Greeks in Ukraine

Greeks in Ukraine

A Greek presence throughout the Black Sea area existed long before the beginnings of Kievan Rus. For most of their history in this area, the history of the Greeks in Russia and in Ukraine forms a single narrative, of which a division according to present-day boundaries would be an artificial anachronism.

Greeks established colonies on what are now the Ukrainian shores of the Black Sea as early as 6th century B.C. The Greek colonies traded with various ancient nations around the Black sea: Scythians, Maeotae, Cimmerians, Goths, proto-Slavs. After the Polovtsy and Mongol-Tatar invasion of the steppes to the north of the Black Sea, Greeks remained only in the towns beyond the Crimean Mountains, on their southern slopes.

They lived among the Crimean Tatars until the conquest of Crimea by the Russian Empire and Tsarina Catherine the Great's plan to relocate the Greeks from Crimea to the northern shores of the Azov sea. New territory was assigned for the Greeks between today's cities of Mariupol and Donetsk, and basically comprises all the southern portion of Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine. Ukrainians and Germans were settled among the Greeks, and afterwards Russians. Ukrainians mostly settled villages and partly towns in this area, unlike the Greeks, who rebuilt their towns, even giving them their original Crimean names. Since this time in Ukraine names of settlements in Crimea match names of places in southern Donetsk Oblast: Yalta-Yalta, Gurzuf-Urzuf, etc.

During the Soviet era, Crimean Greeks were expelled after the Second World War. By the 2001 census there were 91,500 Greeks, the vast majority of whom (77,000) still live in Donetsk Oblast. Higher estimates such as 160,000 [1] have been reported in the past, explained by intensive assimilation enacted by the Soviet government. Thus many Greeks were intended to change to the more prestigious Russian nationality. Other concentrations of Greeks are in Odessa and other major cities.

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