This week Pietro Shakarian posted an article on Russia Direct that addresses the issue of the ethnic composition of the Russian Empire in 1897 as it relates to current crises in Ukraine, Crimea, Nagorno-Karabakh and Trans-Caucasia. To my mind it is very informative and would be a good article for students to read if one also gave them good maps. (Shakarian is apparently a PhD student at Ohio State University.)
History is being blithely tossed about these days by everyone from Vladimir Putin himself to Sarah Palin and John McCain. What is the real story? Is there a real story?
To answer that question, I invited two eminent historians – well, one historian and one historically minded political scientist, Serhii Plokhii and Mark Kramer, both of Harvard, to speak at MIT on this exact situation. They spoke on Monday (3/17), the day after the Crimean Referendum and the day before the Russian President’s speech.
[Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Jeff Hardy of Brigham Young University. Jeff has previously been a guest of Russian History Blog in our Gulag-related blog conversations. See his previous posts at Russian History Blog here.]
Let me preface this post by disclaiming that I am not an expert on Ukraine, let alone Crimea. I have lived in and done archival research in Kyiv, and I teach the history of Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, which includes plenty of material on Ukraine. But my specialty is the Soviet Gulag in the Khrushchev era, not anything having to do with Ukraine per se. My hope with this post, therefore, is only to offer a few personal anecdotes of how Crimea was viewed in the late 1940s and 1950s.
So why was I in Kyiv doing research? Quite simply, because it’s virtually impossible to access Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) records from 1960 onward, and I wanted to tell the story of the Gulag up to 1964, when Khrushchev was deposed. That led me to do research in Tallinn, in Vilnius, and in Kyiv. Tallinn and Vilnius, of course, were beautiful cities with remarkably open-access secret archives. Kyiv, while also beautiful, presented some more interesting archival experiences, a few of which touched (barely and briefly) on Crimea.