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    Crimea: Mapping the Road Back to Russia

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    Nikolai Gorshkov

    On 16 March 2014, the people of Crimea were at long last given an opportunity to decide their own destiny, without fear or favor. The outcome of the Crimean referendum – a resounding “Yes” to reunification with Russia was consistent with voting patterns in Crimea throughout Ukraine’s independence.

    Ever since in 1954 they were arbitrarily transferred from Russia to Ukraine in what the British Foreign Office called an “administrative fiat” by the Communist leader Khruschev, the Crimeans were denied the right to have their say on where they wanted to be. Under independent Ukraine, the autonomous status of Crimea with its distinct ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity was abolished and all Crimean efforts to reclaim it were suppressed by Kiev.

    Brief Prehistory

    Crimea had been an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation until 1945, and a region of Russia until 1954 when it was transferred to Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. But Sevastopol, home to the Russian Black Sea fleet was not part of the transfer and remained under the direct rule from Moscow. 

    The Crimeans were not consulted about the transfer and never accepted what some called a “virtual deportation” from Russia to Ukraine. In January 1991 they held a referendum in which over 87% voted for the restoration of the autonomous status and designation of Crimea as a signatory to the USSR Union Treaty. Ukraine’s parliament acquiesced and restored Crimea’s autonomy but omitted to confer on the republic the status of a party to the Union Treaty. This all happened before Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

    READ MORE: French Lawmaker Praises Crimea's 'Breakthrough' Since Reunification With Russia

    In December 1991 a pan-Ukrainian referendum approved the declaration of Ukraine’s independence. However, the Crimeans were denied the Constitutional right to hold their own referendum on whether to leave the Soviet Union together with Ukraine or decide on their own course of action. Five months later, in May 1992 Crimea’s parliament adopted its own declaration of sovereignty, Constitution and introduced the post of President of the Republic. The move was seen by the British diplomats as “ending the legal status of Crimea as part of Ukraine”. The first, and last, President of Crimea, Yuri Meshkov was elected in January 1994 on a ticket of re-integration with Russia. A year later he was deposed by Kiev who also abolished the Crimean Constitution of 1992.

    READ MORE: Saakashvili Claims Poroshenko Planned to Swap Crimea for NATO Membership

    A rolled-up political map of Europe. Such maps showing Crimea as part of the Russian Federation are now on sale in Simferopol
    © Sputnik / Andrey Iglov
    A rolled-up political map of Europe. Such maps showing Crimea as part of the Russian Federation are now on sale in Simferopol

    Every Map Tells the Same Story

    The result of the March 2014 Crimean referendum was a resounding yes to reunification with Russia. And despite Ukrainian and Western protestations about the validity of the outcome, it is very much consistent with the voting behaviour of the Crimeans in all presidential elections in Ukraine since her independence.

    The voting maps tell a very graphic story of the preferences of the Crimeans that remained unchanged from one election to another.

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    In each election, the contest boiled down to a run-off between two candidates, one being perceived as pro-Western and the other as pro-Russian. The Crimeans, just like the people of Donbass, another distinct ethnic, linguistic and cultural region of Ukraine, invariably voted for the one who was perceived either as pro-Russian or at least as seeking better relations with Russia.

    READ MORE: Google Informs Russian Duma Crimea Shown as Russian Region on Maps — Lawmaker

    Presidential Election 1991

    The first presidential election in independent Ukraine was held in December 1991. The incumbent head of Ukraine’s Parliament and its former Communist boss Leonid Kravchuck won hands down over the anti-Communist People’s Movement candidate Vyacheslav Chornovil. Kravchuk was supported by the ex-Communists and all those who saw independent Ukraine as a close neighbour to Russia. Chornovil was perceived as a nationalist who would damage relations with Russia.

    This map shows the results of the Ukrainian presidential elections of 1991, when Leonid Kravchuk defeated Viacheslav Chornovil. The map elaborates on the map of the 1991 elections made by Vasyl` Babych. 

    The areas in orange show West Ukrainian regions where the nationalists won the vote in 1991. The blue coloured regions went to Kravchuk. Note the Donbass figures (Lugansk — 76.23%; Donetsk – 71.47%) are even higher than the Crimean with 56.68%. The pro-Soviet feelings were strongest in the ex-Soviet industrial heartland of Donbass.

