The contemporary ethnonym of the indigenous people of Crimea is Crimean Tatars. Hellenes who came to the shores of Crimea already in the 7 century B.C. called the first inhabitants of the peninsula as Tauri. But Tauri were not the only ethnic group inhabiting the peninsula then. The flat lands were occupied by other tribes whose livelihood was different from that of Tauri inhabiting the mountain and coastal areas. Those tribes were cattle-breeders and military wise had cavalry that was unknown to Tauri. However Tauri mastered off-shore navigation and on their primitive vessels were undertaking piratic attacks on Hellene seafarers.
All this we know from Herodotus “History” (5 cent. B.C.) As for the cattle-breeding tribes of the flat areas of Crimea, they were known as Cimmerians according to rather detailed records by Strabo at the turn of the new era. It was him who wrote that Cimmerians - the very first aboriginals of the North Trans-Black Sea area and North- West Caucasus - were forced out from these territories to Asia Minor by Scythians already in the 7 cent. B.C.
If everything was so indeed, then we can confidently say that Tauri came to Crimea already in the second millennium B.C. (and perhaps even earlier). And first they were also occupying flat areas of the peninsula. They relocated to the mountains forcibly. Apparently they were forced out by newcomers, most likely Cimmerians, more numerous and better organised military-wise. Then there is a question: where did Tauri come from to Crimea since Crimean peninsula is not a "cradle of humanity".
Modern people appeared in Africa. And from there they started to explore the areas of Eurasia (see the map of modern people settling).
The issue above is not studies at all so a researcher in this area of knowledge had a vast space for putting forward hypotheses.
Our hypothesis suggests that Tauri were Celts – the most ancient inhabitants of Europe who came to Crimea while opening up the areas of Europe. It's known that right then Celts inhabited Europe from Trans-Black Sea region to British Isles. And they definitely were coming from east to west, so in Crimea they were supposed to appear earlier than in France (picture 1).
Nowadays Irishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen, Bretons and Gauls are considered as successors of Celts. The most noticeable characteristic of Celts' (and particularly Gauls') appearance is their cock nose (Gaul is translated in Russian as cock). First, it's big. Second, it has an inimitable form – it can't be confused with other noses (picture 2). Now, the most amazing fact is that among the aboriginals of Crimea – Crimean Tatars – such Celt noses can be seen just as often as among inhabitants of France (picture 3). This means that this person has a direct genetic connection with a Celt ancestor. Crimean Tatars have quite many of such ancestors despite the fact that Crimean Tatar nation includes over thirty ethnic groups of different origin.
As for Cimmerians who stayed in Crimean foothills after a major part of Cimmerian superethnos had left, since mid-first millennium B.C. they turned to sedentism occupied mostly with agriculture – in this respect foothills provided people with the most favourable natural conditions. Later on, during almost the whole millennium they were just assimilating with Tauri and Scythians (particularly within the period of Scythian-Sarmatian state) forming the core of the future Crimean nation nowdays called Crimean Tatars.
Scythian state that emerged in the 4 cent. B.C. with its capital Scythian Neapolis (in place of modern Simferopol) existed until the 3 cent. A.D. and united four peoples – ethnic groups: Tauri, Cimmerians, Scythians and Sarmatians. Though over time started to lose their leading grounds to Sarmatians (Alans) leaving the flat areas of Crimea for foothills where together with Cimmerians they were practising agriculture and in the meantime assimilating with them ethnically.
But having existed for almost seven centuries Scythian-Sarmatian state fell under attacks of new conquerors of Crimea who came from far Holland by the Baltic Sea. Germanic Goths drove Sarmatians-Alans from the flat areas of Crimea and forced them to escape to the mountains. Having settled on the south-west side of Crimean mountains remains of Alans founded some sort of a state that existed a few centuries afterwards under the name Alania.
But Goths, as Alans in the past, could not conquer coastal towns-states established already by Hellenes. However at the end of the first millennium B.C. all these states, from Chersonesos to Pontus, were under the influence of powerful Rome and thus securely protected by legions of Rome Empire from attacks of barbarians. As for the ethnic composition of these coastal territories, it was the most diverse though with prevalence of colonists of Mediterranean anthropologic type (picture 4).
Thus ancient Crimea ethnically was inhabited by Europeans who belonged to one Indo-European race. So far there were no Mongoloids among inhabitants of Crimea though ethnic differences were quite obvious since already then Crimea was inhabited by newcomers from most diverse and remote territories of Europe: in the south of Crimea there were people of Mediterranean genetic type, in the north – of Nordic one.
