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Kerch (kyĕrch), city (1989 pop. 174,000), E Crimea. It lies on the Kerch Strait of the Black Sea and at the eastern end of the Kerch Peninsula, a strip of land between the Sea of Azov and 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 seaport and major industrial center, it has iron and steel mills, shipyards, fisheries, and canneries. Iron ore and vanadium are extracted nearby. Kerch is connected to the Taman Peninsula by a 10.5-mi (16.9-km) road bridge and an 11.9-mi (19-km) rail bridge across the Kerch Strait.

The city was founded as Panticapaeum (6th cent. B.C.) by Greek colonists from Miletus and was the forerunner of all Milesian cities in the area. It was a large trade center and a terraced mountain city with self-government. It became (5th cent. B.C. to 4th cent. A.D.) the capital of the European part of the Kingdom of Bosporus (see Crimea). It was conquered (c.110 B.C.) by Mithradates VI of Pontus, then passed under Roman and Byzantine rule, and was taken by Novogorod in the 9th cent. and called Korchev. Later (13th cent.) it became a Genoese trade center called Cherkio and was conquered (1475) by the Crimean Tatars, who called it Cherzeti. It was captured (1771) by the Russians in the first Russo-Turkish War (1768–74), and the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji (1774) formally gave it to Russia. Under Russia, Kerch was a military port and then became (1820) a commercial port.

There are ruins of the ancient acropolis on top of the steep hill of Mithradates. Archaeological remains, discovered in catacombs and burial mounds near the city, are in the archaeological museum (founded 1826), which is famous for its Greco-Scythian antiquities. The Church of St. John the Baptist dates from the 8th cent. The city has a marine fishery and oceanographic research institute.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city in Crimean Oblast, Ukrainian SSR; a port on the coast of the Kerch’ Strait; a railroad station. It has a diesel-electric railroad ferry crossing through the Kerch’ Strait (connecting the Crimea with the Caucasus). Population, 136,000 (1972).

In antiquity Kerch’ was known as Panticapaeum. It was founded in the sixth century B.C.; from the beginning of the fifth century B.C. to as late as the fourth century A.D. it was the capital of the Bosporan State. During the tenth and 11th centuries Kerch’ became a part of the Russian principality of Tmutarakan (the old Russian name for Kerch’—Korchev—was known since the ninth century). The city was an important link in the trade between Kievan Rus’ and the Crimea, the Caucasus, and the Mediterranean countries. During the period of the Tatar-Mongol invasion Kerch’ (then known as Cherkio) was a consulship (an administrative unit) subordinate to Genoa; after 1475 it became a base for Turkish domination in the Crimea. In accordance with the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji of 1774, Kerch’ along with the fortress of Enikale, built by the Turks near Kerch’ at the beginning of the 18th century, was ceded to Russia, and it became a part of Tavrida Province.

Since 1821, Kerch’ has been a roadstead port. Based on the Kerch’ iron-ore deposit, a cast-iron smelting plant began operations in 1846. The fishing industry was developed, as was also the extraction of salt and stone. During the Crimean War (1853–56) the British and the Tatars plundered and destroyed the city in 1855. In 1889, Kerch’ and Enikale became one borough (city administration). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Kerch’ became one of the largest ports in Russia; in the city there were metallurgical plants, iron works, flour mills, a cannery, and a tobacco factory.

In 1898 an organization of the RSDLP was created in Kerch’. On May 1, 1900, the first strike was held at the Kerch’ Metallurgical Plant; major strikes then occurred in 1903, 1905, 1906, and 1914. Soviet power was established in the city on Jan. 6 (19), 1918. During the Civil War (1918–20), Kerch was occupied by Austro-German troops in April 1918 and by Anglo-French interventionists in late 1918; later the city was captured by the White Guards. On Nov. 16, 1920, Kerch’ was liberated by the Red Army. During the prewar five-year plans a large metallurgical plant (with three blast furnaces) was built in Kerch’. During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), Kerch’ was liberated by Soviet troops twice, on Dec. 30, 1941 (it had been occupied on Nov. 16, 1941), during the Kerch’-Feodosiia Landing Operation (1941–42), and on Apr. 11, 1944 (the city had been occupied for a second time on May 19, 1942), as a result of the Crimean Operation of 1944. Utilizing the Kerch’ Quarries (of Adzhimushkai) as a base, Soviet Army units and partisan detachments heroically fought against the occupation forces. During its occupation the city was utterly destroyed; in the postwar years it was restored.

Outstanding among the city’s branches of economy are the mining and fishing industries. Located in Kerch’ are the Kamysh-Burun Iron-ore Combine and metallurgical, ship-repair, pipe-casting, building-materials, and container-glassware plants. There are also enterprises of the food-processing (fish and meat combines, etc.) and of light industry. The city has the Azov-Black Sea Research Institute of Marine Fishing and Oceanography, the general engineering department of the Sevastopol’ Instrument-building Institute, and metallurgical, mechanical mining, and evening naval mechanics technicums, as well as a medical school. There is the A. S. Pushkin Drama Theater and the Museum of History and Archaeology. The Church of John the Baptist (tenth through 13th centuries) is an architectural monument. On Mitridat Hill a monument has been erected to the soldier-liberators (1944, architect M. Ia. Ginzburg).


Gusarov, F., and L. Chuistova. Kerch’: Istoriko-kraevedcheskii ocherk, 2nd ed. Simferopol’, 1963.
V katakombakh Adzhimushkaia (Dokumenty, vospominaniia, stat’i), 2nd ed. Compiled by B. E. Serman. Simferopol’, 1970.
Sluchanko-Poplavskii, B. P. Kerch’: Ocherk-putevoditel’. Simferopol’, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a port in S Ukraine on the Kerch Peninsula and the Strait of Kerch (linking the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov): founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century bc; ceded to Russia in 1774; iron-mining, steel production, and fishing. Pop.: 153 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005