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Articles Blog

Yalta, Crimea

Karyn Planett

A gentleman by the name of Denis Garsten wrote in his 1915 work, Friendly Russia, "Yalta is one of the most obviously beautiful places I have ever seen. A town of white houses that struggle for a foothold between the great green heights and the blue sea, it has often been compared to Monte Carlo." Well with good reason for it is indeed one of the lovliest spots along the Crimean peninsula. And along with the glorious scenery is a gentle climate that treats the visitor to warm days and comfortable nights.

A Look At The Past 

Yalta was once the showplace of the Soviet States. It was here that the members of the 19th-century Russian aristocracy chose to summer, building magnificent mansions and estates, palatial villas that compare quite favorably with those lining France's celebrated Riviera. In fact, in 1860, the Czar himself ordered the construction of a royal palace in nearby Livadia. Of course, members of nobility and the like followed, creating other marvelous get-aways for themselves. 

With the nobles and members of the landed aristocracy came a collection of creative souls. Anton Chekhov, the Russian writer and physician took up residence here. Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian novelist and philosopher, followed as did the Russian writer Maxim Gorky and Tchaikovsky, one of the most popular and influential Russian composers. Sergei Rachmaninoff, the Russian composer, conductor, and pianist was also in residence and, as history tells us, even performed in Mark Twain during his 1867 visit to Yalta. 

The Effects of the 1917 Revolution 

The year 1917 signalled the end of Imperial Russia. Czar Nicholas II was overthrown and Lenin came to power shortly thereafter. One of his first offical decrees was to nationalize all institutions. Within three years Lenin and his forces had wrested ownership away from the aristocracy and declared Yalta free from their control. These magnificent buildings now belonged to the people. No longer were these mansion to be used for teas and lavish balls, they were to become one of the largest and most important medical centers in the whole of Russia. Soviet citizens, members of the ruling class, were rehabilitated here for a variety of illnesses in a number of sanitaria, many of them former palaces.

The Historic Conference 

As World War II raged across the European continent, with German troops occupying much of the U.S.S.R. Many of their soldiers were stationed in the Crimea. As the dark days of the war were coming to an end the world's most powerful men gathered at the Livadia Palace in the seaside town of Yalta. The year was 1945. The cast included the British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill; U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt; and the Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. Among the major decisions reached by "The Big Three" was the decision to join together with France for an occupation of Germany; establish a founding conference for the UN that year; The Soviet Union's agreement to enter the war against Japan after Germany's defeat; and the guarantee of representative government in Poland. Basically what came out of the historic Yalta Conference was the design for Europe after the final guns were stilled. 

Today, the Livadia Palace is host to history buffs, world travelers, art enthusiasts, and just those who stumble across this magnificent, historic structure on their journey around the world. Some take greater interest in the section of the building utilized for a cardiac care center. Others simply want to stand where a great event in history occurred. Still others contemplate the great feat when more than 2000 workers labored, sometimes throughout the night, in the early 1900s to complete this great White Palace of Livadia. 

                                                                      Karyn L. Planett