However in the year 375 all Crimea, both flat and coastal, was occupied by innumerable hordes of Asians who passed with fire and sword through all towns and settlements in Crimea. Having ravaged the town Huns left and took only pasture lands in the flat areas. So Goths had to escape to the mountains and build fortifications on forbidding slopes.
Crimean mountains have their own peculiarities: they are quite low and with flat peaks, their slopes are steep and abrupt. They are good not only for seeking shelter but also for living, agriculture and cattle-breeding though with limited resources. That's why Crimean mountains could be refuge for outcasts from flat areas and other more favourable for living territories. Due to these peculiarities mountains of Crimea became kind of an accumulator of almost all ethnic groupes coming to Crimea and willing to leave it. Without doubt, adaptation to life in mountain conditions demanded certain skills from people. Those who had them could survive.
Without going into analysis of these adaptive skills we just state that Ostrogoths, together with their predecessors, passed the test of mountain existence. They didn't only survive in severe and harsh conditions but could establish, living in mountains, quite powerful state between Balaklava and Sudak with a capital Mangup located on a flat and forbidding peak that existed for a period of millennium under the name Principality of Theodoro or just Gothia. The ethnic anthropological type of Goths preserved among Crimean Tatars until our days having Nordic characteristics – fair hair and skin, blue eyes and Nordic European appearance (picture 5).
The mountains in Crimea preserved the Hellene genotype as well. In another picture (6) there are two Crimean Tatars whose genealogy originates from settlement Ay-Serez though they were born in places of deportation. Such types are only a few left even in Greece itself. This is explained by the fact that Crimea from olden times was a multireligious place but marriages between people of different confessions were not welcomed that helped to preserve religious and ethnic identity. For this reason in the settlement Ay-Serez (as in other similar ones) there were Italians, coexisting but assimilating with Hellenes, who escaped to the mountain valleys from Turks, just as Hellenes did a hundred years before that being forced out from the coast by Italians.(picture 7).
However all mountain dwellers now call themselves only Crimean Tatars. Their ethnic roots they hardly remember. They are all united only by religion - Islam. And Islam came to Crimea with Tatars. So everyone who converted from indigenous inhabitants to Islam became a Tatar since from olden times people in Crimea distinguished each other not by ethnic but by religious origin. For example, all Christians were called Urums, Jewish – Krymchaks, Karays - Karaims, and Moslem were just called Tatars.
Conversion of Crimean to Islam began only after formation in 1443 of the sovereign state Crimean Khanate when Devlet Haji Giray Khan declared independence of Crimean Khanate from Golden Horde. The struggle for independence continued till 1502. During this time several dozens ethnic groupes of Crimea united in a nation that were cemented by Islam professed but the Khan. Many patriots of Crimea converted to Islam due to these particular reasons. But mass conversion of Crimeans happened during years when, after Mengli Giray had conquered the Golden Horde Empire, Orthodox Moscow declared itself a successor of the overthrown empire and aimed to restore its former borders. Then the people of Crimea responded to claims of Moscow to return Crimean province under the banner of double-headed eagle (A Golden Horde symbol) by massive conversion from Orthodoxy to Islam. Thus primarily Orthodox Crimea became almost totally Moslem.
It was not only indigenous ethnic groups that converted to Islam but also those who kept coming to Crimea. Among them we can name Roma, Armenians, so called Circassians (different settlers from Caucasus) and others. Becoming Moslems, migrants automatically turned Crimean Tatars, that is rightful citizens of a free and independent state. And, as opposed to slaveholding Russia, people in Crimean Khanate were free. And this freedom was given to them through Islam.
That is how Crimean Tatar nation was formed having over thirty ethnic groupes in its composition.
Summarizing it we can say that Crimean Tatar nation is a comparatively young entity but it united peoples-ethnic groupes who were coming to Crimea during four millenniums from most remote areas of Eurasian continent. This is first of all. Second, due to its young age the nation formed of three dozens ethnic groupes didn't manage to produce a unified appearance and it still has diverse faces and types originating from two races - European white and Mongoloid yellow. Third, Crimean Tatar nation emerged at the core of Crimean Khanate and didn't fall apart after its elimination but kept existing as a single community of people united by common religion, mentality and consciousness, as well as inflexible will to regain former motherland and independence. Trials of genocide that continue for already two and a half centuries only confirm firmness and endurance of Crimean Tatar nation. And finally forth. Crimean Tatars are the most ancient inhabitants of Crimea because the nation formed under Crimean Khanate absorbed all previous newcomers to Crimea. Before Crimean Tatars there were only Neanderthal men. But it is known that they died out already thirty thousand years ago. So Crimean Tatar together with Karaims and Krymchaks, sharing our religion, culture and language, are the indigenous people of Crimea. And this conclusion is beyond any doubt.