Ten things you should know about Crimea

Andrew WIlson of the European Council on Foreign Relations busts a few myths about the Russian invasion of Crimea.

Andrew Wilson is a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations

1. The new Crimean authorities were established at gunpoint. Despite Russian rhetoric about a “coup” in Kyiv, the real coup was in Crimea. The Crimean Assembly building was taken over at gunpoint after a seemingly successful rally supporting the authorities in Kiev. Berkut militia, fleeing from their crimes in Kiev, were allegedly involved.

2. This is totally unlike the Russian war in Georgia in 2008. Then, by most accounts, the Georgians were provoked into firing first. Only one Russian citizen has died in the current crisis, and he was shot by snipers in Kyiv.

3. The proposed referendum is against the Ukrainian constitution. Only a national vote can change the country’s borders.

4. The new Crimean “Prime Minister” Sergey Aksionov was a local gangster in the 1990s. His nickname was “goblin”. His Russia Party won only 4 percent at the last elections in Crimea

5. There are 266,000 Crimean Tatars in Crimea. Before the coup they were chanting “Allah is Great! Glory to Ukraine!” Now they are reportedly forming “self-defence”units. They were all deported by Stalin to Central Asia in 1944; half died as a result. They were only allowed to return after 1989 and still live in marginal conditions. The 70th anniversary of the Deportation is this May.

6. The Crimean Tatars are Sunni Muslim. The Crimean Tatar Khanate was the dominant power in the region from 1441 until Crimea was occupied by the Russian Empire in 1783. The campaign to turn it into a Russian Athos, a centre of Orthodox Christianity, only gathered pace after the Crimean War.

7. There is an ethnic Russian majority in Crimea (58 percent), but most settled there after World War II. Some 24 percent are Ukrainian. Crimean Tatars are over 13 percent, but nearer 20 percent of the school population.

8. Crimea is a peninsula. It gets all its water and gas from the rest of Ukraine.

9. There are big deposits of oil and gas off the Crimean coast.

10. Russia is re-supplying its Black Sea Fleet for a role in the Eastern Mediterranean, including linking up with the old Soviet naval base in Tartus, Syria.

This piece first appeared on the European Council of Foreign Relations blog

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10 Responses to “Ten things you should know about Crimea”

  1. George Hallam

    Form this It appears that the Russians are really not very nice.

    However, it’s worth looking at the people they are up against:

    It is the logic of our times,
    No subject for immortal verse,
    That we who lived by honest dreams,
    Defend the bad against the worst.

    C. Day Lewis

  2. rotorblade100

    You totally miss the point (am not sure if you are classed as an academic, which would explain) but you are correct in the use of the word “coup” be it in Kiev or the Crimea – in this case Kiev. It makes no difference if the president was corrupt, he was nonetheless the democratically elected leader but was deposed by a mob. That may have been a mob of 300,000, and they made themselves heard and brought down the government. But Ukraine is a population of 43m – does this one mob really believe they represent the majority, and if so on what mandate. More importantly how can the EU and the USA jump onboard with a group of 300k protestors and take the moral high ground, simply because they say they want to be a part of Europe (and take advantage of the vast subsidies available – OK why not?).
    For sure the corruption is unacceptable in Ukraine past, but is it expected to change with Ukraine future, considering the quantum shift has been by force and by a minority?
    Democracy is not perfect, it does not exist, but its the best we have – the alternates are behind us in a civilised social world, we go to war to protect the democratic ideals we have, including their faults.
    Russia has done no more than protect its predictable interests. EU and the USA have been hypocritical in their rhetoric about Ukraine. When will they sanction China. Or take responsibilty for Cuba, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan? I am not against the actions in any of these territories to be honest, but then dont cry when your neighbour does the same.
    we all live on the same street

  3. SarahAB

    WRT (3) – I am sure this is correct, but if one region strongly wishes to break from Ukraine (and I don’t know what % of those in Crimea would wish to do so) isn’t that something one ought to consider supporting?

  4. Lamia

    It makes no difference if the president was corrupt, he was nonetheless
    the democratically elected leader but was deposed by a mob.

    This lie doesn’t get any truer no matter how often it’s repeated. He was impeached by the Ukrainian parliament, including by former supporters who withdrew their support. It was perfectly constitutional – unlike his own behaviour which, no surprisingly, brought about the impeachment in the first place.

    just because someone is democratically elected, it does not give them the right to break the law and stay in position.

    You may as well claim it’s an outrage for a qualified doctor to be struck off for misconduct. After all, once he’s become a qualified doctor, obviously he should be allowed to do as he likes. Right?

  5. Lamia

    To add:

    am not against the actions in any of these territories to be honest, but then dont cry when your neighbour does the same. we all live on the same street

    Except evidently you don’t mind the people living at the house named Ukraine getting their door kicked in by the Russians next door – so long as it teaches the Americans living at the other end of the street a lesson.

    Great. That still boils down to: you don’t mind the people living at the house named Ukraine getting their door kicked in by the Russians next door.

    Would you consider it acceptable for you to have your house broken into, so long as it taught a lesson (heaven knows how) to someone else who had broken into yet someone else’s home?

  6. rotorblade100

    I don’t agree. Democracy is a difficult animal to tame, especially in its infancy, and for sure it will never be perfect, just as communism can never be perfect. But embryonic countries such as the Ukraine, having democracy, must protect what they have – one person one vote. That’s what they took part in and many died for to achieve it. I agree that the President was taking advantage of position, but apart from creaming off profits as they all do, in all countries, he never broke the rules constitutionally and it was the mob that decided he should go – a mob that was represented by a baying crowd (and only a crowd!) that decided they wanted Europe (and its benefits) whilst the democratically elected president had opted for Russian allegiance, inc the $20bn support package. No doubt he would have dipped his fingers in the pie, but it had to feed through to the next election and if the people opposed it they can vote him out. If he tried to change the constitution to rig the election, that is when you take to the streets – TO PROTECT THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS. This did not happen. Democracy wasn’t allowed to take its course, and Ukraine has taken one step forward in embracing democracy (with all its faults granted) and taken 10 steps back by reverting to mob decisions. If the democratic process had been hijacked by the president then I agree with uprising – but where had he tried to clearly change the constitution so that it would not be a fair vote next time round?

  7. rotorblade100

    And in relation to the doctor scenario you mention, there is no difference. If a doctor is accused of misconduct, a screaming mob outside his surgery does not mean he will be struck off. Its goes through a due process, allowing both sides to put their case, and hopefully the correct position will win through. If one lies, corrupts, manipulates, then the case is proven against that doctor and out he goes, but if you revert to the witch hunt mentality (whether it is politics or the medical profession!) then you are in reverse gear. Democracy is a very difficult position to achieve, and its even harder to maintain. You have to abide by the basic rules otherwise it is lost

  8. rotorblade100

    I don’t actually understand what you are saying on that one? I think I have missed your point as perhaps you have missed mine. Sorry

  9. Lamia

    If the doctor starts ‘disappearing’ and killing patients, then a ‘screaming mob’ is not the main problem here.

  10. Lamia

    I am pointing out that the tears that matter are not those of the US but of Ukrainians having their country invaded. You seem to be pre-occupied with how this affects/what this says about the US.

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