The existence of Yalta was first recorded in the 12th century by an Arab geographer, who described it as a Byzantine port and fishing settlement. The city is located on the site of an ancient Greek colony, said to have been founded by Greek sailors who were looking for a safe shore on which to land. It is situated on a deep bay facing south towards the Black Sea and surrounded by wooded mountains. It enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate with many vineyards and orchards in the vicinity. It became part of a network of Genoese trading colonies on the Crimean coast in the 14th century, when it was known as Etalita or Galita.
Crimea was captured by the Ottomans in 1475, who made it a semi-independent subject territory under the rule of the Crimean Khanate. But the southern coast together with Yalta was under direct Ottoman rule, forming the Eyalet of Kefe (Feodosiya).
Russian Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tavricheski was a military leader, statesman, nobleman and favorite of Catherine the Great. Potemkin’s defining achievements include the peaceful incorporation Crimea into the Russian Empire (1783) and the successful second Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792)
Yalta was declared a city within the Russian Empire in 1838. From that moment it grew quickly, becoming a fashionable resort for the Russian aristocracy and gentry.
Leo Tolstoy spent summers there and in 1898 Anton Chekhov bought a house (the White Dacha), where he lived until 1902.
The city is the setting for Chekhov’s short story, “The Lady with the Dog”, and such prominent plays as The Three Sisters were written in Yalta .
It is also closely associated with Russian royalty. In 1889 Tsar Alexander III finished construction of theMassandra Palace, a short distance to the north of Yalta . The exquisite decoration of the rooms is universally admired. All the architectural work is noted for the spectacular quality of workmanship and artistic taste.
Nicholas II inherited the palace after his father’s death in 1894, but visited it only once during his 23-year reign.
During the Soviet years, the palace was used by Joseph Stalin as his dacha.
Today, the palace is open to the public as an architectural and arts museum. A guided tour allows visitors to admire its beautiful interior, furniture, works of art, and historic memorabilia–photos, documents and letters–all carefully preserved.
The wine tasting ceremony at the famous Massandra Wine-Tasting Hall is certainly worth visiting. You will have an opportunity to try 9 samples of local wines (Massandra Cabernet red wine, White and Red Massandra Muscat, White and Red Massandra Port wine, Massandra Sherry, Madera etc.) and to soak up the romantic atmosphere of this idyllic place.
The Massandra collection stores wines aged for more than 230 years. The oldest wine is “the Sherry de-la Frontera” – a vintage from 1775. In 2001 on Sotheby’s auction it was sold for $50000.
The Livadia Palace is the famous summer residence of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II. In the Livadia Palace one can see the private apartments of the last Czar`s family: The Study of Nicholas II, the Bedroom of the Royal Couple, the personal Library, Music Salon, Family Dining Room, Study Room of the Grand Princesses Maria and Anastasia, as well as the private rooms of Grand Princesses Olga and Tatiana.
Not far from the Palace is situated the Romanov`s private Church, constructed in 19th century. The palace church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of the Romanovs was built in 1863 and designed by architect I. Monnigetti under the Supreme Order of Her Majesty Empress Maria Alexandrovna. It is a part of a single architectural ensemble of the White Palace in Livadia. In 1911, during the reign of Emperor Nicolas II, the church was reconstructed by the architect N. Krasnov. For the first time in this church St. John of Kronstadt performed the funeral service for Tsar Alexander III the Peacemaker, who passed away at Livadia in the autumn of 1894. Here the last Russian Autocrat Nicolas II pledged allegiance to the Russian Throne. His bride, Alice of Hessen, a Lutheran, was confirmed into the Orthodox Church. She was anointed and named as Alexandara Feodorovna.
In the 1920s the church was closed and the building was turned over tonon-religious. In 1991 the church was reopened, services were resumed and restoration was put in hand.
Romanovs Family in Crimea 1912.
The Russian Imperial Romanov family (Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei) and all those who chose to accompany them into exile – notably Eugene Botkin, Anna Demidova, Alexei Trupp and Ivan Kharitonov– were shot in Yekaterinburg, Siberia on 17 July 1918.
During the 20th century Yalta was the principal holiday resort of the Soviet Union . In 1920, Vladimir Lenin issued a decree “On the Use of Crimea for the Medical Treatment of the Working People” which endorsed the region’s transformation from a fairly exclusive resort area into a recreation facility for tired proletarians. Numerous workers’ sanatoria were constructed in and around Yalta .
Yalta city, 1957
Yalta was occupied by the German Army from 9 November 1941 to 16 April 1944.
The resort came to worldwide attention in 1945 when the Yalta Conference between the “Big Three” powers – the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom – was held at the Livadia Palace . Soviet leader Joseph Stalin hosted the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and the U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt, as these three world leaders decided the fate of Eastern Europe after World War II.
During the guided visit of the LivadiaPalace museum you will see the restored White Hall of the conference, which is remarkable for its size and refined mouldings on the ceiling, the Czar’s Gala Study and the Headquarters of the USA President during the conference. The Yalta Declaration, issued on the last day, on February 11th 1945, completed talks and discussions. On the agenda at the Conference were several very important questions for the allies resulting from the end of the war in Europe and the defeat of Germany . The result was the division of Germany into four zones of occupation. Also discussed were reparations, the Polish and Yugoslavian questions and Soviet control over this Eastern European territory. The Declaration also announced that a “conference of United Nations” would be held in San Francisco in April, 1945.
Places to visit:
- Armenian Church – was built in 1909-1919 as a reflection of S. Hripsime Church built over a thousand years ago in Armenia .
- Roosevelt Street – Not a tourist draw in itself, but interesting to see the plaque with Roosevelt ’s profile in relief and a short dedication in Russian and English. Add it to your list if you are walking around Yalta ’s old town.
- Chekhov’s house – Chekhov wrote a woman and her dog here and many of his other short stories.
- Nikita Botanical Garden – Founded in 1812, one of the world’s oldest operating scientific botanical gardens.
- The beach does not contain sand, but instead consists of smooth pebbles more closely resembling river rock than anything else. The beaches are similar to the pebble beaches of the French Riviera. In the summer it can get very hot 32C+
- Livadia Palace This was the last Tsar’s vacation residence. It was host to Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt for the Yalta Conference in 1945
- Massandra Palace, which is outside of town, in the hills. It was built as a summer picnic palace by Alexander III, and is supposed to look like a romantic French chateau.
- Massandra Wine Plant, if you are into wine, this is a place you definitely should to visit. They offer guided tours through the wine plant and the cellars, which contain one of the largest collections of wine in the world. At the end of the tour, you can taste some of the wines they have to offer.
- Yalta Zoo, Well worth a trip to see the animals. The Zoo is actually quite large and spread out with various types of animals from lions to bears and monkeys.