On February 19, 1954, a Soviet news outlet known as the Pravda published an article on a decree set by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) to transfer the area of Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic 1. This came as quite a shock to the Soviet people because the Crimean outblast had been part of Russia since 1783 when the Empire defeated the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Kozludzha 2. The only citation that was given was from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in 1954 which stated that there were “… economic commonalities, territorial closeness, and communication and cultural links [between Crimea and the Ukrainian SSR].” This was ultimately seen as a symbol of peace between all parties involved and also represented the power of Soviet influence throughout Eastern Europe 5.
There was one question that baffled historians concerning this event: What was the main motive behind this transfer of land? There are several factors that perplex individuals and them from being able to answer this question. Firstly, the Crimean peninsula was nowhere near touching the Ukrainian SSR – they did not share any political boundaries. Furthermore, the peoples inhabiting Crimea culturally identified more-so with Russian than Ukraine 1. Lewis Siegelbaum notes that, “According to the 1959 census, there were 268,000 Ukrainians but 858,000 ethnic Russians living in Crimea.” Lastly, the Crimea relied on tourism and recreation as its main economic factor; the majority of those that took advantage of this were from the USSR 1. With this present evidence, it will be hard to decide what the true motive for such an action would be.
Regardless of the motive, the transfer of Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR was ironic in that the chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, Kliment Voroshilov, gave his closing remarks at the signing of the decree, he stated that the “enemies of Russia” had “repeatedly tried to take the Crimean peninsula from Russia and use it to steal and ravage Russian lands.” He commended the “joint battles” waged by “the Russian and Ukrainian peoples” as they mete out a “severe rebuff against the insolent usurpers.” Voroshilov’s description of Russia’s past “enemies” seems fitting for today in showing Russia’s own actions face-to-face with the Ukraine. Moreover, the transfer of Crimea is an ironic action of sixty years ago, taken by the USSR to strengthen its control over Ukraine, that has come back to haunt Ukraine today.
This post was featured in the “Comrade’s Corner” section of the Soviet History Classroom Website.
- Siegelbaum, Lewis. “The Gift of Crimea.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 2 Dec. 2015, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1954-2/the-gift-of-crimea/
- Kramer, Mark. “Why Did Russia Give Away Crimea Sixty Years Ago?” Wilson Center, 2 Feb. 2018, http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/why-did-russia-give-away-crimea-sixty-years-ago.
- Wilson Center Digital Archive. “MEETING OF THE PRESIDIUM OF THE SUPREME SOVIET OF THE UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS.” Wilson Center Digital Archive, http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/119638
- Siegelbaum, Lewis. “The Gift of Crimea.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 2 Dec. 2015, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1954-2/the-gift-of-crimea/the-gift-of-crimea-images/#bwg135/764
- Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Oxford University Press, 2009.
7 thoughts on “Ukraine Keeps Driving Men Insane”
Austin, great post! I think it’s interesting that the reasonings used then are still relevant now in Russia’s fight over Crimea. Was there large public discontent over this issue? Great image, by the way!
This is a really interesting post! Sometimes, the complexities of these interactions make it difficult to see the bigger picture but you do an excellent job of establishing how this came to be and that it affected the larger picture into the future. Great post, but I wish you’d delve more into the public response of this transfer due to their cultural differences!
I found it funny that at the signing he kept referring to them as “enemies of Russia” and yet here they are giving them land. As someone else has mentioned i’d also be curious with how the public viewed this. They definitely had a loud voice (whether it was actually heard or not)
Terrific title for this post! (Would be a great song lyric too.) I don’t follow your last claim, though. How did transferring (giving) Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 strengthen Russian control over Ukraine? It seems that the motivation for the transfer might have had more to do with the deportation of the Crimean Tatars during WWII? (Although this is definitely one of those topics that can be debated from numerous angles.
This move seems kind of familiar today with the events going on in Ukraine now. I don’t really know what this political move does to the people in the Crimea, but I can only imagine that some natives may have been displaced or shaken up by this surprising move. While the post was a little to brief to get a full picture of what was going on, I thought that this was an important to topic to focus in on as the Soviets were very effective at prompting large diasporas of ethnic natives from their land.
I think there was probably some type of deal made behind closed doors regarding this. The Soviet Union gave up direct control over this area and in return Ukraine probably did something for the RSFSR. What they did or what they agreed to do would probably be a pretty cool thing to figure out.
The shock factor by the policies that were em placed definitely had an affect on other European countries in the area. It appears as if it set a standard for Soviet Union capabilities.
I was still curious as to what the possible motives behind these policies were? Overall very interesting