The Western line on Crimea is so absurd that it actually requires mass historical ignorance to be believed
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
Ok, let’s start with a quick recap of the Western narrative on Crimea. In its various forms - always most zealous where least informed - it generally goes something like this:
“Crimea is part of Ukraine, has always been part of Ukraine, and will always be part of Ukraine. The 2014 referendum - held at the barrels of Russian guns - is illegitimate, unconstitutional, and will never be recognized.”
Two sentences - nice and neat, and easy to digest for the legions of brain-dead drones and dim-witted twits who constitute the majority of the Mainstream Media audience.
Now to your ordinary everyday Joe Six-Pack in the West, the idea that Crimea was stolen by evil Putin is perfectly understandable. Years-long, non-stop bombardment by MSM propaganda killed off any critical-thinking abilities he ever had a long time ago. However, when it comes to the reading audience here at RI - one that is considerably more intelligent discerning than its western counterpart - a bit more effort is required in explaining reality; and it doesn’t require much more than a cursory glance at history to meet such a meager expectation.
The March 16, 2014 Crimean referendum for independence from Ukraine and subsequent union with the Russian Federation was the culmination of a struggle spanning almost a quarter of a century. That is recent history.
In order to arrive at a more complete understanding of this monumental event, we may be well-served to look back a little longer even - maybe back to around, oh, say, just under a hundred years ago.
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was the catalyst of the Russian Civil War (1917-1921) - an event as savage and brutal as it is relatively unknown. Over the course of this bloody conflict, Crimea changed hands constantly, seeing no less than 10 different governments until it was finally consolidated as the Crimean Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic on October 18, 1921.
Crimea at that time was a Tatar autonomy of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) - a status it would enjoy until June 30, 1945, when it was stripped of its autonomous republic status and subsequently incorporated as an oblast (region) of the RSFSR in June 1946. This change in status was directly tied to Stalinist accusations of Tatar complicity with the Nazis during Germany’s temporary occupation of Crimea in World War II (accusations that led to the dictator eventually and cruelly rounding up and deporting the entire native Tatar population to the Ural Mountains in 1944).
Fast forward to April 1954 when the Soviet Union transferred the Crimean region from the RSFSR to the Ukrainian Soviet. This was done partly in recognition of the 300th anniversary of Russia-Ukraine unity, but more due to the dismal economic environment and a belief that it could be more effectively run by an entity that shared closer economic and geographic links. It was a belief that would have made sense at the time, as a breakup of the Soviet Union would have seemed absurd in the mid-1950s.
Crimea’s revamped 1954 status remained stable all the way up to the USSR’s eventual dissolution in 1990, and this is where things start to get rather interesting in light of current events.
Ukraine declared its state sovereignty on July 16, 1990. Shortly thereafter in September of that same year, the Crimean Supreme Soviet petitioned the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the RSFSR to rescind the 1945 decision that stripped Crimea’s autonomous Soviet status and reinstate it as an autonomous republic, just as it was back in 1921.
The proposal was put to a referendum on January 20, 1991, drawing the participation of over 80% of the Crimean public, who collectively voted over 94% in support of the ‘restoration of the Crimean ASSR as a subject of the USSR and as a party to the Union Treaty’, i.e., just over 94% of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine a full 23 years before that secession was finally realized.
So in a 1991 referendum on Crimean autonomy and separation from Ukraine, over 80% of the population participated and 94% voted in favor. Fast forward to the 2014 referendum to secede from Ukraine and 83% of the population participated and over 96% voted in favor. Are we seeing some consistency here? Or is this just some strange coincidence?
When the attempted coup of August 1991 failed, Ukraine immediately declared its independence from the USSR, and in December of the same year, held a referendum on independence. Interestingly, of all the regions of Ukraine, support for Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union was lowest in Crimea at around 54%, by far the lowest in any region of Ukraine.
The following year saw a flurry of political activity between Crimea, Moscow, and Kiev.
In January 1992, the Russian parliament and the Foreign Ministry both publicly condemned the 1954 transfer of Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR. A month later the Crimean parliament changed the territory’s name from the Crimean ASSR to the Crimean Republic. Two months after that, then Russian Vice President Alexander Rutskoy traveled to Crimea where he called on the Republic to secede from Ukraine. Almost immediately afterwards, the Crimean parliament declared total independence from Ukraine and proclaimed that it would be put to a referendum in August of 1992.
Kiev reacted immediately, declaring Crimea’s declaration to be unconstitutional and demanding that it be rescinded immediately. The Crimean parliament responded by suspending the referendum and called for a new power-sharing structure between Kiev and Simferopol. The very next day, the Russian parliament passed legislation declaring the 1954 transfer of Crimea to have been illegal and called for negotiations on the future of the Republic.
