Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Sevastopol from Collins English Dictionary


1 a port, resort, and naval base in the Crimea, on the Black Sea: captured and destroyed by British, French, and Turkish forces after a siege of 11 months (1854–55) during the Crimean War; taken by the Germans after a siege of 8 months (1942) during World War II. Pop: 338 000 (2005 est) English name: Sebastopol

Summary Article: Sevastopol
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

(sĭvăs'tӘpōl´´), formerly spelled Sebastopol, city (1989 pop. 355,000), on the Crimean peninsula and the Bay of Sevastopol, an inlet of the Black Sea. From 1954 part of Ukraine (then the Ukrainian SSR), it passed to Russian control in 2014 after the occupation and annexation of Crimea. A city with special status under Ukrainian rule, it was made a federal city by Russia and is administratively not part of Crimea.


The city is a port, a major naval base, and a strategic strong point. Commercial vessels no longer use the deep natural harbor. Instead, the harbor is given over to the navy that patrols the Black Sea and the Bosporus. The city's industries include shipbuilding, lumber milling, food processing, and the production of bricks and furniture.


Sevastopol stands near the site of the ancient Greek colony of Chersonesus or Cherson, founded in 421 B.C. A democratic city-state, Chersonesus was the most important Greek colony in the Crimea until Scythian invasions forced it to become (179 B.C.–63 B.C.) a protectorate of King Mithradates VI. In the 1st cent. A.D. the cities of the Crimea became part of the Roman Empire, and in the 4th cent. Chersonesus became the city of Korsun in the Byzantine Empire. In the Middle Ages it remained a large trading and political center and played an important role in the economic and cultural life of the Crimea, the Black Sea area, and Russia.

The city survived as a Genoese trade colony until it was destroyed (1399) by a Tatar invasion. Sevastopol was founded as a city and port by Catherine II on the site of the Tatar village of Akhtiar after the Russian annexation (1783) of the Crimea. It was strongly fortified and became (1804) the chief base of the Russian Black Sea fleet. In the Crimean War Sevastopol resisted the besieging British, French, Turks, and Sardinians for 349 days (1854–55). The hero of the land defense was Gen. E. I. Totleben; the Russian fleet was sunk by the Russians themselves to block the entrance to the harbor.

In Sept., 1855, the French successfully stormed the fortress of Malakhov, on the south shore of the bay, and three days later the Russians were forced to abandon Sevastopol. A record of the spirit and sufferings of the city's defenders has been preserved in The Tales of Sevastopol by Tolstoy, who fought in the ranks of the besieged. Sevastopol declined as a military fortress after the Crimean Peace Conference (1856), and its fortifications were razed. After 1871, however, they were rebuilt, and in 1890 the city again became a chief naval base. The Sevastopol sailors mutinied during the 1905 revolution. In the Russian civil war Sevastopol was the headquarters of Gen. P. N. Wrangel during the last stand of the Whites (1920).

The heroic resistance of Sevastopol in 1854–55 was, if possible, eclipsed by the stand the city made against the Germans in World War II. During a siege lasting more than eight months, the city was virtually destroyed. For three weeks the defenders fought on in the rubble, against all hope, until July 3, 1942, when German and Romanian troops at last took the city. After its recapture (May, 1944) by the Russians reconstruction began. As a reward for its valiant resistance, Sevastopol was named a “hero city” of the Soviet Union. The city was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 (as was all Crimea) and became part of the independent Ukraine in 1991. The former Soviet Black Sea fleet, of which the city was the home, remained largely under Russian control under a 1995 agreement, and subsequent agreements (1997, 2010) allowed Russia to use Sevastopol naval base until 2042.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article Sevastopol
Philip's Encyclopedia

(Sebastopol) Black Sea port on the SW of the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine. Founded in 1783 by Catherine II, it was fortified in 1804. Sevastopol...

Full text Article Sevastopol
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

Seaport city (pop., 2001: 342,000) in the Crimea, southern Ukraine. In 1783 the Russians annexed the Crimea, and, near the ancient Greek colony of

Full text Article Sevastopol
The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Black Sea port, resort, and fortress in the Crimea, Ukraine; population (2001) 342,500. It is the base of the Black Sea fleet (jointly owned by Russi

See more from Credo