Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ukraine Unspun

Putin's Crimea Address Rewrites History

Putin Says Crimea 'Inseparable' From Russiai
|| 0:00:00
March 18, 2014
In a speech before a special joint session of the Russian parliament President Vladimir Putin said Crimea "has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia" and called on parliament to endorse a law making Ukraine's Crimea and the city of Sevastopol part of the Russian Federation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's March 18 address to both houses of parliament seemed designed to justify what the Kremlin considers its historic claim on Crimea. Trouble is, a lot of the history seemed spotty.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Russian president's speech "didn't jibe with reality." Here are some highlights of Putin's rewritten history in his Crimea speech.

1. Annexing Crimea is the right thing to do.

Putin: "In people's hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia."

Crimea, which has been claimed by a number of empires during the past millennium, has never really been an inseparable part of anything. Russia wrested it back from the Ottoman Empire in the late 18th century, and the peninsula spent only 37 years as a part of the Soviet Union's Russian Republic before being transferred to Ukraine. Even a week before the March 16 referendum, just over 40 percent of Crimean residents, despite the majority being Russian, were calling for reunification in Russia -- as opposed to the 97 percent who officially approved it on the ballot. The peninsula's native population, the minority Crimean Tatars, boycotted the vote wholesale, as did many ethnic Ukrainians. Authorities have already begun asking Crimean Tatars to vacate their property; one Tatar man, who opposed the Russian takeover, has turned up dead, his body bearing marks of torture.

2. Sure there were dark times, but hey, it was dark for everybody.

Putin: "True, there was a time when Crimean Tatars were treated unfairly, just as a number of other peoples in the U.S.S.R. There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions, and primarily Russians."

This is not strictly untrue, it's just very ugly logic. In 1944, the Kremlin ordered the overnight deportation of Crimea's native Tatar settlers, falsely accusing them of Nazi collaboration and ushering in ethnic Russians to resettle the land. Many Tatars died of starvation or illness along the way; when they began to return to Crimea two generations later, they did so as an unwelcome minority.

Still, that "unfair" deportation affected just over 200,000 Tatars. A drop in the bucket compared to the estimated 20 million people who died under Josef Stalin: kulaks, Poles, Balts, Volga Germans, Chechens, Ingush, Kalmyks, Balkars, Meskhetian Turks, Koreans -- and yes, many Russians, who by virtue of population size do outnumber the Tatars in victimhood.

3. Russia takes care of its ethnic minorities.

Putin: "Crimea is a unique blend of different peoples' cultures and traditions. This makes it similar to Russia as a whole, where not a single ethnic group has been lost over the centuries."

Aside and apart from Soviet-era ethnic deportations (including the Crimean Tatars in 1944), Moscow's Russian-only linguistic policy has had a devastating effect on the country's most vulnerable ethnic minorities.

According to UNESCO, there are currently 131 endangered languages in the Russian Federation. A language becomes endangered when it falls out of use because it has few surviving native speakers. Among the ethnic groups listed in the "critically endangered" category are the Aleuts, Selkups, Chulyms, and Negidals.

4. Russia was the perfect neighbor during the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Putin: "We accommodated Ukraine not only regarding Crimea, but also on such a complicated matter as the maritime boundary in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. What we proceeded from back then was that good relations with Ukraine matter most for us and they should not fall hostage to deadlock territorial disputes."

In fact, negotiations on an Azov-Kerch maritime border dragged well into the 21st century, with Ukraine pressing for a clear delineation and Russia advocating a looser, "shared-use" arrangement. Talks on the issue were so protracted that journalists kept a tally, registering the 25th round of negotiations in mid-2006.

A confrontation had already broken out between the two countries in 2003, when Russia attempted to construct a dam on the Kerch Strait island of Tuzla, a move Ukraine said encroached on its territory. In 2007, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said he was ready to resolve the issue if Moscow recognized the Soviet-era administrative borderline as the new official border. Russia's Foreign Ministry rejected the deal, denying that any administrative borders had ever been established in Soviet times.

5. The Kremlin supported German reunification in 1990.

Putin: "Let me remind you that in the course of political consultations on the unification of East and West Germany, at the expert, though very high level, some nations that were then and are now Germany's allies did not support the idea of unification. Our nation, however, unequivocally supported the sincere, unstoppable desire of the Germans for national unity."

Few countries in Europe were enthusiastic about the notion of creating a larger, stronger German state -- including the Soviet Union. But Moscow, one of the four World War II victors retaining power over Berlin, saw a silver lining -- the chance to pull a reunified Germany out of NATO, remove its nuclear arsenal and create a neutral buffer between the Soviet Union and the West. (The United States employed the opposite logic, and made its support of reunification contingent on a unified Germany staying in NATO.)

