Who Has A Right To Crimea

Volodymyr G. Butkevych

Why was the Sich destroyed?

Henceforth relations between St. Petersburg and the Sich quickly worsened and Catherine began to consider the final destruction of the Sich more seriously. This option, she felt, would once and for all deal with the 'Little Russians' and open an unobstructed corridor to Crimea. The problem then became the implementation of such a plan. In spite of the fact that Catherine's generals attributed Russia's success over Turkey to their own acumen, Catherine was well aware of the level of their military abilities. She knew her generals would not have stood the slightest chance in a war with the Zaporizhians. Her aides constantly reminded her that the Sich was supported by the people of Ukraine. The only solution, therefore, was to deprive the 'criminal' Cossacks of this popular support. In order to achieve this, it then became necessary to remove the Cossacks from their territories.

Thus, Catherine returned to an earlier plan that had began formulating in the early 1760's. Under Catherine's initiative, in 1762 the Imperial Senate issued an ukaz [9] concerning the recruitment of foreigners for settlement in Ukraine and a Manifesto in a similar vein. In 1763 she issued yet another Manifesto outlining a program for the acceleration of foreign colonisation in Ukraine These documents promised the following conditions to prospective colonists, all of which would be harmful to the interests of the people of Ukraine: a) resettlement at the cost of the state within two years of departure; b) two years' cost-tree food supply, housing and transport (responsibility for which would lie directly with the local villagers in Ukraine): c) in accordance with the choice of the settler, an allocation of up to 60 desiatyny [10] of the most fertile land per person; d) the granting of long-term loans for construction, supply and sowing purposes; e) a waiving of all tax responsibilities for thirty years; f) an exemption from conscriptive military service; g) hereditary privileges for acquiring local serfs; h) a guarantee of political rights, religious freedoms and local establishment, schools, churches, community organisations and so on.

The settlers were recruited from amongst Serbs, Bulgarians, Moldovans, Greeks, Prussians, Austrians and other Europeans. In this manner 30,000 Moldovans alone were resettled in Ukraine along with nineteen thousand Greeks. In order to ensure that the settlers did not choose to leave their new homes, Catherine established a Chancellery for the Protection of Foreigners and allocated 200,000 rubles to finance the resettlement program.

The ukaz bestowing permission for the apportionment of lands to the colonists was issued by the empress in 1765. However, in exchange for the lands to be colonised, the empress demanded the lands of the Zaporizhian Sich in return. This demand was met with great opposition by Kalnyshevsky, who was still continuing his efforts at a rapprochement with the Crimean Khanate. On her part, Catherine ll promised Kalnyshevsky to immediately settle the situation, taking his position into consideration while at the same time sending her governors-general into Ukraine to begin the colonisation of Ukrainian lands. It was this policy of Catherine's that formed the basis for the erroneous contention by Russian historians that Catherine ll and Kalnyshevsky enjoyed good relations. This position served to mask the actual details of Russia's colonisation of Ukraine, while at the same time falling short of a satisfactory explanation of Catherine's harsh solution to the 'Kalnyshevsky problem' in 1775.

Ignoring Kalnyshevsky's protests, Catherine issued an ukaz acknowledging the rights of Russian colonists in Ukraine. Later that same year she initiated the creation of a coordination centre for colonisation at the Malorossiiska College and allocated 42,000 rubles for this purpose.

At this time Kalnyshevsky understood that Catherine's policy was slowly leading towards the destruction of both the Sich and the Crimean Khanate. He took his suspicions to the Crimean Khan and proposed to him a joint effort to stop the spread of Tsarism into Ukraine and Crimea. The Crimean Tatars then journeyed to the Zaporizhian Sich and wintered there. This caused St. Petersburg to accuse the Sultan of Turkey of complicity in the matter at the talks that were being held in Bucharest in 1772. "ln two years," stated the empress' emissary O. Obreskov, "over 11,000 Tatars have crossed over into Zaporizhian Cossack lands and have wintered there." [11]

Meanwhile Catherine continued attempting to undermine the relationship between the Zaporizhian Sich and the Crimean Khanate. The Governor-General of Slobodian Ukraine [12], Ye. Shcherbinin, was temporarily sent to Crimea with the task of convincing the Khan that Russia had no intention of annexing Crimea and that it merely wanted for it to become a state independent of Turkey. An official resident, P. Veselytsky, was also sent by Russia, and through his insistence was accepted along with his credentials. A different version of this was put forth by N. Panin:

"According to accepted European tradition and etiquette, there can be nothing more truly, clearly and satisfactorily proven than the recognition by the local court of Tatar independence and the proposition that they are worthy of direct relations and correspondence with respected states." [13]

At the outset the Khan refused to embrace friendly relations. Then Ye. Shcherbinin provoked an attack by a neighbouring Muslim group, the Haitsi, on the Tatars. In 1772 the Crimean Khanate was thus forced to sign a treaty with Russia, [14] having taken upon itself a whole series of responsibilities vis-a-vis Russia. The treaty specifically announced "the union, friendship and trust between Russia and the Crimean Khanate." (Article l?).

"Neither the Russian Empire nor the Ottoman Porta [the title of the formal seat of Turkish power] and other allies have the right to interfere in anything [regarding affairs of the other party]; but by resolution of the Khan, it will be permissible for the Russian High Court to do so." (Article ll). In return for the obligation to refrain frcm demanding military aid from the Khan, Russia persuaded the Khan to sever all ties with the Zaporizhian Sich. Russia also reserved the cities of Kerch and Yenikan for itself in return for granting the Khan right of passage across Russian territory to the Kuban region (Article Vll). In addition to the above, Russia also secured the right in the treaty to quarter its army and fleet in Crimea as a "guarantee of the security of Tatar independence," and dealt with questions of trade, borders and an exchange of diplomatic representatives in articles XVII, LXXIX and Xlll respectively.

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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-04.html

Copyright © 1992 Volodymyr G. Butkevych

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