Who Has A Right To Crimea

Volodymyr G. Butkevych

"Divide and Rule"

This policy gave birth to a unique demographic cycle. Following the destruction of the Sich and the subsequent mass resettlement program, the number of Ukrainians again began to increase and this was met by a legislative counterattack. In 1785 Catherine issued a manifesto on the recruitment of foreign settlers to Ukraine. However, the resettlement policy soon led to a crisis. Within two years after the manifesto over twenty-five thousand Ukrainians were deported to central Russia, while Russia encountered great difficulties in finding its own people to resettle the abandoned lands. This quite naturally was reflected in the economic development of the region by an absence of employable labour. Thus, Catherine's reply was to issue an order for the recruitment of previously deported or willingly resettled Ukrainians from abroad. All across Europe, Russian recruitment offices began to appear.

Having already developed a deportation strategy with Ukrainians, Russia began to apply these same principles to the indigenous population following the seizure of Crimea. While before the seizure there had been a population of over 400,000 in Crimea, after the first several months of becoming part of the Russian empire there were 70,269 males and roughly 140,000 total population. The deportation was so rapid that by the spring of 1784 the Shah Shahin Hirei was also deported. He was presented with the choices of Kaluga, Orel or Voronezh for his new home. In 1787 Potemkin issued the order to dispose of all remaining Tatar administrators left in Crimea.

The absence of a productive native population left the Russian army in a difficult logistical situation, since it was left with no local source of supplies. It was thus unable to quickly carry out Catherine's orders to rebuild in the area. Moreover, Following the seizure of Crimea many European states adopted a negative attitude towards Russia. Russia was able to trade some Polish territories from Prussia and Bessarabian territories from Austria. While the Russian court was able to make other minor advances in foreign policy, they were not great enough to rescue the situation caused by Russia's poor standing in Europe. It was then that Russia resorted to announcing that the sole reason for the seizure of Crimea was to civilize the 'barbaric' local population.

In response to this explanation, many highly placed European state officials travelled to Crimea to be convinced of the process of 'civilisation' that was being carried out in the southern regions of Ukraine and Crimea. Potemkin was then ordered to immediately rebuild the countryside, however there were insufficient labour and resources to complete the task. Undaunted by the dilemma, Potemkin decided to construct false villages along the route to be taken by the European delegates, and placed painted facades of villages further in the distance. It is here that the term 'Potemkin villages' claims its roots.

A further negative impact on the resolution of the Crimean problem was the inherent nature of Tsarist policy, which was directed at a complete severing of all ties between Ukraine and Crimea. It was due to this that Russia did not consider favourable the option of resettling the emptied Crimean lands with Ukrainians. No effort was spared to ensure that the lands would be settled primarily with Russians. However, this plan met with failure due to an overwhelming lack of will on the part of most Russians to resettle so far away from their homes. The first attempt at Russian resettlement was made by using the army. Russian soldiers were promised demobilisation if they were to accept permanent settlement in Crimea. In order to make the offer appear more attractive, Catherine issued an ukaz on 14 January 1785 giving authorization to unite wives with the soldiers opting to remain. The ukaz succeeded in recruiting only 4,425 wives. A further attempt was made to find female volunteers to travel to Crimea and wed unmarried soldiers there. Ignoring the rather high compensation for volunteering (five rubles per volunteer was the advertised payment), very few Russian women came forth.

Russia then tried to encourage "Little Russian" women to volunteer to wed soldiers in Crimea. This, however, was also unsuccessful, since only 1,497 Ukrainian and 2,353 Moldovan women came forward. A majority of Russian soldiers, wishing to regain their freedom from service, agreed to permanent settlement in Crimea and then following demobilisation, fled back to their homes in Russia. In this manner the Russian army in Crimea was reduced to half its original complement between April and November 1784, while no significant growth in new settlers occurred. This was the main reason behind Russia's agreement to allow for the settlement of Crimea with Ukrainians. However, it made sure that these would not be Ukrainians who had had any well developed relations in Crimea; instead opting to recruit settlers from Polish occupied Ukraine. Potemkin wrote Catherine in 1787 that "it would be against the interests of the state to forbid the acceptance of Ukrainian settlers from Poland. Poland then would be able to take advantage of them as a resource. It would be desirable to encourage as many representatives of the Ukrainian people in Poland as possible to leave Poland for Crimea." This was in essence an admission of Russia's failure in its Crimean aspirations.

In the ensuing years Ukrainians began to settle Ukrainian territory as it is known by its present geographic borders, as well as territories that have since become part of other countries. Concerning the territory of the former Crimean Khanate, by the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries it was inhabited by a majority of Ukrainians. For example, in the Tauride guberniia Ukrainians made up 42.2% of the population, Russians - 27.9%, Tatars - 13.0%, Germans - 5.4%, Jews - 3.8%, Bulgarians - 2.8%, with a mixture of other nationalities comprising the rest. The territorial area settled by Ukrainians in Crimea greatly surpassed that inhabited by Russians. The Tsarist government had by this time come to realise that it had failed in its attempt at selective demographic development. Thus from 1897-1914 St. Petersburg undertook an unprecedented resettlement program in which 1.69 million Ukrainians were deported from nine Crimean guberniias to Siberia and the Far East. A new influx of Russians and non-Ukrainians into Ukraine was concurrently begun. While describing Tsarist demographic policy, Stalin quite justifiably wrote that "Tsarism purposefully settled the well-off outer regions with colonial elements in order to squeeze out local populations, force them into worse regions and sow national enmity." [19] Following the Bolshevik overthrow in 1917 Stalin himself adopted these very same Tsarist principles of 'demographic selection.'

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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-07.html

Copyright © 1992 Volodymyr G. Butkevych

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