The status of Crimea in the vision of Ukrainian political forces and state structures (1917-1920)

The status of Crimea in the vision of Ukrainian political forces and state structures (1917-1920)


End. The previous part is here .

The question of creating a modern form of Ukrainian statehood passed into the practical plane in 1917 with the beginning of the Ukrainian revolution. During its first months, the Ukrainian political forces were dominated by the concept of creating a broad national-territorial autonomy of Ukraine as part of a democratic federal Russia, although there were supporters of the formation of an independent Ukraine. Both approaches inevitably raised questions about the borders of the new state formation, because in the former Romanov empire there was no integral Ukrainian administrative-territorial unit.

The guiding principle for Ukrainian figures in 1917 in determining the borders of autonomous Ukraine was ethnographic. That is, the presence of the majority of the ethnically Ukrainian population in one or another administrative-territorial unit was the basis for its inclusion in the Ukrainian state formation. In this regard, in the policy of the UCR in 1917 regarding the Crimea, we can talk about the struggle of two tendencies. The essence of the first was to try to consider it outside the borders of autonomous Ukraine, but within the framework of federal unification in the former Romanov empire. The second trend was based on the proposal to include Crimea together with the entire Tavriya province in Ukraine.

Already at the first Ukrainian National Congress (All-Ukrainian National Congress) in April 1917, a member of the URDP Council F. Matushevsky referred to Ukraine only the mainland counties of the Tavriya province, a member of the USDR V. Sadovsky called the southern codon of Ukraine the Azov and Black Seas (without the southern coast). Crimea), and close in views to the independents I. Lutsenko believed that the southern coast should be part of an autonomous Ukraine.

In the policy of the UCR, however, the tendency to divide the Tavriya province into Ukrainian mainland and Crimean parts prevailed. For example, the Ukrainian National Council in Petrograd, which had been instructed by the UCR in its appeals for Ukraine’s autonomy, first included the entire province and then only its northern counties. After the proclamation of the First Universal, which put the problem of defining the borders of autonomous Ukraine into practice, the head of the newly created General Secretariat V. Vynnychenko reported to the UCR on July 1 (14) 1917 that he insisted on a meeting with the Provisional Government on Ukraine’s “indisputable” affiliation. provinces (9 “Ukrainian” and Bessarabian). In late July (early August) 1917 in Kiev, after the announcement of the Second Universal,The delegates of the Music Executive Committee met with the leadership of the UCR and the General Secretariat, during which the Crimean Tatar representatives raised a number of topical issues, in particular, according to one version, proposed to include the autonomous Crimea in the autonomous Ukraine. According to newspapers, the General Secretariat considered it premature to take measures before the Provisional Government in this case to resolve the issue of the territory of Ukraine. A rather close partnership was soon established between the UCR and the Musvykonkom in reorganizing the post-imperial space into a federal democratic Russian republic.

In August 1917, pro-Ukrainian forces in the Crimea sharply criticized the Instruction to the General Secretariat, by which the Provisional Government limited the competence of the Ukrainian executive body and the territory of its responsibility to only five provinces. Ukrainian soldiers stationed in various cities of Crimea have publicly strongly disagreed with such approaches. At the session of the UCR, its member from Tavria J. Khrystych protested against the “annexation of Tavria lands by the Provisional Government.” Participants in the Provincial Meeting of Ukrainian Organizations in Tavria, which took place on August 27-29 (September 9-11), 1917 in Melitopol, decided to protest “against the partition of Ukraine made by the Provisional Government” and demand that “the Tavria province. became part of the Autonomous Ukraine. ” Interestingly, Taurian Ukrainians in this document did not separate Crimea from Northern Tavria.

In the negotiations during the Congress of Peoples-Federalists, which took place on September 8-15 (21-28) 1917 in Kyiv, on the initiative of the Crimean Tatar delegates, agreements were reached with the UCR leadership that Crimea was not part of autonomous Ukraine. These agreements became one of the main reasons for the fact that on November 7 (20), 1917, the UCR in the Third Universal included “Tavria without Crimea” in the borders of the Ukrainian People’s Republic.

