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Putins Own Historical Injustice

Published: March 26, 2014 (Issue # 1803)


Among Russians, the most common justification for the annexation of Crimea is that the Kremlin is rectifying a historical injustice. Meanwhile, Putin is committing a gross historical injustice of his own.

Here is Crimeas history in brief: It had been Russian territory since 1783, when Catherine the Great seized it from the Ottoman Empire.

Then, in 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea to Ukraine as a gift to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraines union with Russia. But this was a symbolic gesture only, the argument goes. After all, Crimea, Ukraine and Russia were all part of one large country in 1954, so any administrative shifting of internal borders were largely meaningless outside of the Soviet Union. Khrushchev never imagined that several decades later in 1991, when Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union Moscow would lose control over a peninsula that Catherine the Great called the pearl of the Russian Empire.

To help correct this historical injustice, a bill was introduced to the State Duma on Monday to officially revoke Khrushchevs reckless and arbitrary gift to Ukraine. This is the Kremlins way of setting the record straight, lest anyone think that Crimea was ever Ukrainian territory even symbolically.

But what about that pesky 1994 Budapest Agreement or the 1997 Treaty of Friendship, both of which were signed by Russia and recognized the territorial integrity of a Ukraine that included Crimea?

These agreements were also historical injustices, the supporters of Crimean annexation say, because Russia was terribly weak in the 1990s under President Boris Yeltsin and could not stand up for its rights and its possessions as President Vladimir Putin is doing now.

Russia was not just robbed; it was plundered, Putin declared on Mar. 18 in a speech, denouncing Yeltsins decision to allow Crimea to remain a part of Ukraine after the Soviet collapse. After the speech in the Kremlin to several hundred members of the political elite, Putin signed the treaty recognizing Crimea as Russian territory.

Now, with the annexation of Crimea all but completed, it would seem that Russians and Crimeans have received compensation for Khrushchevs and Yeltsins plundering of Russia, and a great historical injustice has been reversed.

But why stop at Crimea?

If Putin is committed to reversing all of the historical injustices committed against Russia, why not revoke the Belavezha Accords, signed on Dec. 8, 1991? After all, Yeltsin and the leaders of Ukraine and Belarus had no legal authority to dissolve the Soviet Union. Putin reiterated his stance on Mar. 12, reportedly telling the head of the Crimean Tatars that Ukraines declaration of independence in 1991 had no legal foundation.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 4



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of Repulsion at 7 p.m. and Rosemarys Baby at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy The Tenant, the cult comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers and Cul-de-sac among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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