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The Crimean khans founded their capital in the fertile foothills of the Crimean Mountains in the 15th century. This was the nucleaus of the land known as Cim Tartary. The garden palace of Bahçesaray is a glorious reminder of the khans’ 350-year reign
Only 20 years after Mehmed the Conqueror captured Istanbul, Crimea became an important, but autonomous, part of his burgeoning Ottoman Empire. After 1475 the Crimean khans, descendants of Genghis Khan, increasingly came under Ottoman sway. They started building their capital and palace at Bahçesaray (literally Garden Palace) around 1530, and went on adding pavilions and baths, courtyards and gardens for 250 years. The town turned into a miniature Ottoman city, their palace into a miniature Topkapı.
Bahçesaray’s small size belies its significance. The palace is a unique gem – the only one of Ottoman design to survive outside Istanbul. And Crimean Tatars have exerted a strong influence on Turkey, first as mounted archers vital to the expanding empire, and more recently as prominent figures in the arts, educational reform and Ottoman historical research.
Not much is left of the town Bossoli painted here, but the Turkish connection – and the Tatars’ Turkic language – have survived Catherine the Great’s annexation, Stalin’s Terror and exile of the Tatars, and recent upheavals in Ukraine and Russia.
Bossoli shows the palace as a harmonious assembly of low buildings round a spacious courtyard. On the left, walled gardens lead from the octagonal Falcon Tower to the pavilions of the harem and the audience hall. On the right are the minarets of the great Friday mosque and the monumental tombs of the rulers.
From the Danube to the Caucasus, conflict raged. The Ottomans were fighting for their territories and their lives, but the full story of their courage is only now being told, says the military historian Mesut Uyar
The war of 1853–56 was a calamitous clash of imperial ambitions. Turkey sustained heavy losses, but without them she might have ceased to exist. David Barchard puts the conflict in context
With its healing brine baths and golden beaches, its wealth and variety of architecture, and its layers-deep history, this resort offers something for everyone – from hedonist to hypochondriac
Yevpatoria in Crimea was the home the young Anna Akhmatova, an icon of Russian literature, who fell foul of Stalin
Like many writers, Chekhov made his way to Crimea to nurse his TB in a milder climate. His two houses, now museums, became magnets for artists. One he left to his sister, the other to his wife.
By any standard, Hüsamettin Koçan’s mountain-top Baksı Museum, in the northeastern Anatolian village where he was born, deserves a place among the world’s top ten remote museums.
Philip Mansel on the future Edward VII’s Ottoman expedition
This silver goblet was one of more than 600 medieval treasures from Central Asia crowding Bonhams’ elegant rooms in Edinburgh for six days in January.
Thomas Whittemore, the American scholar and philanthropist, was instrumental in restoring the Byzantine treasures of Ayasofya. Robert S Nelson delves into his enigmatic life
Mulberries come in an array of hues: black, white, pink, purple; some enticingly sweet, others astringent and healing. As Berrin Torolsan can testify, having grown up with them in her Istanbul garden, all are adored – by man, mallard and pine marten alike. Here she traces the history of this lucious fruit
From the towers of Tatary to the tombs of Scythian kings, from clifftop citadels to an underground castle, from Balaklava to the beaches of the Tsarist Riviera, Crimea is a land to fall in love with, waiting to be enjoyed, not destroyed
The V&A’s Tim Stanley eyes up the Louvre’s astonishing new Islamic offering
Aard Streefland tells the story of the Dutch orientalist Marius Bauer (1867–1932)
As the Sadberk Hanım Museum celebrates the art of embroidery, Min Hogg marvels at the motifs of palaces, fruit and flowers, sea and cityscape, wrought stitch by stitch, to adorn every Ottoman home
Dramatic and picturesque, Crimea’s southern coast became a resort for doomed royalty and a refuge for ailing literati
Two ports – Sevastopol and Yevpatoria – rule Crimea’s flat west coast. One was built for war, the other for recreation. Both played a part in the Crimean War
Geonese merchants, a millionaire painter and a symbolist poet brought fortune and fame to the eastern stretches of Crimea’s south coast and its fertile hinterland
Balaklava, Sevastopol, Inkerman, the Valley of Death – in Britain, where the savage toll was so acutely felt, these names still have the power to arouse pride and fury. Algernon Percy travelled to Crimea to visit the evocative battlefields
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