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In 1954 Soviets transferred Crimea from Russian Soviet Republic to Ukrainian Soviet Republic.

Why is this strange?

The whole act, at least officially, was meant to be "a gift", a token of friendship. You do not normally give huge pieces of land in moderate climate, which are also strategically located.

Russians are not known for giving land away, quite the contrary - Russia has been constantly expanding since XVII century.

After the deportation of the Tatars by Stalin Russians were the majority population of Crimea at that time (and still are).

Russia doesn't seem to have a solid foothold of the Black Sea coast - it seems that their only usable naval port apart from Sevastopol (which is in Crimea and is only leased from Ukraine!) is Novorossiysk.

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I am not able to give an answer to this great question. But I want to add that Russia has a pretty solid foothold in the Crimea and that Sevastopol serves as one of the major ports of the Russian navy (what makes your question even more forceful!). At my last trip there about a year ago the Russian flag welcomed every visitor. Except the Crimean Tartars who try to claim more and more ground recently, the typical average Crimean believes to be Russian, not Ukrainian. Investors from Russia prefer to do business on the Crimea, then in Odessa as second choice, and bypass the rest. –  Ben Oehler Oct 25 '12 at 20:32

6 Answers 6

up vote 33 down vote accepted

TL;DR

Khrushchev wanted to (1) test his political power, and (2) to please the Ukrainian population, and (3) to shift the rebuilding cost to the Ukrainian republic.

Khrushchev wanted to test his political power

If anyone would wanted to challenge Khrushchev, just rising to power, his controversial idea and hollow arguments would be a perfect occasion. The stake was very little at the same time. Seemingly Khrushchev wanted to test his position before more important changes he may have been planning. http://books.google.com/books?id=RwfIEhLDaMsC&lpg=PA310&pg=PA311

Khrushchev wanted to please the Ukrainian population

While the Russian and Ukrainian cadres were in great friendship ever since 1930s (1920s?), Ukrainian people's drive for independence was a recurring problem for the Soviet Union. During World War II this drive has risen again to a great extent. After the war, Soviet power went into a de-facto war with Ukrainian nationalists and relations became very strained. http://books.google.com/books?id=DHFDjhPugJIC&pg=PT199&hl=en&sa=X&ei=OlGKUMH9DISxtAauk4GwDw&ved=0CFQQ6AEwBw

The Crimea had an opinion of a crown jewel, the best vacation resort in Soviet Union. So the gesture would appear favorable to Ukrainian commoners. In reality...

Shift the rebuilding cost to the Ukrainian republic

In reality , after the 1944 mass deportations of Crimean Tatars the region became an economical disaster zone. It would require major investment, and Khrushchev wanted to shift this to the Ukrainian budget. http://books.google.com/books?id=l5uiWHgRphQC&lpg=PA500&pg=PA499

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Just as an addendum, I'd like to point out that the governments of the Republics were pretty powerless entities during the USSR era. The central Soviet Communist Party hierarchy was where power resided. So which republic administered which territory was really just a bookeeping issue. I doubt Krushchev ever envisioned a day comming where Russia and the Ukraine were two separate countries and his action became a really important event. –  T.E.D. Oct 26 '12 at 15:05
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@T.E.D. Absolutely true. I had very close friends in Ukraine in 86-91 years. They were members of the nationalistic movement in the western Ukraine - the centre of the Ukrainian nationalism. And having anti-SSSR views I said they should look for independence. And they argued, they didn't expected or even waited for any independence except some more cultural autonomy. –  Gangnus Dec 26 '12 at 22:39
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How the deportation of the Tatars affected it being an economic disaster zone? –  Anixx May 2 '13 at 2:46
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@Anixx you've no clue as to what a sizable fraction of a region's population being ripped out and transported forcibly elsewhere does to that region (and the one they end up in. –  jwenting May 2 '13 at 6:29
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@jwenting what fraction of the Crimea's population were Tatars before the war? –  Anixx May 2 '13 at 7:37

At that time, Ukraine was under the control of the Soviet Union. And the Russians basically controlled the Soviet Union. So they basically controlled Ukraine.

Thus, the transfer of Crimea to the Ukraine was a "Greek" gift that would enable the Russians to control Ukraine better. Since it was on their "books," the Ukrainians would have to manage it, while the Russians would de facto control it.

Not a bad idea, as long as Ukraine in fact remains your colony.

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There is an excellent and fairly brief essay written at the period of the Crimean transfer to the Ukrainian SSR that supports the charade "gift" concept of "Elder Brother" to "Younger Brother"--itself in reality an attempt to placate Ukrainian political and economic forces (even within the Ukr. Communist Party) that could lead to a separation from Moscow. Krushchev was a major player in this move.

