Monday, October 20, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Might Moscow Partition Crimea as a Way Out of Crisis?

Paul Goble


            Staunton, October 20 – Almost all discussions about Crimea have talked about it as a single whole and thus considered its future either as being entirely in the Russian Federation or entirely in Ukraine, but in fact, there are two Crimeas, Yevgeny Ikhlov argues, and that could be the basis for a settlement of a kind.


            In an article on over the weekend, the Moscow commentator argues that “the simplest variant” of resolving the Crimean dispute “from the point of view of international law” is to “formally return Crimea to Ukraine but keep it under the control of the United Nations” until a referendum can be held (


            But there is a problem with this: “In Crimea there are two subjects of national self-determination: the Russians and the Crimean Tatar people,” and there might even be a third if the ethnic Ukrainians living there become more active and seek a separate status for themselves rather than simply the reintegration of the peninsula in Ukraine.


            “The Russians,” Ikhlov points out, “as an ethnic group” form “the majority” of Crimea’s population “like the Albanians in Kosovo,” but they have Russia where “their right to national self-determination” has been realized while “the Crimean Tatar people has no other place on earth for the realization of its rights.”


            “Like Palestine, Crimea is a land of two peoples, and there ought to be two state formations, two autonomies or two cantons, if you like,” he continues. Keeping them in one state formation, regardless of its subordination, will simply mean, Ikhlov says, that the Russians will oppress the Crimean Tatars and deny them their rights.


            Consequently, he suggested that there ought to be two UN-supervised referenda, one for the larger portion of the peninsula where Russians predominate and a second in those parts of the territory where the Crimean Tatars do. That would reflect “a just and legal position: two peoples, two self-consciousnesses, and two acts of self-determination.”


            Such a division would lead to the tragic division of Crimea, “like what has happened in Crimea, in Ireland, in Kosovo, in Bosnia and in Karabakh. Two borders and two walls,” with all the paraphernalia those involved. And it almost certainly would be opposed at least initially by Moscow, Kyiv and the two peoples of Crimea.


            But unfortunately, Ikhlov concludes, that is “the price of the crude violation by Putin of the shaky ethnic and civil balance in Crimea and in Ukraine in March 2014.”




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