By 1990, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had softened his stance on NATO, saying that "the Germans must decide for themselves what path they choose to follow." However, it's likely this had less to do with the Germans' "unstoppable desire" for unity -- and more with West Germany's provision of an estimated $30 billion-$50 billion to fund the withdrawal of Soviet troops and stabilize Kremlin finances.

6. The election of Viktor Yushchenko following Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution was illegal.

Putin: "In 2004, to push the necessary candidate through at the presidential elections, they thought up some sort of third round that was not stipulated by law. It was absurd and a mockery of the constitution."

In the first round of Ukraine's presidential election on October 31, 2004, no candidate carried more than 50 percent of the vote, a result that by law forced a runoff between the two leading candidates, Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych. The second round, held on November 21, appeared to hand Yanukovych the win with 49.92 percent, but was immediately decried as fraudulent, thus sparking the Orange Revolution protests.

On December 1, the Ukrainian parliament passed a no-confidence vote in the cabinet of ministers, but had no means to force the government to resign without the cooperation of Yanukovych, then prime minister. Two days later, Ukraine's Supreme Court ruled that the scale of the electoral fraud made it impossible to establish the true election results. It invalidated the November 21 return and ordered a new runoff for December 26 -- not "some sort of third round," but a repeat of the invalidated second round. That vote was judged free and fair; Yushchenko was declared the winner with 52 percent of the vote.

7. Ukraine is joining NATO.

Putin (on March 18): "We have already heard declarations from Kyiv about Ukraine soon joining NATO."

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (also on March 18): "Accession to NATO is not on the agenda."

-- Daisy Sindelar
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
March 19, 2014 17:14
Putin Rewrites History ????

look like that is RFE doing it .

In Response

by: Bill
March 19, 2014 22:33

Typical RFE/RL propaganda.

Putin said (in his address) more about the past collective injustice done to the Crimean Tatars, than what's spun above.

There's credible evidence questioning just how "free and fair" was the last of the three 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections.

Crimea has pledged to recognizing three languages - much different from the group influencing Kiev's Rada.

Upon further review, It wouldn't come as a surprise to uncover some other inaccuracies in the above linked article.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
March 19, 2014 23:16
Remember: saying doesn't make it so.
Repeat after me: "Just saying RFE is bad doesn't make it so". "Just saying RFE is bad doesn't make it so. Just saying..." (cf. "the Big Lie" theory of policy-making).
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 19, 2014 23:24
Did you even read the article?
In Response

by: Bill
March 20, 2014 11:36
I read the article and watched Putin's address. The article has gross distortions

by: Anonymous
March 19, 2014 17:56
Is the little reference to "kulaks" meant to encompass the 5-7 million Ukrainians starved by Stalin in the Holodomor? Shame.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
March 19, 2014 23:17
No, I think that's an independent phenomenon, not mentioned here because there's still controversy as to whether it was planned against Ukrainians or simply against rich farmers everywhere in the USSR.
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 20, 2014 01:11
Yea I noticed that too and also noticed the lack of mention of holodomor
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 20, 2014 17:31
So there were 5-7 million "rich" farmers in Ukraine (please look up the historical meaning of "kulak"), that were or were not starved out? Oh, wait, they were not in Ukraine, maybe elsewhere in Russia? So the USSR census in mid 30's showing the huge drop in population in eastern Ukraine was a fabrication for what reason?? I guess everyone got to get killed but the Ukrainians.
In Response

March 21, 2014 07:08
The word kulak (also sometimes transliterated as kulakh) has nothing to do with Ukrainian famine. It is a Russian word for small land-owner (later rather wealthy one) the sole proprietor of the land, the independent peasant who physically owned his land and lived off of it. The kulak class was born out of the 1861 serfdom emancipation enacted by tzar Alexander II (two years before Lincoln signed the American equivalent, the Emancipation Proclamation), and the entire class became very financially and politically affluent around the time of the so-called Stolypin reforms of 1906.

Kulaks were considered main stalwarts against the Bolshevik revolutions because of their intrinsically conservative, even reactionary, lifestyle and unwillingness to espouse radical-left political agenda, particularly the redistribution of the land following Lenin's 1917 Land Decree. The Bolshevik regime hunted them pretty much like animals, and by 1928, when the first five-year plan was enacted, they became the main target of the land collectivization drive. Many did not survive the forced collectivization, and those who did were forced to transfer their land and their homes to the collective enterprises known as kolkhozes and sovhozes.. By 1934, independent agriculture in Soviet Union essentially ceased to exist, except on tiny plots of land, sometimes merely a few square feet, around the peasant houses..

