. Their pictures can be found not only in the Crimea, but in galleries of Russia, Ukraine and other countries. Cimmerian school is alive.
Crimea, Cimmeria, Kermen, Kremlin... Everywhere is the same root KMR which in Ancient-Jewish language corresponds to a sudden darkness, eclipce and gives an image of a fortress, closed place, threat and at the same time a gloom of fabulocity.
An island, separated from mainland by rotting and stinking Meotian marshes, brackish lakes, narrow sandy spits and absorbing the sea with deep harbors, straits, ports.
Mainland was for him an element flowing and rippled – a bed of the Great Ocean, along which from depth of Asia to Europe flowed glaciers and avalanches of human races and nations.
The sea was a solid element, with constant and even abb and flow pulsation of Mediterranean culture.
Wild Field and Mare Internum defined Crimean history.
For the Wild Field the Crimea was a quiet haven.
During human floods the Wild Field overflowed the banks and flooded the Crimea. Separate streams of human flows froze in the quiet and hopeless haven, precipitated their silt on a shallow floor, fell upon each other with layers and then organically mixed.
The Taurs, the Cimmerians, the Scythians, the Sarmats, the Pechenegs, the Khazars, the Kumans, the Tatars, the Slavs... – here is the alluvium of the Wild Field.
The Greeks, the Armenians, the Romans, the Venetians, the Genoeses – here is the trade and cultural yeast of the Mare Internum.
A complex conglomerate of racial alloys and hybrid forms, always staying under intence activity of very strong and solid cultural currents.
Hence duality of Crimean history: godforsaken, provincial, nameless, huge – like everything coming from Asia, and luminous, always in focus of historical rays – a remote sentry post, advanced by old Mediterranean Europe to the East.
There are folds of land and sea in the Crimea, in which human settlements have existed continuosly since prehistoric times.
The Cimmerians and the Taurs, whose history is almost unknown, might build towns and fortreses in deep harbors of Tarhankut [Western Crimea] and on the shores of Bosphorus Cimmerian or in the wide snail of Feodosian bay [Eastern Crimea]. All this may correspond to the beginning of the second millennium BC. Undoubtedly that the role of trade ferment in that epoch played the Phoenicians.
In XIV century BC the Crimea gets flooded by the Scythians. In VII and VI centuries begins Greek colonization, and the Crimea enters the spotlit circle of world history.
In foregoing convenient harbors appear Greek towns of Khersones, Panticapea, Feodosia which for all subsequent history become points of studying Hellenism.
The first support of Greec culure here became Khersones. His role for the Crimea (considering scales and proportions) is the same as Babylon or Rome for their domains.
Being just an outmost tentacle of Greec culture, Khersones for 2000 years endures all the tide of the Wild Field and one by one hellenizes invading and precipitating in the Crimea races.
The first hellenized people were the Scythians.
But magnetized by Khersones nations themselves begin to threaten his independence. Like Scythians at the time of kings Skilur or Pallak or Bosphorus kingdom of king Mitridat.
Then Khersones enters the sphere of Roman influence. Keeping his autonomy, Rome helps him to defend from the Goths and the Huns. To the V century he is again the strongest state in the Crimea, a propagator of Christianity. And for Byzantium – a very important strategic outpost in fight against the Wild Field.
Under his influence the Crimean Goths adopt Christianity, get hellenized and dissolve, but the name of Gothia [for South Crimea] remains for a long time.
In V - VI centuries, when the Huns capture the steppe Crimea, the Goths in alliance with the Greeks put up a stubborn defence of mountain area.
In VII century the Huns are changed by the Khazars.
In VIII century begins internecine feud between monks-iconoclasts and monks-iconoduls.
In IX century begin raids of Varangian and Russian retinues. Comes prince Vladimir and adopts Christianity. From here export to Rus: religion, furniture, priests, artisans, relics, goods, icons, fashions, books, luxuries. To here import: bread, wood, wool, leather, furs.
Then come the Avars, the Madyars, the Pechenegs, the Kumans...
In XIII century, after seizure Konstantinopol by crusaders and founding Latin empire, an Italian influence comes to Crimea. The Genoeses gain a foothold in Feodosia (Kaffa), the Venetians – in Sudak.
At the same time the Mongolo-Tatars invade the Crimea. They conclude a treaty with the Genoeses on sphreres of influence.
Khersones loses independence, his walls and towers are leveled by order of Kaffa's consul. Hellenic epoch ends.
To the end of XV century Kaffa itself falls under Turkish assault. The Turks come from Konstantinolol and carry the same Mediterranean culture.
By that time Tatarian population is completely transformed. Being very fusible and flexible, the Tatars adopt blood and culture of local races. Greek and Gothic blood penitrates in them to the very convolutions of brain. The Tatars became a synthesis of the entire colorful history of the land. Under spatial and tolerant cover of Islam the own and genuin Crimean culture flourishes. All the country from Meotian marthes to Southern shore turns to one continuous garden. Steppes bloom with fruit trees, mountains – with vineyards, harbors – with feluccas. Cities murmur with fountains and strike skies with white minarets.
