Kerch is a city of regional significance on the Kerch Peninsula in the east of the Crimea.
Founded 2,600 years ago as an ancient Greek colony, Kerch is considered to be one of the most ancient cities in Crimea. The city experienced rapid growth starting in the 1920s and was the site of a major battle during World War II.
Today, it is one of the largest cities in Crimea and is among the republic's most important industrial, transport and tourist centres.
On the Eastern Front of World War II from 1941 to 1945, Kerch was the site of heavy fighting between Soviet Army and Axis forces. After fierce fighting, the city was taken by the Germans in November 1941. On 31 December 1941 the 302nd Mountain Rifle Division recaptured the city following a naval landing operation at Kamysh Burun, to the south of the city, five days earlier. In 1942 the Germans occupied the city again. The Red Army lost over 160,000 men, either killed or taken POW at the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula. On 31 October 1943 another Soviet naval landing operation was launched. Kerch returned to Soviet control on 11 April 1944.
The German invaders killed about 15,000 citizens and deported another 14,000 during their occupation. Evidence of German atrocities in Kerch was presented in the Nuremberg trials. After the war, the city was awarded the title Hero City.
The Adzhimushkay catacombs (mines) in the city's suburbs were the site of guerrilla warfare against the occupation. Thousands of soldiers and refugees found shelter inside, and were involved in counterattacks. Many of them died underground, including those who died of numerous alleged poison gas attacks. Later, a memorial was established on the site.