11th edition, vol. 15 p. 754
Prince Keter Alexeivich Kropotkin
John Thomas Bealby
Kerch, or Kertch, a seaport of S. Russia, in the government of Taurida, on
the Strait of Kerch or Yenikale, 60 miles E.N. E. Of Theodosia, in 45 deg 21
min. N. and 36 deg 30 min E. Pop. (1897), 31,702. It stands on the site of the
ancient Panticapaeum, and, like most towns built by the ancient Greek colonists
in this part of the world, occupies a beautiful situation, clustering round the
foot and climbing up the sides of the hill (called after Mithradates) on which
stood the ancient citadel or acropolis. The church of St. John the Baptist,
founded in 717, is a good example of the early Byzantine style. That of
Alexander Nevsky was formerly the Kerch museum of antiquities, founded in 1825.
The more valuable objects were subsequently removed to the Hermitage at St.
Petersburg, while those that remained at Kerch were scattered during the
English occupation in the Crimean War. The existing museum is a small
collection in a private house. Among the products of local industry are
leather, tobacco, cement, beer, aerated waters, lime, candles and soap. Fishing
is carried on, and there are steam saw-mills and flour-mills. A rich deposit of
iron ore was discovered close to Kerch in 1895, and since then mining and
blasting have been actively prosecuted. The mineral mud-baths, one of which is
in the town itself and the other beside Lake Chokrak (9 miles distant), are
much frequented. Notwithstanding the deepening of the strait, so that ships are
now able to enter the Sea of Azov, Kerch retains its importance for the export
trade in wheat, brought thither by coasting vessels. Grain, fish, linseed,
rapeseed, wool and hides are also exported. About 6 miles N.E. are the town and
old Turkish fortress of Yenikale, administratively united with Kerch. Two and a
half miles to the south are strong fortified works defending the entrance to
the Sea of Azov.
The Greek colony of Panticapaeum was founded about the middle of the 6th
century B. C. By the town of Miletus. From about 438 B. C. Till the conquest of
this region by Mithradates the Great, king of Pontus, about 100 B. C., the town
and territory formed the kingdom of the Bosporus, ruled over by an independent
dynasty. Phanaces, the son of Mithradates, became the founder of a new line
under the protection of the Romans, which continued to exist till the middle of
the 4th century. A. D., and extended its power over the maritime parts of
Tauris. After that the town - which had already begun to be known as Bospora -
passed successively into the hands of the Eastern empire, of the Khazars, and
of various barbarian tribes. In 1318 the Tatars, who had come into possession
in the previous century, ceded the town to the Genoese, who soon raised it into
new importance as a commercial center. They usually called the place Cerchio, a
corruption of the Russian name K'rtchev (whence Kerch), which appears in the
11th century inscription of Tmutarakan (a Russian principality at the north
foot of the Caucasus). Under the Turks, whose rule dates from the end of the
15th century Kerch was a military port; and as such it plays a part in the
Russo-Turkish wars. Captured by the Russians under Dolgorukov in 1771, it was
ceded to them along with Yenikale by the peace of Kuchuk-Kainarji, and it
became a centre of Russian naval activity. Its importance was greatly impaired
by the rise of Odessa and Taganrog; and in 1820 the fortress was dismantled.
Kerch suffered severely during the Crimean War.
Archaeologically Kerch is of particular interest, the kurgans or
sepulchral mounds of the town and vicinity having yielded a rich variety of the
most beautiful works of art. Since 1825 a large number of tombs have been
opened. In the Altun or Zolotai-oba (Golden Mound) was found a great stone
vault similar in style to an Egyptian pyramid; and within, among many objects
of minor note, were golden dishes adorned with griffins and beautiful
arabesques. In the Kul-oba or Mound of Cinders (opened in 1830-1831), was a
similar tomb, in which were found what would appear to be the remains of one of
the kings of Bosporus, of his queen, his horse and his groom. The ornaments and
furniture were of the most costly kind; the king's bow and buckler were of
gold; his very whip intertwined with gold; the queen had golden diadems,
necklace and breast-jewels, and at her feet lay a golden vase. In the
Pavlovskoi kurgan (opened in 1858) was the tomb of a Greek lady, containing
among other articles of dress and decoration a pair of fine leather boots (a
unique discovery) and a beautiful vase on which is painted the return of
Persephone from Hades and the setting out of Triptolemus for Attica. In the
neighboring tomb was what is believed to be "the oldest Greek mural
painting which has comedown to us," dating probably from the 4th century
B. C. Among the minor objects discovered in the kurgans perhaps the most
noteworthy are the fragments of engraved boxwood, the only examples known of
the art taught by the Sicyonian painter Pamphilus.
Very important finds of old Greek art continue to be made in the
neighborhood, as well as at Tamafi, on the east side of the Strait of Kerch.
The catacombs on the northern slope of Mithradates Hill, of which nearly 200
have been explored since 1859, possess considerable interest, not only for the
relics of old Greek art which some of them contain (although most were
plundered in earlier times), but especially as material for the history and
ethnography of the Cimmerian Bosphorus. In 1890 the first Christian catacomb
bearing a distinct date (491) was discovered. Its walls were covered with Greek
inscriptions and crosses.
See H. D. Seymour's Russia on the Black Sea and Sea of Azoff
London, 1855); J. B. Telfer, The Crimea (London, 1876); P. Bruhn,
Tchernomore, 1852-1877 (Odessa, 1878; Gilles, Antiquites du
Bosphore Cimmerien (1854); D. Macpherson, Antiquities of Kertch
(London, 1857); Compte rendu de la Commission Imp. Archeologique (St.
Petersburg); L. Stephani, Die Alterthumer vom Kertsch (St. Petersburg,
1880); C. T. Newton, Essays on art and Archaeology (London, 1880);
Reports of the (Russian) Imp. Archaeological Commission; Izvestia
(Bulletin) of the Archives Commission for Taurida; Antiquites du Bosphore
Cimmerien, conservees au Musee Imperial de l'Ermitage (St. Petersburg,
1854); Inscriptiones antiquae orae septentrionalis Ponti Euxine graecae et
latinae, with a preface by V. V. Lathshev (St . Petersburg, 1890);
Materials for the Archaeology of Russia, published by the Imp. Arch.
Commission (No. 6, St Petersburg, 1891).
See article on Bospor.
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