The History of Ukraine
The Transfer of Crimea
The 1954 transfer of Crimea peninsula from Russia to Ukraine is up-to-date a thorny issue between the two governments. The person responsible for the change was Nikita Khrushchev, and he later rose to become a Soviet premier in 1955(Mark). At the time of the transfer, he was the First Secretary (Secretary General) of the Communist Party, and he mischievously used his position to convince the USSR Supreme Soviet to ratify the resolution. He partly undertook the action to appease Ukrainians whom he thought had undergone unfair treatment under the administration of Joseph Stalin. Besides, he held the opinion that the two regions being rich farming areas they would be better off being together (Gardner 43). Ironically, he was part of the people who participated in the violent collectivization of agriculture; a Stalinism policy that promoted industrialization, but heightened class conflict in countries like Ukraine where he at one time served as a Communist party leader. Hence, his action was superficially viewed by many as a ploy to cleanse himself.
In essence, Khrushchev’s action was a plan he hatched to oust Georgy Malenkov, the sitting Prime Minister (Gardner 44). He perfectly understood that Ukraine would remain to be part of the bigger Soviet Union; hence, the transfer of Crimea would have major geopolitical effects. Most importantly, he wanted to use the issue as a gateway to winning the support of Ukraine’s nationalistic politicians. In contrast, the official declaration published by the Supreme Soviet in 1954 indicated that the ceding of Crimea to Ukraine was a result of two reasons. Firstly, it was a noble act of the Russian people to commemorate 300 years of Russia-Ukraine reunification; and secondly, it was necessitated by the cultural and agricultural closeness of the two regions (Mark). Therefore, these justifications acted as a shield to the deliberate scheme by Khrushchev to ascend to power.
Throughout the cold war period, the debate about this matter subsided until after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. In 1992, the Russian Supreme Court raised questions about the legality of the transfer. The tension between Russia and Kuwait escalated in 2014 after both claimed control of the region. However, during the same year majority of Crimea residents voted “yes” in a referendum asking them if they wanted to rejoin the former. Hence, after sixty years, control of the region was again reverted to Russia.
The Chernobyl Nuclear Explosion
According to a 2015 report by the World Nuclear Organization (WNO), the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl nuclear explosion was as a result of a damaged Soviet reactor that was being operated by unskilled laborers. It caused a major disaster that has for many years impacted the local Ukrainian and Belarus communities negatively. For instance, two people died on the spot, while twenty-eight others succumbed to radiation poisoning a few weeks later (WNO). Moreover, the once thriving agricultural lands adjacent to the station became valueless, and people deserted close towns such as Pripyat (Ingram 2). Although scientists have not been able to determine when food products or water from the affected area will be safe for consumption, most of them believe that it will take many centuries.
After the discovery of nuclear technology during the Second World War, traditional sources of energy such as hydroelectric power, coal, and gas became obsolete for new explorations. Particularly, they could not satisfy the huge energy demand needed by the U.S. and the USSR to supply their factories, cities, as well as to undertake militaristic research. Consequently, they were forced to start building atomic power plants to reduce shortages and to advance their conflicting military interests. Nevertheless, the existing control measures were not completely impervious, and scientists on many occasions cautioned against improper usage of reactors. When the Chernobyl station commenced functioning in 1977, significant progress had already been made in the industry.
In spite of the 1986 explosion being accidental, the cold war pitting the USSR against the U.S. contributed immensely to the secondary factors that caused it. By1985, use of atomic power in the Soviet Union had gained priority over other methods of energy production. In fact, it was third biggest user globally behind the U.S. and France. However, by this time the cold war between it and the U.S. was impacting its economy negatively. Consequently, it was on the verge of disintegration because it could not sustain itself. For example, it could not adequately service some of the stations situated in its territory. The plant in Chernobyl was one of those that faced negligence, and thereby leading to the catastrophe that occurred in April, 1986. After the episode, the USSR faced immense pressure to secure its nuclear operations. Other countries stopped initiating similar programs as fear and mistrust flared up. By 1991, the alliance collapsed, and in the process paving the way for the independence of its members, including Ukraine.
