Kerch Strait

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Kerch Strait
Kerch Strait, Ukraine, Russia, near natural colors satellite image, LandSat-5, 2011-08-30.jpg
Landsat satellite photo
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Kerch Strait
Coordinates 45°15′N36°30′E / 45.250°N 36.500°E / 45.250; 36.500 Coordinates: 45°15′N36°30′E / 45.250°N 36.500°E / 45.250; 36.500
Max. length35 km (22 mi)
Max. width3.1 to 15 km (1.9 to 9.3 mi)
Average depth18 m (59 ft)
Islands Tuzla Island
Location of Kerch Strait Locatie Straat van Kertsj.PNG
Location of Kerch Strait
Kerch Strait. View of the port in Crimea Kertsi vain.jpg
Kerch Strait. View of the port in Crimea

The Kerch Strait (Russian: Керченский пролив, Ukrainian : Керченська протока, Crimean Tatar : Keriç boğazı) is a strait connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, separating the Kerch Peninsula of Crimea in the west from the Taman Peninsula of Russia's Krasnodar Krai in the east. The strait is 3.1 kilometres (1.9 mi) to 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) wide and up to 18 metres (59 ft) deep.

Ukrainian language language member of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages

Ukrainian is an East Slavic language. It is the official state language of Ukraine, one of the three official languages in the unrecognized state of Transnistria, the other two being Romanian and Russian. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic script.

Crimean Tatar language Turkic language spoken in Crimea, Central Asia (mainly in Uzbekistan), and the Crimean Tatar diasporas in Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria

Crimean Tatar, also called Crimean Turkic or simply Crimean, is a Kipchak Turkic language spoken in Crimea and the Crimean Tatar diasporas of Uzbekistan, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as small communities in the United States and Canada. It should not be confused with Tatar proper, spoken in Tatarstan and adjacent regions in Russia; the languages are related, but belong to two different subgroups of the Kipchak languages and thus are not mutually intelligible. Crimean Tatar arrived in the 13th century with the Mongol Golden Horde, succeeding the Crimean Greek and Crimean Gothic Principality of Theodoro, and continued through the 15th–18th century Crimean Khanate period. Though only distantly related, it has been extensively influenced by nearby Oghuz Turkic languages such as Azerbaijani, Turkish and Turkmen.

Strait A naturally formed, narrow, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water

A strait is a naturally formed, narrow, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. Most commonly it is a channel of water that lies between two land masses. Some straits are not navigable, for example because they are too shallow, or because of an unnavigable reef or archipelago.


The most important harbor, the Crimean city of Kerch, gives its name to the strait, formerly known as the Cimmerian Bosporus. The Krasnodar Krai side of the strait contains the Taman Bay encircled by Tuzla Island and the 2003 Russian-built 3.8 kilometres (2.4 mi)-long dam to the south and Chushka Spit to the north. Russia had started the construction of a major cargo port near Taman, the most important Russian settlement on the strait.

Kerch City in Crimea

Kerch is a city of regional significance on the Kerch Peninsula in the east of the Crimea. Population: 147,033 .

Taman Bay

The Taman Bay is a shallow bay or gulf on the east coast of the Strait of Kerch shaped by the Tuzla and Chushka spits. It dips into the Taman Peninsula of Krasnodar Krai, Russia for about 16 km. The bay is 8 km wide at its mouth and is up to 5 metres deep. Fishing villages and the old townlet of Taman afford fine views of the bay. It is full of islets. Freezing normally begins in mid-December and continues until March.

Tuzla Island island

Tuzla Island, is a sandy islet in the form of a spit located in the middle of the Strait of Kerch between the Kerch Peninsula in the west and the Taman Peninsula in the east. The Strait of Kerch connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. Administratively, Tuzla is part of Kerch city in eastern Crimea.


The "Cimmerian Bosphorus" of antiquity, shown on a map printed in London, c. 1770. Map of Colchis, Iberia, Albania, and the neighbouring countries ca 1770.jpg
The "Cimmerian Bosphorus" of antiquity, shown on a map printed in London, c.1770.