    Presidential Election 1994

    However, by 1994 the industrial workers of East Ukraine got disillusioned with Kravchuk who did little to alleviate their plight in the face of a severe economic crisis. In December 1993 the Donbass miners began an indefinite strike which forced the parliament to call a snap presidential election in June 1994. Kravchuk was challenged by a former Soviet factory director and an ex-premier Leonid Kuchma, who said he would improve ties with Russia. He won.

    READ MORE: UK and US Always Knew Crimea Wanted to Re-join Russia — Archives

    This map shows the results of the second round of the Ukrainian presidential elections of 1994, when Leonid Kuchma defeated Leonid Kravchuk. The map elaborates on the map of the 1994 elections made by Vasyl` Babych.

    Again, the orange colour symbolizes pro-Western, while the blue colour symbolizes pro-Russian preferences of the “two Ukraines”. Note the figures for Kuchma in Crimea (89.7%) and Sevastopol (91.98%)

    “Orange Revolution” of 2004

    The standoff between the “two Ukraines” came to a head in the presidential election of 2004. It was dubbed the “Orange Revolution” after the color of the scarves sported by the pro-Western activists during the protests against what they claimed was electoral fraud by Viktor Yanukovych, a candidate who was perceived as pro-Russian. He was declared the winner in November 2004.   

    Ukraine Elections Map, November 2004 (File photo).
    Ukraine Elections Map, November 2004 (File photo).

    The map shows results for the presidential election of November 2004 which was declared void. Note the figures for the “pro-Russian” Yanukovych in Crimea (81.99%) and Sevastopol (88.97)

    Yanukovych’s victory triggered protests in Kiev’s central square, the Maidan, and interference by the EU and the US who refused to accept the result and demanded a re-run. Under pressure from a string of visiting Western leaders, Yanukovych agreed – and lost. The regional voting patterns remained unchanged but this time the pro-Western “Orange” candidate Viktor Yushchenko came out on top.

    READ MORE: UN General Assembly Adopts Ukraine's Resolution on Russia's Crimea

    The re-run in December 2004 was declared free and fair by the EU and the US. However, note the figures for the “pro-Russian” Yanukovych in Crimea (81.26%) and Sevastopol (88.83%). They are almost identical to the results that were declared “fraudulent” by the West only a month before. This time they were accepted as fair and legitimate.

    “Orange” Wipeout 2010

    The pro-Western “Orange” promise came to nothing. The hero of the “Orange Revolution”, President Viktor Yushchenko drowned himself in bitter squabbles with another “Orange hero”, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and in the 2010 election managed to scrape just 5% of the vote, one tenth of his 2004 result. The “pro-Russian villain” Yanukovych made a spectacular comeback and defeated the “Orange Lady” Tymoshenko. The map in blue gives a breakdown of his results across Ukrainian regions.

    Note the figures for the “pro-Russian” Yanukovych in Crimea (78.24%) and Sevastopol (84.35%). Also note the extremely high figures for Yanukovych in Lugansk (88.96%) and Donetsk (90.44%).  The election was declared free and fair by the OSCE observer mission. 

    The Proof of the Pudding — Referendum 2014

    Given the consistently high level of Crimean votes cast for Yanukovych in the two elections in 2004 and the election of 2010, no wonder Crimeans saw Yanukovych as their legitimate President who was illegally deposed by force. They did not want to have anything in common with the Russophobe mob that had seized power in Ukraine, and whose first ever legislative step was to outlaw the Russian language. The collapse of the legitimate central authorities gave the Crimeans a chance to decide their own future as they had been trying to for decades.

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    Given the figures from all presidential elections in Ukraine since 1991, the results of the Crimean referendum of 85.87% in Crimea and 93.62% in Sevastopol in favour of reunification with Russia should not come as a surprise. They are fully consistent with all previous internationally recognized voting patterns in Crimea and prove beyond doubt that the referendum of 16 March 2014 correctly and truthfully reflected the will of the Crimean people to reunite with Russia.

    No wonder the British Foreign Office and the US State Department predicted back in 1994 that Ukraine would eventually split and that Crimea would look to Russia.

    reunification, referendum, Crimea, Ukraine, Russia
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