A Short Guide to the History of the Crimea

By Joseph

During the early and Middle Ages, Crimea was invaded and occupied by the Huns, Khazars, and the Byzantine Empire. In the year 1475 the Ottoman Empire conquered the entire Crimean peninsula. Those living in Crimea struggled long and hard for hundreds of years to break free from the Ottoman Empire. Their wishes finally came true in the year 1774 when the Ottoman Empire and Russia signed the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca . With Crimea now controlled by the Russians, the Turkish population in the city was forced to migrate to the countries of Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria.

In 1917 the Russian Revolution occurred and the Communists invaded Crimea. In November 1921, the Crimean Soviet Socialist Republic was created. When World War II broke out in 1941, the German Nazis took over Crimea. When the Soviet army invaded Crimea once again in 1944, Stalin found out that the Tartars (who were part of a Turkish ethnic group of people) had actually collaborated with the Germans. In his fury, Stalin ordered that 300,000 Crimean Tatars be deported out of Crimea. After he did a ethnic cleansing of the Tartars, he then eliminated the Crimean Soviet Socialist Republic and gave provincial status to the region under the name Soviet Socialist Republic.

Image used with permission from Jorge Láscar via Creative Commons 3.0. Obtained from flickr.com.

To commemorate the 300th anniversary of Ukraines union with Russia in 1954, Nikita Khrushchev decided that he would give a ‘gift’ to the people of the Ukraine by giving them back the Crimea. Even though he went and integrated the Crimea into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, he refused to allow the Crimean Tartars back into their homeland. The Soviets would actually declare in September,1967, that Stalin was very cruel and mistreated the Crimean Tartars. However, they still were not allowed to return back to their homeland.

During the end of the perestroika years, Gorbachev finally began to allow the Tartars to return back to Crimea. This occurred in September of 1990 and led to the Soviet of People’s Deputies of Crimean calling for the rescinding of the the 1954 decree and demanding the restoration of autonomy be given to the Crimea.

A vote of ‘Autonomy’ was then issued for the Crimea on January 20, 1991. When the votes were tabulated, 93.3% of the people of the Crimea voted for the restoration of the Crimean Soviet Socialist Republic. Amid the backdrop of the Soviet Union falling apart on February 12th, 1991, the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet finally adopted a law providing autonomous status for Crimea within the borders of Ukraine.

Image used with permission from Anton Bielousov via Creative Commons 3.0. Obtained from flickr.com.

With the Tartars now returning back to their homeland, they never forgot what Stalin had done to them. In June of 1991, the Mejlis (the central executive body), under the leadership of the human rights activist Mustafa Abdulcemil Kirimoglu, met in Crimeas capital and administrative center, Simferopol. When this occurred, the parliamentary seats in the Crimean Republic were raised from 80 to 98. 14 seats were given to Crimean Tatars while Greeks, Armenians, Germans and Bulgarians were given one seat each. When the Soviet Union finally collapsed in August of 1991 and the Ukraine was given its independence, all of the issues relating to Crimea’s legal status, the mass repatriation of Crimean Tatars and other ethnic groups deported from Crimea were left unresolved.

Out these, the main issue that needed to be discussed would be the granting of sovereignty of (or over) the Crimea. With this issue being a powder keg between the Ukraine and Crimea in February of 1992, the Crimean parliament not only transformed Crimea into the Republic of Crimea, the Ukrainian government offered the people of the Crimea more self-government.

On May 5th, 1992, the Crimean parliament declared the Crimea to be independent and passed its first Constitution. Even though the Crimean Parliament voted for independence, they still left the decision up to the people of the Crimea. A referendum was to be held on this issue on August 2nd, 1992. On May 6th, 1992, that same parliament inserted a new sentence into this constitution that declared that Crimea was part of Ukraine.

The Crimean Declaration of Independence by the Ukrainian Parliament was rejected by the Ukrainian Parliament on May 15,1992. The Ukrainian government gave Crimea one week to cancel the referendum. However when cooler heads prevailed, the Crimea and Ukraine reached a compromise and Crimea was given the status of Autonomous Republic.”

The people of the Crimea were not happy with this agreement. They showed how much they rejected it when on January 16th, 1994, the Crimean people voted Yuriy Meshkov to be the next President of Crimea. Meshkov won the election because he told the Crimean people he would declare a union not with the Ukraine but RUSSIA. When he was elected President, one of his first acts was to declare at the end of the year another referendum on the issue of independence.

What followed was several years of Crimea trying to gain more independence with the Ukrainian government rejecting each attempt. Even though this turned into a vicious circle between the governments of Crimea and Ukraine, not ONCE did either side use military force between one another.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *