February 22, 2014

Crimea, fyi

Crimea, a rugged peninsula in the Black Sea that is part of Ukraine due to a Soviet-era symbolic gesture of redrawing administrative boundaries, but is also home to the biggest Russian Navy base in the Black Sea, will be coming more into the news. So, here is a bit of background from Wikipedia:
Crimea is now an autonomous parliamentary republic, within Ukraine,[6] which is governed by the Constitution of Crimea in accordance with the laws of Ukraine. ... 

This problem of a Russian-speaking enclave within Ukraine also existed from 1992 onward, but compromises were hammered out by the people involved. Whether that will still be possible due to the subsequent expansion of NATO and the EU eastward remains to be seen.
On 18 May 1944, the entire population of the Crimean Tatars was forcibly deported in the "Sürgün" (Crimean Tatar for exile) to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin's Soviet government as a form of collective punishment, on the grounds that they had collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces.[15] An estimated 46% of the deportees died from hunger and disease.[citation needed] On 26 June of the same year, the Armenian, Bulgarian, and Greek population was also deported to Central Asia. ... 
On 19 February 1954, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union issued a decree transferring the Crimean Oblast from the RSFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.[19] 

This was a symbolic gesture by the Soviets to thank Ukrainian cossacks for allying with Moscow 300 years earlier in 1654 in their war of independence from Poland.
Ethnic groups 
According to 2001 Ukrainian Census, the population of Crimea was 2,033,700.[44] The ethnic makeup was comprised the following self-reported groups: Russians: 58.32%; Ukrainians: 24.32%; Crimean Tatars: 12.1%; Belarusians: 1.44%; Tatars: 0.54%; Armenians: 0.43%; Jews: 0.22%, Greeks: 0.15% and others. ... 
Ukrainian is the single official state language countrywide, and is the sole language of government in Ukraine. According to the census mentioned, 77% of Crimean inhabitants named Russian as their native language; 11.4% – Crimean Tatar; and 10.1% – Ukrainian.[49] In Crimea government business is carried out mainly in Russian. Attempts to expand the usage of Ukrainian in education and government affairs have been less successful in Crimea than in other areas of the nation.[50] 
The number of Crimean residents who consider Ukraine their motherland increased sharply from 32% to 71.3% from 2008 through 2011; according to a poll by Razumkov Center in March 2011,[51] although this is the lowest number in all Ukraine (93% on average across the country).[51]

Off the top of my head, I would assume that the rise in pro-Ukrainian sentiment in Crimea from 2008 to 2011 was due to a pro-Russian winning the Ukrainian election of 2010.
Surveys of regional identities in Ukraine have shown that around 30% of Crimean residents claim to have retained a self-identified "Soviet identity".[52] 
Demographic trends 
The population of the Crimean Peninsula has been consistently falling at a rate of 0.4% per year.[53] This is particularly apparent in both the Russian and Ukrainian ethnic populations, whose growth rate has been falling at the rate of 0.6% and 0.12% annually respectively. In comparison, the ethnic Crimean Tatar population has been growing at the rate of 0.9% per annum.[54] 
The growing trend in the Crimean Tatar population has been explained by the continuing repatriation of Crimean Tatars mainly from Uzbekistan.

One goal in building up Sochi as a resort might be to replace Crimea as a destination for Russian tourists.

The Muslim Tatars of the Crimea are famously reasonable for Muslims. A really bad sign would be if the Saudis started paying to radicalize Crimean Tatars. A cursory web search doesn't find much evidence for that yet, thankfully.


Anonymous said...


"A Ukrainian rabbi has urged Kiev’s Jews to leave the city and even the state. Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, told Ma’ariv, an Israeli newspaper:

“I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city all together and if possible the country too. I don’t want to tempt fate. But there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions.”

Edward Dolinsky, head of the umbrella organization of Ukraine’s Jews described the situation in Kiev as dire, told Maariv “We contacted Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman requesting he assist us with securing the community.”"

Anonymous said...

Interesting theory:


"My take on this strategic game of geopolitical chess happening right now in Ukraine is that this crisis was engineered by Moscow.

Of course they attracted the stupid yankees in it as a decoy. The Americans are not that bright to begin with.

The plan was all along to partition Ukraine in 2 parts.

A couple of months ago Putin did not have tanks in Ukraine. Now it looks like half of Ukraine's territory, the most developed and with rich in resources, is about to "ask for protection" from Putin.

Look at it this way: Putin is advancing towards the West.

What we are witnessing is a masterfully played hand by Putin. It just doesn't appear that way at first glance, and superficial Westerners cannot see it. This blond chick who was let out of jail.

Does anybody know what the trumped up charges were? I'll remind you: buying nat gas from Gazprom way above the market price.

That's right.

So you want me to believe that Putin, told Yanukovych in the past, "Hey tovariche Yanukovych , put that blond b****ch in jail, she wants to buy gas from me, and she wants to make me filthy rich doing so, I don't like that, I hate money".

And now she is out and about to rule the Western part of Ukraine, who will probably be the new Ukraine. My take, is that she is a double agent, and she is loyal to Putin.

So Putin will get a double agent of his in the western part of Ukraine as the ruler, while the naive populace will look at her as proEU, and his tanks in the eastern part of Ukraine, where he will be the ruler.

Hmmm... I just don't see what is he losing.

The Americans have been played.

It's telling that in the compromise Germany and Poland were involved and not the Americans. Putin and Germany are in love, they just don't show it.

See folks, this is how strategic geopolitical moves are done. Very clever and very deceitful.

It smells of 1989 all over again. When Moscow allowed USSR to fall. Funny bunch the Russian, they make 2 step forward, one backward. And when they win something they make the enemy think they actually lost.

The Cold War never ended."

Reg Cæsar said...

I had a job once in a university library transliterating a hoard of old maps from Cyrillic. I couldn't believe my eyes when I came across Цюрихталь-- i.e., Zürichthal-- in the Crimea.

Evidently there was colonization by Germans and Swiss a long time ago. The place had one German name then; now it has two Slavic ones.

Anonymous said...

""A Ukrainian rabbi has urged Kiev’s Jews to leave the city and even the state. Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, told Ma’ariv, an Israeli newspaper"

He's a Chabad rabbi. Chabad is very close with Putin. Putin has been very friendly to Chabad. Putin's narrative is that Maidan was entirely composed of Galician Banderovites (no, but its leadership and the people doing the fighting and dying are), so this is likely a calculated statement to bolster that narrative.

Anonymous said...

"""One goal in building up Sochi as a resort might be to replace Crimea as a destination for Russian tourists.""""

Oh, come come come now. Let's just ask the question that hasn't been asked in quite a while.

Suppose modern Russia decides (internally of course) that it really wants the Crimea back? Back as in, part of Russia proper as it once was way back during historical times?

Suppose it wants what it considers historically part of Russia....back?

Who really is going to stop it from occuring?

And why should we in particular really care? Are we really going to "risk"....what? What? Over the Crimea? Hell, we didn't even participate during the 19th century Crimean war why would we bother raising a ruckus now?

It's not our problem.

Let them have it back.

Anonymous said...

From the Wikipedia: "In 1571, the Crimean Tatars attacked and sacked Moscow, burning everything but the Kremlin."

I don't think that was the only time, by the way. I'm guessing some US taxpayer and Saudi oil money has already been spent on reminding Crimean Tatars of those glorious pages of their history. Glorification of the sacking of Christian capitals - one more thing that the Saudis and the neocons will be able to agree on.

Anonymous said...

"This problem of a Russian-speaking enclave within Ukraine"

Let me be an ignorant bigot here, but based on a safari to Brighton Beach Brooklyn I can confidently say that Bulgarians, Ukrainians and Russians all look alike and talk alike. So this stuff about there being a Ukrainian language is mostly BS. Sort of like saying Irish and Australian are different languages. The argument for an ethnic difference is even more bogus as basically everyone from the Arctic to the Turkish border all look the same.

The experts at Wikipedia think Ukrainian and Russian are the same but are too polite to say so.


Claiming slight variations of the same language are actually different is an Eastern European idiosyncraticity.

Moldovans finally gave up and admitted Moldovan is the same language as Romanian.

Moldovan court rules official language is 'Romanian,' replacing Soviet-flavored 'Moldovan'


Serbs, Croats and Bosnians all pretend they speak a different language. For an amusing side trip compare the Wikipedia entries for Serbian and Croatian.

Whiskey said...

Irish aka Gaelic is indeed different language wise from the English dialect Auusies speak.

Anonymous said...

So this stuff about there being a Ukrainian language is mostly BS.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! As a Russian, I cannot for the comprehend spoken Ukrainian or Bulgarian. Some words are obvious but that's about it. In written they are easier and I usually get the gist of what's there but it's far, far from being able to read. E.g., when I look at Ukrainian web sites, even a broken Google Translate is better than trying to figure out the original. In fact, Serbian is easier to understand than Bulgarian.

Anonymous said...

If you're interested in the Crimea, Orlando Figes wrote an excellent introduction.

Anonymous said...

Real Ukrainian, which is basically used outside Western Ukraine only for official purposes or to make a nationalist point (even in Kiev), is indeed different enough from Russian to make it pretty difficult to understand for a Russian speaker.

That's partly why Russian speakers in the Ukraine are so angry at the Ukrainian-only laws they pass every time the nationalists get into power. The Russophones are basically forced to deal with an unintelligible peasant hybrid of Russian and Polish.

Anonymous said...

Who cares! White tribalism is a direct result of the ethnocentric conception of a nation based on bloodlines. The tendency of European nations to fragment is a result of this flaw in European thinking on what constitutes a "nation."

Anonymous said...

"Wrong, wrong, wrong! As a Russian, I cannot for the comprehend spoken Ukrainian or Bulgarian.

He's talking about standard Ukrainian, which is basically Western Ukrainian. A smallish minority of the citizens of Ukraine speak standard Ukrainian at home. Most speak what I would describe as Russian with a Ukrainian accent. The gall of Western Ukrainians in classifying their small Polish-like dialect as "the Ukrainian language" is monumental.

As a native Russian speaker, I can understand the everyday speech of a large majority of Ukrainians (and of all the Belorussians I've ever met) without much difficulty. The standard Ukrainian language which Ukrainian nationalists have made mandatory for government business in Ukraine - that's relatively tough for me to understand aurally. If I concentrate hard I can sometimes get half the words spoken. Sometimes less than a quarter. It depends on the topic and the speaker.

Written standard Ukrainian is much easier for Russian speakers than that. On the page I'm not as distracted by the differences in pronunciation of essentially the same words. The words that ARE different often remind me of infrequently-used Russian words after a few seconds of thought. During conversations and while watching TV I don't get those few seconds to think about an unfamiliar word, so understanding suffers. On the page I end up understanding roughly 95% of standard Ukrainian, but it's slower going than with Russian.

Polish and Czech are about as different from Russian as French is from Spanish. Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian are closer to Russian than that, but not by very much.

When I hear Poles speaking, I probably get 5% to 10% of the native, non-international words used. By international words I mean ones like system, mathematics, operation, etc. - the common Greco-Latin abstract vocabulary of all European languages. I sometimes get 2 or 3 native Polish words in a row. 5 - probably never.

Again, it's easier on the page because I'm not distracted by their pronunciation and I have time to think what the unfamiliar words could be reminding me of. I end up recognizing 2/3 to 3/4 of native Polish words, but that's often not enough to make sense of many sentences. And the constant struggle against their spelling system and constant guessing (could this word be reminding me of anything?) tires me out quickly.

Both standard Ukrainian and Russian with a Ukrainian accent sound rustic and not overly sophisticated to Russians. Polish, Czech, Serbo-Croatian, etc. simply sound foreign but related, with no class overtones.

