In the post-Soviet era, both priests and prehistorians have a stake
in the Future of a once-resplendent ancient city founded in 422/21 B.C.
Chersonesos has been included on the World Monuments Watch
List of 100 Most Endangered Sites Since 1996.
Ukraine's National Preserve of Tauric Chersonesos (NPTC)
By Kristin M. Romey, Managing Editor
Volume 55 Number 6, Pages 18-25
A Publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Long Island City, New York
On every July 28, the feast day of Grand Prince Volodymyr of Kyiv, several
hundred devout members of the Orthodox church pass through the creaking iron
gates of Ukraine's National Preserve of Tauric Chersonesos (NPTC) and pick
their way carefully through the preserve's breathtaking array of Greek,
Roman, and Byzantine ruins. While the tourists around them admire the
decorative mosaics encircled by seagrass and photograph tumbled columns
bleached by the Crimean sun, the worshipers--mostly handkerchiefed old
women--focus their sights on a large limestone church that rises from the
center of this archaeological landscape, as incongruous as the Russian and
Ukrainian warships moored in the harbors beyond.
Both tourists and the religiously observant are relatively new visitors
to Chersonesos (also known as Tauric Chersonesos after the Taurians, a tribe
that inhabited southwestern Crimea thousands of years ago). Widely regarded
as the most important archaeological site in the Black Sea region,
Chersonesos lay within the restrictive embrace of the "closed city" of
Sevastopol, home of the Soviet Union's Black Sea fleet, for more than 70
years. With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, and the opening of the area
to non-residents and foreigners five years later, NPTC officials have
welcomed foreign scholars and an influx of funding for research from
international organizations. Plans have been drawn up for a sophisticated
archaeological preserve that celebrates Chersonesos' 2,000-year history,
from its beginnings as a Greek colony to its legacy as the northernmost
outpost of the Byzantine Empire, as well as its artifacts from the Crimean
War and World War II.
The Orthodox church, freed from its Soviet-era restrictions, also has
plans for Chersonesos. It was here, in A.D. 988, that Volodymyr, grand
prince of the heretofore pagan Kyivan Rus, married the sister of the
Byzantine emperor Basil II and was reputedly baptized. Because of this
event, Chersonesos is often referred to as the "cradle of Rus [Eastern
Slavic] Orthodoxy." And it is this historical legacy, which took root some
1,500 years after the Greeks first landed on these windswept shores, that
has complicated archaeologists' dreams of a sunny future for Chersonesos'
The eight page article with photographs "Legacies of a Slavic Pompeii" is
not on the web. To read the entire article one needs to purchase the
Archaeology magazine for November-December, 2002, cover price is
Managing editor KRISTIN M. ROMEY would like to thank the Texas
based Institute of Classical Archaeology (ICA) and the NPTC for their
inestimable assistance in preparing this article. Additional reporting was
provided by Genia Mussuri in Kyiv.
For Further Reading:
The best resources for further information on Chersonesos can be found on
the web. The official NPTC site, www.chersonesos.org, is available in
English, Ukrainian, and Russian and covers everything from the prehistory of
the Heraklean Peninsula to the history of the preserve itself. The Institute
of Classical Archaeology at the University of Texas features their work at
Chersonesos at www.utexas.edu/research/ica/chersonesos. For general
information on far-flung Greek colonies, John Boardman's Greeks Overseas
(New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999) is a good resource.
Archaeological Institute of America, 36-36 33rd Street, Long Island, NY
ArtUkraine Information Service (ARTUIS)
Kyiv, Ukraine and Washington, D.C.
E. Morgan Williams, Publisher
The Art of Ukraine's Beautiful and Historic Archaeological Treasures"