Few in Western Europe are known for the name Kerch. Kerch, with a population of just under 150,000, is less than Sevastopol, unlike Sevastopol, has never had a special political-state status and is located at the other end of Crimea, at the easternmost point and is, to a certain extent, a city on a peninsula of the Peninsula.
But Kerch is a highly interesting city for those interested in politics and history – for three reasons:
The city held a key position in the invasion of the German troops to conquer Russia and was therefore more than just fiercely contested. Here the brutality of the German Wehrmacht and the willingness of the Soviet soldiers and the Russian civilian population to defend themselves became particularly visible to the last.
In response to the referendum in March 2014, when the people of Crimea decided to rejoin Russia, Ukraine closed the canal that brought water from the Dnieper River to Crimea. But closing a water supply means exposing the population to hunger in the long term or expelling them completely from the country. Ukraine thus already follows the Western human lyrising values of which they always speak. Of course with finger pointing at others! It’s always the others!
Russia’s response to such actions by Ukraine was to build a bridge to Kerch from the Russian mainland as soon as possible. It has now been completed and is open to free car and truck traffic.
Resistance to the German Wehrmacht until starvation
On June 22, 1941, the troops of Hitler’s Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Already in November the Wehrmacht was about to conquer Crimea in order to be able to invade the interior of the Soviet Union in the south. There were fierce fighting, especially around the town of Kerch in the far east of Crimea, which was soon captured.
In particular, the German troops dealt with the Jews there. On November 27, 1941, the commander on the ground reported to the rear services: “The liquidation of the Jews is being accelerated because of the endangered food situation of the city.” Indeed, the following day the Jews of the city were instructed to take the following steps. tomorrow at the so-called hay market. From there, they were transported to a nearby village and shot in a tank trench. About two and a half thousand Jews from Kerch were murdered within a few hours.
However, the Soviet troops were able to land again on the Kerch peninsula, and the Wehrmacht had to withdraw briefly. But already in May 1942 Kertsch was conquered again as part of the so-called company Trappenjagd. Nearly 30,000 Soviet soldiers were killed and more than 150,000 were taken prisoner.
Some 14,000 Soviet soldiers and civilians were able to hide and hide in the underground limestone quarries there, The So-called Catacombs. Since there was no light, water or anything to eat, the entrenched had to break out of the caves again and again to supply the hidden – and often only a few came back. They were mostly discovered and shot by the German troops. The Germans then began to let toxic gas flow into the underground corridors and they tried to break up the limestone plant, which had become a fortress, with bombs. For more than five and a half months, the Soviet soldiers endured there without surrendering. Eventually, most of them thirsted or starved in the dark caves. It was only on 30 October that the Germans really managed to capture the underground passages. There were no more than a hundred survivors in it, and most of them were executed in Simferopol in the following days. The following year, there were no more ten men who survived this hoard of resistance against the troops of Hitler Germany and were able to report it to posterity.
Ob was this resistance worth it? In Kerch, even today’s generation remembers very well the battles with the attacking Germans. Of the more than 100,000 inhabitants of the town of Kerch, about 15,000 lost their lives, most others were deported or expelled, and very few inhabitants survived in the city itself. It was a horrendously high price, which the civilian population and the Soviet soldiers had to pay to defend their homeland, but they actually delayed the advance of the German troops by almost half a year and this half year second profit. in turn, it was infinitely important for the Red Army to prepare the defense of the German troops inside Russia.
It is surprising that a large monument has been erected to commemorate this resistance of the 14,000 Soviet soldiers and civilians from the area, or that these underground passages are accessible today, or that people from the surrounding area still bring flowers today: in memory of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, who sacrificed themselves at that time to defend themselves against the German Wehrmacht? It is because their descendants do not forget this terrible story so quickly.
How Ukraine is trying to bring Crimea to its knees
On 16 March 2014, against the will of the new government in Kiev, the Krimeer decided in a referendum to say goodbye to ukraine, which was never loved, and to rejoin Russia, not least as a result of the bloody clashes at Euromaidan in Kiev. In response, just a few days after the referendum, Ukraine blocked the supply of electricity to Crimea and– almost more drasticly: a month later, it stopped the supply of water from the Dnieper River and blocked the 1961 to 1971, i.e. Soviet-era canal, which until now carried up to 1.8 billion cubic meters of water per year into the northern, steppe-like dry part of Crimea, and this as far as Kerch. This water was used to irrigate around 3,000 square kilometres of agricultural land.
Ukraine probably meant that it could win back the population of Crimea with such tough measures. A total misjudgment! In many conversations with people from all walks of life and in different regions, we have not found men or women who would like to be part of Ukraine again. Alleged punitive measures, such as the blocking of electricity or the drying of the North Crimean Canal, have had one thing in particular: a strengthened conviction that it was right to reunite with Russia.
Finally a bridge to the Russian mainland
If Western TV viewers have heard the name Kerch, it is probably because of the new bridge that Russia built in record time and which opened for car traffic up to 3.5 tons on May 15, 2018. Since October 2018, heavy trucks are now allowed to drive over it. The opening of the railway bridge, which runs parallel to the road bridge, but apparently for safety reasons at the 227m wide bridge arch, is planned for autumn 2019.
In fact, several kilometres further north and on seismic soil, there was already a bridge between Crimea and the Russian mainland. However, many of its pillars did not withstand the drifting ice floes on February 20, 1945, and the bridge collapsed, just a week after Joseph Stalin had used the bridge on his way home from the conference in Yalta.
After the Second World War, there were repeated projects for a bridge between Kerch and the Russian mainland, specifically between Kerch and the Taman peninsula. Since 1991, the declaration of independence of Ukraine, however, the priority of such projects was hardly given, since Ukraine showed little interest in a closer transport link between Crimea and Russia. That changed abruptly in March 2014, when the people of Crimea decided in a referendum to break away from Ukraine and reunite with Russia.
The whole bridge is 19 km long, the span of the widest opening is 227m wide and the passage 33m high. As a result, ships of any size can no longer enter the Sea of Azov. Russia is accused of not only controlling the Kerch Strait in violation of international law, but also deliberately delaying passage for certain vessels, which would lead to large additional costs for the shipping companies concerned.
Shortly after the reunification, the construction of a new motorway from Kerch via Simferopol and Bakhchayajij to Sevastopol began: the Tavrida. Many sections of the route are already passable on one side. With the better development of Crimea also for commercial transport, the economic upswing is to be intensified even outside the port cities.
There are random checks
When crossing, there are random checks, comparable to the checks between Germany and Switzerland. It should not be surprising that the Western despots in Kiev announced that they would have the bridges blown up by Ukrainian nationalists. The local population will be happy to help you to accommodate the bridge accordingly. Photographing on the bridge is not allowed without permission!