Yalta (Ukrainian and Russian: Я́лта, Crimean Tatar: Yalta) is a resort city in Crimea, on the north coast of the Black Sea. The city is located on the site of an ancient Greek colony, said to have been founded by Greek sailors who were looking for a safe shore (γιαλός – yalos in Greek) on which to land. It is situated on a deep bay facing south towards the Black Sea, surrounded by wooded mountains. It has a warm humid subtropical climate with many vineyards and orchards in the vicinity.
The term «The Greater Yalta» is used to designate a part of the Crimean southern coast spanning from Foros in the west to Gurzuf in the east and including the city of Yalta and multiple adjacent urban settlements (the area of the Greater Yalta is marked dark blue on the map).
The existence of Yalta was first recorded in the 12th century by an Arab geographer, who described it as a Byzantine port and fishing settlement. It became part of a network of Genoese trading colonies on the Crimean coast in the 14th century, when it was known as Etalita or Galita. Crimea was captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1475, which made it a semi-independent subject territory under the rule of the Crimean Khanate but the southern coast with Yalta was under direct ottoman rule forming the Eyalet of Kefe (Feodosiya). Yalta was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1783, along with the rest of Crimea, sparking the Russo-Turkish War, 1787-1792. Prior to the annexation of the Crimea, the Crimean Greeks were moved to Mariupol in 1778; one of the villages they established nearby is also called Yalta.
In the 19th century, the town became a fashionable resort for the Russian aristocracy and gentry. Leo Tolstoy spent summers there and Anton Chekhov in 1898 bought a house (the White Dacha) here, where he lived till 1902; Yalta is the setting for Chekhov’s short story, «The Lady with the Dog», and such prominent plays as The Three Sisters were written in Yalta. The town was also closely associated with royalty. In 1889 Tsar Alexander III finished construction of Massandra Palace a short distance to the north of Yalta and Nicholas II built the Livadia Palace south-west of the town in 1911.
During the 20th century Yalta was the principal holiday resort of the Soviet Union. In 1920, Vladimir Lenin issued a decree «On the Use of Crimea for the Medical Treatment of the Working People» which endorsed the region’s transformation from a fairly exclusive resort area into a recreation facility for tired proletarians. Numerous workers’ sanatoria were constructed in and around Yalta. There were, in fact, few other places that Soviet citizens could come for a seaside holiday, as foreign travel was forbidden to all but a handful. The Soviet elite also came to Yalta; the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin used the Massandra Palace as his summer residence.
The town came to worldwide attention in 1945 when the Yalta Conference between the «Big Three» powers — the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom — was held at the Livadia Palace.