MyNews24 is a user-generated section of The stories here come from users.

Comments: 1
Article views: 9
Latest Badges:

View all Keita's badges.

Crimea: The complexities of history

06 March 2014, 07:37

The aim of this article isn’t to analyse the current political situation in Crimea, but rather to explore the historical context that led up to the currently volatile situation. As source material, I used various newspaper articles published in the New York Times, articles published in National Geographic magazine (and also some of their online publications), Wikipedia, and even travel blogs and blogs of people living there. I tried as best I could to balance the western-perspective news articles with firsthand experience from travellers and actual people living in that area. Admittedly, it was tough going getting a local perspective as most of the blogs are in Ukrainian and Russian, but here and there I found something that gave me a bit of insight into the people, and their perspective on their own history.

One of the predominant themes I found running through most of the blogs (and which was also the conclusion of a National Geographic article on the subject) is that the Crimea, and the Ukraine in general have very little sense of self-identity. People do not know what it means to be Ukrainian, and therefore do not know how to identify with an independent Ukraine.

One can hardly blame them for this. Looking back specifically at the history of Crimean peninsula, it’s changed hands so often, it’s a hodgepodge of cultural and national influences. Originally named Taurica, the Crimean peninsula was originally inhabited by Scythians. The Greeks built a city in what is now called Sevastopol. It passed to the Romans, the Goths, the Huns, the Bulgars, the Khazars, the Byzantines, the Kumans, the Monguls, the Genoans and the Venetians , all of whom left their marks on the people of the region. The only people one could say are native to the peninsula are the Crimean Tartars, who established a Khanate in the mid 1400’s. Conflict with the Ottoman empire (now Turkey) led to semi-autonomy until it fell under Russian influence during the rule of Catherine the Great and her successor, Empress Anna.

Conflict, both political and religious, between the largely Islamic Khanate of Crimea, with support from the by then fading Ottoman Empire, and the expansionist Russian Empire ultimately led to the Crimean war of 1853-1856. Russian expansion into lands formerly held by the Tartars and Ottomans brought Austria, Britain and France into the conflict. Napolean wanted to re-establish France as the dominant power, while Britain simply didn’t want the Russians to gain too much new territory. The Crimea offered Russia a eans by which they could access the Black Sea, and they had a strong naval history there, initially even defeating the navies of the opposing side until the tide turned against them.

By the end of the Crimean war, and during the immediate aftermath, the map of the region was completely redrawn, and ultimately also laid the foundations for the first world war. Although Russia came out second best during the Crimean war, they remained a major influence, not just in the Crimea, but the entire region. Russia revived its expansionist ambitions, and over the next twenty years added Bulgaria, Chechnya, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia to its protectorates. It pushed the Ottoman Empire to collapse, which then effectively ceded control of Crimea to Russia. Russia continued to expand its sphere of influence and thereby contributed greatly to events that led to the first world war. During that time, the Bolshevik revolution ripped through Russia and by December 1917, the Crimea became the ASSR, or Crimean Autonomous  Soviet Socialist Republic, which yen formed part of the Soviet Union.

During the second world war, Crimea was again a place of conflict between Germany and Russia, with Germany briefly occupying Sevastopol . In spite of the Nazi victory in Sevastopol, the natives themselves remained unconquered in their strongholds in the Crimean mountains. This was a source of great pride for the region.

By the end of WW2, the Soviet Union consolidated its hold on the Crimea, and deported the Crimean Tartars en mass, sending them into exile. With its own native population removed, Russians moved in to claim the region.

Ten years later, the Soviet Union, under leadership of Ukrainian-born Nikita Khrushchev, transferred the ASSR to the Ukraine to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Russian dominance in the Ukraine. Sevastopol became one of the major Soviet naval bases in the Black Sea, even as it had been during the Crimean war of a hundred years earlier.

With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the establishment of an independent Ukraine, the people found themselves for the first time without a national identity of their own, and borders that had been established during the Soviet days for administrative reasons that didn’t reflect the ethnic realities of the region at all.

What complicated matters even further was the return of the Crimean Tartars to their homeland. Although they make up only about 13% of the total population, they are wary of Russians due to their long history of abuse dating back to the days of Catherine the Great. The Ukrainians themselves hadn’t really had any national identity of their own since the days of the Russian Empire, while the Crimean Russians, who had been living there since the ejection of the Tatars at the end of WW2 had sympathies that leaned more toward Russia than the Ukraine. 70% of the population is Russian, and supports Russian policies. If not for the actions of Nikita Khrushchev forty years earlier, the Crimea would have been part of Russia instead of the Ukraine.

The Russians living in the Crimea would very much like to be part of Russia, while the Tatars just as empathically would not. Indeed, their position is that it would be better to have an entirely separate Crimean republic. Meanwhile, the Ukraine, which effectively have possession of the Crimea as a historical blunder, needs to retain it for the revenue it generates, both as a tourist attraction, and as an area of trade. The Russian naval base is still in existence and remains a point of pride for the 70% of the population that is Russian in every way except for their identity documents.

In effect, the former Soviet Republics face the same difficulties faced by many African nations upon gaining their independence: lots of ethnic groups who have more pride in their own ethnicities than the geopolitical entities they’ve been divided into by foreign powers. With this historical background, is it any wonder that those former Soviet states are crumbling? Were we really naive enough to expect the Ukraine to avoid this fate?

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Brett Bowes
Appoint Thuli Madonsela as new ND...

Madonsela's credentials are impeccable, she has been hardened to the rigors of chapter 9 leadership, and she would be the people's favourite. Read more...

0 comments 1389 views
Submitted by
Lindie Langa
Cyril did not say Zuma raped Khwe...

If it was an attempt by 702 to boost his presidential campaign, it was a dismal failed attempt. If it was an attempt to sabbotage his campaign, and feed fire on the divide in the ANC, they just may have succeeded. Read more...

0 comments 724 views
Submitted by
Response to 'a Steinhoff guide fo...

If you think that our president, Jacob Zuma, can keep people busy for years in courts then you are in for a surprise on how complicated coming court cases in this matter can be.  Read more...

0 comments 1066 views
Submitted by
Freddie Jones
Just who is doing the 'overreachi...

Winning an election and becoming president of the Republic of South Africa does not hand one a carte blanche to become a dictator and do as one pleases. Read more...

0 comments 224 views
Submitted by
A criminal trial For Zuma or Trum...

Recently I gave you my take on what happened in the regime change in Zimbabwe and to briefly summarize, those wishing to remove Mugabe from power were “stuck between a rock and a hard place". Read more...

0 comments 363 views
Submitted by
Tom Cooper
We are fighting back

It is time to take back this country. The Constitution says that that this country should be home to everybody. Read more...

0 comments 175 views


RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on Android Get the latest from News24 on your Android device.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

Interactive Advertising Bureau
© 2017 All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.