“Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet transferring Crimea Province from the Russian Republic to the Ukraine Republic, taking into account the integral character of the economy, the territorial proximity and the close economic ties between Crimea Province and the Ukraine Republic, and approving the joint presentation of the Presidium of the Russian Republic Supreme Soviet and the Presidium of the Ukraine Republic Supreme Soviet on the transfer of Crimea Province from the Russian Republic to the Ukraine Republic.”
“Gifted” because Khrushchev’s transfer was ostensibly to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s merger with the Russian empire. And he probably didn’t think the Soviet Union would be gone less than 40 years later.
Siegelbaum argues that Crimea’s cultural links with Russia were far stronger, and, at the time, there were slightly more than three Russians in Crimea for each Ukrainian. (Stalin had expelled the entire local Tatar population a decade earlier.)
And, Siegelbaum says, the idea that Crimea and Ukraine had economic similarities, as Pravda noted, was a stretch, since the peninsula was mostly a tourist destination for the rest of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine’s great famine, or Holodomor, was created by Joseph Stalin, Khrushchev’s predecessor; millions died. Stalin died in 1953, and when Khrushchev took over, “the idea was that they really needed to democratize the system, to centralize it less,” says Nina Khrushcheva, Khruschev’s great-granddaughter and an associate professor of international affairs at The New School in New York.
“It was somewhat symbolic, somewhat trying to reshuffle the centralized system and also, full disclosure, Nikita Khrushchev was very fond of Ukraine,” she tells NPR’s David Greene. “So I think to some degree it was also a personal gesture toward his favorite republic. He was ethnically Russian, but he really felt great affinity with Ukraine.”
As a teenager, Khrushchev went to work in Ukraine’s mines. He then joined the Communist Party and rose up through the ranks. He married a Ukrainian woman and considered Ukraine “one of his native lands,” Khrushcheva says.
Khrushcheva, the author of the upcoming The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind, spent time as a child with the Soviet leader. The interview airs on Friday’sMorning Edition, but you can listen to a longer version of the conversation below.
“Khrushchev informed his comrades of the decision to deliver Crimea to Ukraine incidentally, on the way to lunch. ‘Yes, comrades, there is an opinion to deliver Crimea to Ukraine,’ he said casually. No one dared to express any protests, because a word of the first face of the Communist Party was law.
“The agenda of the session of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which took place January 25, 1954, contained a question about the delivery of the Crimean region to the structure of the Ukrainian SSR [Soviet Socialist Republic]. The discussion of the question took only 15 minutes. The participants of the meeting approved the decree, and the region was given away to Ukraine for free.”