The Legal Status and Modern History of Crimean Autonomy

von Anastasiia Tatarenko

Over the past weeks, much has been said about the Republic of Crimea’s secession/annexation to the Russian Federation and on its illegality (see on this blog here) and I personally agree with these statements. At the same time, I believe that the Crimean problem is much more complex at its roots and that some of Crimea’s history and its struggle for independence in the past have been overlooked in most of the recent discussion. I will provide some historical overview of the Crimean struggle for independence. It will dispel the widespread myth that Crimea for centuries had been part of Russia and was “gifted” to Ukraine and illustrate that yet another annexation of Crimea by Russia does not solve the Crimean problem.

The modern history of Crimea begins in 1783, when Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire. Until then, the Crimean Khanate had been part of the Ottoman Empire, where it enjoyed broad autonomy. Between 1783 and 1918, Crimea remained a region of the Russian Empire, with Crimean Tatars being the majority of Crimea’s largely rural population. There were also large numbers of Russians and Ukrainians as well as smaller numbers of Germans, Jews (including Krymchaks and Crimean Karaites), Bulgarians, Belarussians, Turks, Armenians, and Greeks and Gypsies. In 1853–1856, the Russian Empire engaged into the Crimean war with an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the Duchy of Nassau. As a result of this war, the economic and social infrastructure of Crimea was ruined, the ethnic balance in the region was altered.

The first republic in the history of Crimea was pronounced in December of 1917, as the “Soviet Socialistic Republic of Taurida” (Crimean Tatar government). This republic existed for less than two months. In January 1918 it was occupied by the Austrian-German army and plunged into a civil war ...

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