Our comrades from certain western countries asked us on a number of occasions to express our opinion and gave a more detailed information regarding the events that have been under way in the Ukraine since February 2014, when as a result of the state coup in the Ukraine there came to power a regime of extreme nationalists and open Nazis and a civil war broke out in the Eastern regions of the country where people decided to render a resistance to the nationalistic junta in Kiev and to her sponsors from the West.
We are perfectly aware that all the leading western bourgeois mass-media (one shouldn’t overestimate the objectivity of the Russian bourgeois mass-media like Russia Today as well) in most of cases provide an intentionally distorted picture of the real events there, whereas many comrades have been disoriented as they often don’t know Russian enough to be able to look thorough all the sources available and even those who know some Russian, sometimes find it difficult to find reliable local sources and understand the difference of opinions existing among local public as well.
Here we try to summarize our correspondence with the comrades from EU and to prepare a sort of FAQ on the issue. Of course there is much more questions not covered in this small essay and we hereby plan to issue some more FAQs in the future. We hope that comrades will find this information useful. Part I: Crimea Brief introduction dedicated to the history of Crimea
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Never in its history was Crimea an independent state (with probably the exception of semi-independent Crimean Khanate), or principality or anything of the sort, just a nice cozy peninsula, always with a very mixed population that changed completely over centuries, first colonized by the ancient Greeks somewhere around 5 century BC. It’s worth mentioning again that before 1954, Crimea was never listed among the territories that since 1991 form the state of Ukraine.
In the end of the medieval period after Crimea had been consequently controlled by Byzantium, by Tartar Golden Horde and Crimean Khanate (with some parts controlled also by Venetians and Genovese), the territory was conquered by Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.
The modern history of Crimea begins with the conquering of territory by the Russian Empire in 1783 as the result of Russian-Turkish wars of the XVIII century. The territory of the peninsula was separated as the Tavric Province of Russian Empire.
After the Great October Socialist Revolution, the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created in 1921 within the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic (R.S.F.S.R).* In 1946, the status of this autonomous republic was changed to the Crimean Region of R.S.F.S.R. In 1954, on decision by N. Khrushchev, the Crimean Region (with the exception of the city of Sebastopol that reported directly to Moscow) was included into the Ukrainian SSR. The territory retained the status of Crimean Region of the Ukrainian SSR till January 1991.
Concerning the so called Crimea «annexion»
1. What about previous referendums or people consultations happened before the 2014 Crimea’s integration in Russia?
It’s a pretty long history. The first referendum in Crimea was held in January 1991 (the decision to carry out that referendum was taken by the Supreme Soviet of Crimea Region of the Ukrainian SSR in November 1990). The issue of that referendum read as follows: “Do you support the restoration of the Crimean Autonomous SSR, this republic to be considered a part of the USSR and a participant of the Union Treaty?”. The majority of the population voted in favour* and later, in February the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR confirmed the renewed status of Crimea as Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.
In 1990, the number of Crimean residents with a right to vote constituted 1,777,841. Of those, 1,441 millon (81,3%) took part in the referendum; 1,343,855 million (93,26%) voted in favour.
On the 5th of May 1992, the Parliament of Crimea proclaimed the state independence of Crimea and decided to hold a referendum where the Crimean population was to answer the question if it was in favour or against the independence. The referendum was scheduled for August 1992. The Parliament of the Ukraine ruled that the Crimean Parliament’s decision contradicted the Constitution of the Ukraine (newly “independent” by then) and stopped the further steps of the Crimean Parliament. As a result the decision to hold referendum was frozen by the Crimean Parliament.
In March 1995, the Ukrainian Parliament canceled the Constitution of Crimea and eliminated the post of Crimea’s President. In April of the same year the Crimean Parliament decided to hold referendum where they were going to ask the local population whether they supported the Crimean Constitution cancelled by the Ukrainian Parliament as well as the “the law on Crimea” dated 1995 adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament. That referendum had been never held as the Parliament of Crimea finally concluded a special agreement on the division of responsibilities with the Ukrainian Parliament.
In February 2006, the Parliament of Crimea once again tried to carry out referendum on the status of the Russian language in the peninsula (here is meant the right to use it for official purposes as a state language). That referendum was banned by the Ukrainian authorities. There was yet another “people’s referendum” held unofficially in 2006 where about 1 million of the inhabitants there voted against the attempts of the former Ukrainian President Yushchenko to join NATO. As the Crimean authorities refused to provide any facilities to carry out that referendum, it was carried out on the 6th of December 2006 “in the streets” by an organization called “All-Crimean People’s Assembly”. The organizers claimed that some 98,7% from next to 900 thousand of participants had voted against joining NATO
2. Is it possible to say that the referendum itself (and the integration of Crimea in the Russian Federation) was in violation of the Ukrainian constitution?
Yes, it was against the Ukrainian Constitution as the independent Ukraine from the very beginning (i.e. from 1991) was constructed as a unitary state (done intentionally to keep incompatible parts together). It is one of the main reasons they’ve had a civil war in this state created in 1991.
