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Analysis, book reviews and photography from Abkhazia and the wider Caucasus — updates when time permits

Proposal: compromise in Crimea

How do you solve a problem like Crimea? The optimistic answer is that Russia’s annexation was wrong, that the sanctions are right and that the West should continue putting pressure on Russia until it grudgingly relents and returns Crimea to Ukraine. The pessimistic answer is that Russia’s annexation was wrong, but that this is seemingly what Crimeans want and that Russia won’t return Crimea to Ukraine, so we had best — grudgingly — accept it.

I believe there might be room for compromise.

Crimea has never been very Ukrainian. As Russians like to point out, it only became part of Ukraine by personal fiat of Khrushchev and most of its inhabitants don’t identify as Ukrainian. In this light, proclamations of Crimea as Ukrainian soil that must be restored ring hollow.

On the other hand, Russia’s campaign to frame Crimea as quintessentially Russian is imperialistic and colonial. If Crimea has a Russian majority now, then only because of successive waves of ethnic cleansing of its Tatar (and Jewish) population by the Tsars, Stalin, Hitler and again Stalin. Since annexation, Russia has suppressed the rights of anyone who disagrees with its Russianness, including most of the remaining Tatars.

Crimea is not just Ukrainian, not just Russian, and first and foremost Crimean. Therefore, the West should offer to recognise Crimea as an independent state and lift sanctions, if it adopts a constitution that enshrines power sharing between Tatars and Russians on all levels, as well as protection of Ukraine’s cultural and economic interests. In addition, this agreement should be contingent on Russia’s active cooperation towards the reintegration of the Donbass into Ukraine.

Both sides would profit from this compromise. Resolving the Donbass conflict is Ukraine’s principal medium-term concern. Crimea would become less of a financial burden for Russia, while it would retain a degree of control, allowing it to keep its naval base in Sevastopol. Both sides would be able to present Crimean independence as partial vindication.

Filed under: Crimea, Donbass, Russia, Ukraine,

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