Why Did Soviet Union Give Crimea to Ukraine


Crimea was historically a part of Russia. Specifically, it became a part of Russia in 1783., when the Russian Empire had annexed it a decade after defeating Ottoman forces in the Battle of Kozludzha. In 1954., Soviet government transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federation of Socialist Republics (RSFSR) to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (UkrSSR). The transfer was publically announced in late February 1954., eight days after the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet adopted a resolution authorizing the move on 19 February.

Officially, the transfer was done for the following reasons:

  • Crimean Oblast is a geographically natural continuation of the southern steppes of Ukraine. The economy of the Crimean Oblast is closely tied to the economy of the Ukrainian SSR. Commonality of the economy, the territorial proximity and economic and cultural ties made it advisable to transfer the Crimean Oblast to Ukrainian SSR.
  • Ukrainian people and Russian people had been tied through history. The centuries-long friendship of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples and the economic and cultural link between Crimea and Ukraine were consolidated still further with the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The transfer of Crimea serves the purpose of strenghtening the friendship between Ukraine and Russia.

Neither justification holds up to scrutiny. In 1950s, Crimea was 75% Russian and 25% Ukrainian by ethnic composition. In the previous decade, Stalin had expelled Tatars, Armenians, Bulgarians and Greeks from Crimea, making the peninsula more Russian than it had been for centuries. And while Crimea did have important economic ties to Ukraine, its cultural ties were much stronger with Russia. Crimea was also the site of major Russian military bases since the Tsarist times.

The official explanation did hint at the real reason for the transfer: it was supposed to tie Ukraine to Russia. Khruschev had served as the head of the Communist Party of Ukraine from the late 1930s through the end of 1949. During last several years, he had overseen Soviet side of a fierce civil war.

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