Kulaks existed everywhere throughout the former USSR, not only Ukraine. The main target of Stalin's land grab was actually the kulaks themselves, rather than Ukrainian nationals. The idea that famine caused by Stalin's premeditated land grab was somehow aimed solely at Ukrainians because of their ethnicity is nothing but a product of paranoid conspiracists and a deranged forgery of history on part of the right-wing putchists in Kiev.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Canada
March 22, 2014 00:56
I agree, originally the kulaks were emancipated owners of land anywhere in the czarist space who in some cases became "wealthy". Lenin later described them as "bloodsuckers, vampires, plunderers of the people and profiteers".

However, the label of kulak was broadened in 1918 to include any peasant who resisted handing over their grain on orders from Moscow, During 1929-1933, Stalin's campaign to collectivize the peasantry meant that "peasants with a couple of cows or five or six acres more than their neighbors" were being labeled "kulaks".

The process of collectivization was actually conducted by government officials violently seizing kulak farms and murdering resistors; while others were deported to labor camps.

None of the above negates the fact that in Ukraine, because the kulaks exhibited disturbing signs of national Ukrainian sentiments (as well as the Ukrainian intelligentsia who were executed or deported in significant numbers), the artificial famine (Holodomor) was launched in 1932-33 as a means of solving two problems at once, ie, distorting the reality to the communist theory = triumph of the proletariat (working class) + annihilation of Ukrainian national sentiment.

Whatever your beliefs regarding the existence of a deliberate Holodomor (Holocaust deniers, anyone?), millions of Ukrainians DID die. Not to recognize them in the list of nationalities that were victims of the USSR in the original article by Ms. Sindelar is unacceptable.

by: John Newcomb from: Canada
March 19, 2014 21:53
Thanks RFERL!

We need much more of you now that we see how Russia has invaded Ukraine, promoted unlawful referendum, and is now annexing this unlawful territory into Russia.

As has been noted elsewhere, we could be in for Cold War II, or the emergence of the Neo-Russian Empire. Either way, does not bode well for the West and for Russians who prefer freedom and free association instead of autocracy and religico-militarist state.
Collective security will be more important then it has been for last 25 years.

So, could be that now the Russian borders and territory are tainted by that illegal annexation, it may now make all of Russia's boundaries sketchy?

Your points complement those on WaPo:
In Response

by: Bill
March 20, 2014 11:47
Yeah John Newcomb.

Khrushchev gives Crimea to Ukraine, in what can be considered a violation of Soviet standards on such matter.

The present clique dominating the Rada contradict the Ukrainian constitution, a Feb. 21 accord their chief represenatives signed and appoint fascists to ministerial positions, while an attempt to seek hindering minority languages (by the fascist scum) is softly treated, much unlike Crimea's stance.

Crimea, Transdnestr, South Ossetia and Abkhazia seem to prefer Russia over the respective entities claiming them.
In Response

by: Bill
March 20, 2014 12:24
Not to mention Kosovo and northern Cyprus, as well as some other areas where dubious action is evident.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Canada
March 20, 2014 17:43
Yes, let us all applaud the Soviet standards. Do we detect some nostalgia here? Enough said.

by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
March 19, 2014 22:42
Eurasian geopolinomics versus the new geopolitics of the West. This could have been avoided bu understanding Eurasia by EU and good old USA.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 19, 2014 22:43
Look, guys, everyone knows that Putin has arms of mass distruction that he can activate within 45 minutes, he has also purchased uranium from Niger in order to bustle a dirty bomb in order to damage democracy and human rights.
He has also used chemical weapons against his own people which means that his days are numbered (and he knows it).
But thanks God, we have the United States and the European Union who are extremely powerful, so they decided to adopt efficient sunctions that will cause massive damange for Russia: (a) from now on Putin is not any longer allowed to visit Disneyland; (b) at the same time, Lawrow is explicitely prohibited from buying ice-cream in ALL memeber-states of the European Union (Japan and Australia have also seconded this ban).
So, to sum up all of the above, Putin can rewrite history as much as he wants, but given the adopted sanctions, his days are numbered. Even more than that: Russia itself will desintegrate within DAYS, as long as the European Union will stop buying Russian gas (the winter is over anyways).
So, Senator McCain and RFE/RL can be glad now :-)).
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 20, 2014 17:24
no ! disneyland no !
It is very sad !
bad like un have a dinner with McCain !
In Response

by: Аlexandra from: Moscow
March 21, 2014 10:46
Eugenio! I am wondering if Mr. Putin informed you personally about his plans? You, guys, something. Firstly, before 1922 there was no such a State Ukraine in existance. It was Lenin's idea to give each nationality of the forme Russian empire the right of self-determination. Even the smallest ethnic group set up its little statehood. In the 1930 Stalin gave Ukraine a peice of Bessarabia, in 1954 (without any referendum) Khrutchev transferred Russian territories (Odessa, Kherson, Nikolaev and etc.) to Ukraine. Over the years since 1990 the Ukrainian Government used open language and ethnicity discrimination against the Russians (apparently, 60% of the Crimea population). This is onle one reason, why Russia has begun to change its policy There are others, including the brainwashing of people like you Read, at least, WiKi!