It also was a cover for mass deportations of locals (mostly Tatars, but also ethnic Russians and Ukrainians) to central Asia for perceived disloyalty with the German occupation during the War-- by the International Committee on the Crimea: http://www.iccrimea.org/historical/crimeatransfer.html

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USSR's leaders:

1) Lenin ( 1917 - 1924 ) - from Ulyanovsk, Volga River.

2) Joseph Stalin ( 1924 - 1953 ) - from Moscow's district, but his father Besarion Jughashvili from Georgia.

3) Nikita Khrushchev ( 1953 - 1964 ) - was born April 15, 1894, in Kalinovka, a village in what is now Russia's Kursk Oblast, near the present Ukrainian border.

Nikita

In 1938 he become a leader of Ukraine.

In late 1937, Stalin appointed Khrushchev as head of the Communist Party in Ukraine, and Khrushchev duly left Moscow for Kiev, again the Ukrainian capital, in January 1938.[46] Ukraine had been the site of extensive purges, with the murdered including professors in Stalino whom Khrushchev greatly respected. The high ranks of the Party were not immune; the Central Committee of Ukraine was so devastated that it could not convene a quorum. After Khrushchev's arrival, the pace of arrests accelerated.[47] All but one member of the Ukrainian Politburo Organizational Bureau, and Secretariat were arrested. Almost all government officials and Red Army commanders were replaced.[48] During the first few months after Khrushchev's arrival, almost everyone arrested received the death penalty

Moreover, after 1920 he was a commissar of a labor brigade in the Donbas ( Ukraine ).

Optionally: There is a joke about message from Stalin to Nikita about his repression methods in the Nezalezhna. «Уймись, дурак!» It is translated to the English like: "Please, stop, ugly mad man". This was because most of Ukrainians were suffered from the Red Terror smoothly converted to the Great Purge, compare to the other parts of the Russian Empire. This was a main reason of genesis such phenomenon called "бандеровщина", see also Stepan Bandera.


Finally, all of his life Nikita spent with Ukraine. Crimea was a gift to the native home, Ukraine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikita_Khrushchev

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I don't disagree, but I'm not sure how this answers the question. –  Mark C. Wallace Mar 4 at 15:17
    
Qestion was "Why", my answer is: "Because, this is land of Khrushchev's life." He rebuilt this part of Soviet Union for the whole time of his existence. –  user2496 Mar 4 at 16:23
    
I upvoted although I am not sure this is the correct answer. Still, it's useful to point out Kh's personal connection to Ukraine. –  Felix Goldberg Mar 4 at 16:47
    
Probably, there are thousands of examples, how great leaders has gifted something to their homeland. I can't find what Stalin did for Georgia compare to Crimea, anyway I'm sure that Georgia prospered in 1924 - 1953. –  user2496 Mar 12 at 20:16

from: http://www.voanews.com/content/khrushchevs-son-giving-crimea-back-to-russia-not-an-option/1865752.html

Khrushchev’s son Sergei said the decision to give Crimea to Ukraine had to do with economics and agriculture - the building of a hydro-electric dam on the Dnieper River which would irrigate Ukraine’s southern regions, including Crimea.

“As the Dnieper and the hydro-electric dam [is] on Ukrainian territory, let’s transfer the rest of the territory of Crimea under the Ukrainian supervision so they will be responsible for everything," Sergei Khrushchev said. "And they did it. It was not a political move, it was not an ideological move - it was just business.”

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Welcome to history.stackexchange! With Crimea in the news lately, it's nice to see an influx of questions about the area. –  NotVonKaiser Mar 17 at 17:58

I read within the past few days,(March 10, 2014 or so) that Krushchev wanted to dilute the "Fascist" element of the Ukrainian population with some "Commies" included in the gift of Crimea. Unfortunately I did not make note of the source. This following link does back up the reason for animosities found in the present day:

http://www.idd.mid.ru/inf/inf_01.html

You need translator software since it is/was a Soviet/Russian archival document.

Although not an answer to "why did Krushchev give away Crimea", the following link seems pertinent to the present day, (March 2014) changes to the world, and is a large part of what's motivating current events. This was published recently (March 2014) by a Hungarian think tank.

http://www.meltanyossag.hu/content/files/The%20Bear%20Steps%20in%20%E2%80%93%20a%20Russian%20thriller.pdf

I was looking for an answer to "why did the Soviet Union give Crimea to Ukraine" when I found this message board. (March 16, 2014) The "making Ukraine responsible for (financial costs) of Crimea" seems logical to me, but that is just my opinion, I have to admit.

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Welcome to history.stackexchange! We all appreciate well-sourced documents, but could you possibly cite the passages from those documents that support your claims? They're fairly long and (in the case of the one in Cyrillic) not always easy to parse. Additionally, sometimes original source like this gets deleted but this answer (presumably) will stay up for a while, so future users might want to see the information you found. –  NotVonKaiser Mar 17 at 18:02

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