Why is/was Crimea part of Ukraine?

According to Wikipedia, the population of Crimea was 67% ethnic Russian in 1989 shortly before the USSR split up.

So why did Crimea become part of Ukraine instead of part of Russia?

Because Khruschev.

Well, that, and because in the 90s their parliament voted to stay part of Ukraine. A couple of times.

Why would they do that if the population was mostly ethnic-Russian?

Because not all Russians want to live in Russia. About 20% of those who live in Russia don’t want to live in Russia. Other polls I remember showed that about 40% of young Russians want to leave. Ah there it is: http://en.ria.ru/russia/20130606/181540254.html

I confess I still don’t understand. I figured that it was an effort, somewhat analogous of moving Americans to Texas ca 1820s or moving Han Chinese to Tibet in present day, of ensuring loyalty of the country by increasing the share of fundamentally sympathetic residents. Is there some other justification? I’m sure the in the 1950s the USSR was discounting the possibility of Ukraine ever becoming independent, but voluntarily relinquishing territory is incredibly rare.

Did you look at the map there? It’d be difficult to be part of Russia when the only way to get there is via boat or plane.

That didn’t stop the US from deciding that Alaska and Hawaii were good pieces of territory to have in our possession. Likewise, it hasn’t proven much of an obstacle to the arrival of Russian solders in recent days, or the current interest in returning Crimea to Russia.

It hasn’t stopped Kaliningrad from being part of Russia, despite its isolation from the rest of the country, either.

Ethnicity in Europe is different from the way we view it in the U.S. You can have two Russian-speaking Ukrainian families living next door to each other. One family follows the Russian Orthodox Church, the other the Ukrainian Orthodox, and they consider themselves different groups. They might also split along economic lines, with the farmers leaning more Ukrainian and the shopkeepers leaning more Russian. Or families can just have bad (or good) memories of Soviet rule.

Any semi-detailed ethnic map of the regionshows there’s no particular way to draw a line that puts all of these guys on one side of a border and all of those guys on the other. So, with the Crimea connected by land only to Ukraine, it makes as much sense as any other governance.

This whole thing about Crimea being part of Russia prior to them giving it away in 1956 is what I find the weirdest part of this whole crisis. I wonder how the citizens felt about changing countries in 1956?
The ties of the people living there to Russia must be stronger than a typical case of a country aggressively occupying a neighbor.
How would Alaskan’s feel if the US deeded their state to Canada but returned 58 years later to take it back after Canadians revolted against the Harper government?

While a generation of people have grown up with Russia and Ukraine being two separate countries, you need to remember this wasn’t the case back in the fifties. They were both part of the Soviet Union. So it wasn’t like giving Alaska to Canada. It was more like giving Ellis Island to New Jersey.

They didn’t change countries in 1956. Both RSFSR (the “Russian Republic”) and Ukraine (“The Ukrainian Republic”) were part of the USSR, two of the 15 republics, there was no border between them, no border posts, nothing to indicate you crossed from one to the other, really. The difference between being part of Ukraine vs part of RSFSR was less than being part of Illinois vs part of Indiana. At least in the US, different states have sometimes significantly different laws. Not so in the Soviet Union.

Ignorance fought - thank you for the explanation. So, if the legal/political differences between the Russian and Ukrainian republics in 1956 were comparable to that between Illinois and Indiana - what about the cultural and language differences? Going by this mapit seems like they are the Quebec of Ukraine - except France is right next door.

During Soviet times, Russian was lingua franca in every one of the 15 Soviet republics - everyone spoke it, especially in the slavic republics. It was spoken universally in non-slavic ones too, but accented. In Ukraine/Byelarus the spoken Russian is very slightly accented if at all. I visited Kiev, Minsk, some smaller towns in that area - you could ONLY hear Russian spoken in the streets. No Ukrainian or Belorussian whatsoever. They did teach Ukrainian in schools in Ukraine, but kinda as a foreign language. I am sure in small villages it was spoken a lot more, especially in the Western Ukraine.

As for “culture” - again, I don’t think there was much difference. Hell, I grew up in Leningrad and they made us write essays on Gogol’s “Taras Bulba” - glorifying Ukraine’s struggle against Poland. The only “cultural”/ethnic difference I can think of at the time between Ukrainians and Russians was the “ko” endings in last names that were sometimes made fun of among ethnic Russians, and “salo” - which was included much more in Ukrainian cuisine.

Incidentally, I count 88 sovereign nations (out of 195) that are younger than the Ukrainian posession of Crimea. There’d be a whole lot of map redrawing if we decided to put things back the way they were.

The Crash Course/Mental Floss guys made a decent video explaining things…

And it’s worth mentioning Russian speaker doesn’t mean “allied with Russia” either, the same that being ethnically Russian doesn’t mean that. Vladimir Klitschko speaks Russian exclusively with his family at home, and is a strong Ukrainian nationalist with no desire to fold into Russia. I can’t remember if it’s the current PM or the current President, but one of those Ukrainian politicians is ethnically Russian as well.