Is there a Khrushchevian ‘Crimea’ in Belarus?

Russian "green men" occupation force surrounding a Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Crimea, in March 2014.

Russian "green men" occupation force surrounding a Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Crimea, during the military annexation of the peninsula in March 2014. 

Analysis & Opinion, Belarus, Politics, Russia

Vladimir Putin based his invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea on the notion that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev illegally handed over the peninsula from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 and that all the current Russian leader has been doing is rectifying that historical injustice.

That argument repeated over and over again by Russian media has played a key role in the “Crimea is Ours” movement among Russians; and its potency makes a report this week about another Khrushchevian action, this time involving handing over Russian territory to Belarus in 1964 potentially important.

Shortly before he was ousted from power in that year, Khrushchev agreed to transfer seven villages from Russia to Belarus. The action was so late during his rule that it took final form only after he was gone, when Anastas Mikoyan signed the decree on November 17, 1964.

The Charter97 portal embeds a seven-minute television program produced by the Belarusian Service of Radio Liberty about the residents of these seven isolated and impoverished villages, some of whom have changed their national identity with the change in borders and others of whom have not.

On the one hand, such transfers of territory among republics of the Soviet Union were no rarity in Soviet times: they happened more than 200 times with lines shifting to reflect economic and political needs. (For a listing of the more important of these, see my “Can Republic Borders Be Changed?RFE/RL Report on the USSR, September 28, 1990.)

But on the other hand, given the increasing salience of borders in Russian thinking and Putin’s willingness to exploit perceived slights against Russia by Soviet leaders like Khrushchev, any such attention raises the possibility that these seven villages could be a flashpoint in Russian-Belarusian relations – and even a Belarusian variant of Crimea.



Edited by: A. N.

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  • BCHistorian

    It really works both ways. I’m surprised that Ukraine lost Taganrog, for example (Tahanrih) to Russia in “exchange” for Crimea, I believe. No one in Ukraine is demanding the return of traditionally ethnic Ukrainian territories today, are they?

    • Murf

      They should. The Russian Supreme Court(AKA Putin’s sock puppets) ruled the land transfer was illegal.
      Well I guess that works both ways.
      Sounds like another court case.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Taganrog, Belgorod and agricultural land were transferred to the RSFSR between 1919 and 1922 so there’s no link to Malenkov transferring the Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954. One could, however, see the Crimean transfer as fair compensation, though it was done on its own merits according to a decision by Stalin and implemented after Malenkov and Khrushchev visited the peninsula in the summer of 1953 to see for themselves. They came to the conclusion that Stalin was right, that the Crimea’s problems could best be solved by transferring it to the Ukrainian SSR and advised the Presidium accordingly.
      In January 1954 the Presidium decided to transfer the Crimea; apart from Malenkov and Khrushchev the Presidium included Molotov, Bulganin, Voroshilov and Anastas Mikoyan among its members so the decision was not a unilateral decision by Khrushchev, despite the dwarf’s claim that Khrushchev did so and was drunk at the time. If so, there must have been a lot of drunk Commies. Furthermore it should be pointed out that as Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Prime Minister Malenkov was primarily responsible, not Khrushchev.
      It should also be pointed out that in the 171 years that Russia and later the RSFSR were responsible for the Crimea they were either unwilling or incapable of solving the peninsula’s problems and that it took the Ukrainian SSR to do so.

  • veth

    Ukraine is negotiating about the provision of used ships of the NATO fleet. This was stated by deputy commander of the Ukraine’s naval forces Andriy Tarasov in an interview with Channel 7.

    According to him, the transfer of patrol ships to Ukraine is currently being discussed.

    Regarding the ship, which is received from the Western fleet, the NATO countries, – its fighting properties remain unchanged. The age of ships of rocket class is 20 years – this is normal age. It retains its properties. We receive normal full-fledged ships. This is normal practice “, said Andriy Tarasov.

    • Murf

      Uain mentions the Island Class specificly.

      This a patrol boat designed by the Brits and built in the UK and US,
      In the US it serves in the Coast Guard and is being phased out for a new class.
      This is NOT a front line combat ship. However given the arms embargo the West has on Ukraine it will fulfill a much needed role in policing Ukraine’s waters specially along the lack Sea shelf. It can be upgraded with guided missiles like the Stunga P for added punch.

      What I would like to see is the US donate 2 Perry class frigates. These tough ships would be a serious increase in the Navy’s firepower.Turkey has up graded their Perry’s into pocket destroyers.

  • veth
  • Alex George

    There are at least 1,000 Belarusians fighting with Ukraine on the Donbass front. Many are very experienced having been with the Belarusian battalion as soon as the fighting started.

    If fighting breaks out in Belarus, I expect the Ukrainains will speak to each of them, offering them a free trip home if they wish, and whatever equipment they wish to take with them.

  • Dirk Smith

    This is all so stupid. All of these actions are simple diversions from Putler’s robbery of the ruSsian people and now crumbling economy. Deeper sanctions please and let’s wrap this up.