Definitions

Balaklava

Balaklava

[bal-uh-klah-vuh; Russ. buh-luh-klah-vuh]
Balaklava, section of the city of Sevastopol, in S Ukraine, on the Crimean peninsula. Fishing and limestone quarrying are carried on. In ancient times it was an important Greek commercial city. In the Middle Ages it belonged to the Genoese until it was taken (1475) by the Turks, who gave it its present name. In the Crimean War, Balaklava became famous for an allied victory (Oct., 1854) over the Russians and particularly for the charge of the Light Brigade, celebrated by Tennyson. On Oct. 25, through a disputed error in orders, the earl of Cardigan led an English light cavalry brigade of some 670 in a hopeless charge on a heavily protected Russian position, and more than two thirds of his men were killed or wounded. Balaklava was the capital of the former Balaklava dist. in the Crimean region until 1957, when it was incorporated into Sevastopol. There are ruins of a Genoese fortress (14th-15th cent.) in Balaklava.
For the article about the South Australian town see Balaklava, South Australia. For other uses, see Balaklava (disambiguation).

Balaklava (Балаклава, Балаклава, ) is a town in the Crimea, Ukraine which has an official status of a district of the city of Sevastopol. It was a city in its own right until 1957 when it was formally incorporated into the municipal borders of Sevastopol by the Soviet government.

History

Balaklava has changed hands many times during its history. A settlement at its present location was originally founded under the name of Symbolon (Συμβολον) by the Ancient Greeks, for whom it was an important commercial city. During the Middle Ages, it was controlled by the Byzantine Empire and then by the Genoese who conquered it in 1365. The Byzantines called the town Yamboli and the Genoese named it Cembalo. The Genoese built a large trading empire in both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, buying slaves in Eastern Europe and shipping them to Egypt via the Crimea, a lucrative market hotly contested with by the Venetians. It is believed that it was on board a Genoese trading cog sailing back to Genoa from Balaklava (or Kaffa, according to some chronicles) that the Black Death first arrived in Europe in the mid-14th c. The ruins of a Genoese fortress positioned high on a clifftop above the entrance to the Balaklava Inlet are a popular tourist attraction and have recently become the stage for a Medieval festival. The fortress is a subject of Mickiewicz's penultimate poem in his 1825 cycle of Crimean Sonnets.

In 1475 the growing Ottoman Empire took possession of Balaklava renaming it Balıklava ("a fish nest" in Turkish ), which was slowly corrupted over time to its present form. During the Russo-Turkish War, 1768-1774, the Russian troops conquered the Crimea in 1771. Thirteen years later, Crimea was definitively annexed by the Russian Empire. After that, Crimean Tatar and Turkish population was replaced by Greeks from the Archipelago. In 1787 the city was visited by Catherine the Great.

The town became famous for the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War thanks to the suicidal Charge of the Light Brigade, a British cavalry charge due to a misunderstanding sent up a valley strongly held on three sides by the Russians, in which about 250 men were killed or wounded, and over 400 horses lost, effectively reducing the size of the mounted brigade by two thirds and destroying some of the finest light cavalry in the world to no military purpose. The British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson immortalized this battle in verse. The balaclava, a tight knitted garment covering the whole head and neck with holes for the eyes and mouth, also takes its name from this settlement, where soldiers first wore them.

During the Second World War, Balaklava was the southernmost point in the Soviet-German lines. In 1956 Balaklava, together with the whole Crimea, passed from Russia to Ukraine. It became part of the independent state of Ukraine in 1991. Today there are over 50 monuments in the town dedicated to the remembrance of military valour in past wars, including the Great Patriotic War, the Crimean War and the Russian Civil War.

Nuclear submarine base

One of the monuments is an underground, formerly classified submarine base that was operational until 1993. The base was said to be virtually indestructible and designed to survive a direct atomic impact. During that period, Balaklava was one of the most secret residential areas in the Soviet Union. Almost the entire population of Balaklava at one time worked at the base; even family members could not visit the town of Balaklava without a good reason and proper identification. The base remained operational after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 until 1993 when the decommissioning process started. This process saw the removal of the warheads and low-yield torpedoes. In 1996, the last Russian submarine left the base, which is now open to the public for guided tours around the canal system, the base, and a small museum, which is now housed in the old ammunition warehouse deep inside the hillside.

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