Published On: Wed, Mar 12th, 2014

The Crimea crime

Jacob Gelt DekkerThe 23 year-old Republic of Ukraine is imploding and falling apart. A Russian forced referendum on the Crimea, next Sunday, appears to form an immediate threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty. The complex situation of territory, ethnicity and religion is hard to understand for outsiders. A little history may help.

In 882 AD, Rurik the Viking set up his empire in Novgorod, but soon, his descendants moved the capital to Kiev. The Hordes, a mixture of Genghis Khan Mongols and Tartars, occupied Crimea at that time. Over the centuries, the Vikings moved south from Kiev, down the Dnieper River, to the Black Sea, more or less at the same time when Russians moved to control the Baltic Sea. Vladimir the Great (980-1015) introduced Christianity with the Vikings and Russians of Kiev.

In 1619, the Cossack-Hetman Empire take over Kiev and extended the former Viking –Ukrainian Empire to the east. The Cossacks, a semi Bedouin people, were in constant conflict with Russians and other local tribes. They battled continuously with Tartars, descendants of Turks and Mongols in the south of Russia and Ukraine. The Khanate of Crimea (1441-1783) was then ruled by Genghis Khan’s descendants.

The year 1795 brought great change, when the west of Ukraine was occupied by the Lithuanian-Polish Empire and from then all was ruled by the House of Habsburg- Prussia. The Russian and Habsburg Empires battled bitterly over the Ukrainian loot, and in the end, Poland-Lithuania segregated from the total and came under rule of Russian Czars. In 1783, the Russian empire annexed the Crimea, after the Russian –Turkish war.
In 1914, the Habsburg western Ukraine, called Galicia, became a piece on the chessboard of World War I. At the same time a bitter and bloody persecution between Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox ensued.

In 1922, the USSR annexed all republics under the Socialist Soviets. Joseph Stalin( 1922-1954) forced agricultural collectivism on Ukraine, causing the death of million by famine. His successor, Nikita Khrushev(1953-1964), granted symbolic autonomy to Ukraine under USSR dominance, in 1954. Religion, either Catholicism, or Greek Orthodox, became forbidden by the Socialist State and thousands of church members were arrested and deported. Freedom of religion only returned after 1991, with the independence of Ukraine.

In 1991, Leonid Kravchuk, chairman of the Ukraine Parliament, introduced the Act of Independence, and Leonid Kuchma became the first president in 1994, Viktor Yanukovich in 2005, Viktor Yuschenko, 2005-2010, and again Viktor Yanukovich, 2010-2014, who was deposed and replaced by Oleksandr Turchinov last month.

By all means, deducting from history, Ukraine cannot claim a common history, ethnicity, language or territory with the Crimea. Whatever the referendum under pressure of Russia for next Sunday may bring, we are dealing with an age-old dispute, not worth global intervention. UN, NATO, USA and EU should stay far away from this local conflict.

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