by: American Tolerast
March 20, 2014 00:47
The single best part was his weird tirade about NATO actually wanting Sevastopol. What would we do with it? Pave the roads, arrest all the white supremacists, and force everyone else to sober up?
In Response

by: Bill
March 20, 2014 12:26
Nice geopolitical prize for the new world order EuroAtlanticist mindset.

by: Anonymous
March 20, 2014 02:49
Crimean Tatars are not "native" to the peninsula -- they were nomadic tribes who settled there after arriving with the Mongol invasions, beginning in the 13th century.

The closest thing Crimea has to "natives" is the Greek minority -- the group with the oldest roots in the region.
In Response

by: Bill
March 20, 2014 11:40
As Putin noted, Rus had a presence in Crimea before the Tatars. The the latter established a slave trading entity against Slavs and some others.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Canada
March 20, 2014 17:55
You are quite right, Bill. RUS' had a presence in Crimea--Kieven Rus', but that was definitely not Russia, but medieval Ukraine.

The area now identified as Russia was called Muskovy, centered to the northeast. The term Russia did not not come into use until the 17th century.

Old Ukrainian folk songs and legends are filled with sorrowful references to their young people being taken by the slave traders.
In Response

by: Henry S from: Seattle WA
March 20, 2014 19:06
What does that have to do with Russia? Rus was not Russia, a false equivalency made up by Russia to capitalize on the similarities of the names. If you're going to use Rus as a justification for rule over Crimea, then Ukraine would have the stronger claim to Crimea since they are also a successor to the Rus tradition and are geographically closer.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Canada
March 22, 2014 01:20
To Henry S. from Seattle: Right on!

Russia has capitalized on the problem of nomenclature. It would probably be less complicated if in English the current name for Russia would be what Russians call their country, which is "Rossia", not "Russia". In French : la Russie, so the problem keeps going on...

"Rus" is medieval Ukrainian, and no amount of historical revisionism (and attendant revanchism) can change that.
In Response

by: Henry S. from: Seattle WA
March 20, 2014 19:02
Even before the Greeks there were others in Crimea. But but you're going to go back to pre-historical times, Russians are not "native" to most of modern Russia. The point is that the Crimean Tatars have been in Crimea much longer than Russians, and Crimea was almost entirely populated by Crimean Tatars when Russia annexed it in 1783. It wasn't until around 1900 that Russians were in a slight majority. Hardly the deep, "centuries" old history that the Russian media keeps relating.

by: Thomas H. from: Northern California, U.S.
March 20, 2014 10:34
People like me are quite satisfied in his talk that the Russian leader mentioned his interpretation of the Orange Revolution and the Russian political response to this over time which has been (at least so far) comprised of a Crimean referendum in favour of joining the Moscow government at this time. Without such an election, regardless of its validity and veracity of its results, and while people like me do not really know, open hostilities could have begun at any time before the referendum, again, became final. The election itself in Crimea and the administrative and political upheaval in some respects are unacceptable to many, though it is undoubted the region risked greater problems without such a thing to stop further chaos. People like me are not in favour at all with what seems to be renewed expansion of influences from Moscow, though again and again, live battle lines on issues like this should be avoided. Should. There is a nice box map on the internet at the site ( that allows not for the consideration of Russian expansionism, but for what should be a 'band - aid' on Crimean politics and border issues due to issues that might be explained clearly and eventually by foreign minister Lavrov in an avoidance of what might have been hellish and completely destructive clashes between parties in the region. I hope these comments are view - able by everyone.

March 21, 2014 05:45
What a really, really lousy, infantile and factually and actually inaccurate piece of neocon swill.

About #UkraineUnspun

The information war is in full swing in the tense standoff between Ukraine and Russia. In an attempt to present a clearer picture, #UkraineUnspun will unravel information coming from Russian and Ukrainian media, politicians and activists. Written by Glenn Kates and contributors from RFE/RL.

Follow the hashtag #UkraineUnspun on Twitter and let us know what we should be covering -- or to weigh in on any of our stories. Or write us at

Most Popular