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Why do so many Russians live in Crimea?

Why do so many Russians live in Crimea?

Now that Crimeans have overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia:

Fireworks exploded and Russian flags fluttered above jubilant crowds… [as] the United States and Europe condemned the ballot as illegal and destabilizing.

There is no question that many ethnic Russians live in that part of Ukraine. To find out why, take a look at some history of the area:

The chart shows a collapse in the population of native Crimean Tatars from 34.1% in 1897 to zero in 1959, marking brutal harassment leading up to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s forcible deportation of the entire population in 1944, with nearly half dying in the process. It took decades for the population to climb back to 12% by 2001.

While the population of Ukrainians and especially Russians rose, the percentage of the population falling into an unlisted category also fell from more than 20% in 1921 to around 5% in 1959. This was a consequence of the deportation of Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and other groups.

Here’s the chart:


Stalin paved the way, and Putin reaps the benefit. Here are some details:

The forced deportees were given only 30 minutes to gather personal belongings, after which they were loaded onto cattle trains and moved out of Crimea. 193,865 Crimean Tatars were deported, 151,136 of them to Uzbek SSR, 8,597 to Mari ASSR, 4,286 to Kazakh SSR, the rest 29,846 to the various oblasts of Russian SFSR. At the same moment, most of the Crimean Tatar men who were fighting in the ranks of the Red Army were demobilized and sent into forced labor camps in Siberia and in the Ural mountain region.

The deportation was poorly planned and executed, local authorities in the destination areas were not properly informed about the scale of the matter and did not receive enough resources to accommodate the deportees. The lack of accommodation and food, the failure to adapt to new climatic conditions and the rapid spread of diseases had a heavy demographic impact during the first years of exile.

…Due to hunger, thirst and disease, around 45% of the total population died in the process of deportation. According to Soviet dissident information, many Crimean Tatars were made to work in the large-scale projects conducted by the Soviet GULAG system…

Crimean activists call for the recognition of the Sürgünlik as genocide.

It doesn’t seem like a stretch to call it that, does it? And as a consequence, Russians became the majority population in Crimea.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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JimMtnViewCaUSA | March 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

[cough] Walter Duranty [cough]
Yeah, I know, he is more associated with the Ukraine. But I’m still expecting Duranty’s employer to spend a lot of ink explaining why the US should do nothing. In order to support their favored US political party.

    DINORightMarie in reply to JimMtnViewCaUSA. | March 17, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Yeah, I know, he is more associated with the Ukraine.

    Crimea is in Eastern Ukraine, yes?

    But, indeed, the “fishwrap of record” NYT will do its fellow-traveler duty and blithely explain away the facts and reality, no doubt.

I was wondering when someone would make this point here. The problem is, it’s really hard to go around deciding whose vote is legitimate and whose is not based on past bloodshed. Otherwise most U.S. states would be run from Indian reservations rather than state capitols. The post-WWII order resolved the issue by booting Germans out of Central and Eastern European countries not named Germany (East or West).

Obviously a similar solution, booting all the “Russians” out, did not happen here, which would have greatly simplified the issue. Genocide is a horrible thing, but I try to appreciate the gigantic can of worms that would be opened if votes should be weighed on what-ifs rather than live people. (This makes me also frown on ballot stuffing, double voting, dead hand voting and other things that may well have happened in Crimea, and in Chicago as the case may be.)

If it’s the moral weight of a person’s vote vs. reapolitik and tanks, reapolitik and tanks will tend to win… though I would never argue that’s for the better.

    Pettifogger in reply to JBourque. | March 17, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I generally agree that you have to accept peoples where you find them. There is no spot on this earth that was not taken from somebody else at some point in history. What many overlook (not saying that you do) is that this same principle applies to Israel.

      Alma Allred in reply to Pettifogger. | March 17, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      “What many overlook is that this same principle applies to Israel.” And many more overlook that it applies to most of the middle east as well. Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait and Israel were all established by mandates–just as Israel’s original borders were established by the British Mandate.

    Valerie in reply to JBourque. | March 17, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Let’s do it more simply: how about requiring the vote be had according to the local Constitution?

    Even more simply: how about actually having the vote be a choice?

      Well it’s not like the public voted to remove Yanukovych either. It’s a mess. A big, ugly mess. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to laugh out loud every time I see Obama talking about the “democratic leaders of Ukraine”.

      JOHN B in reply to Valerie. | March 18, 2014 at 8:19 am

      Even better, since the White House is condemning the Crimean vote, let’s have a new election Chicago-style. Big improvement, huh?

That was so 19th and 20th century. We are lucky that obama, kerry, and clinton have moved the world into the 21st century.

An old saying among some east European friends of mine is: “Scratch a Russian, find a Tartar.”

A psychiatrist might be able to explain that better than I can.

Humphrey's Executor | March 17, 2014 at 11:56 am

I wonder what the real vote total was.

Let’s just gloss over the fact that this farce of a referendum was preceded by the incursion of over 20,000 Russian troops into sovereign territory, orchestrated by Yanukovych (a known criminal) and the Kremlin.

Or the pro-Russian thugs and rioters that are assaulting and killing native Ukrainians and pro-Ukranians minorities to advance their “referendum”.

Would you say the referendum vote of the Germans who handed Austria over to the Third Reich on the premise of incidental ethnocentric census superiority (despite the objections of other pro-Austrian and minority groups) was legal?

Is it legit if the Russians in Brighton Beach, NY or the Chicanos in South CA invited an occupying force and voted similarly?

This could be a precedent for Mexico to annex the Southwest states….

Food for thought.

    Arius in reply to Dimsdale. | March 17, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    The West was warned of that by many Europeans before the Kosovo vote for independence. It’s hypocrisy to say that the the people of Crimea can’t vote for their independence from Ukraine.

      JOHN B in reply to Arius. | March 18, 2014 at 8:26 am

      Good point.

      The US (Clintons) dropped bombs on civilians to force the breakup of Yugoslavia into several countries. So now we claim borders drawn on maps are forever?

      Too many of our leaders gave up the moral high ground – the current ones included.

And it explains why China flooded Tibet with Chinese nationals: any vote will go their way.

Throughout history, almost all countries were formed based upon the ethnicity or religion of the population. What a contrast to America which was founded upon an idea rather than where you happened to be born.

The point is valid but moot. Even the Russian speaking people of Crimea or the rest of Ukraine would not vote to return to Russian control.

They remember the Soviet Empire. They would never freely choose Putin’s authoritarian kleptocracy run by former KGB goons to the fledgling democracy of Ukraine, seeking closer ties with the West and Europe.

Anyone who believes otherwise is hereby invited to voice that opinion to any Russian-speaking septuagenarian Ukrainian emigre in New York City, and count their teeth afterwards.

It’s a sham vote. The Russians are just smarter than Saddam or Kim and don’t make it 100% – that way their useful idiots and fellow travelers in the West will find it believable.

    Arius in reply to Estragon. | March 17, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Five more minutes of living under the fascist/nazi backbone of the new Kiev government might just change their minds.

“Now that Crimeans have overwhelmingly voted …”

I wish people would stop saying this. The truth is we have no idea how the majority voted. The count was rigged. The result is fake and should be treated as such.

9thDistrictNeighbor | March 17, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Ethnic cleansing meets Lebensraum meets Anschluß.

Economist Thomas Sowell’s “Conquests and Cultures: An International History” (1998) covers the linger after-effects of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union as well as many other examples of the after-effects of various conquests and cultural migrations, including England, Scotland and Ireland.