Now that the city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov has been conquered by the Russian army, it is worth looking back at how the city was founded, conquered and destroyed. It is a history that both offers deep insight into the psyche of Russia – and also lays bare the remarkable foundations of the modern Ukrainian state.
From time immemorial, nomads and migrating tribes drifted through what is now Ukraine, and the shores of the future Sea of Azov provided one of the most frequented routes. The European peninsula was populated in prehistoric times by migrant groups from Eurasia, shunting each other along like uncoupled wagons on a freight line.
That lonely stretch of the Azov shore, and what would eventually become Mariupol in Ukraine, lacked permanent habitation.