Tsarist diplomats and generals, aware of Catherine's aims, soon began to present her with various advance plans for the taking of Crimea. In 1778 P. Rumiantsev asked Catherine to "accelerate the final decision regarding Crimea, and in the meantime to consider all the options and necessary provisions in the case of war."
One year earlier in 1777, a well-known diplomat from Catherine's court, Bakunin, had devised and presented the court with a plan for taking Crimea entitled "Considerations of a Russian patriot on past relations and wars with the Tatars, and methods for the Service to cease them for all time." The essence of his plan was straightforward: set the Tatars fighting amongst each other, settle the Crimean steppes with loyal Ukrainians and the areas left empty in Ukraine with Russians from the central Russian regions. This would even further weaken Ukraine and eventually drive the Tatars out of Crimea.
Rumiantsev's plan was attractive to Catherine and on 9 March 1778 she signed a decree "On the resettlement of all Christians to the southern Russian countryside." The temerity with which the army began to prepare land for resettlement in the southern Ukrainian provinces can be discerned from the fact that Russia's General O. Suvorov had thirty-two thousand males (whole families were not resettled) moved per day. However, many Russians could not grow accustomed to their new homes and simply fled. Due to lack of agricultural care and maintenance, the land then slowly went to waste. A war with the Tatars also loomed near and the people were not at all prepared for it. On 5 May 1779 Catherine published an ukaz in which she permitted Ukrainians from beyond Ukraine's borders to be settled in these lands. They were to be granted pardons for their 'transgressions': escape from their lords, service with the Zaporizhian Cossacks and so on. Many Ukrainian serfs who had earlier escaped to Poland took advantage of this opportunity.
However, this enticement was unable to fully rectify the situation. On 20 April 1780 a second ukaz was released that extended the terms of the original one from the previous year.
In the meantime Turkey had learned of Russia's preparations for war, and a natural unease began to grow. Thus Catherine, in order to divert Turkish attention from the Crimean problem, ordered her diplomats in Porta to begin negotiations for a new treaty with Turkey. Among her instructions was an order to reemphasise the terms of the Kiuchuk-Kainardii Treaty. in some cases reiterating points and in others. taking new positions. It was clear to the Russians conducting the negotiations that Catherine was not in the least prepared to adhere to any of the terms. As a sign of promise to carry out the new terms, Russian state advisor O. Stakhiev signed the Ainali-Kavak Convention on 10 March 1779, along with the Turkish representative Abdul-Rezak. Almost half the articles of the convention (four out of nine) were dedicated to the Crimean question.
This was the final internationally-recognised document that ratified the state independence of the Crimean Khanate. However, the treaty played absolutely no role in strengthening Crimea's international standing. Russia had no intention of adhering to the treaty and Turkey was in no position to defend it. Moreover, Turkey still continued to look at Crimea as a colonial territory that was forcefully taken away from it. It would only be four more years before the Crimean Khanate would cease to exist altogether as a subject recognised by international law. At the same time, Russia had not concluded any international treaties before or after the Ainali-Kavak Convention that would have given it any legal right to claim the territory of the Crimean Peninsula. The question was settled solely by the use of force.
G. Potemkin, who was responsible for the preparation of the southern Ukrainian regions for the possibility of war with Crimea, informed Catherine in 1780 that "the taking of Crimea by Your Highness is justifiable by prestigious reason, that is, a cessation of all wasted efforts and the constantly arising conflicts with the Porta. The Khan, who will in no way be able to remain in power without Your support, will be done a great favour by Your making him into a Persian Shah."
Thus at the beginning of 1783 Russia seized Crimea and announced the fait accompli with an 8 April manifesto proclaiming the inclusion of Crimea into the Russian empire. Russia's longstanding policy towards the annexation of territories was not innovative. Crimea, as had been the case with Ukraine, was regarded by Russia as 'living space' without taking into account the interests of the indigenous population. It is, therefore?, not surprising that many of the articles of the 1772 treaty with the Crimean Khan were simply recopied from the Russian treaty with Ukrainian Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky from over a century before. Not in the least coincidental was a similarity in which the two treaties were arrived at and then violated by Russia. The system of ruling in the seized lands was identical in both cases. Identical as well was the attitude of the Russian rulers to the inhabitants of the seized territories in Ukraine and Crimea. The chief concern for Russia was to ensure that the indigenous populations never outnumbered the imported Russian one. During the destruction of the Zaporizhian Sich, in the Novorossiisk guberniia  alone, there were 65,259 Ukrainians, 38,996 Russians, 2,471 Moldovans, and 704 Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Georgians, Hungarians, Poles, Swedes and Germans. The fact that there was a larger number of Ukrainians than Russians did not bode well for Tsarist plans, and for this reason, massive resettlement plans were adopted to move native Ukrainians out of these territories. The artificially-created vacuum would then be occupied by Russians and when their numbers were insufficient, as mentioned above, other foreigners were recruited.
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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.
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Originally Composed: Tuesday August 20th 1996.
Date last modified: Friday March 21st 1997.