The needs of naval construction, and most importantly the war with Bolshevik Russia, soon forced the UPR to reconsider its approaches to the Crimean question. The forces of the Crimean Tatar self-government bodies, due to its limited demographic base – the Crimean Tatars made up a quarter of the Crimean population, and their allies were not enough to realize his vision of the arrangement of Crimea. Ukraine, as a maritime state, needed to protect national interests at sea, so in January 1918 the UCR passed a law stating that the military and merchant navies in the Black Sea are Ukrainian. At the turn of 1917–1918, the Bolsheviks and their allies turned the Black Sea Fleet’s main base, Sevastopol, and later Crimea, into a springboard for the armed spread of the left-wing radical regime on the lands that were part of the UPR under Universal III. Some detachments of Chernomorets took part in January the capture of the Ukrainian capital. After the attack of Soviet Russia on Ukraine, the Ukrainian authorities, in order to strengthen their positions in the international arena, adopted the Fourth Universal on the Independence of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and concluded the Brest Peace Treaty with the Four Alliance on February 9, 1918.

All these circumstances led to a fundamental change in the approaches of the independent UPR authorities to many issues, including the Crimean one. Thus, if at Brest talks it only probed the possibility of controlling the Crimean ports, then on February 14, 1918 the UPR government decided on the terms of a peace treaty with Russia, among which were: ” Crimea remains under the influence of Ukraine “and the entire fleet on the Black Sea belongs (also trade) only to Ukraine ». On March 3, 1918, the Ukrainian government decided to impose a “one-time property tax on the wealthy and commercial and industrial classes,” including the cities of Simferopol, Sevastopol, Yalta, and Feodosia. On March 6, 1918, the UCR passed a law on the land division of the UPR.There was no Crimea among the 32 lands, but it was stipulated that the final demarcation of the UPR with neighboring states could change the number of lands.

The Ukrainian government has fled to take diplomatic measures to include Crimea in the UPR, apparently as an autonomy (no official decision on its status has been made). Similar tasks were given to UPR diplomats in the Ottoman and German empires in the spring of 1918. On April 22, Foreign Minister M. Lyubinsky instructed the UPR envoy in Germany to inform official Berlin that the UPR was against the appearance of German troops in the Crimea and “that it is impossible to rely on the Third Universal, which came out in completely different political circumstances.” Lyubinsky also reported the appearance in the coming days of “an act of state importance that will define our borders, including the Crimea.” On April 24,the Ukrainian ambassador to Istanbul officially declared to Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha that Crimea was an integral part of the UPR and that Muslims would be “guaranteed national freedom.” On March 13, 1918, the Provisional Law on the Navy was promulgated by order of the Maritime Department, according to which the Russian Black Sea Fleet, military and transport, was proclaimed the fleet of the Ukrainian People’s Republic.

In the spring of 1918, the UPR authorities learned of the Germans’ intention to take control of Crimea and the main Black Sea naval base by military means. In April 1918, the Crimean group of UPR troops was sent to the Crimea with the task of outrunning the Germans and being the first to occupy Sevastopol. It liberated much of Crimea from the left-wing radical regime and reached Bakhchisarai. However, the Germans took advantage of the diplomatic miscalculations of the UPR, which did not enshrine in its universals or negotiations in Brest the right to own Crimea, and forced Ukrainian troops to leave Crimea. Nevertheless, on April 29, 1918, the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol and other bases raised the Ukrainian flag. In May 1918, the German occupation authorities forced them to land on most ships.

Hetman P. Skoropadsky, who overthrew the UPR on April 29, 1918 and proclaimed the Ukrainian State, understood the strategic importance of Crimea to guarantee the security and economic interests of Ukraine. Therefore, he immediately began to take diplomatic and administrative measures for its incorporation into the Ukrainian State. In May-June, the hetman, the government, and the foreign minister repeatedly tried to influence Germany’s representatives in this matter through diplomacy. In particular, on May 30, 1918, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine D. Doroshenko wrote to the German ambassador in Kyiv: “standing on the principle of self-determination, not to violate the will of the population, finally understanding the various differences in the life of Crimea, the Ukrainian Government believes that Crimea may join autonomous grounds “.

The affiliation and status of Crimea were one of the most problematic issues in the negotiations in May-autumn 1918 between Soviet Russia and Ukraine, but they did not succeed either in their solution or in general. Formed by Sulkevich on the instructions of the Germans, the Crimean regional government, which declared temporary independence, became another source of tension for Kyiv. In the summer of 1918, the Ukrainian state started a customs war with him, postal and telegraph communications were suspended, and minor border conflicts took place on the border of Crimea and Northern Tavria. The suspension of economic ties with Ukraine has hit the Crimean economy and living standards hard.

