The Palace and the poet – Saudi Armco World’s News /photos story on poet Alexander Pushkin’s and Palace of Crimean Khan


Many books have been written about Russia’s geopolitical interest in the strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, dating back to the times of Peter the Great. But it only takes one slim volume of poetry to understand Crimea’s hold on the Russian soul: Alexander Pushkin’s 1824 “The Fountain of Bakhchisaray.” It recounts a romantic legend set in the 500-year-old palace of the Crimean khans—one of only three palaces of Islamic design surviving in Europe today—and it is the source of a national love affair with the locale itself.


A Brief history of the Crimean Khanate

In 1238, the grandson of Genghis Khan, Batu, led an alliance of Mongol and Turkish tribes to conquer an empire that stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Volga River. Because of its wealth and power, this khanate came to be known as the Golden Horde. The kingdom of the Qipchak Khans, descended from one of the oldest Mongolian or Tatar races, formed a regional capital in Qirim—the name from which today’s “Crimea” is derived—and the people who called themselves Qirimtatar embraced Islam in the 13th century.

After the defeat of the Golden Horde in 1441 by Tamerlane, Crimean nobles fell away from Qipchak to form the independent Crimean Khanate under Haci i Giray, thus introducing the name of Giray into the dynasty that followed. In 1475, Haci i Giray’s son Meñli i Giray was taken prisoner by the Genoese, who sent him to Istanbul, where Sultan Mehmet ii forced him to recognize Ottoman control over his Crimean Khanate.

He was then permitted to return to his throne, and in 1502, he fought the Golden Horde’s last khan to defeat at the Dneiper River. His sons went on to defeat the Russians near Moscow, and they forced the Russians to pay tribute to the khanate, a submission that continued until the end of the 17th century.

It was the Cossacks who, in the late 18th century, began to push back the khanate and the Ottomans. In 1774, the Crimean Khans fell under Russian influence, and by 1783, Crimea was annexed into Russia. It was part of Russia, then part of the ussr, then part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and was briefly autonomous. In 1992, newly independent Ukraine took possession, and today it’s officially the Autonomous Republic of Crimea of Ukraine.

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