The straits are about 35 kilometers (22 mi) long and are 3.1 kilometers (1.9 mi) wide at the narrowest and separate an eastern extension of Crimea from Taman, the westernmost extension of the Caucasus Mountains. In antiquity, there seem to have been a group of islands intersected by arms of the Kuban River (Hypanis) and various sounds which have since silted up. [1] The Romans knew the strait as the Cimmerian Bosporus (Cimmerianus Bosporus) from its Greek name, the Cimmerian Strait (Κιμμέριος Βόσπορος, Kimmérios Bosporos), which honored the Cimmerians, nearby steppe nomads. [2] In ancient times the low-lying land near the Strait was known as the Maeotic Swamp. [3] [4]

Taman Peninsula peninsula

The Taman Peninsula is a peninsula in the present-day Krasnodar Krai of Russia, which borders the Sea of Azov to the North, the Strait of Kerch to the West and the Black Sea to the South.

Caucasus Mountains mountain system in Eurasia

The Caucasus Mountains are a mountain system at the intersection of Europe and Asia. Stretching between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, it surrounds the eponymous Caucasus region and is home to Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe.

Classical antiquity Age of the ancient Greeks and the Romans

Classical antiquity is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 5th or 6th century AD centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome known as the Greco-Roman world. It is the period in which Greek and Roman society flourished and wielded great influence throughout Europe, North Africa and Western Asia.

During the Second World War, the Kerch Peninsula became the scene of much desperate combat between forces of the Soviet Red Army and Nazi Germany. Fighting frequency intensified in the coldest months of year when the strait froze over, allowing the movement of troops over the ice. [5]

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Red Army 1917–1946 ground and air warfare branch of the Soviet Unions military

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

After the Eastern Front stabilized in early 1943, Hitler ordered the construction of a 4.8-kilometre (3.0 mi) road-and-rail bridge across the Strait of Kerch in the spring of 1943 to support his desire for a renewed offensive to the Caucasus. The cable railway (aerial tramway), which went into operation on 14 June 1943 with a daily capacity of one thousand tons, was only adequate for the defensive needs of the Seventeenth Army in the Kuban bridgehead. Because of frequent earth tremors, this bridge would have required vast quantities of extra-strength steel girders, and their transport would have curtailed shipments of military material to the Crimea. The bridge was never completed, and the Wehrmacht finished evacuating the Kuban bridgehead in September 1943. [6]

Eastern Front (World War II) theatre of World War II - war between Germany and USSR 1941-1945

The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), Poland and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans) from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties.

Aerial tramway Aerial lift in which the cars are permanently fixed to the cables

An aerial tramway, sky tram,cable car, ropeway or aerial tram is a type of aerial lift which uses one or two stationary ropes for support while a third moving rope provides propulsion. With this form of lift, the grip of an aerial tramway cabin is fixed onto the propulsion rope and cannot be decoupled from it during operations.

The German Seventeenth Army was a World War II field army.

In 1944 the Soviets built a "provisional" railway bridge (Kerch railroad bridge  [ ru ]) across the strait. Construction made use of supplies captured from the Germans. The bridge went into operation in November 1944, but moving ice floes destroyed it in February 1945; reconstruction was not attempted. [7]

A territorial dispute between Russia and Ukraine in 2003 centred on Tuzla Island in the Strait of Kerch. Ukraine and Russia agreed to treat the strait and the Azov Sea as shared internal waters. [8]

Storm of November 2007

On Sunday 11 November 2007 news agencies reported a very strong storm on the Black Sea. Four ships sank, six ran aground on a sandbank, and two tankers were damaged, resulting in a major oil spill and the death of 23 sailors. [9]

The Russian-flagged oil tanker Volgoneft-139 encountered trouble in the Kerch Strait where it sought shelter from the above storm. [10] During the storm the tanker split in half, releasing more than 2000 tonnes of fuel oil. Four other boats sank in the storm, resulting in the release of sulphur cargo. The storm hampered efforts to rescue crew members. [11] [12] Another victim of the storm, the Russian cargo ship Volnogorsk, loaded with sulfur, sank at Port Kavkaz on the same day. [13]