As a result, as well as the scandal with the attempt to proclaim the khanate, some members of the regional government in late August – early September 1918 were inclined to start negotiations on the entry of autonomous Crimea into Ukraine, although almost all of them resigned in September. Similar ideas were shared by zemstvo circles, which also, through ties with Ukraine, hoped to help improve socio-economic life in Crimea and restore Russia. As a result of negotiations in August-September 1918 in Germany between the Prime Minister and the Hetman of the Ukrainian State with the Reich authorities and probably due to the deteriorating situation on the fronts, the German side began to lean towards the annexation of Crimea to Ukraine. In mid-September, representatives of the German command explained to S.Sulkevich that his government was not state but regional, and recommended starting negotiations with Kyiv on accession on an autonomous basis. The hetman’s government stopped the customs war with Crimea.

At the end of September, a Crimean delegation arrived in Kyiv. Negotiations between the delegations were difficult: the Crimean side sought, above all, to avoid the issue of unification of Crimea with Ukraine, and tried to switch to economic and other issues of bilateral relations. In the end, the representatives of the Ukrainian State put forward the main grounds for the unification of Crimea with Ukraine from 19 points. The main proposals were as follows: Crimea unites with Ukraine as an autonomous region under the sole supreme power of the hetman; Ukraine is in charge of international relations, management of the army and navy, legislation, finance (while Crimea could have its own armed forces); Crimea is governed by local self-government, industry and agriculture, trade, public education, religion, national relations, health care,railways (except railways), definition of the state language (these areas “are not covered by the common laws of the Ukrainian State”). Crimea would have a regional government and a people’s assembly with the right to draft local legislation. In addition, the hetman was to have a state secretary for Crimean affairs, who would be appointed hetman from among the three candidates proposed by the Crimean government.

Thus, representatives of the Ukrainian government offered Crimea broad autonomy. However, the Crimean delegation regarded these proposals as “a project of enslavement.” Instead, it put forward a counter-proposal to “establish a federal union with the Ukrainian state” (de facto, confederate) in the form of a bilateral agreement. In addition, the head of the Crimean delegation stated that he had no right to sign an agreement binding on all subsequent governments. The Ukrainian side was forced to suspend talks in mid-October due to insufficient powers of Crimean representatives. On October 17, 1918, the customs war was resumed.

With the defeat of the Four Alliance states and the beginning of the withdrawal of German and Austro-Hungarian troops, the situation changed both in the Dnieper region and in the Crimea. The Hetman’s regime was overthrown by insurgents after an attempt to pursue a federal Russia, and on December 14, 1918, the Directory of the Ukrainian People’s Republic was officially taken over. Its approaches to determining the affiliation of Crimea at the initial stage of activity were zigzag. Thus, on December 20, 1918, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Ukrainian People’s Republic responded to a request to one of the structural subdivisions of the Ministry of the Sea in a concise and clear manner: “Crimea is considered the territory of Ukraine. “Some legislative acts and diplomatic documents of early 1919 may indicate a return to the practice of the “first” UPR in the spring of 1918 – that is, its interpretation as a territory that is not part of the Ukrainian state, but which should be under its influence. In February 1919.Chairman of the Extraordinary Diplomatic Mission of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in the Caucasus I. Kraskovsky was given the authority to promote the formation of the Black Sea Federation as part of “Ukraine with Crimea, Kuban and the Caucasus.” Although this wording did not necessarily imply a federal connection with Crimea, as it could mean, for example, the federation of Ukraine and the autonomous Crimea in its composition with the Kuban and the Caucasian states.

At the same time, in early 1919, Ukrainian scholars and civil servants developed several documents for the UPR leadership defining state borders, which justified the need to consolidate Crimea’s affiliation with Ukraine in the international arena in connection with the need to guarantee the state’s economic and security interests in the South. It seems that already in the first half of 1919 the UPR authorities returned to the idea of ​​including Crimea in their membership, and at the Versailles Peace Conference Ukrainian diplomats sought to defend this position. Thus, they presented a map on which the Crimean peninsula, Kuban and Black Sea region are marked as the territory of the UPR. And one of the leaders of the Crimean Tatar national movement D. Seidamet mentioned that in 1919 “in a memorandum presented at the Versailles Peace Conference, Ukrainians identified Crimea as part of Ukraine . ”

