Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism > A Brief Overview of Historical Facts Behind the Russian Claim to Crimea

A Brief Overview of Historical Facts Behind the Russian Claim to Crimea

I originally considered writing this post in early 2014, but thought that the subject matter was so straightforward that even the average geography and history averse person in USA could figure it out by simply googling around for a few minutes. Well.. it is early 2017 now, and based on recent comments made by the newly elected president of USA and many “credentialed” experts and policymakers in the same country– it is obvious that many people in USA (especially those in power) are either naive, or more likely, deliberately ignorant about the historical nature of the Russian claim to Crimea. So let me give you a brief refresher in why Russia has a very solid and strong historical claim to Crimea.

Here is a little relevant history. Crimea, also known as the Crimean Peninsula, is a land mass on the northern coast of the Black Sea which is almost completely surrounded by the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov to the northeast. Over the millennia, it has been part of many different empires- from the Greek city states, Persian Achaemenid Empire, Roman Empire, various groups of Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Byzantine Empire, Khazars, the Kipchaks, the Golden Horde and Crimean Khanate. However since 1783, it has been a part of the Russia- first as part of the Russian Empire, then the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and now the Russian Federation.

Now, it is true that in 1954 a then newly elected Nikita Khrushchev (who was Ukrainian by birth), did transfer administration of Crimea from the Russian part of USSR to its Ukrainian part. While we can not be completely certain about his precise motivations, it is likely that convenience of administration in combination (mainly geography) with a belief in the durability of USSR were the principal factors. In any case, this transfer was largely symbolic since Crimea retained a Russian-speaking majority. Let us now fast forward to 1991 and the dissolution of USSR. At that time, Russia did not take Crimea back by force- largely because it could get everything it wanted through treaties with Ukraine.

That arrangement worked pretty well for a decade or so.. and then the USA started to interfere in Ukrainian politics through various ‘color’ revolutions. USA-friendly political parties and governments in Ukraine then started to talk about abrogating their previous arrangements with Russia regarding many things- including agreements regarding Crimea. All of this talk about taking a tougher line with Russia coincided with the resurgence of Russian military and economy power in that decade. As some of you might know, Crimea apart from being a favorite destination for sun-seeking Russian tourists over the years has long been an important military (and commercial) port for Russia- since the time it was originally annexed in 1783.

Asking Russia to give up Crimea has no basis in anything approaching reality. Firstly, Crimea has been part of Russia since 1783. Secondly, Crimea has had an ethnic Russian majority for many decades now. Thirdly, Russia has successfully fought multiple and bloody wars to retain possession of Crimea since it first annexed it in 1783. Fourthly, Russia still has many thousands of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles making it essentially suicidal to challenge its claim to Crimea via use of military power. Fifthly, economic sanctions are not going to make Russia give up Crimea- because it is seen by the majority of Russians as an integral part of their country.

And this brings me to an interesting comparison of the time-frame that Crimea has been part of Russia to American history. As many of you know, USA was formed when thirteen British colonies in North America declared independence from England in 1776. In other words, USA has been a nation for only 7 years longer than Crimea has been a part of Russia. But it gets even better. Have a look at the map of the original 13 colonies below- click on map to enlarge it. Notice something?

usa_1775-1776

Ya.. most territory which is now considered to be part of USA was not part of it in 1776. To be more precise, precursors to 37 out of the 50 current states which constitute USA today did not even exist in 1776. In fact, the first major expansion of USA, the so-called Louisiana Purchase, would not occur until 1803- about 20 years after Crimea first became part of Russia. Here is a list of the dates when each state officially joined USA. Many states in USA (especially in the South-West and Hawaii) therefore have a far stronger claim to secession from USA than Crimea has from Russia.

But perhaps the oddest, and peculiar, part of the current official policy of USA towards the historically justified Russian claim to Crimea is the massive amount of magical thinking necessary for any non-retarded person to even consider the possibility that Russia will negotiate on (let alone give up) Crimea. It is as if all the “experts” and policy makers in USA mentally inhabit a world where the USA is the sole superpower, rather than the rapidly crumbling mess that it has become. Or maybe the government elite in the USA see such exercises in stupid futility as a useful distraction for the masses so that they keep on robbing the system for a little while longer..

