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Yevpatoria: Bathed in splendour

From Ottoman to Art Nouveau

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

  • Yevpoatoria 2012
  • Yevpatoria c1840

Yevpatoria is a delightful place to spend a relaxing few days out of season – strolling along the elegant promenade and through the back streets of the old town, eating at the museum home of an iconic Russian female poet, boarding a bright blue electric tram to explore the city, perhaps even taking one of the cures for which the resort is famous.

Like many places in Crimea, it has been through a number of name changes, from Gözleve (Turkish) to Kezlev (Tatar) to Yevpatoria (Russian, from King Mithridates VI’s title “Eupator”, meaning “born of a noble father”). Many old maps have it simply as Eupatoria. There is little sign today of the commerce (the salt, the slaves, the furs) that made it one of the wealthiest cities in Crimea. In the khans’ day, almost 90 per cent of khanate income derived from the port dues of Gözleve.

The city was always a cosmopolitan centre, with numerous communities, each with its own places of worship, and a wide array of architectural styles. You can still see the Neoclassical customs house and the Russian church that replaced the smaller one painted by Bossoli in the 1840s, when Yevpatoria was a prosperous trading centre benefiting from being part of the New Russia. The large domed 16th-century mosque in the centre of Bossoli’s painting, the Juma Jami, also known as the Khan’s Mosque, remains a distinctive landmark. The imperial Ottoman architect Sinan was commissioned by the Crimean khan Devlet I Giray to draw up the plans for it, and he may have had some small part in its design, but at the time he was mostly preoccupied with the Süleymaniye in Istanbul.

Across from the mosque, the Orthodox Cathedral of St Nicholas, founded in 1893, has an eye-catching blue dome. In 1916 Tsar Nicholas II and his family visited the cathedral to give thanks for the departure of the allied English, French and Turks at the end of the Crimean War. In 1855 Yevpatoria had been the site of one of the most important battles of the war.

By the end of the 19th century, the city was again flourishing, now as a fashionable spa resort. This ushered in a construction boom and a concentration of beautiful Art Nouveau buildings.

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Issue 49, April 2013 Travels in Tartary
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  • Crimea: the Heartland

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  • Crimea: the South Coast

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  • Crimea: the West Coast

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  • Eastern Crimea and the Kerch Peninsula

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  • No surrender for Anna

    Yevpatoria in Crimea was the home the young Anna Akhmatova, an icon of Russian literature, who fell foul of Stalin

  • Chekhov’s ‘Warm Siberia’

    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.

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Issue 49, April 2013 Travels in Tartary
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