Who Has A Right To Crimea

Volodymyr G. Butkevych

Who gained from the 'self-determination' of the Crimean Tatars?

Russia's generals were able to convince the Crimean Khan that a treaty without a Declaration on the State Separation of Crimea from Turkey would carry little weight. The salient point here is that Russia was simultaneously conducting talks with Turkey at Kiuchuk-Kainardji, at which Turkey had taken on an inflexible position. The Turkish diplomat Resiyi Akhmet Efendi, having learned of the talks between Russia and Crimea, proceeded to accuse the former of attempting to interfere in the internal affairs of the Khanate in order to achieve the same that was achieved with Ukraine. O. Obreskov reassured Efendi by stating that "according to the Tatars it will be resolved in the treaty that neither side will interfere in the affairs of the other; the Porta must be satisfied with this kind of outlined responsibility." [15]

Under pressure from Russia, the Crimean Khan adopted a 'Declaration on the State Separation of Crimea from Turkey,' in which he appealed to Turkey: "We hope for fairness and compassion from the Shining Porta, that we may not only be left in peace on her part but also that after the end of the war she recognize the Crimean Peninsula with its free Nagai Horde as not subordinated and her own jurisdiction on her own land as independent." The Khanate appealed to other states to adopt a position of trust regarding the Tatar document.

Obreskov quickly presented the Tatar document to the Turkish diplomat Abdur-Rezak, stating that it "has already been announced in all European courts."' [16] Russia's aim became quite clear: to force Turkey into signing a treaty that was disadvantageous to it. However, Russia did not anticipate an unforeseen development. Having read the document, Abdur-Rezak began to grow even less conciliatory. He, therefore, spoke of the decision taken by the Crimean Khan thusly

"The principles of our faith do not tolerate two Muslim rulers being equal, unless they rule at a great distance from one another. Otherwise it is absolutely necessary that one destroy the other. Then the Almighty can acknowledge as the rightful ruler the one to whom, by His Right Hand that is unfathomable to the Fates, He gives victory over the opponent. The assertion by the Khans and the prayers in the name of the Sultan of all Muslims must adhere to the Commandments of the Sultan." [17]

Russia was thus forced to accept a compromise according to which the elected Khan of Crimea and the Judges of the Khanate were obligated to obtain the blessing of the Turkish Sultan before carrying out any duties.

All remaining obstacles were quickly resolved and on 10 July, 1774 a twenty-eight article treaty was signed in Kiuchuk-Kainardji, with two secret articles in appendage. Article iii of the treaty was wholly dedicated to recognising the independence of Crimea. It specifically reinforced the fact that "all Tatar peoples, Crimean, Budzhat, Kuban, Yedisan, Zhambuilu and Yedichkul, without exception, have the right to be recognised as free and completely independent from all foreign power, yet remaining under the state jurisdiction of their Khan of Genghis ancestry. The whole collective and structured Tatar society, which is ruled by their ancient laws and customs, will be held accountable to no foreign state in any affairs; and neither the Russian Court nor the Ottoman Porta has the right to interfere in the councils or structures of the above mentioned Khan, in domestic, political, civil and internal affairs in any form, but must recognize and consider the Tatar nation in its political and civil state in the same vein as other states, under self-rule, self-sufficient and independent of everyone except God Himself..."

Having secured the Declaration of Crimean independence, Russia devised a singular program for its annexation. Before this could be completed, though, the Zaporizhian Sich had to be destroyed. Knowing that the Cossacks had the opportunity to flee onto Turkish territory, Russia included in Article ll of the treaty the following clause:

"If, following the conclusion of this treaty and its ratification, anyone from the mentioned two empires committing any severe violation wishes to seek refuge or escape to one of the two sides, such must not be accepted under any pretext, nor protected, but must be immediately returned or, in an extreme case, be driven back from the territories of that state into which they have fled, so that no judgments or conflicts between the two empires will arise. This excludes only those in the Russian Empire who have accepted Christian Law and those in the Ottoman Empire who have accepted Mohammed's Law. Moreover, should anyone from the two above-mentioned empires, Christian and Muslim, commit any crime or similar act, for whatever reason, and flee from one empire to another. then upon demand they must be immediately returned."

Having laid legal boundaries before the Zaporizhians, Catherine ll was now able to begin her operation for destroying the Sich. At that time, while a delegation sent to St. Petersburg by Kalnyshevsky for resolving the territorial question was being shuffled around from reception room to reception room, Catherine had ordered Kalnyshevsky's arrest and the destruction of the Sich. Thus on 5 June 1775, General Tekely attacked and destroyed the Sich. Kalnyshevsky was captured in an ambush and taken as a prisoner to the Solovetsky monastery. To the dismay of the empress, Kalnyshevsky was able to survive through torture and mistreatment to the age of 112 years. Kept in a walled, stone cell, he was prohibited from any human communication for twenty-five years. He soon lost his eyesight and his health. However, his faith in his people remained unbroken.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians from the central and southern regions left their homes and were relocated or simply driven away. The south of Ukraine was soon left barren and bereft of any population.

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About The Author

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.

About the Editor

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.

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Document URL: http://www.infoukes.com/history/crimea/page-05.html

Copyright © 1992 Volodymyr G. Butkevych

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Originally Composed: Tuesday August 20th 1996.
Date last modified: Friday March 21st 1997.