Who Has A Right To Crimea

Volodymyr G. Butkevych

The consolidation of Soviet power

Soviet power was established in Crimea in the Spring of 1919 (with the exception of the Kerchensky Peninsula). In order to prevent the success of any Ukrainian claims to Crimea, the RKP(b) Politburo decided on 23 March 1919 to create a Crimean Soviet Republic within the RSFSR. However, this was not an act supported by the general population in Crimea and could not be considered a legal document upon which to substantiate a Russian claim to Crimea.

The RKP(b) Politburo had recalled the founding Congress of Soviets, Workers, and Peasants' Committees in Tauriia from 7-10 March 1918. The delegates to this congress had decided to adopt an appeal to the government of the RSFSR, in which they stated:

"Soviet authority should be established in all Ukrainian territories as an expression of the will of the working people; and we will support such authority along with our Ukrainian proletarian comrades by all means available to us. We do not recognize any other authority." [40]

Having reviewed the membership of the Crimean republican government on 28 April, on 29 April 1919 the RKP(b) Politburo called a Crimean provincial party conference at which several dozen communists, under orders from the Russian Politburo, created a Crimean Soviet Socialist Republic as a part of the RSFSR. The conference prepared a declaration for the provisional government in which it was announced that "With the will of the revolutionary workers and peasants of Crimea and the glorious advances of the Red Army, the bourgeois-collaborating Crimean government is dissolved and Crimea proclaims itself a Socialist Soviet Republic." This declaration was promulgated on 6 May 1919.

However, while the declaration claimed to represent the will of Crimean workers and peasants, they were not represented at the conference. The text of the declaration was copied directly from similar Russian documents, without taking into account the conditions present in Crimea. A Provisional Workers'-Peasants' Government was formed with such a fundamental distrust of the local population that it included as its basis people who were wholly unfamiliar with Crimea - Lenin's brother, D. Ulyanov, for example. The government was formed along the example of the Russian Sovnarkom and thus included an appointed foreign minister. This alerted the Russian Sovnarkom, and resulted in a resolution of the RKP(b) Central Committee on 28 May 1919 on the status of the Crimean government:

"To accept as a directive, that the government acts as a provincial executive committee and is sub-ordinated to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsVK) and appropriate People's Commissariats, while the provincial party committee is now directly subordinated 10 the Central Committee of the RKPb." [41]

Generally speaking, the history of the Crimean provincial party organisation can lead to an assessment of the Bolshevik attitude to the independence of Crimea. Having disagreed with the policies of the Provisional Government and wanting to acquire the support of Ukraine in the future, in October 1917 the Russian Socialist Democratic Workers' Party (Bolsheviks)[RSDWP(b)] recognized that Crimea logically belonged to Ukrainian territory. Moreover, it decided that Bolshevik party organisations in Crimea should be subordinated to Kyiv and not Russia. In a letter from the RSDWP(b) Central Committee to the Mykolayiv provincial party organisation dated 18 September 1917, Sverdlov offered the following explanation:

"The issue of this province is of great significance. We believe it would suit you much better to subordinate yourselves to Kyiv for the time being. This province will include, as can be surmised, aside from Kyiv and its outer region, Odessa, Mykolayiv, Kherson, Crimea with Sevastopil, Yelysavetgrad, and others. There can be a possible division of this territory into two regions: 1) Kyiv, Poltava, Chernihiv, Mohyliv and so on; 2) Odessa, Mykolayiv, Crimea and so on." [42]

Following the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917 the leaders of the RSDWP(b) stopped considering Ukraine's communists when deciding on issues associated with Crimea. As alluded to earlier, they subordinated the Crimean communists directly to the Russian Central Committee - in which case this merely dealt with Russian communists that were sent to Crimea from Russia in the first place. The Ukrainian party's Central Committee created a special committee (consisting of S.V. Kosior, H.l. Petrovsky and D.Z. Manuilsky) to coordinate the activity of the underground communist organisation in Crimea. It also allocated 500 thousand rubles for the needs of the Crimean provincial party organisation and 250 thousand rubles for a printing press. However, fearing Denikin's advance [43], the Russian Central Committee once again took over the Crimean party organisation. On 20 December 1919 it resolved that, "Considering the possible liberation and reestablishment of the Crimean republic, it is necessary to order the committee consisting of D. Ulyanov, Haven and Maksymovsky to select political workers for Crimea and to prepare a thesis on the tasks of the party and Soviet authority in Crimea."

The interjection of Poland and Germany's General Wrangel into Russia's affairs delayed the Central Committee's plans. The date for the 'liberation' of Crimea was postponed. Control of the Crimean party organisation was once again handed over to the communists in Ukraine. A Crimean subsection, under the leadership of Y. Haven, was formed within the UKP(b) Central Committee. In order to strengthen its own position within the Crimean organisation, it sent nine thousand political workers and allocated finances for this purpose as well. However, after the liberation of Crimea from the Germans, the Crimean party organisation once again fell under Russian control.

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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-10.html

Copyright © 1992 Volodymyr G. Butkevych

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