What is the basis of the “west” insisting that Crimea is an integral part of the Ukraine? The peninsula has no historical association with any country known as The Ukraine (which only came into existence in 1991) and ethnic Ukrainians have never compromised anything like a majority of it’s population. (About 24% today which is probably the highest it has ever been). On the other hand the Crimean connection with Russia dates back over two hundred years to the time of Catherine the Great and it has a majority ethnic Russian population.
The basis of Ukraine’s claim to Crimea seems to be that the Crimean Oblast was transferred from the Russian Soviet Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic by Khruschev in 1954. There are, however, a number of problematic things regarding this “gift”:
1. The people living in Crimea were not consulted in any way, shape or form.
2. The people of Russia were not consulted.
3. The transfer was subsequently tested in the Soviet Supreme Court and found to be unconstitutional.
4. It was not a transfer from one state to another but between two Republics of the Soviet Union.
Was this a reasonable basis for it being made part of a new independent Ukraine?
5. Sevastopol was not part of the Crimean Oblast but was administered directly from Moscow. Accordingly, it was never transferred.
Unfortunately, for the people of Crimea the early 90’s saw the Soviet Union presided over by the drunken lackey of the west Boris Yeltsin who was primarily concerned with breaking up the Union and distributing it’s assets to private individuals. Crimea should not have been permitted to go to the Ukraine but Yeltsin was more interested in appeasing the “west” than looking after the interests of Russia or Russians. The people of Crimea were left hanging out to dry.
The entire history of the peninsula from the breakup of the Soviet Union to the present time has been one of its residents demonstrating time and time again that they are not a natural part of the Ukraine and do not feel at home there. And while they have managed to secure some level of autonomy through struggle this has always been under threat from the Ukrainian government if not simply revoked. In 1995, for example, the Ukrainian parliament passed The Law of Ukraine on the Status of Crimea which simply abolished the Constitution of 1992 adopted by the Crimean Parliament (and which had been operational for three years) and the Crimean Presidency. Accept this or face our guns were the options given the Crimeans.
This Sunday the people of Crimea are being given an opportunity to state their view on what they wish their future to be. One option is to leave the Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Another is for greater autonomy within the Ukraine by reinstating the 1992 Constitution. The Ukrainian government and it’s western backers have stated that they will not accept the result of this referendum. Why is this? Should Crimea rejoin Russia will the Ukraine be losing some integral part of it’s territory that it has enjoyed for hundreds of years? No. Crimea only became part of the Ukrainian State in living memory, with the breakup of the Soviet Union (against the stated wishes of it’s people) in 1992. There is no historic legitimate basis of a Ukrainian claim to Crimea. Should the people of Crimea choose greater autonomy under the 1992 Crimea Constitution which was torn from them why should they not have this?
The conflict in Crimea is not an outcome of Russian irredentism as some would have us believe. It is because the people of the peninsula have been forced into a country the majority do not feel part of. Neither the ruling circles in the Ukraine nor it’s western backers have been willing to recognise their legitimate aspirations. The hypocrisy in this is outstanding. We are constantly told that it would be wrong to force a million protestants into a united Ireland but the British government has never had a problem with a million ethnic Russians being forced into the Ukraine against their will. Unfortunately, what determines the position of imperialist powers is their geo-political interests not the rights or wrongs of any particular situation. The “west” wants strategically important Crimea in the Ukraine and the Ukraine in NATO in pursuit of its global hegemony. How the people of Crimea may feel is not important to it.
Sam Lord 11 March 2014
Discussion on this and other related issues at Politicalworld.org’s Ukraine forum