Ms. Grant/ Mrs. Henriques
20th May 2014
To what extent have the ethnic groups of Crimea influenced present problems since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991?
Crimea, an autonomous republic, south of Ukraine, is a country that is most well known for the conflicts that have taken place within it. The country has faced many issues, and in this essay I will be investigating a possible reason for the current problems in Crimea: the variety of ethnic groups that live there and how their influence in the country. The people of Crimea are divided, based on their ethnic groups and what each group wants for the future of Crimea and the country’s relationship with the rest of the world. The people of Crimea have many different reasons behind what they want for their country. Because of the history of the nation and the tensions between the ethnic groups, they have influenced the current problems extensively since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The demographic below, from the State Statistics Committee of Ukraine (State Statistics Committee of Ukraine, National Composition of Population), shows the how the population of Crimea is made up of many different ethnicities. The three most common, Russian (58.5%), Ukrainian (24.4%) and Crimean Tartar (12.1%), are the groups that this essay will be focused upon, as they have the largest influence in the country.
The Crimean Tartars are a group that has extensive history in the country. They are the descendants of the Ottoman Empire, who conquered and settled in Crimea in the late 15th century (Columbia University Press, Crimea). After the Ottoman Empire fell, the Crimean Tartars remained in the country, which they now called home. This was the case at least, until 1944, when Stalin claimed that all Crimean Tartars were guilty of siding with the Germans during World War II. An ethnic cleansing followed these accusations. Almost all Crimean Tartars were rounded up and taken to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other countries that were part of the Asian USSR. When it was discovered that some Crimean Tartars had escaped the cleansing, the NKVD (a law enforcement agency of the Soviet Union) put all the remaining Crimean Tartars on a boat. They then ‘sunk the boat and finished the passengers off with machine gun fire’ (Otto Pohl, J, ‘And This Must Be Remembered!’). In total, an estimated 6,000 Crimean Tartars died during the cleansing. When they arrived at the new countries, they faced more problems. The accusations of helping the Germans meant that people that were part of the USSR hated them. They also had no way to make money; no homes, no food and the diseases in the new countries were something the Crimean Tartars had no immunity to. In 1989, forty-two years after they were exiled form their homes, a decree was passed by the Soviet Union, “On Recognizing the Illegal and Criminal Repressive Acts against Peoples Subjected to Forcible Resettlement and Ensuring their Rights.” This meant that the Crimean Tartars were free to return to Crimea. Since then, there have been numerous attempts by them to access protection, land and political representation. Instead, they are a minority that is frequently discriminated against, in a country that they have resided in for hundreds of years. Russians are the most common ethnic group in Crimea today. They went into Crimea when they Tartars were forced out, taking their place. Crimea was now tied extensively to Russia, as the people in the country still identified as Russian. Russian is the language is spoken the most in Crimea today (Otto Pohl, J, ‘And This Must Be Remembered!’). When the Russians moved into Crimea, it was officially under the jurisdiction of the RSFSR. However, in 1954, it was given as a gift by Nikita Khrushchev, the then First Secretary of the Communist Party, to Ukraine SSR. This arrangement was fine for the Russians, as Ukraine was still a part of the Soviet Union. But when the