History topic: Ukraine vs. Russia in the Crimean Peninsula

Map of the 2014 Crimean Crisis. The Crimean Peninsula is shown in black. Outside of the disputed territory are Ukraine in green and Russia in a red-like hue. (Credit: ImageUploader12345)

Map of the 2014 Crimean Crisis. The Crimean Peninsula is shown in black. Outside of the disputed territory are Ukraine in green and Russia in a red-like hue. (Credit: ImageUploader12345)

The history in the Crimean Peninsula has long been aligned along a Ukraine vs. Russia fault line. Although Russia and the Ukraine have much in common culturally and were united as one country for more than three hundred years, the two countries are not considered friends.

Recent events in Ukraine have prompted Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, to make a play for Crimea, currently a part of Ukraine. Will Putin’s efforts to have the Crimean Peninsula secede from Ukraine work? And where does the recent conflict fit into the region’s troubled past? If you want to learn more about the history between Russia and Ukraine, consider using this example as a good research topic.

Neighbors, not friends

According to “Crimea and Punishment” by Anders Aslund for the January-February 2010 issue of Foreign Policy, the Crimean Peninsula is an “autonomous region of 2 million ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, and Crimean Tatars.” Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin had arranged in 1997 for Moscow to have a 20-year lease on a naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea’s best port, although Crimea itself would be a part of Ukraine. Putin however wants the entire peninsula under Russian control, which has lead to the current conflict.

Even prior to recent events, Putin’s relationship with Ukraine has been contentious. In 2004, Putin supported the Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, who was more pro-Russia, and Putin may or may not have played a role in the poisoning of the successful, pro-western candidate Viktor Yushchenko, who ultimately won the Ukrainian election. Since then, relations have only deteriorated as the Ukraine vs. Russia conflict has played out.

Crimean Peninsula opposition to secession

Starting around the 15th century, the Tatars controlled the Crimean Peninsula and were part of the Crimean Khanate, a Turkic-speaking khanate, a remnant of the Mongol empire. The region was annexed into the Russian Empire in 1783 under the rule of Catherine the Great.

Not all of Crimea is interested in succeeding from the Ukraine and joining Russia. In addition to its earlier annexation in 1944, Stalin forcibly deported 200,000 Tatars for supposedly collaborating with the Nazi’s who occupied the peninsula during the war. They were sent to the Urals, Siberia, and Central Asia, with about half dying along the way or shortly after they arrived at their destinations.

Eve Conant writes in “Behind the Headlines: Who are the Crimean Tatars?” published on March 14, 2014 for National Geographic that the survivors of Stalin’s 1944 exile and “their children and grandchildren who have been able to return over the past 20 years, are loath to fall once again under Moscow’s control.”

Pro-Russia referendum

Despite the bad blood in the Crimean Peninsula, both in terms of Ukraine vs. Russia and Crimea vs. Russia, Bill Chappell and Carol Ritchie reported on March 16, 2014 for NPR’s blog that “Crimea Overwhelmingly Supports Split From Ukraine To Join Russia.” The article says, “Russia’s state news agency reports that after 50 percent of the votes had been processed that more than 95 percent of voters said they were in favor of joining Russia.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian government officials, the United States and the European Union are refusing to recognize the results of the referendum. President Obama has urged “Putin to pursue a diplomatic de-escalation of the crisis, support the Ukraine government’s plans for political reform, return its troops in Crimea to their bases, and halt advances into Ukrainian territory and military build-ups along Ukraine’s borders.”

The United Nations has also condemned the action of Putin and Russia in the Crimean Peninsula with a vote by the Security Council. Russia, a member of the council, voted against the resolution, while China, usually an ally of Russia, abstained from the vote. Both the European Union and the U.S. have warned that Russia will face additional economic sanctions should they continue with their plans to annex Crimea.

Want to learn more about Russian history or Ukrainian history? Check out Questia—particularly the section on the Crimean War and the Eastern Question

Is this latest controversy in the Crimea destined to reassert Russia’s power? Or is it the last gasp of the former Soviet Union? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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