Kerch Strait. View from the Crimean coast Strait of Kerch.jpg
Kerch Strait. View from the Crimean coast

Ferry and bridge transportation

After the war, ferry transportation across the strait was established in 1952, connecting Crimea and the Krasnodar Krai (Port KrymPort Kavkaz line). Originally there were four train ferry ships; later three car-ferry ships were added. Train transportation continued for almost 40 years. The aging train-ferries became obsolete in the late 1980s and were removed from service. In the autumn of 2004, new ships were delivered as replacements and train transportation was re-established.

Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov campaigned for a highway bridge to be constructed across the strait. Since 1944, various bridge projects to span the strait have been proposed or attempted, always hampered by the difficult geologic and geographic configuration of the area. Construction of an approach was actually started in 2003 with the 3.8 kilometres (2.4 mi)-long dam, provoking the 2003 Tuzla Island conflict. [14]

After the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea the government of Russia decided to build a bridge across the Kerch Strait. The 19-kilometre Crimean Bridge opened to road traffic in May 2018 and the rail section is expected to be operational in 2019.

Russian state-backed media claims that construction of the bridge caused increases in nutrients and planktons in the waters, attracting large numbers of fish and more than 1,000 of endangered Black Sea bottlenose dolphins. [15] However, Ukraine claims that the acoustic noise and pollution from both the bridge construction and military exercises may actually be killing Black Sea dolphins. [16]

On December 4, 2018 it was reported that at least 34 member countries of the International Maritime Organization supported Ukraine with respect to Russia’s armed military attack on Ukrainian vessels in Ukrainian and international waters near the Kerch Strait that occurred on November 25, 2018. [17]

Kerch–Yenikale Canal

View across the strait in 1839, by Ivan Aivazovsky Kerch aivazovsky.jpg
View across the strait in 1839, by Ivan Aivazovsky

In order to improve navigational capabilities of the Strait of Kerch, which is quite shallow in its narrowest point, the Kerch–Yenikale Canal was dredged through the strait. The canal can accommodate vessels up to 215 meters long with a draft of up to 8 meters with a compulsory pilot assistance.


Several fish-processing plants are located on the Crimean coast of the strait. The fishing season begins in late autumn and lasts for 2 to 3 months, when many seiners put out into the strait to fish. The Taman Bay is a major fishing ground, with many fishing villages scattered along the coast.

Related Research Articles

Sea of Azov Sea on the south of Eastern Europe linked to the Black Sea

The Sea of Azov is a sea in Eastern Europe. To the south it is linked by the narrow Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea, and it is sometimes regarded as a northern extension of the Black Sea. The sea is bounded in the northwest by Ukraine, in the southeast by Russia. The Don and Kuban are the major rivers that flow into it. The Sea of Azov is the shallowest sea in the world, with the depth varying between 0.9 and 14 metres. There is a constant outflow of water from the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.

Krasnodar Krai First-level administrative division of Russia

Krasnodar Krai is a federal subject of Russia, located in the North Caucasus region in Southern Russia and administratively a part of the Southern Federal District. Its administrative center is the city of Krasnodar. The third most-populous federal subject, the krai had a population of 5,226,647 as of the 2010 Census.

Kuban geographic region of Southern Russia

Kuban is a geographic region of Southern Russia surrounding the Kuban River, on the Black Sea between the Don Steppe, the Volga Delta and the Caucasus, and separated from the Crimean Peninsula to the west by the Kerch Strait. Krasnodar Krai is often referred to as "Kuban", both officially and unofficially, although the term is not exclusive to the krai and accommodates the republics of Adygea, Karachay-Cherkessia, and parts of Stavropol Krai.