What do you think? Comments?

  1. anon
    February 16, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    There is a bigger picture in the Crimea. When Russia conquered the Crimea, it became Russia’s frontier. Catherine the Great then invited foreigners to settle in the frontier, motivated less by any generosity, more by the desire to have a buffer, a DEW LINE, against foreign enemies. By the late 1800’s, after far more than a century, things began to go south for the settlers who had made quite a name for themselves as wealthy farmers and entrepreneurs (my own ancestors), eventually drawing the envy of the Bolsheviks, who grew out of Russia’s emancipation of surfs, predating our own emancipation of slaves, forcing settlers from Russia to the US and other places, the remaining settlers, if not executed during the Russian Revolution, were deported to Siberia or starved during the Great Famine under Stalin. It is not known how many of my ancestors had perished at the hands of the Bolsheviks, the revolution and the USSR, but the fall of the USSR has made it possible for us to find a handful of long lost surviving family members in Siberia. It is a similar story in Ukraine and the Crimea for other people who can and will never forget the horrors of communism. For these reasons, together with the will of the people of the world, Putin will never ever prevail. Like all bullies when overcome by fear, he will back down. The Crimea should never revert back to Russia any more than California should revert back to Mexico just because Hispanics have become a majority in the “peninsula” of LA.

    • webej
      February 17, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      or because it was seized by force of arms ??

  2. February 16, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    One of Russia’s basic strategic problems for centuries was its relative lack of warm water ports, that is, ports that weren’t frozen during the winter. Furthermore, they’ve long seen access to the Black Sea as part of their sphere of influence, particularly from the Crimean port of Sevastopol which as you noted, AD, has been an important location for thousands of years.
    There’s no way they’re giving that up now. Hillary and Obama finally overplayed their hand when they started fomenting revolutions right under Putin’s nose. Russia sees East Europe kind of how America sees Latin America and the Caribbean. That people who work in foreign affairs for a living could have ignored such basic facts is astounding.

    The British and French fought a bitter war trying to deny Russia access to the Crimea, this has been done before. Not to mention symbolic locations like the palace where the post WW2 order was negotiated between the great powers is located on the Crimea.

    If anyone were to still doubt the importance Russians place on strategic ports, they ought to look at a map and see how even in the chaos of Soviet collapse, the Russians retained the Baltic port of Kaliningrad as a basic condition for the independence of the Baltic nations.

    Yes, the elite in USA seem to believe that they can create their own reality. However, as recent events have shown- reality has a way of always asserting itself in the end.

    • anon
      February 16, 2017 at 10:31 pm

      Before Putin seized Crimea in 2014, Russia already had control of Sevastopol, via treaty with Ukraine.

      The only reason Putin seized Crimea is because he had failed to seize Ukraine via elections using fear, intimidation and murder of journalists. And the only reason Putin started the war in eastern Ukraine was to establish a land corridor between Russia and Crimea (Sevastopol), after concluding that he had already lost Ukraine Proper, politically, to the EU and the West.

      Today, Crimean Russians are as dissatisfied with Moscow as Ukrainians are, after inflation has halved the standard of living in the Crimea ever since Putin invaded and seized control. Before Putin invaded, the Crimea imported much of its goods from the Ukraine. Now, the Crimea must import most of its goods from Russia, the extra transportation costs, much of it by expensive air transport, dramatically inflating prices.

      When the USSR folded, most of the satellite nations became independent countries, including the Ukraine with its Crimea. And once capitalism dramatically revived the economy of Russia, guys like Putin got it in their heads to begin reclaiming all the satellite nations, as though the USSR had never folded. When they couldn’t do it by legal elections, they began doing it by force, first in Chechnya, then in Ukraine. But Ukraine said “not so fast,” wanting to remain an independent nation, allying itself with the West to throw out the Russians once and for all and for good. We know the rest of the story, and no way in hell will Russia prevail in an age when territorial acquisition by force is obsolete. Trump will never give in to Putin without Russia fist getting out of both Ukraine and the Crimea.

