Kerch Strait

Kerch Strait

The Kerch Strait is a narrow strait that connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea between the Crimean and Taman peninsulas. The strait is about 4.5 kilometers long and 4 to 15 kilometers wide.

The Kerch Strait is an important transport route through which cargo and passenger ships pass, connecting ports in southern Russia and Ukraine. In addition, the strait is of strategic importance because controlling it allows controlling access to the Sea of Azov and its ports.


The Kerch Strait belongs to the waters of the Sea of Azov and connects it to the Black Sea. The Black Sea portion of the strait begins at Cape Panagia, located to the southwest of the Taman Peninsula.

In principle, the strait is navigable at any time of year, but in winter it is covered with floating ice. Usually the current in the strait is directed from the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea, but in some cases, such as when there is a strong wind from the south, the current may change.

The Kerch Strait between the Kerch (Crimea) and Taman (Caucasus) peninsulas connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The outermost capes are Ak-Burun on the Kerch Peninsula (Ukraine) and Cape Tuzla on the Taman Peninsula (Russia). The depth of the Kerch Strait is from 5 to 15 m. The shores of the Kerch Peninsula are elevated, while the Taman shores are low, cut by bays, gulfs and estuaries.

The Kerch Peninsula is elevated, and in some places precipitous and rocky, while the Taman Peninsula is low. Precipitation on the shores of the strait is low, and therefore there is sparse vegetation. The coastline is very winding, with many small peninsulas and bays. Long sandy spits protrude from the Russian coast.


In ancient times, the Kerch Strait was called the Bosporus Cimmerian. The Cimmerians were the people who inhabited the northeastern Black Sea coast in the II/III-VII centuries B.C., before the appearance of the Scythians here. The name “Bosporus” has mythological origins. For example, the ancient Greek playwright Euripides (480-406 B.C.) in his play Iphigenia in Tauris (414 B.C.) described how Io, the beloved of Zeus, crosses the strait and is turned by Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus, into a cow that is pursued by gadflies. Later another Greek playwright, Aeschylus (525-456 BC), called the crossing a “cow ford,” the Greek word for the Bosporus.

Two and a half thousand years ago, between the Panagia and Tuzla capes on the shore of the Gulf of Taman was the ancient Greek city-colony of Korokondama. Since then the sea wrested two kilometers from the shore, and the city reached the bottom.

Also here, on the Taman Peninsula, is famous Fanagoria – the largest ancient Greek colony on the territory of Russia. Phanagoria was founded in 543 BC. It was the capital of the Bosporan Kingdom, was part of the Byzantine Empire, and then – the Khazar Khaganate. In the early X century, when the sea level began to rise and the city began to go under water, the inhabitants left the area. Archaeological research showed that the constructions of Phanagoria were preserved at the bottom of the Taman gulf at a depth of 3-4 m.

In the 6th century BC the Ionian Greeks founded Pantikapey on the west coast of the strait – the future capital of the Bosporan Kingdom, which was located on the site of present-day Kerch.

Subsequently the strait had different names, depending on who ruled on its shores. In the Middle Ages it was called Taman-Bogazy (from Turkic “Taman Strait”), in the late XVIII – early XX century it had Russian names: Tauride, Yenikalsky, Kerch-Yenikalsky. In the 19th century the Russians who owned the whole peninsula of Crimea built the fortress of Kerch to defend the Kerch Strait.

During the Second World War the Kerch Peninsula was the site of bloody battles between German and Soviet troops. Battles became even fiercer in winter, when the strait froze and the troops could move across it.
The border between Russia and Ukraine currently runs along the strait, but it is still not precisely defined because of the disagreement between the parties.

The Tuzla Spit, a narrow strip of land in the Kerch Strait, has been the subject of a territorial dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

During World War II, a bridge over the Kerch Strait had already been built. In 1943 the German Führer, Adolf Hitler, demanded that a 4.8 km long road and railroad bridge be built to make a dash for the oil regions of the Caucasus and Persia, but the venture failed when the Germans were driven out of the Crimea. What the Germans did not succeed, the Russians temporarily succeeded: in 1944 they built a railway bridge across the Kerch Strait. The bridge was completed in November 1944, but the supports of the structure were not protected by icebreakers, and the metal piles collapsed during one of the winter storms in February 1945.

A new bridge has already been built, but it is not certain that such a bridge is needed at all: trade between Russia and Ukraine through the Kerch Strait is limited, and the Russian port “Kavkaz” on the Taman Peninsula exists solely to serve the ferry crossing. Most importantly, the obstacle to the construction of a permanent bridge was the uncertainty of the state borders in the Kerch Strait. Ukraine demands to keep the “Soviet” border, Russia insists on its revision. The main dispute has flared up over the Tuzla Spit.

