From Khrushchev to Putin—A social perspective of Crimea
Moscow: There are news that Russia is playing game in Crimea region of Ukraine to disintegrate Ukraine after pro-Russian President Yanokovich ran from Ukraine. There are many questions readers are asking who do not know about the Crimea and its historical, ethic, geographical and geopolitical aspects.
How Russia can take over Crimea and why this part of Ukraine looks so important for Russians? Why Ukrainians are worried that its East (Crimea and other parts) can be disintegrated and country can be divided into two parts— Western Ukraine and Eastern Ukraine? Who lives in Crimea? What is the ethnic division of Crimea?
Crimea had been important for many outsiders including Ottoman Empire, Greeks, Scythians, Byzantians and the Genoese who have all left traces of their presence in Crimean archeological sites and society. The Russian Empire annexed the territory of Crimea in the last quarter of the 18th century, after a number of bloody wars with the Ottoman Empire. As part of the 1774 Kuchuk-Kainarji peace treaty, the Crimean Khanate, previously subordinate to Ottomans aligned itself with Russia. Soon Empress Catherine the Great abolished the Crimean Khanate, giving them a historic Greek name of Taurida.
The majority of those living in Crimea today are ethnic Russians – almost 1,200,000 or around 58.3 percent of the population, according to the last national census conducted back in 2001. While this land actually belongs to Tatars who were forcefully resettled in other parts of Central Asia during USSR regimes and now only 12 percent are Crimean Tatars. Stalin’s deportation made Tatars minority in the region that is still a serious social issue with this land. Some 24 percent are Ukrainians (around 500,000).
In 1948, Sevastopol was separated from the surrounding region and made directly subordinate to Moscow. Serving as an important Soviet naval base, it remained a “closed city” for years.
In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who was an ethnic Ukrainian transferred the Crimea peninsula to the Ukrainian SSR, extracting it from Russian territory.
Transcript of the meeting of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on 19 February 1954:
“Crimea region, as is known, occupies the entire Crimean peninsula and geographically adjacent to the Ukrainian Republic, being as it were a natural extension of the southern steppes of Ukraine. Economy Crimean region is closely linked with the economy of the Ukrainian SSR. Geographical and economic reasons, the transfer of the Crimean region of the fraternal Ukrainian republic is appropriate and conforms to the common interests of the Soviet state / … / Given the commonality of the economy, the proximity and close economic and cultural ties between the region and the Crimea Ukrainian SSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Decides:
To approve the joint representation of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the transfer of Crimean region of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist
In the 1990s, the status of Sevastopol became the subject of endless debates between Russia and Ukraine. Following negotiations, the city with the surrounding territories was granted a special “state significance” status within the Ukrainian state, and some of the naval facilities were leased to Russia for its Black Sea Fleet until at least 2047.
An absolute majority of the Crimean population (97 percent) use Russian as their main language, according to a Kiev International Institute of Sociology poll. One of the first decisions of the interim Kiev government directly hit Crimea, as it revoked a law that allowed Russian and other minority languages to be recognized as official in multicultural regions.
After the Ukrainian President was ousted and an interim government was established in Kiev, the Russian majority started protesting outside the regional parliament, urging local MPs not to support it. They want the Autonomous Region to return to the constitution of 1992, under which Crimea briefly had its own president and independent foreign policy.
The parliament of the Crimean Autonomous Region was due to declare on Wednesday the region’s official position toward the new authorities in Kiev. The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars has spoken out sharply against holding a parliamentary session on the issue, expressing their support for the new central authorities. Back in 2012 members of the Mejlis ran for parliamentary elections as part of Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc and remain active supporters of the revolutionary Kiev government.
After the central government in Kiev disbanded the Berkut special police task force, new authorities in Sevastopol have refused to comply and welcomed all Berkut officers and offer them to reach Crimea with their families to live there.
Abolition of the regional language law sparked controversy throughout Ukraine. In the stronghold of the far-right opposition, Lvov citizens announced a day of the Russian language, calling on all locals to speak Russian for one day in solidarity with the Russian population of Ukraine.