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The Crimea is a large peninsula, where the centuries, merging into one another, left their noticeable imprint on its history. It was occupied by the Tauri throughout the first millennium B. C. and the 1st century A. D., and was known in ancient times as the Tauris, or the Tauris Chersonesus (in Greek chersonesus means "peninsula"). In the 6th and 5th centuries B. C. the first ancient Greek city-colonies appeared along the shores of the Black Sea. In the 1st century A. D. the Romans built fortresses there. In the 13th century, when the Tartars invaded the Crimea, the Southern Coast was in the possession of the Genoese.
Since the 15th century the Crimea was a separate state, the Tartar Khanate of Crimea, under Turkey's protection, and the defence of the southern frontiers, against the inroads of the Crimean Tartars, became the basic course in Russian foreign policy: the first Romanovs did not wage any regular wars down south. The salient figures among the Romanovs of the 18th century are those of Peter the Great and Catherine II. With Peter Russia reached the Baltic Sea, with Catherine, the southern frontiers (after two wars against Turkey) stretched to the Black Sea.
In 1774, by the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji, Catherine II forced Turkey to recognize the independence of the Crimea, and in 1783 she annexed the peninsula. This gave Russia the access she needed to the Black Sea. In 1784 Catherine II set out on a grand tour with the aim of visiting the Crimea and inspecting the sea approaches near the Ottoman frontiers. The Empress realised that the annexation provided an opportunity for the expansion of economic, cultural and political links, advantageous both to Russia and her neighbours. In order to protect the southern provinces of Russia and to put down the unrest of the Tartars, who were discontented with the annexation, Catherine II resettled the Orthodox Greeks from the Grecian Archipelago to the Crimea on the initiative of Prince Grigory Potyomkin. The so-called Greeks' Balaklava Battalion guarded the southern coast from Balaklava to Theodosius and, for their devoted military service, the Empress made generous presents of plots of land along the coast.
The Russian Academy of Sciences equipped a number of expeditions to the Crimea to explore the natural resources and the climatic conditions of the newly-possessed province. The scientists drew attention to the beneficial climatic properties of the area of the Crimean Southern Coast and soon people of means began to buy plots of land from the officers and soldiers of the Balaklava Garrison and build villas and mansions there to spend their leisure time or to receive treatment. The most eminent courtiers had palaces built there, many of which have survived today.
In 1825, the Oreanda Estate, lying 6 km to the west of Yalta, was bought by the crown for Alexander I. Thus, the Oreanda Estate became the first Imperial residence on the Southern Coast of the Crimea.
In 1860, the Livadia Estate (19 km to the west of Yalta), adjoining the Oreanda Estate, was bought for Alexander II. Needless to say, the small town of Yalta was turned into a fashionable resort because of this neighbourhood. Present-day Greater Yalta extends in a narrow band for 75 km along the Black Sea coast, including such seaside resorts as Yalta proper, Alupka, Gurzuf, Miskhor, Koreiz, and Simeiz.