The Tuzla Spit, or Tuzla Spit, in the Kerch Strait consists of an elongated island and a bulk spit running from the Taman Peninsula. Until 1925 it was a single spit adjacent to the Taman Peninsula, but the junction was eroded when local fishermen dug a channel in it to shorten the way from one side of the spit to the other. Russia considers Tuzla a spit that is part of the Taman Peninsula, while Ukraine insists that Tuzla is an island. Now the western part of the spit, separated by a strait, belongs administratively to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea of Ukraine, while the eastern part, connected to the mainland, belongs to Krasnodar Krai of the Russian Federation.

Fishing and navigation

The issue of the Tuzla Spit has been a subject of dispute between Russia and Ukraine since the collapse of the USSR. Whoever owns the spit controls the whole strait. The fact that Kerch herring and anchovy (a variety of Black Sea anchovy) chose this particular spit-island for spawning is also important. As a result, all the fish goes for processing only to Kerch fish factory.

Fishing in the Kerch Strait begins in late fall and lasts several months.

Fishing and shipping are the main sectors of the local economy. There are practically no minerals here, except for an iron ore deposit at Cape Iron Horn on the southern shore of the Taman Peninsula. Here is a unique outlet directly on the surface of the iron ore with iron content of 32%. Until 1932, iron was not mined, and collected in shallow water slabs, broken off from the ore layer.

General Information

  • Location: between Kerch (Crimea) and Taman (Caucasus) peninsulas. It connects the Azov and Black Seas.
  • Administrative affiliation: the border between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Ukraine.
  • Origin: tectonic.
  • Largest city and port: Kerch (Ukraine) – 145,319 people (2012).
  • Languages: Russian, Ukrainian.
  • Currency: Russian rouble, Ukrainian hryvnia.

Climate and weather

  • Moderately continental.
  • The average air temperature in January: -0.6°C.
  • The average temperature in July: +23.4°C.
  • Average annual precipitation: 450 mm.
  • Relative humidity: 70%.


  • Shipping industry.
  • Fishing.


  • Kerch: Ancient Greek city Mirmekiy (mid-6th century BC), ancient settlement Panticapey (5th century BC – 3rd century), Melek-Chesmen Barrow (4th century BC), the ancient settlement Tiritaka, the Crypt of Demeter (first half of the 1st century), the Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist (10th century), the fortress Yeni-Kale (18th century), the Great Mithridates Stairs (1833-1840), the Church of the Precursor of John the Baptist (18th century), the Archaeological Museum of Kherson (18th century). There is a monument to the Great Mithridates Stairs (1833-1840), the fortress of Kerch (19th century), the Bulganak Mudflat Field (Volcano Valley, Kerch), the Kerch Lapidarium, a monument to Mithridates VI Eupator (King of the Pontus Kingdom), a monument to the children of Kerch – victims of the war of 1941-1945, the salt lake of Chokrak (19th century), a monument to the children of Kerch, Salt Lake Chokrak.
  • Taman (Russia): Turkish wells (Turkish fountain, XV century), the archeological preserve “The Mound of Hermonass-Tmutarakan”, the Church of the Intercession (1793), the ramparts of the fortress of Fanagoria (1794), the House Museum of Mikhail Lermontov, the monument to the first Zaporozhye settlers, the Taman archeological museum, the museum of wine making.
  • Natural: Tuzla Spit, Cape Panagia (Taman Peninsula), Cape Ak-Burun (Kerch Peninsula).
  • Historical: the ancient Greek colony of Phanagoria (543 BC).

Fun facts

  • Cape Tuzla is the westernmost point of the Krasnodar Territory, except for the part of the Tuzla Spit restored in 2003. Locals call Tuzla Cape Cape Camel for its resemblance to this humpbacked mammal.
  • Cape Panagia height of about 30 m is a reef of the ancient warm ocean Tethys. It consists of bryozoans – ancient representatives of invertebrate animals, the size of which did not exceed 1-3 mm.
  • The excavations of Phanagoria have been carried out since 1936 and were interrupted only once – during the Second World War. Significant damage to ancient structures is inflicted by inhabitants of Stanitsa Sennaya, disassembling ancient Greek constructions and using stones for construction of the foundations of private houses.
  • The name of Ak-Burun Cape means “white cape” in Crimean Tatar.
  • Kerch Lapidarium, the repository of ancient inscriptions, is ranked 12th among the repositories of the classic epigraphic monuments of the world for the number of Greek inscriptions.
  • The Kerch ferry fleet consists of two ice-breaking ferries “Kerch-1” and “Kerch-2”, and also the automobile ferry “Yeisk”. The ferry ride interval does not exceed three hours, and in summer, due to the increased number of trips, it is reduced to two hours.
  • In addition to partially submerged ancient Greek cities in the strait there are also the remains of Ottoman warships.
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