Bob Onyschuk, National Post | March 12, 2014 |
Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing the imperialist card. His clear, naked military aggression in Crimea lies beyond all accepted norms. It is behaviour that may be spoken of in the same breath as Hitler’s occupation of Sudetenland, and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Putin claims Crimea is vintage Russian territory. But this Soviet-style propaganda is historically inaccurate. The Russian President seeks to distract from the unjustified nature of his actions by stage-managing “spontaneous demonstrations” — such as a recent television stunt in which two Russian ladies from Crimea were put up for a TV interview, in which they stated “we want our homeland back” and “this is our ancestral home.”
Crimea was never “traditional Russian territory.” Rather, it was the home of the Crimean Tartars — up until 1944, when Stalin forcibly deported them to Central Asia, to a place to be called “Tartarstan” (about half of them died en route); and replaced them with Russian nomenclatura retirees from Moscow, a reward for faithfully serving “the Motherland.”
Russia had a naval base in Crimea, at Sevastopol, since 1784; but otherwise, it had only a minor presence on the peninsula until after WWII. This was the homeland of the Tartars, with Ukrainians being the other largest minority.