Article by: Olena Makarenko
In fact, similar propaganda really did take place at that time. Russia had been rewriting history books centuries ago, as it now rewrites Wikipedia pages about MH 17, Kyivan Rus, Crimea, and others. As the Russian Empire always had more resources on nurturing myths and rewriting history, guess who’s versions became mainstream.
In 1783, Russian empress Yekaterina II established the Commission on Creating Notes on Ancient History, Primarily of Russia. The task of the Commission was to “create” the history of the Empire. The following generations of Russian historians also labored to create myths about the great Russian nation.
Swiss historian Valentin Getermann wrote in his work, Studying the History of the Soviet Union:
“Historians in democratic countries are always free to criticize the prevailing philosophy in their own countries…But in the Soviet Union there is, according to all the indications, virtually no scope for the expression of unorthodox opinions. It is even likely that many Russian historians are compelled to suppress utterances which they consider to be absolutely correct, and to declare themselves in favor of opinions which run counter to their convictions.”
Recently Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the creation of the Fund of Popularizing Russian History. The “popularization” will be aimed at Russia, as well as other countries.
Censorship and myths in Russian history are created and propelled on several topics. Crimea is one of them.
Vladimir Putin has repeatedly exploited the myth. Just after the illegal annexation of the peninsula in one of his statements he said: “In Crimea, everything is penetrated by our common [Russian and Crimean] history and pride.”
“Of all the current hypotheses about Slavs in Crimea, the most probable is probably the opinion of Jacobson and Korzukhina, on emigration of some groups of the population from the ancient Rus in the XIII century during the Mongol invasion … About early Slavs there was no convincing evidence yet – either written or archaeological. All the attempts to find them were biased, and sometimes even with a pseudo-scientific character. Leading Soviet researchers have already given up the majority of the proposed concepts of the early colonization of the Crimea by the Slavs.”
A permanent Slavic population appeared in Crimea after the ХІІІ century. Prior to the first annexation of Crimea by the Russian Empire in 1783, it was extremely small.
We see how the population of the Crimean Tatars steadily decreased after the annexation. This happened as a result of their oppression by the authorities of the Russian Empire. The majority of Crimean Tatars fled their homeland and resided in the neighboring Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria, where large numbers of Crimean Tatar diaspora currently lives. So we can conclude that the Russian population appeared in Crimea because of permanent pressure on the indigenous people of the peninsula. The steep drop in Crimean Tatar numbers in 1941 is their deportation to Central Asia after being accused of “collaborationism” by Stalin.
Disregarding the details who exactly decided to transfer the peninsula, it is worth mentioning that the propaganda outlets usually don’t state the reasons of such a step. This step was initiated by Russia itself: almost ten years after the World War II, the peninsula was still devastated and exhausted. This is how in February 1954 the situation was described by Mykhil Tarasov, the Head of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the RSFSR:
“Considering community of the economy, territorial proximity (the Crimean Oblast, according to the speaker ‘takes up the the entire Crimean peninsula and territorially adjoined to the Ukrainian Republic, being like a natural extension of southern steppes of Ukraine’), and close economic and cultural ties between Crimean region and the Ukrainian SSR, and also having an approval of the Presidium of the of Ukrainian Republic, Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian Republic, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR considers that it is appropriate to transfer the Crimean Oblast to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.”
Check out how much efforts it took from Soviet Ukraine to rebuild Crimea from ruins (infographics in 5 languages available here).
Occupying Crimea in 2014, Russia forgot about the “territorial proximity and the economic and cultural ties” between Ukraine and Crimea became a priority for the Russian Federation in another way – as a military base.
Russian myths about the history of Crimea.
Reality: Being “primordially Russian” evokes the idea that Crimea has belonged to Russians since the time immemorial. However, this is not true. The first known ethnic group in Crimea – the Cimmerians – appeared nearly three thousand years ago, in the 9th century BC. Russia established its sovereignty over Crimea only in 1783 after the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kaynarca. According to Russian censuses, Russians became the ethnic majority in Crimea only in 1917. It turns out that the peninsula became “Russian” only in the early 20th century, and the period of Russian ethnic domination in Crimea accounts for only 3,5% of its entire history.
These myths are gathered in the Anthology of Modern Crimean Mythology which is a civic initiative of Internally Displaced Peoples from Crimea. The brochure is printed with the support of the Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine.