Along the Crimea's northeast shore are a series of shallow, stagnant, but mineral-rich lagoons, known collectively as the Sivash or Putrid Sea, which are linked to the Sea of Azov by the Arabatskaya Strelka. The northern part of the Crimea is a semiarid steppe, drained by a few streams; this region supports fine wheat, corn, and barley crops. In the south rises the Crimean or Yaila Range (Yaltinskaya Yaila), with its extensive meadows and forests. The tallest peak rises to c.5,000 ft (1,520 m). In the Crimean Range is a major astronomical observatory. Protected by steep mountain slopes, the Black Sea littoral, once called the “Soviet Riviera,” has a subtropical climate and numerous resorts, including Crimea's Yalta. During the years of Soviet rule, the resorts and dachas of the Crimean coast served as the prime perquisites of the politically loyal. In this region are vineyards and fruit orchards; fishing, mining, and the production of essential oils are also important. Heavy industry in the Crimea includes plants producing machinery, chemicals, and building materials. The peninsula's territorial waters may have underwater petroleum and natural gas fields. A 10.5-mi (16.9-km) road bridge opened in 2018 connects Crimea with Russia across the Kerch Strait; an 11.9-mi (19-km) rail bridge opened in 2019.
Ethnic Russians now constitute some two thirds of Crimea's population. Ukrainians, once more than a quarter of the inhabitants, now make up about a sixth. After 1989 there was a movement back to the area of native Tatars who had been exiled to Central Asia in the Stalin era, and they grew to form more than a sixth of the population, but they now constitute about a tenth. These population changes have occured mainly since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea; tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Tatars have left for Ukraine, and a roughly comparable number of Russians have moved to Crimea. There are also smaller minorities of ethnic Armenians, Greeks, Bulgarians, and Germans.
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