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Why do so many Russians live in Crimea?

Now that Crimeans have overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia:

Fireworks exploded and Russian flags fluttered above jubilant crowds… [as] the United States and Europe condemned the ballot as illegal and destabilizing.

There is no question that many ethnic Russians live in that part of Ukraine. To find out why, take a look at some history of the area:

The chart shows a collapse in the population of native Crimean Tatars from 34.1% in 1897 to zero in 1959, marking brutal harassment leading up to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s forcible deportation of the entire population in 1944, with nearly half dying in the process. It took decades for the population to climb back to 12% by 2001.

While the population of Ukrainians and especially Russians rose, the percentage of the population falling into an unlisted category also fell from more than 20% in 1921 to around 5% in 1959. This was a consequence of the deportation of Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and other groups.

Here’s the chart:

CrimeaEthnicity

Stalin paved the way, and Putin reaps the benefit. Here are some details:

The forced deportees were given only 30 minutes to gather personal belongings, after which they were loaded onto cattle trains and moved out of Crimea. 193,865 Crimean Tatars were deported, 151,136 of them to Uzbek SSR, 8,597 to Mari ASSR, 4,286 to Kazakh SSR, the rest 29,846 to the various oblasts of Russian SFSR. At the same moment, most of the Crimean Tatar men who were fighting in the ranks of the Red Army were demobilized and sent into forced labor camps in Siberia and in the Ural mountain region.

The deportation was poorly planned and executed, local authorities in the destination areas were not properly informed about the scale of the matter and did not receive enough resources to accommodate the deportees. The lack of accommodation and food, the failure to adapt to new climatic conditions and the rapid spread of diseases had a heavy demographic impact during the first years of exile.

…Due to hunger, thirst and disease, around 45% of the total population died in the process of deportation. According to Soviet dissident information, many Crimean Tatars were made to work in the large-scale projects conducted by the Soviet GULAG system…

Crimean activists call for the recognition of the Sürgünlik as genocide.

It doesn’t seem like a stretch to call it that, does it? And as a consequence, Russians became the majority population in Crimea.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]
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