Greeks in pre-Roman Crimea

Greek city-states began establishing colonies along the Black Sea coast of Crimea in the 7th or 6th century BC. Several colonies were established in the vicinity of the Kerch Strait, then known as the Cimmerian Bosporus. The density of colonies around the Cimmerian Bosporus was unusual for Greek colonization and reflected the importance of the area. The majority of these colonies were established by Ionians from the city of Miletus in Asia Minor. By the mid-1st century BC the Bosporan Kingdom became a client state of the late Roman Republic, ushering in the era of Roman Crimea during the Roman Empire.

Kerch Peninsula eastern portion of Crimea

The Kerch Peninsula is a major and prominent geographic peninsula located at the eastern end of the Crimean Peninsula.

Chushka Spit

Chushka is a long narrow peninsula, or sandy spit, in the northern part of the Strait of Kerch which extends from Cape Achilleion to the south-west in the direction of the Black Sea for almost 18 km. Administratively, it belongs to Temryuksky District, Krasnodar Krai, Russia.

Crimean Bridge bridge in Russia

The Crimean Bridge, or colloquially the Kerch Strait Bridge, is a pair of parallel bridges constructed by the Russian Federation to span the Strait of Kerch between the Taman Peninsula of Krasnodar Krai and the Kerch Peninsula of Crimea. The bridge complex provides for both road and rail traffic. With a length of 18.1 km (11.2 mi), it is considered to be the longest bridge in Russia and Europe.

European route E97 A-class European Route in Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and Turkey

European route E 97 is an A-class European Route in Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and Turkey. The highway runs for 1,360 kilometres (850 mi) in total. It connects the North Black Sea region with the South Black Sea region along the eastern shores of the sea.

Spits of Azov Sea Wikimedia list article

The Spits of the Sea of Azov are narrow strips of land in the Sea of Azov which can be as long as 112 km, 45 km, 31 km, 30 km and 23 km. Their total length exceeds 300 km which is larger than the width of the sea.

Russia–Ukraine border Separates territories of Ukraine and Russia

The Russian-Ukrainian border is the international state border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, which formally has been in existence since Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union, on August 24, 1991. Over land the border outlines five oblasts (regions) of Ukraine and five oblasts of the Russian Federation.

Kerch Strait ferry line

The Kerch Strait ferry line is the ferry connection across the Strait of Kerch in Russia that connects the Crimean Peninsula and Krasnodar Krai.

Port Kavkaz railway station

Port Kavkaz is a railway station in Krasnodar Krai, Russia.

Kerch–Yenikale Canal Canal in the Kerch Strait

Kerch–Yenikale canal is a maritime shipping canal in the Kerch Strait. It connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

"Bagerovo - Vyshesteblyevskaya" is a branch railway, which will replace the train ferry between Kerch and Port Kavkaz. The construction of the branch line will provide railway transit to the ports of the Crimea and the creation of a dry cargo area of the port of Taman. In combination with other enhancements, it will allow reducing the time for the movement of passenger trains from Moscow to Simferopol from 2 days to 18 hours. The cargo yard in the area of the future Portovaya station was put into operation in April 2016, which made it possible to bring the unloading station 32 km closer to the construction of the Crimean Bridge. The completion of the line is scheduled to before December 1, 2019.

Kerch Strait incident International incident between Russian and Ukrainian navy

An international incident occurred on 25 November 2018 when the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) coast guard fired upon and captured three Ukrainian Navy vessels attempting to pass from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait on their way to the port of Mariupol. In 2014, Russia had annexed the nearby Crimean Peninsula, which is dominantly internationally recognised as Ukrainian territory. It later constructed the Crimean Bridge across the strait. Under a 2003 treaty, the strait and the Azov Sea are intended to be the shared territorial waters of both countries, and freely accessible.

2003 Tuzla island conflict Territorial dispute between Russia and Ukraine

There was a territorial dispute over the ownership of the Tuzla Island between Ukraine and Russia in October 2003. The Russian authorities claimed the 1954 transfer of Crimea to Ukraine had only included the continental parts of Crimea, even though the Tuzla Island had been administratively part of Crimea since 1941.


  1. Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Minns, Ellis (1911). "Bosporus Cimmerius"  . In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica . 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 286–287.
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