  3. anon
    February 16, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Ukraine (and Crimea) gained independence in 1991, after many decades of Soviet domination and politburo rule. Both Russians and Ukrainians were dancing in the streets of Kiev, both ethnic groups having formed a kinship under Soviet exploitation of Russians and Ukrainians alike. Almost from this outset, Moscow began meddling in Ukraine’s political affairs, throwing elections by killing journalist and candidates who could not be bribed, which violence now divided the ethnic groups. It’s akin to Mexico helping Hispanics gain political control of, say, Southern California. Then, after the citizens of California became fed up with monumental Hispanic corruption, took control back by force, Mexico then responding with military troops, occupying Southern California under the guise of protecting Hispanics. So what if the Ukrainians threw the corrupt Russians out of office? They couldn’t throw them out by elections, so they threw them out by force. No matter how you otherwise want to slice it, you can’t argue that Putin should have a free pass on Crimea.

    The biggest problem with that argument is that the USA itself was also largely built on genocide and slavery. Every crime that you can accuse Russia of has been already done on a much larger scale by the USA- ask any person in latin america or the middle-east.

    • February 17, 2017 at 11:51 am

      The tactics you describe Russia using in Eastern Europe are very similar to American policy Latin America and the Caribbean. Look at how much baseball is played in a given island country and you have a rough map of long term US occupations.

      Obviously, Putin felt insecure his access to Sevastopol would be honored by a new US backed regime and felt he was forced to act. The only way US diplomats were going to peacefully change the status quo in Ukraine was to give Putin certain ironclad guarantees. Not only did they neglect to do this, it seems as though they went out of their way to inflame the situation as much as possible for no reason. That’s what happens when you have idiot neocons like Nuland running the foreign service!

      Yanukovych was a jerkass who barely spoke fluent Ukrainian from what I understand, but having heavy Russian influence was a condition of possessing key strategic interests.
      Frankly, Putin taking over the ethnic Russian areas will be the best thing that ever happened to Ukraine. Now they’ll be free to have more control over their destiny and align more closely with Western Europe. This is pretty much as I called it on my own blog after the 2014 invasion and that seems to be how it’s working out.

    • February 17, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Where does one cross the line from dissension into delusional idiocy and why all the wishful thinking?

      Your comparison analogy of Russia and USA conquests proves nothing. Do you think the successful conquest of the Anglo invaders who conquered and raped the land now known as USA, entitles Russia to anything, and by who’s authority? Do you think Putin should be allowed to control whatever he wants just because early Americans prevailed over the previous inhabitants of USA and slaughtered them off? Why? By what universal authority are such prerogatives mandated? Understand, such authority does not exist and those who appeal to such are routinely dominated and exterminated by those who don’t. Ultimately nature rules, regardless of anyone’s delusions and all lies designed to obfuscate reality. Are the descendants of Anglos who invaded and dominated America, now required to let Russia have whatever it wants, just because their forefathers were so successful? Are Anglo Americans who descended from those who established USA supposed to feel guilty about their forefathers success, how it affected anyone else, and now bend to whoever is whining about it?

      So who here wants to enter into a stupid conflict with a nuclear superpower over land that they have occupied since 1783?

      • February 17, 2017 at 2:33 pm

        Why suppose Russians are “entitled” to anything? I just take note of how much power they possess in a region and how they’d be likely to exert it. I look at the US and its actions in the same way and notice patterns they have in common.
        Anglos had the good fortune to be conquerors for awhile. But every group must also guard against being conquered.
        Had Native Americans or Africans been the ones with overwhelming power, they would have conquered, slaughtered, and raped with abandon.
        People have behaved so, so long as there’s been people.
        Your writing gives me the feeling you’re getting emotional about this. Step back for a moment, calm down, and try to gaze on this from further away.