After disturbing age of wars and troubles comes golden age of Gireys under high cover of splendid, powerful and cultured Turkey. Never – neither before, nore after – this land, these hills, mountains and plains, these harbors and plateaus experienced such a free vegetable flowering, such a peaceful and profound happiness.
But in XVIII century the Wild Field floods the Crimea with a new wave of barbarians. This time it is more serious and long, because these barbarians are the Russians. Behind them are not rippled waters of nomadic people, but heavy foundations of Saint-Petersburg's empire.
Times and viewpoints change. For Kiev's Rus Crimean khanate was a bandit nest, harassing her with sudden raids. But for the Turks – heirs of Byzantium and for kingdom of Gireys, adopted by blood and spirit all complex legacy with Greek, Gothic and Italian ores, the Russians were just a new outburst of the Wild Field.
The Crimea agonizes. The basis of any South economy is water. The Tatars and the Turks were great masters of irrigation. They could catch the tiniest stream of soil water and direct it along clay pipes to large reservoirs. They could use difference of temperatures, giving effusions and dews. They created a great circulatory system for gardens and vineyards on mountainsides. All this paradise was annihilated completely. Instead of magnificent cities from "The Thousand and One Nights" the Russians built several wretched provincial towns and gave them pseudoclassic names. Ancient Gothia was built up with indecent imperial villas in style of station bars and hotels in style of imperial palaces. This museum of bad taste obviously will remain the only monument of "Russian epoch".
Lands were taken from people who loved and could cultivate them, and were given to people who could just destroy. Peaceful and hard-working Tatar population was forced to tragical emigrations to Turkey.
Only one part of the Crimea, least pictorial and hence least visited, became an exception. It is Cimmeria. Here later than in other parts, were destroyed the last hearths of Mediterranean culture, and land did not calm down completely from intensive life of Italian republics.
These hills, bare, with no sign of ruins are saturated with samewhat great historical languish. This burnt and bleak land, corroded with alkali of all cultures and races, passed upon it, strewn with nameless stones of covered foundations, found strength to prosper in Russian art with independent school of Cimmerian landscape. This school is defined by such names as Aivazovsky, Kuindzhi, Bogayevsky and not so bright as Fessler, Petrov, Lagorio, Shervashidze, Latri – all born in Feodosia or its neighbourhood.
Most profoundly Cimmeria was depicted and transformed in pictures by Konstantin Bogaevsky, a recreator of historical landscape in Russia. Nobody else felt so strongly all the antiquity of this frenzied and wornout land, nobody else understood so deeply her dreams and mirages. Art of Bogayevsky is a key to understanding landscape of Cimmeria and to sacred soul of the Crimea – "land, exhausted by passion of destiny".
But in vain a guest from the North will look for works of these painters in the Crimea. To understand Cimmerian art one should seek it in galleries of Moscow and Leningrad [now St.-Petersburg again]. The same concerns archaeological antiquities. The empire was taking out Crimean treasures without remorse.
What is then memorials of the Crimea? Ruins and landscape.
Neither of Europe countries have such a great amount of landscapes, varying by spirit and by style, and so closely concentrated on such a small piece of land. Even in Greece one can not find such a conciseness.
Barrows and knolls of sad shores of Bosphorus Cimmerian; salty lakes, driven out passages and stony ships of mountain Opuk; powdered as if with ripe wheat orange banks of Feodosian bay; Feodosia with black kremlin of Genoese fortifications; Koktebel with Venetian ruins and Gothic conglomeration of Kara-Dag; cape Meganom with nobly-dry, purely Greek outlines; Sudak with its romantic fortress – here is the mere cost of Cimmeria.
Let archaeologists sign by sign decrypt old stones under ashe of time and gradually restore complex and bright mosaic of history: their work will last long before they can make generalizations, understood by amateurs. The present – Russian – Crimea retains nothing from old cultures, except landscape; but in it possible to read all the past. It is a gorgeous book with pictures of a genius.
Maximilian Voloshin (1877 – 1932), a poet, a painter, a thinker, a follower of the "Cimmerian" school in poetry and fine arts.
He was one of the significant representatives of the Symbolist movement in Russian culture and literature. He became famous as a poet and a critic of literature and the arts. He was also known for his brilliant translations of a number of French poetic and prose works into Russian.
Early in life he studied law at a university, but quickly understood that it was not his lot. He traveled over Western Europe and Central Asia, learning everything. Like a sponge, he absorbed Mediterranean theosophies and Oriental religions, Russian symbolism and Greek mythology. Later all the impressions and mental searches transformed into his own philosophy, natural and harmonious. In 1917 Voloshin came back to Cimmeria again and no longer left.
There are not many examples of such a close bond between the human creator and the place, where he lived. Strange, but true: profile of Kara-Dag, being watched from some positions, does resemble Voloshin's profile. As if the very earth predetermined his living there. And adopted him ultimately.