It did not have the opportunity to implement its approaches to solving the Crimean question of the UPR in 1919, as it was in a state of building state structures in a very difficult geopolitical situation – a simultaneous war on several fronts – and chaos in Ukraine. It became relevant again for the Ukrainian authorities after the conclusion of the Warsaw Pact with Poland in the spring of 1920 and the return to the Dnieper region as a result of the offensive of Polish and Ukrainian troops. On June 24, 1920, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Ukrainian People’s Republic A. Nikovsky in a letter to the head of the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in the Caucasus I. Kraskovsky on the need to create a Baltic-Black Sea Union of Nation states formulated the task of the Crimean question:You, Mr. Chairman, will adhere to the idea of ​​uniting Crimea with Ukraine, because without Crimea our border is of little value and in this direction you must start a new action for Crimea’s accession to Ukraine through your representative office established in Crimea . ”

This document demonstrates that the Ukrainian state and political establishment viewed Crimea in 1920 as a potential part of an independent UPR, citing strategic arguments. Presumably, the leadership of the UPR was inclined to give the then disputed peninsula autonomous status. For example, on November 2, 1920, D. Seydamet met in Warsaw with representatives of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, who, according to the Crimean Tatar politician, ” openly said that Ukraine does not recognize not only Poland’s protectorate over Crimea, but even its coalition with Crimea, while is ready to recognize in the broadest sense of our autonomy, up to non-interference in our military political independence .”On November 25, 1920, at a meeting of the subcommittee of the Commission for Refugees of the League of Nations, the Ukrainian representative O. Shulgin stated:” In Crimea, the population is mixed, but Ukrainians have a relative majority. There are many Tatars in the south, Ukraine believes that Crimea should be part of it, but taking into account the will of the population, Ukraine will always agree to the broad autonomy of Crimea.Ukraine itself has long suffered from centralism, to now embark on this path itself . ”


During the turbulent and tragic period of wars and revolutions of 1917–1920, Crimea found itself at the crossroads of several national, state, and political projects that offered different, often contradictory, approaches to resolving the Crimean question. Unlike the current situation, when Crimea is recognized by the international community as part of Ukraine, then after the overthrow of the legitimate Provisional Government by the Bolsheviks, various Russian and Ukrainian structures, as well as other geopolitical actors, claimed its territory. The main socio-political forces that at that time influenced the solution of the Crimean question had different, sometimes radically different, views on its desired status. Due to the frequent change of regimes and the military-political situation in and around the Crimea,these views have evolved and changed many times.

Thus, the Crimean Tatar socio-political forces and bodies of national self-government at the end of 1917 put forward the idea of ​​proclaiming the Crimean Democratic Republic as a subject of the formation of a democratic Russian Federation. This republic should be multinational, but also guarantee the rights of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people. In May 1918, the Crimean Tatar parliament took the position of independence under German occupation and attempted to form a government and parliament of an already de facto independent republic. It ended in failure due to opposition from Russia’s liberal and socialist political forces. Under these conditions, some national leaders, without the decision of the Kurultay,tried in the summer of 1918 to secretly implement the project of an independent neutral Crimean Khanate under the protectorate of the German and Ottoman Empires.He was not supported by Berlin, provoked a crisis of the Crimean regional government, sharp criticism of pro-Russian political forces in Crimea, and was branded in November 1918 by the Kurultai as an “adventure” of a group of people who violated Crimean Tatar basic laws. In May 1918-1919, the Crimean Tatar self-government would have preferred the status of an independent Crimean Democratic Republic for Crimea, but due to its limited demographic base, Crimean Tatars made up only a quarter of Crimea’s population. . In 1920, one of the Crimean Tatar leaders, D. Seydamet, who was directly involved in the idea of ​​proclaiming the Crimean Khanate,in contacts with Polish diplomats and state leaders, put forward a project by the League of Nations to give Poland a mandate for Crimea. However, and this idea failed because the League of Nations did not want to consider the Crimean issue in isolation from the Russian one, and the head of the Polish state, J. Pilsudski, suggested that D. Seydamet agreed this idea with the UPR. Interestingly, despite these failures, the autonomous Crimean SSR proclaimed by the Bolsheviks in 1921 resembles the Bolshevik modification of the KDR and appeared largely under the influence of the Crimean Tatar factor.