In June 1992, Kiev granted Crimea greater autonomy and special economic status on the condition that Crimea annul the proposed referendum for independence and alter its constitution to be consistent with that of Ukraine. The following month, the Russian parliament officially declared Sevastopol to be a Russian city; but this was quickly brushed aside by then President Yeltsin, who confirmed recognition of the then current borders between Russia and Ukraine. In August, Presidents Yeltsin and Kravchuk agreed that Sevastopol would be leased to Russia for the basing of the Black Sea Fleet. We will shortly return to this all-important point.
In March of 1994, Crimea held another referendum with just over 78% supporting greater autonomy from Kiev and over 82% supporting dual Ukrainian-Russian citizenship. In August, the Sevastopol City Council declared that it is a Russian city, subject to Russian legislation only. The declaration had the support of 36 of the 42 council members. Ukrainian authorities swiftly condemned the act as illegal.
By the beginning of 1997, Crimean Russians began to draw public attention to Ukrainian discrimination against the Russian language. Community leaders claimed that publications and television broadcasters whose content was primarily in Ukrainian were given preferential treatment by Ukrainian authorities. They were so concerned in fact, that an appeal was sent to the Russian government to start investigating linguistic discrimination not only in Crimea, but other areas of Ukraine with majority Russian-speaking populations. Two months later, riot police had to stand down over 1,000 protesters who tried to storm the parliament building at a protest in support of rejoining Russia.
In February of 1998 the Crimean parliament overwhelmingly voted to hold yet another referendum on returning to Russian jurisdiction and adopt Russian as the region’s official language, but to no avail. That same year, the Ukrainian parliament changed the name of Crimea to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and retained a right to veto any legislation passed by the Crimean parliament.
Crimea didn’t see any significant activity in the first decade of this century, with two notable exceptions, which were inversely connected in a way that almost perfectly depicts the complexity of this exceptionally strategic territory.
On May 27, 2006, the U.S. naval ship ‘Advantage’ anchored near the Crimean port of Feodosia to bring ‘technical aid’ to Ukrainian soldiers at a nearby training range.
It didn’t take long for locals to voice their displeasure with this unwanted arrival. Within two days, Feodosian residents began to picket the port, waving anti-NATO signs and blocking the ‘technical aid’ from reaching its destination.
When 200 Marines Corps reservists also arrived in the port city to take part in a military exercise called Sea Breeze 2006 scheduled for mid-July of that year, they were met with a similar measure of hostility. When they tried to make their way to the local training facility, their bus was surrounded by protesters who proceeded to rock it back and forth and tried to break its windows. The bus eventually made it to a local military base where the reservists remained holed up until their eventual departure from the peninsula when Sea Breeze 2006 was subsequently cancelled.
Fast forward to April 21, 2010 when Ukraine and Russia signed what was known as the Kharkiv Pact. Under the terms of the deal, Russia’s lease on the naval base in Sevastopol would be extended from 2017 to 2042 with an option to extend for an additional five years. Ukraine was to receive a 30% discount in the price of Russian-supplied gas under the deal, which would be equal to an increase in the rent that Russia would pay for the base.
The deal led to a fierce debate in the Ukrainian parliament which eventually degenerated into a full-on physical brawl between egg-throwing and smoke bomb-tossing MPs.
To look at the voting results of the lease extension is to find further confirmation of the fundamental differences between the more ethnically-Russian east and south and the more ethnically-Ukrainian north and west:
|Faction||Number of deputies||For||Against||Abstained||Did not vote||Absent|
|Party of Regions Faction||161||160||0||0||1||0|
|Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc||154||9||0||0||0||145|
|Our Ukraine–People's Self-Defense Bloc||72||7||0||0||0||65|
|Communist Party of Ukraine Faction||27||27||0||0||0||0|
|No faction affiliated||16||13||0||0||1||2|
Almost half of the parliament abstained from the extremely controversial vote; but it is quite clear from looking at the other half that did participate, that ranks had basically closed and parties representing the ethnic-Russian constituencies almost uniformly supported Russia's continued lease of the base, while those parties representing ethnic-Ukrainian constituencies were almost uniformly opposed.
How much of a wonder then, can it possibly be to anyone that these two sides are still locked in a death grip over Crimea?
The simple-minded and fact-free Western narrative of today's Crimea, its non-existent history, its irrelevant population, and its ultimate annexation by evil Putin, is as offensive as it is pathetic.
If the West were to be honest with itself, it would show a little shame and start telling the truth. It would, if perfectly honest, most likely go with something like this:
"Crimea is one of the most important geo-strategic military locations in the world and we've been trying like hell to get a hold of it for the last 25 years, so we can get in there and nail down the Black Sea while kicking those god-damned Russkies out in the process. We were sure we had it when we overthrew Yanukovich last year, but damned if that little S.O.B. in the Kremlin didn't snatch it right out from under our feet. Well, hell, looks like the only things we can do now are cry, lie, and try to delegitimize the hell out of these people in our mainstream media while simultaneously doing everything we can to make their lives as economically difficult as humanly possible. Damn, we were close."
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