The Independence of Ukraine
The occupancy of powerful Soviet expansionists in Ukraine made the pursuit of independence a pipe dream for most of the 20th century. As a result, the 1991 fragmentation of the USSR was a historical reprieve that restored its sovereignty prematurely. Wolczuk (59) described the phenomenon as “independence without a vision” because it was visible that the country was unprepared for self-rule. Nonetheless, its communist elites adopted a hybrid approach that ensured the renewal of the Soviet Union never succeeded.
Towards the late 1980s, there were clear signs that the dominance of the USSR was weakening. On realizing this opportunity, members to the merger adopted either a bottom-up or a top-down strategy to seek statehood (Wolczuk 59). Interestingly, Ukraine used a blend of the two. Armenia and Georgia are examples of countries that utilized the bottom-up approach. They belong to a group that took full advantage of the situation by mounting aggressive demonstrations. Others, especially those in Central Asia resorted to using the top-down ideology. Instead of mobilizing locals to protest, their leaders decided to negotiate with the administration in Moscow for their freedom.
For a great part of the late 1980s, Ukraine used both tactics. However, at the beginning of 1990 when the fall of the USSR seemed inevitable, it adopted a strong anti-regime attitude. By 1991, part of the focus began to shift to post-independence (Wolczuk 60). Unfortunately, by then it was late to either organize its leadership or to draw a suitable national constitution. Notwithstanding, a referendum to decide whether to become independent took place on December 1, 1991, and the decision was a resounding “yes”. Over 90 percent of Ukrainians voted for the resolution (Lapychack 1). In the same vote, Leonid Kravchuk was elected the first president.
Gardner, Hall. Crimea, Global Rivalry, and the Vengeance of History. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. Print. Retrieved from https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=kMKhCgAAQBAJ&pg=PR4&dq=Gardner,+Hall.+Crimea,+Global+Rivalry,+and+the+Vengeance+of+History.+Palgrave+Macmillan,+2015.&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Gardner%2C%20Hall.%20Crimea%2C%20Global%20Rivalry%2C%20and%20the%20Vengeance%20of%20History.%20Palgrave%20Macmillan%2C%202015.&f=false
Ingram, Scott. The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. Infobase Publishing, 2005. Print. Retrieved from https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=AoJMU4UXIewC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Ingram,+Scott.+The+Chernobyl+Nuclear+Disaster.+Infobase+Publishing,+2005.&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjcwYOX0dnLAhVG0xQKHbE2CXMQ6AEIGzAA#v=onepage&q=Ingram%2C%20Scott.%20The%20Chernobyl%20Nuclear%20Disaster.%20Infobase%20Publishing%2C%202005.&f=false
Kramer, Mark. “Why Did Russia Give Away Crimea Sixty Years Ago.” Wilson Center Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) e-Dossier 47 (2014). Web. March 24. 2016. Retrieved from https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/why-did-russia-give-away-crimea-sixty-years-ago
Lapychak, Chrystyna. “Independence.” The Ukrainian Weekly 59.49 (1991). Web. March 24. 2016. Retrieved from http://ukrweekly.com/archive/1991/The_Ukrainian_Weekly_1991-49.pdf
WNO. “Chernobyl Accident 1986.” World Nuclear Association, November 2015. Web. March 24. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/chernobyl-accident.aspx
Wolczuk, Kataryna. The Moulding of Ukraine: The Constitutional Politics of State Formation. Central European University Press, 2001. Print. Retrieved from https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=Fj3WXcl_kcoC&pg=PA59&dq=the+independence+of+ukraine&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiG0YnEqNnLAhXHzRQKHZTvD28Q6AEINDAF#v=onepage&q=the%20independence%20of%20ukraine&f=false
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