After Ukraine became independent some smart, urban and ambitious Ukrainians who previously spoke unaccented Russian studied up on standard Ukrainian for career advancement purposes. It still sounds weird to me when I hear a brainy lawyer or a hip TV host speaking standard Ukrainian, but it probably wouldn't to someone 15 years younger than me.

anony-mouse said...

"... Serbo-Croat are closer to Russian."

Frank Gorshin was 100% Croat. Now it all makes sense.

Anonymous said...

"The gall of Western Ukrainians in classifying their small Polish-like dialect as "the Ukrainian language" is monumental."

Thank Stalin for that. As much as the Galicians hate him, his nationalities policy of the 1920s is the reason why "Ukrainian" is thought of as anything more than the peasant dialect it is. Until the early 1930s, he thought it best to encourage national movements to counter Great Russian nationalism, so he adopted a policy of encouraging Ukrainian use in Soviet Ukraine, which never really spoke Ukrainian.

Good comment, btw.

5371 said...

The Galicians and the Princess won't take long to quarrel without a common enemy. They voted for Yushchenko, not her, at previous elections.

5371 said...

As for Crimea, I would put the proportion of non-Tartars there who would welcome reunion with Russia at well over 95%.

Anonymous said...

ambitious Ukrainians who previously spoke unaccented Russian

Yatsenuyk! He speaks Ukrainian with a strong Russian accent. It is very obvious that Russian is his native language. I was surprised how strong the accent is - worse than even Klitchko's.

Anonymous said...

I remember a bit of dialogue from a Bulgakov novel, probably The White Guard, between a character who had studied a bit of Ukrainian and a character who hadn't. The novel was set during the Russian Civil War, when it seemed for a while that "Ukrainian" could possibly become important in Ukraine.


"What's the Ukrainian word for cat"?


[This happens to be the Russian word for whale. A cat is kot in correct Russian.]

"Then what's the Ukrainian word for whale?"

"Why would Ukrainian have a word for whales?"

The point is that the commenter at 7:17 PM is right. It's a peasant dialect. It is sometimes literally funny to see educated people using it. Bulgakov himself was born and raised in Kiev, but wrote in standard Russian. Gogol and Chekhov considered themselves Ukrainian, but also wrote in Russian.

For a very long time urban, educated Ukrainians spoke standard Russian in the east and standard Polish in the west. And you've got to realize that there used to be lots of rural Great Russian dialects too. The northern Russian accent (okanye) is still hanging on in some places. Should its speakers demand independence and then force their higher-IQ relatives who've left for the cities to learn the dialect of their illiterate peasant ancestors? It all seems somewhat arbitrary.

Anonymous said...

FDR/Truman handed over Eastern Europe and China to the commies.
But now all this fuss about Ukraine from the Dems... over who the hell knows what.

Anonymous said...

@9:06 I'm surprised Yats speaks with a Russian accent. He is from the West, unlike Tymoshenko, who is from a Russophone area and had to learn the language as an adult. (now, you'll never catch her speaking Russian.) I was under the impression that, in the West, Ukrainian is ubiquitous; is that incorrect? Or is that just a post-Soviet thing?

@9:18: Yes, exactly. Because the worldview of Ukrainian speakers has been traditionally narrow, how do they express things that are necessary when your language becomes the official language of a quasi-advanced country and you have pretensions for that language to also be one of culture? Do they borrow from Russian? From Polish? From English (listening to Russians speak these days, it seems like even they borrow a lot of words from English)?

Uncle Peregrine said...

Vassily Aksyonov wrote an alternate history in which the Crimea was an island that became a refuge for White Russians as Taiwan was for the Guomindang.


fnn said...

Both standard Ukrainian and Russian with a Ukrainian accent sound rustic and not overly sophisticated to Russians.

Then we can perhaps see how easy it was for cosmopolitan elites to exterminate them during Red Terror,
Holodomor and the Great Terror. They were seen as "rednecks," "hillbillies," "white trash."

