Following the recent demise of what the world knew as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a nascent yet highly unstable geopolitical order has appeared in eastern Europe. Foremost among the new independent countries in this region are Russia and Ukraine. Both are large political, economic and, most importantly, military powers.
While no reasonable observer of the developments in eastern Europe could have expected the transition from empire to independent state system to be a smooth one, the tensions that have arisen between Russia and Ukraine in the early months of 1992 are indeed alarming for various reasons. It is disconcerting to see that while proclaiming to be moving towards more conciliatory foreign relations and a democratic domestic political system, Russia, in its bid to deflate the state-building process in Ukraine, is unquestionably acting as the unreasonable partner by inflaming long dormant disputes. In addition to the much publicised Black Sea Fleet dispute, there is also the less noted but equally (if not more) important issue of the Crimean Peninsula.
Crimea, the southernmost part of Ukraine on the Black Sea, is indeed becoming a hotbed of political intrigue, as Russia is attempting both overtly and covertly to encourage the population of Crimea to secede from Ukraine and run into the eagerly awaiting arms of Russia. Many of the historical justifications, on which the Russian claim to Crimea are based, are tenuous at best. The complex of historical and contemporary issues associated with the Crimean question is difficult to decipher for even the most informed observer. In the work that follows, Ukrainian scholar Volodymyr Butkevych provides an in-depth discussion of the Crimean issue, tracing the dispute to its roots in the eighteenth century.
Butkevych╣s work is much called for; especially in the present, when the territorial dispute over Crimea threatens lo launch the whole region into a state of perpetual tension. In order to help diffuse the situation, the matter may be forced into third-party arbitration. If this should be the case, then a clear and thorough understanding of the issues involved would seem to be in order.
However, it is still not too late to believe in the triumph of reason over the residual imperial attitude being displayed by Russia at this time. In any case, work presented here sheds a much needed light on the origin and nature of the dispute, as well as providing ample evidence with which a reasonable judgement of the situation can be made
Eugene S Kachmarsky April, 1992.
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Volodymyr G. Butkevych, a Ph.D. in juridical studies, currently heads the Ukrainian Institute of International Relations' Department of International Law. He is also the Vice-President of the (former Soviet) International Law Association. His studies have focused on the protection of human rights in the USSR and in Ukraine, as well as on the chasm between Soviet legal standards and international norms. In addition, Butkevych is the Chairman of the International Human Rights Conference's Organisational Committee. The Conference is held annually in Kyiv.
Eugene S. Kachmarsky, an M.A. in political science specialising in eastern Europe and the former USSR, is a graduate of the University of Toronto. He is currently the editor of the English-language monthly newspaper, Ukrainian Echo.
Document URL: http://www.infoukes.com/history/crimea/page-01.html
Copyright © 1992 Volodymyr G. Butkevych
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Originally Composed: Tuesday August 20th 1996.
Date last modified: Friday March 21st 1997.