      • February 17, 2017 at 7:50 pm

        We are already in conflict. So, why on earth are you asking? But that does not mean that neculear arms will be used, just because we are in conflict already. The goal is winning. The game as always is being played by all parties to win. There are no winners without “losers”. This is our nature. It is not only our nature, but that of all life. All living things exist in a struggle against each other and the earth for survival and the will to thrive. Competition for resources and mating opportunities exists intra and inter all species. “The bomb” has become just one more variable in the game. After its initial deployment, it has been employeed as nothing more than a bluff (like in your rhetorical response) and will continue to be nothing more than a bluff until deployed again if ever.

      • webej
        February 18, 2017 at 5:13 am

        It’s not just bluff: Having nukes is like signing and ironclad non-aggression pact, except you don’t have to get the other side to the table to sign.

    • webej
      February 17, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      This version of affairs is BS.
      [1] Ukrainians and Russians are not different ethnic groups! They are the same ethnic group, with slightly divergent forms of the same language. They have been marrying each other and speaking both languages for centuries, and the Ukraine is the original area where Russian tribes established themselves. It is common for Ukranians to have a Russian and a Ukrainian parent, and to speak either the one or the other language depending on happenstance; many are equally fluent in both. They never even lived in separate neighbourhoods, only the concentrations of the language differs across the regions.
      [2] The violent coup bringing the nazi nationalist party to power ocurred after Yanukovych promised early elections (with foreign supervision) within months and constitutional reforms, and was an illegal coup d’état, that so far, has brought massacres and violence. By the way, the new leader Yats was pushed forward by the Americans: There were pre-existing detailed plans for using Sebastopol as a NATO base.
      [3] Russia has so far refused to accomodate referenda in Donetsk & Lugansk where the majority opted to join Russia. Russia has not invaded the Ukraine (if they did, they would be in Kiev in 3 days) and do not wish to do so. No invasions or incursions have taken place. There were massacres of Russians in Crimea, and the Russians did have troops there (about 16.000), but these were there long before the Maidan and did not exceed the 40.000 they were permitted by treaty.
      [4] Donetsk & Lugansk wanted some measure of self-rule and autonomy after the new “Parliament” banned the Russian language on its first day. Kiev responded by artillery shelling of civilians in a city that had shortly before hosted the European Soccer championship, calling it an ATO (anti-terror Operation).
      [5] Murdering journalists has really trended after the current authorities were installed in Kiev.
      [6] Reports and polls keep establishing that the vast majority of Crimeans (who are Russians) continue to support political reintegration with Russia.
      [7] The “pro-Russia Russians”, as the word suggests, are Russians, and the term is as disingenuous and artifical as would be pro-French French or pro-Norway Norwegians.

      • February 17, 2017 at 3:21 pm

        Sounds like you know more about the situation on the ground than I do. I’ve just followed the geopolitics.
        I notice anecdotally, though, that Ukrainians tend to have Ko names while Russians have more Ov, Ev and they tend to be tall and have darker hair and eyes.

        Though they may be similar, it doesn’t seem to preclude deep divides. I’ve heard that Flemish and Dutch are nearly the same, Czechs and Slovaks are basically the same, and Serbs and Bozniaks divided mostly by religion.
        So why did Ukraine want to be independent? Was the breadbasket just tired of feeding everyone else while being subjected to famines by bureaucrats?
        If there’s similar language, ethnicity, and religion, what’s the dispute? In the case of Czech/Slovak, I’ve read it was because they had been ruled by different empires. But Ukrainians and Russians, as you say, have been in the same political body for a very long time.

        I have noticed that Ukraine has in many respects just transferred from one empire over to another as stooges like Yatsenyuk made clear. Let alone the other international American Ivy educated ministers they brought in.

      • Yusef
        February 22, 2017 at 2:26 pm

        Thank goodness for webej!

  4. John
    February 17, 2017 at 9:22 am

    Hey “Anon” –

    You are an idiot, and in short order the unfolding of history will provide more than ample proof of such. Moreover, I firmly believe you are a neocon/zionist troll.

    By the way, unless you were referring to a characteristic of large bodies of water, “surf” is not the proper spelling of the word describing workers tied to the land under a master. “Serf” fits a tad better.

    Go Vlad.

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