Dan said...

Oddities in the area.

Im certain that there was a Genoese settlement in Crim. some of the fleeing Anglo-Saxon from 1066 were granted land there by the Byzantines. Zurichthal makes perfect sense in that context. I'm sure the recent unpleasantness with the light brigade left a bloodline of Franco-English war children too.

Anonymous said...

There are anti-Polish and also anti-Jewish sentiments among West-Ukrainian nationalists. That is why I hope Ukraine will fall apart. I am biased of course because I am Polish.


Anonymous said...

"As a native Russian speaker, I can understand the everyday speech of a large majority of Ukrainians (and of all the Belorussians I've ever met) without much difficulty."

No shit. Ukrainian is really a dialect of Russian. Ukrainian being categorized another language is a joke.

It's like the difference between English-English and Irish-English.

Anonymous said...

Certain vernaculars of English in movies from UK call for subtitles for American viewers. But it's still English.

Movies like DANCE WITH A STRANGER and LAST ORDERS gave me some difficulty.

Anonymous said...

"Then we can perhaps see how easy it was for cosmopolitan elites to exterminate them during Red Terror,
Holodomor and the Great Terror. They were seen as "rednecks," "hillbillies," "white trash."

Stalin's March like Sherman's March?

Peter the Shark said...

The gall of Western Ukrainians in classifying their small Polish-like dialect as "the Ukrainian language" is monumental.

The historical ignorance of Russians is also monumental. Western Ukrainian is not a "peasant languate", it is a literary language that developed under Habsburg rule. It used to be known as "Ruthenian", and was widely spoken and used in Galicia, but also in a lot of what is now Eastern Slovakia and Northeastern Romania (i.e. old territories of Hungary). It is closer gramatically to Russian than it is to Polish, it just has a lot of borrowed Polish vocabulary. The idea that Ruthenian should be considered the standard language of all Ukraine is a Habsburg idea - Ukrainian nationalism was very useful to the Habsburgs, both to weaken Russian control in Ukraine and to keep Polish nobility in Galicia off balance and loyal to Vienna. I've always thought that Stalin was an idiot to swallow Galicia after WWII - it was a clever poison pill created by the Habsburgs that did indeed eventually lead to the eventual destruction of the Russian Empire (aka USSR) just as the Austrians had hoped. Too late to benefit Austria, but not too late to benefit other enemies of Russia.

ATBOTL said...

"Chabad is very close with Putin."

Putin understands that Jews who wear funny hats and spend all day studying Torah are not the part of the Jewish community that has caused Russia problems.

Anonymous said...

"Putin understands that Jews who wear funny hats and spend all day studying Torah are not the part of the Jewish community that has caused Russia problems."

He's also friendly with many Jews who don't wear funny hats and study Torah. Fridman, Abramovich, Prokhorov, e.g.

Sorry to burst your fantasy.

Anonymous said...

Only Prokhorov's maternal grandmother was Jewish.

Londoner said...

There is or may be an obscure region of the Crimea which was historically known as New England, founded as a refuge from Norman domination in the early middle ages. Interplays nicely with the notions (discussed here the other day) of Britain being the America of the Anglo-Saxons and Ukraine being the America of the Swedes. There seems to be little or no concrete evidence for the place having existed, but it seems like an awfully specific and non-obvious thing to make up. No smoke without at least a small fire, I suspect.

5371 said...

The Hapsburgs (Lothringens)had no reason or hope to "weaken Russian control in Ukraine". In fact, at first the Galicians welcomed Russian occupying forces in WW1.

scottlocklin said...

FWIIW, upon my visit in 2011, there was no "pro ukrainian" sentiment to speak of there. I'm writing this up for Taki, but they were more Russian than Russian people as far as I could tell. This includes the vaunted 24% of people who are of Ukrainian ethnicity. Didn't get any read on the Tatars, other than "modest women, nice people, good cooks."