3. Is it true that in this occasion there was a real presence of Russian troops (I mean coming from Russia) as to assure the control of the referendum and/or the control of Crimea ?What about the so called the «little green guys»?
You should remember that since the XVIII century and till present most of time there has been stationed the main naval military base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. In accordance with the last treaty with the Ukraine that was in effect till the reunification of Crimea with Russia, apart from the ships Russia had had a right to keep there some 25 thousand of infantry with armored vehicles and planes (Russia paid handsomely for this right to the Ukraine). Though in fact the number of locally stationed military personnel was significantly less, there were more than enough of disciplined and well trained military units (it proved out to be that the Ukraine had next to none there) to instill order and to thwart any attempts by Kiev to organize violent provocations.
There was no great need to enter additional battalions from mainland Russia, though I cannot exclude the possibility that some elite units from the mainland did arrive there to deal with the underground subversive activities by the Ukrainian Nazis and the Ukrainian secret services. It’s obvious that with such overwhelming support of local population and confusion among the Ukrainian military, Russian regular troops (i.e. “little green guys” locally nicknamed “the polite people”) didn’t play the main part in the events there: to start with their primary task was to stay silently in the background, i.e. behind the backs of the local civil militants who did the job. Nevertheless some sources report that on a number of occasions units of Russian regular troops indeed took part in blocking the activities or even in disarming some of the Ukrainian military/naval garrisons in Crimea. Anyway it was done extremely politely and quietly (here is the origin of their local nickname – “the Polite People”) there was next to no recorded cases of violent clashes there worth mentioning (perhaps in the very beginning there had been some, but they were quickly and resolutely suppressed).
You can easily understand why local civil militants were so much efficient and successful if you remember that since the Soviet time in Crimea there have settled dozens of thousands of Soviet and Russian Fleet retired officers – very efficient, resolute and highly motivated folk. You cannot imagine the degree of local population’s hatred towards the Ukrainian nationalists and the nationalistic authorities in Kiev that has so much accumulated and multiplied since 1991. Local people, especially in Sebastopol, the biggest city there, have always perceived the Ukrainian officials as aliens, as invaders imposing their language, their vision of history and their values onto local Russians.
4. Shall I understand that, at least officially, there hasn’t been any Russian soldier coming from Russia to intervene in the referendum?
Yes, you understand it right: there were no Russian units worth mentioning coming from Russia to intervene in the Crimean referendum (excluding perhaps some small elite special units — see above). To start with, there was no necessity to intervene in the referendum, taking into account the predominant feelings of the overwhelming majority of the population, one needed only to allow it and to block all attempts to disrupt the event by violent means -the extent of violence the nationalistic authorities in Kiev are ready to apply is now quite obvious in both Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.
A significant group of well armed and disciplined Russian troops already stationed there officially was more than enough to give the sense of safety to the local civil activists and their leaders from the ranks of Crimean MPs and some other local officials, as well as to help them to prevent any attempts at violent provocations by the Nazis (there were some even with people killed in the very beginning). Anyway, under no circumstances we can say that exactly the presence of troops did the trick – we believe that it was more due to the general feelings and determination of the local population.
5. Can you provide me some information about the people’s acceptance of the Russian integration (preferably coming from western sources)?
Of course, one shouldn’t forget that they have joined not the former R.S.F.S.R but the capitalist Russia of Putin, still if you asked them directly about “their acceptance” they just would not understand you. The only expressions they use are “liberation”, “joining Russia or “Mainland” etc. A small handful of people who disagreed with the process (officials set by Kiev, top ranking military of the Ukrainian army, Ukrainian nationalist) have long ago left for the Ukraine, even the overwhelming majority of the former Ukrainian military personnel decided to stay there and to enter Russian service.
You are not likely to find any favourable reference to Crimea from the western sources. It will take some time when everything more or less calms down, when people from the West will come there again (now they cannot without an “official permission from Kiev” which is never granted for obvious reasons). Anyway they cannot make pretence indefinitely that Crimea was ever really an integral part of the Ukraine.
To finish the theme of the Crimea I can add that as opposed to the territories in the East-South East of the Ukraine, no negotiations regarding the status of Crimea are possible: to take it back from Russia one has to defeat the country completely and to dismantle it which is pretty difficult to imagine in the case of a nuclear power.
* The brother of VI Lenin was chairman of the short-lived Crimean Socialist Republic in 1919. From Wikipedia: “By April 30, the Bolsheviks had occupied the entire peninsula and, on May 5, the government was formed with Dmitry Ilyich Ulyanov, Vladimir Lenin‘s brother, as chairman. On June 1, the Crimean SSR joined in military union with Soviet republics in Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, and Latvia.” Dmitry Lenin led the program of making Crimea a resort for workers and peasants and their families for all the USSR, inclding nationalizations of the mansions and villas.