Who Has A Right To Crimea

Volodymyr G. Butkevych

No annexations or appropriations ...

The RSFSR Sovnarkom was fully aware of the procedures related to the process of self-determination and pledged to abide by these procedures before the international community. Thus, it outlined its program for the self-determination of states formerly part of the Russian empire in a draft peace treaty:

Unfortunalely, many of these were not adhered to within Russia itself. The creation of the above-mentioned Crimean Socialist Republic was based not on national boundaries but on territorial considerations. This was officially explained by the fact that Crimea was populated by a myriad of nationalities whose individual interests were difficult to define, let alone ensure. However, Russia was well aware of the interests of the Crimean population. The fact of the matter was that Crimea had a significantly smaller Russian population than that represented by other nationalities. Taking into account the census statistics from 1897 alluded to above, which were unfavourable to Russian designs on Crimea, the outcome of a referendum was not difficult to foresee.

It was this reason that caused Russia to use highly suspect demographic interpretations in support of its aims. Official statistics indicated the proportion of every nationality represented in Crimea's population. However, a separate rubric was created for the "Russian and Ukrainian" nationalities. Naturally, this figure would have been greater than that for any other Crimean nationality. In order to obfuscate the matter more, yet another rubric was added to include the Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian" population of Crimea. While the Belorussians formed less than one percent of the Crimean population, these figures were introduced in order to place the three nationalities together on a seemingly even footing. In fact, the figures were employed to hide the overbearing Ukrainian majority of Crimea's population.

Furthermore, the official language of Crimea was declared to be Russian (and Tatar for the Crimean Tatars). Therefore, it became necessary for Ukrainians in Crimea to employ the Russian language, since there was no possibility of using their own. Beginning in 1918 a perennial survey asked the question: "Which language do you, as parents, wish to teach your children?" Consequently, the number of those wishing to teach Russian instead of Ukrainian was greater than those who chose Tatar. Thus, subsequent statistical evidence used this figure as a basis to claim legitimacy on the grounds of a majority "Russian-speaking population."

It was then decided to carry out a census of the Crimean population in April 1921. The results were made available as soon as the following month. In anticipation of these results, the Central Committee of the RKP(b) called a plenary meeting to discuss the creation of a Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic as a part of the RSFSR. This decision once again did not take into account the opinion of the Crimean population. Thus, Crimean autonomy was justified according to territorial and not national considerations. However, a legal act proclaiming the creation of the republic was not adopted at the plenum. The Central Committee still awaited the final results of the census to support its action.

The instructions sent from Moscow for carrying out the census were highly characteristic of NKVD orders. For example, on 24 March 1921 an order was sent to Crimea entitled "An order from the Chairman of the Sovnarkom V.l. Lenin and the Central Statistical Administration to the Crimean Revolutionary Committee for the acceleration of a demographic-agricultural census and registration of Crimean industrial enterprises." The order stated:

"It is suggested that all means be used to accelerate the completion of a demographic agricultural census and registration of Crimean industrial enterprises. The census is necessary for the Workers' and Peasants' government. The details of the census will be included as a basis for Soviet construction. Remove all obstacles you may meet in a revolutionary manner. There is to be no neglecting this matter of great state importance for even one day. Crimea must be covered and included according to the deadline in the established plan of action. You are reminded that the Workers' and Peasants' government demands the highest concentration of your efforts in this matter. You must severely punish all those who stand in the way of the census, and remember, that the Workers' and Peasants' government will first of all hold you responsible for any lack of resolve in carrying out the census or in its poor presentation. Inform the Central Statistical Administration on a daily basis, beginning 1 April so that they can keep me appraised of work's status" [45]

The order was sent to, among others, the Crimean Revolutionary Committee, the Crimean Cheka, and various branches of the census administration.

However, these draconian orders did not contribute to a favourable outcome of the census. The number of Russians in Crimea did not rise with the census results as was expected. The official results indicated that the Crimean population had the following consistency: Russians and Ukrainians - 51.5% (elsewhere this figure appeared as the figure for Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians); Tatars - 25.9%; Jews - 6.86%; Germans - 5.88%; Greeks - 3.31%; Armenians - 1.67%; Bulgarians - 1 57%; Poles, Karamai, Estonians and representatives of other nationalities - 3.31%

Considering these results, Lenin and the Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (CEC), Kalinin, signed a resolution on 18 October 1921 on the creation of a Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic as part of the RSFSR. This, in effect, completed the pre-WWII process of 'self-determination' for Crimea. From the day of its inception Crimea's republican status was little different from the status usually accorded a province. This provincial status was in fact realised on 30 June 1945, when the Crimean Autonomous SSR officially ceased to exist and became the province of Crimea within the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.

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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-11.html

Copyright © 1992 Volodymyr G. Butkevych

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