Five questions about Crimea

Russia pays Ukraine $98 million a year for leasing the naval base in Crimea. Source: Sergey Savostianov / RG

Russia pays Ukraine $98 million a year for leasing the naval base in Crimea. Source: Sergey Savostianov / RG

Who lives in Crimea? What language do they speak? Why are there so many Russian troops there? RBTH answers your questions.

RBTH replies to the most frequently asked questions about the status of Crimea, its history and population.

What is Crimea and to what country does it belong?

Crimea is a peninsula in the south of Ukraine. Its territory consists of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (which occupies most of the peninsula), the city of Sevastopol (which has a special status and is considered a separate administrative entity within Ukraine), and a small part of Kherson Region.

The capital of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is Simferopol.

What is the population of Crimea?

At the time of the latest Ukrainian census, taken in 2001, the population of Crimea was 2,413,228.

According to the Ukrainian State Statistics Service, as of Nov. 1, 2013, the population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea stood at 1,967,119 people.

Over 50 percent of them are Russians, some 24 percent are Ukrainians, and about 12 percent are Crimean Tatars.

How did Crimea become part of Ukraine?

In 1921, after the 1917-1920 Russian Revolution and Civil War, the Autonomous Crimean Soviet Socialist Republic was set up and later became part of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic. During World War II, Crimea was under German and Romanian occupation for four years before it was liberated by Soviet troops.

In 1954, the Crimean Region, under a decree of the presidium of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union, was transferred from the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

As a result, when the Soviet Union fell apart and each Soviet Republic became an independent state, Crimea remained part of Ukraine.

What languages do people in Crimea speak?

Under the laws of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, there is no official language of the republic.

In reality, Russian and Ukrainian are both used as official languages.

According to a poll conducted by the Kiev-based International Institute of Sociology in 2004, Russian (sometimes alongside other languages) is used as a means of communication by about 97 percent of the Crimean population.

What Russian troops are permanently deployed in Crimea?

Under the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership signed by Moscow and Kiev in 1997, Russia was granted the right to retain the Sevastopol naval base and to keep its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea until 2017.

Under the terms of the agreement between Russia and Ukraine on the status and terms of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s presence on the territory of Ukraine, at any one time there can be 388 Russian vessels (including 14 diesel submarines) in Ukrainian territorial waters and on land and 161 aircraft on leased airfields at Gvardeiskoye (located north of the regional capital Simferopol) and Sevastopol.

These figures are comparable with the size of Turkey’s naval force, though in fact the number of Russian vessels and aircraft in Crimea does not approach this figure.

The original agreement was signed for a period of 20 years. The agreement was written in a way that allows it to be automatically extended for subsequent five-year periods unless one of the sides notified the other of a decision to terminate the agreement, in writing and a year in advance.

A second agreement, signed in Kharkiv in 2010, extended the duration of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s presence in Sevastopol until 2042.

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