Russian politicians gravitated to the status of Crimea as part of the Tavriya province of Russia. In 1917, both socialists and liberals wanted to preserve it, but the proclamation of the UPR and the Crimean Tatar national movement at the end of that revolutionary year forced at least the former to agree with the idea of ​​holding a constituent assembly of Crimea and Ukraine. In 1918, at least part of the Russian politicum in Crimea, due to the existence of the Ukrainian State and the RSFSR, the German occupation, supported the temporary independence of Crimea “until its international status was determined.” In late summer and early autumn 1918, a large part of Russia’s liberal and socialist forces, frightened by the Crimean Khanate’s project and to solve the region’s economic problems,put forward the idea of ​​including an autonomous Crimea in the Ukrainian state as a step toward the restoration.Soon they reoriented themselves to the Ufa Directory as the main unifying center of Russian statehood. Formed on November 15, 1918, the Crimean regional government of S. Crimea considered itself not as a state, but as a regional and temporary one. It had to exist before the formation of a legitimate Russian state government and sought to take an active part in its construction. That is, the status of Crimea during the period of the regional government of S. Crimea can rather be considered as an autonomy, whose legitimate center had yet to be formed. During the white dictatorship of A. Denikin and P. Wrangel in the summer of 1919-November 1920, Crimea was deprived of any signs of autonomy,and again became part of the Tavriya province (or the part controlled by the White Guards) .

In 1917–1920, the Bolsheviks showed perhaps the greatest, on the one hand, doctrinaireism and, on the other hand, flexibility in determining the status of Crimea. Their “first arrival” in the Crimea and Northern Tavria was a failure. When they used force in the struggle against the armed formations of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the Crimean Headquarters, the backbone of which were the Crimean Tatar troops, established the Bolshevik-Left Socialist regime in January 1918, they formed new unified authorities for the Tavriya province. However, terror, ignoring the national specifics of the region, pumping out food, transforming it in the spirit of the communist experiment,the inefficiency of new administrative structures and the disintegration of the armed forces did not allow the Bolsheviks and their allies to gain a significant social base.As German and Ukrainian troops approached, an attempt was made to create a “buffer” Soviet republic that would serve as a tool in countering the offensive. However, on March 19, 1918, it was declared within the entire province, which was a clear violation of the peace agreement between the RSFSR and the Four Alliance in Brest, so in two days it had to be proclaimed for the second time within Crimea , although de facto its authorities continued to control Northern Tavria. The RSFSR even managed to announce its recognition, but even here there was confusion – when the ephemeral SSR of the Tauride soon fell, the RSFSR made statements that its territory had been seized.

More successful for the Bolsheviks was the proclamation of the USSR in the spring of 1919. They took into account a number of mistakes of 1918: an attempt was made to cooperate with the Crimean Tatars, there was no mass terror. The two-contour construction of power – in fact, it was carried out through both the state apparatus and the party apparatus – allowed the Communists to experiment with the status of Crimea. The international community and the population had the impression that a new Soviet republic equal to the RSFSR and USSR had emerged, which was beneficial to the Kremlin both for the revolutionization of the Muslim East, especially Turkey, and for organizing, if necessary, armed resistance to the Entente. At the same time,the secret decision of the Central Committee of the RCP (B) clearly defined the subordination of the KSRR to the de facto center as a province. However, the Bolsheviks did not develop a strategic vision of the desired status of Crimea in 1917–1920, as evidenced by the adoption and cancellation of the decision in 1920 on the “independence” of the USSR.

The UPR’s policy on the Crimean question also underwent evolution and some fluctuations. When the UCR stood on an autonomist-federalist platform, it viewed the Crimean Tatar self-government bodies as a partner in transforming the post-imperial space on these principles and, accordingly, Crimea as a potential subject of creating a democratic federal Russia. The attack by Soviet Russia, the Bolsheviks’ transformation of Crimea into a springboard for anti-Ukrainian armed actions, and the proclamation of the UPR’s independence forced it to change its approach to the Crimean question. In February-April 1918, its authorities set a course to include Crimea in the orbit of its influence and, probably, to incorporate it with the guarantee of rights to Crimean Muslims and other Crimean populations.A clear line for the inclusion of Crimea with the granting of the status of autonomy with broad rights was pursued in May-autumn 1918.Ukrainian State of Hetman P. Skoropadsky. After a certain period of fluctuations at the beginning. In 1919, the UPR of the Directory period also sought to incorporate the Crimean Peninsula on an autonomous basis. During the wars and revolutions, the Ukrainian elite and the establishment became convinced that without control over Crimea it would be impossible to guarantee Ukraine’s security, protect its economic and trade interests, and take into account the rights and interests of Crimean Tatars and the polyethnic Crimean will be impossible to protect its economic and trade interests,but on the other hand it is necessary to take into account the rights and interests of the Crimean Tatars and the polyethnic Crimean population in general.

The project was implemented with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation

Andrey Ivanets

Candidate of Historical Sciences, Senior Researcher at Ukrainian National Research Institute

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