19 March 2014

Crimea: History does not run a control experiment.

First off, I absolutely am of the belief that when it comes to countries, there are no friends or enemies – just interests. Regardless of the geopolitical interest that Crimea itself generates for US (which should be precious little) the issue at hand is letting Russia go uncontested as it increases its power and direct control. This is against strategic interest of US (which is interested in seeing a weaker Russia) and therefore US needs to and should raise hell and try to exact a price for Russia’s actions. Such geopolitical issues are far more complex, interrelated and nuanced than most of us probably fathom.

That said, I was struck by President Obama’s declaration “Russia is on the wrong side of history”.

There is an assumption in that statement that history, in the long term, will “right” this by reversing this action. First and foremost, my observation is that history has never judged “right” from “wrong”. It has only judged victors from the vanquished. Victors then wrote their version of the story. And since history has no ability to run a control experiment, that story, then called history, became “right” and always has looked kindly on the action of the victors and harshly on the vanquished.

The second difficulty is that the history of political ownership and geographical boundaries of that part of the world and by extension Central Europe too is like God’s cruel giant etch-a-sketch. There is an excellent video of this that has gone viral that depicts over time how the boundaries and ownerships have changed (http://youtu.be/nq0KNfS_M44) and thus the definition of “right” and “wrong” has flip-flopped! Out of curiosity, I started reading the history of Crimea and here is the summary:

The following is just in the last 100 years!! Before that Crimea was occupied or ruled by the Greeks, the Romans, the Goths, the Huns, the Bulgars, the Kievan Rus, the Byzantine empire, the Kipchaks, the Mongols… You name them.

1917-1921: Incredibly enough, in these four years, Crimea existed as or part of 10 different countries!!! (Under Tatar govt, Bolshevik govt, German govt, British govt, Anti-Bolshevik govt and so on….)
1921: Crimea became Autonomous Crimean SSR and became then part of the Russian SSR which eventually became part of the Soviet Union.
1941: Crimea devastated by the Nazis. All cities razed to the ground. Crimea ruled by Nazis.
1944: Red Army takes over Crimea and Stalin forcibly moves out all indigenous Tatars out of the country. Half of them died. Greeks and Armenians were ethnically cleaned too. That is how Russian people started settling and overtaking Crimean land.
1954: Nikita Khruschev (President of USSR) unexpectedly “gifts” Crimea to Ukraine!
1991: Majority (54%) in Crimea referendum choose to stay independent of Russia. they become part of independent Ukraine.
1999: Crimea becomes Autonomous Republic of Crimea with its own parliament and constitution.
17th Mar, 2014: Crimea declared independence as Republic of Crimea
18th Mar, 2014: Crimea votes to be part of Russia. Thus making it the shortest lived independent country ever in history!!

It would be interesting to see how we can ever prove or disprove President Obama’s statement.

Posted March 19, 2014 by Rajib Roy in category "Musings

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