I will admit that my Black Sea geography is a little thin. When Russia hosted the Winter Olympics at Sochi, I did not know that this was on the coast of the Black Sea. When Putten decided that annexing land should be a para-olympic sport, I did not know where the Crimean peninsula was. However, I love atlases, so I looked it up. Hmmm. Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey all have coastal regions on the black Sea.
I knew that the Ukraine and Georgia had been part of the USSR some decades before. I heard on a news report that the Crimea peninsula has been a separate republic for a while after the USSR broke up, before becoming part of Ukraine. And, of course, there was the issue of the “ethnic Russians” who lived there (other than the Russian non-uniformed military personnel who went in ahead of the “referendum” to collect or secure all the arsenals… sound like Lord Dunmore taking the gun-powder from the Magazine in Williamsburg prior to our Revolutionary War). This raised the question of under which boundary did Crimea fall historically.
On a recent trip to my parents’ home, I was sorting through travel books that my mother wanted to cull from her files. One text was an atlas! To be specific, “Labberton’s Historical Atlas” published in 1901. Excellent. I flipped through the pages to trace a history of the Black Sea political boundaries. The photos which follow are from that text. Enjoy a little history.
The first images that I found which included the peninsula were from the Persian Empire in 500 BC and the Empire of Alexander the Great (Greek) in 323 BC. Both empires contained about 2/3 of the Black Sea coast, but not the norther region with the peninsula. The map has this un-named in white.
The first two maps that name the northern region of the Black Sea are from 74 BC (Empire of Mithradates) and 63 BC (Bosporanian Kingdom). Notice that the Persian and Alexandrian boundaries either receded or are gone. Thus is the trend of history.
The Romans would be the next Empire builders, spanning from Aegyptus to Britania, in 116 AD. To the north of the Roman Empire were those damn Goths! Yes, the red line of the Goths include the peninsula.
But Empire are rarely sustained (any of our current empire builders reading?), so by 395 AD, the Romans were consolidating and the Huns now controlled the northern coasts of the Black Sea.
By 715 AD, the Arabic rulers were cobbling their empire ambitions together. The Bulgarians now ruled most of what would become northern Europe, Russia, and Scandinavia.
Europe would become the soccer pitch for the next…. well, it still is… with boundaries pushing this way and that for centuries. Charlemagne was considered one of the unifying kings, but even then the eastern regions, including the peninsula were under Slavonian rule, in 843 AD.
Under Otto the Great, in 962 AD, the location names proliferate. The Black Sea regions were part of the Mohammadan States, with the peninsula ruled by Petzinactes. This is the first map which lists Russia.
The 12th Century brought in the Crusades. The peninsula was now under the Grand Duchy of Vladimer (not Puttin).
The first map which actually names the peninsula “Crimea” is dates 1356 AD.
During the Ottoman Ascendency in the 16th Century, Crimea expanded quite a ways north as the Khanate of the Crimea nearly up to, golly-je!, Moscow! Sorry, folks, Russia would push back. History was against Crimea’s expansion from then on.
By 1763, Crimea is under Tauria, while many familiar European national names have established themselves: Spain, France, England, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Hungry. Hey, we were involved in our own boundary disputes with the French and Indian War… and, you know what that lead to… nasty Parliamentary Acts on commerce, paper, etc.
The final map in the this text that covered the Crimea is from 1816 AD. Russia has moved west and south, to border Prussia and the north coast of the Black Sea. My ancestors are a generation away of escaping the pogroms of Russia, Prussia, and Germany. And, we are not even up to the WWI, the Russian Revolution, WWII, the USSR and Cold War. The border regions, including the Ukraine and Crimea were mixed with many ethnic groups. Stalin would attempt to destroy these with campaigns for relocating, imprisoning, and killing millions. Those eastern cities and lands, now in the Ukraine would be “repopulated” with settlements of people of Russian background. Thus, a few generations later, Puttin can claim that he is wanting to protect the ethnic Russians in Crimea.
What stands out for me with this exercise in historical maps is that boundaries are rarely established, final, or respected. If you even look at our USA history, you can see that during the colonial era, England, France, and Spain all had dotted lines (sorry, CA, AZ, NM, NV, UT, TX, you were all part of New Spain, whether you like to complain about the “Mexican” overrunning your states now).
Our boundaries from 1783 are nothing similar to what our states look like today. Virginia expanded all the way to the Mississippi River. Massachusetts and Connecticut skip right over New York and Pennsylvania to claim land around the Great Lakes.
Prior to the staged-referendum and annexation of the Crimea a month ago, I thought that this international crisis had local implications for our region of West Virginia. If the referendum-annexation WERE permitted under international law, then COULD our eastern counties of WV, which have always identified more with VA and the Confederate States hold a referendum to become annexed back to VA? If the referendum-annexation were NOT permitted, then how did Lincoln manage to justify supporting a split-off Virginia government in Wheeling, in 1863, to hold a referendum and then divide the counties of the western regions of Virginia to be annexed to the Union?
Maybe the question is not under which boundaries a particular parcel of land exists, but under what quality of leadership do those people and land live? I am afraid that the Crimea and possibly soon other part of the Ukraine are passing from one thug (the prior corrupt president and administration) to another thug. But, Puttin probably likes being considered a thug.