In antiquity, the shores of the Tsemess Bay were the site of Bata, an ancient Greek colony that specialized in the grain trade. It is mentioned in the works of Strabo and Ptolemy, among others. Genoese merchants from the Ghisolfi family maintained a trade outpost there in the Middle Ages. Archaeological investigation of the area is in its infancy, but some interesting items have already been uncovered.
From 1722, the bay was commanded by the Ottoman fortress of Sujuk-Qale or Soğucak. After the coastline was ceded to Russia in 1829 as a result of the Russo-Turkish War, admirals Mikhail Lazarev and Nikolay Raevsky founded an eastern base for the Black Sea Fleet on the shore in 1838. Named after the province of Novorossiya, the port formed a vital link in the chain of forts known as the Black Sea Coastal Line, which stretched south to Sochi.
During the rest of the 19th century, Novorossiysk developed rapidly. It was granted city status in 1866 and became the capital of the Black Sea Governorate, the smallest in the Russian Empire, in 1896. In December 1905, the city was the seat of the short-lived Novorossiysk Republic. From August 26, 1918 until March 27, 1920, Novorossiysk was the principal center of Denikin's White Army. Denikin's South Russian Government was moved to Crimea and many Whites escaped from Novorossiysk to Constantinople.
Most of the town was occupied by the German and Romanian Armies on September 10, 1942. A small unit of Soviet sailors defended one part of the town, known as Malaya Zemlya, for 225 days beginning on February 4, 1943, and the town was liberated by the Red Army on September 16, 1943. The heroic defense of the port by the sailors allowed the Soviets to retain possession of the city's bay, which prevented the Axis from using the port for supply shipments. Novorossiysk was awarded the title Hero City in 1973.
In 1960, the town was commemorated in Dmitri Shostakovich's work Novorossiysk Chimes, the Flame of Eternal Glory (Opus 111b).
In 2003, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree setting up a naval base for the Black Sea Fleet in Novorossiysk. Russia has allocated 12.3 billion rubles (about $480 million) for the construction of the new base between 2007 and 2012. The construction of other facilities and infrastructure at the base, including units for coastal troops, aviation and logistics, will continue beyond 2012. In 2014 the naval base remained incomplete; completion is currently scheduled for 2016, and eighty naval vessels are scheduled to arrive at Russia's Novorossiysk naval base by 2020.
The Russian lease on port facilities in Sevastopol, which, though the main base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, is part of Ukraine, was set to expire in 2017. Ukraine was reported to be planning to not renew the lease; however, in April 2010 the Russian and Ukrainian presidents signed an agreement to extend the lease by twenty-five years, with an option of further extension of five years after the new term expires. However, in 2014, Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation during the 2014 Crimean crisis and as such the question of renewing the lease does not immediately arise while Crimea remains occupied by Russia and de facto part of the territory of the Russian Federation.
Within the framework of administrative divisions, it is, together with twenty-four rural localities, incorporated as the City of Novorossiysk—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the City of Novorossiysk is incorporated as Novorossiysk Urban Okrug.
Novorossiysk has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa).
The city sprawls along the shore of the non-freezing Tsemess Bay, which has been recognized since antiquity as one of the superior bays of the Black Sea.
The Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port–with the market capitalization of $1,110,000,000 and shares listed at Moscow Exchange and London Stock Exchange–serves Russian sea trade with regions of Asia, Middle East, Africa] Mediterranean, and South America. It is the busiest oil port in the Black Sea and the terminus of the pipeline from the Tengiz Field, developed by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium.
Novorossiysk is also an industrial city, dependent on steel, food processing, and the production of metal goods and other manufactures. Extensive limestone quarries supply important cement factories in and around the city.
Novorossiysk is connected by rail and highways to the main industrial and population centres of Russia, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia. The public transportation within the city boundaries consists of city buses, trolleybuses, and marshrutkas (routed taxis). However, with time, more and more people rely on automobiles as primary means of transportation.
The closest airports (Gelendzhik Airport, Anapa Airport and Krasnodar Airport, situated 33 kilometres (21 mi), 53 kilometres (33 mi) and 172 kilometres (107 mi) away from the city, respectively, offers flights to many cities in Russia.
The city association football team, FC Chernomorets Novorossiysk, plays in the Russian first Division.
Novorossiysk is not a resort town, but Anapa to the north and Gelendzhik to the south are. There are several urban settlements under the jurisdiction of Novorossiysk. The most famous is Abrau-Dyurso, which consists of a townlet on the shore of Lake Abrau and a village on the coast of the Black Sea, connected by a winding mountain road.
The area of Novorossiysk is one of Russia's main wine-growing regions. The wineries of Abrau-Dyurso, established by Tsar Alexander III in 1870, produce table and sparkling wines for domestic consumption.
Novorossiysk has a major sea port, a trolleybus system and a railway station.