1954 transfer of Crimea

The transfer of the Crimean Oblast in 1954 was an administrative action of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, which transferred the government of the Crimean Peninsula from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian SSR.


Prior to being incorporated into the Russian Empire, the Crimean Peninsula was independent under the Crimean Khanate. The Muslim Turkic Crimean Tatars were under the influence of the Ottoman Empire, while also bordering an increasingly aggressive Russian Empire. In 1774, following the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74, the Russian and Ottoman empires agreed to refrain from interfering with Crimean Khanate through the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca. In 1783, following the increasing decline of the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire annexed the Crimean Khanate.

Within Russia, the peninsula was transferred between multiple internal administrations. Through its time in the Russian Empire and the USSR, up to its transfer to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954, Crimea was administered by 14 administrations. From annexation to the 1954 transfer, Crimea was administered by the following jurisdictions:

Country Jurisdiction Period Details
Russian Empire (1783–1917) Taurida Oblast February 1784 – December 1796 Russian Oblast consisting of the land annexed from the Crimean Khanate
Novorossiysk Governorate (Second Establishment) December 1796 – October 1802 A Russian governorate, of which Crimea was simply a small part
Taurida Governorate October 1802 – December 1917 A Russian governorate centered on the Crimean Peninsula
Russian Revolution and Civil War (1917–1921) Crimean People's Republic December 1917 – January 1918 Crimean Tatar government
Taurida Soviet Socialist Republic 19 March – 30 April 1918 Bolshevik government
Ukrainian People's Republic May–June 1918
First Crimean Regional Government 25 June – 25 November 1918 German puppet state under Lipka Tatar General Maciej (Suleyman) Sulkiewicz
Second Crimean Regional Government November 1918 – April 1919 Anti-Bolshevik government under Crimean Karaite former Kadet member Solomon Krym
Crimean Socialist Soviet Republic 2 April – June 1919 Bolshevik government
South Russian Government February 1920 – April 1920 Government of White movement's General Anton Denikin
Government of South Russia April (officially, 16 August) – 16 November 1920 Government of White movement's General Pyotr Wrangel
Bolshevik Revolutionary committee government November 1920 – 18 October 1921 Bolshevik government under Béla Kun (until 20 February 1921), then Mikhail Poliakov
Crimean Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic 18 October 1921 – 30 June 1945 Autonomous republic of the Russian SFSR
Soviet Union (1922–1991)
Crimean Oblast 30 June 1945 – 19 February 1954 An oblast directly under the control of the Russian SFSR. After 1954, the Crimean Oblast would continue as an oblast in the Ukrainian SSR, until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992.

Throughout its time in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, Crimea underwent a population change. During the Crimean War and the Russian Civil War, much of the Tatar population fled, leaving the formerly diverse territory with a large population of Ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, compared to the Turkic Tatars.

In 1944 Lavrentiy Beria, head of the Soviet state security and secret police ordered the forced deportation of the Crimean Tatars from the Crimean peninsula on behalf of Joseph Stalin, resulting in the ethnic cleansing of the region. As a result, this region was now predominantly ethnically Russian.

After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean Oblast from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.


Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet "About the transfer of the Crimean Oblast". Supreme Council Herald, 9 March 1954.

On 19 February 1954, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union issued a decree transferring the Crimean Oblast from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian SSR. The documents which are now housed at the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) do confirm that the move was originally approved by the Presidium (Politburo) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) on 25 January 1954, paving the way for the authorizing resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union three weeks later.[1] According to the Soviet Constitution (article 18), the borders of a republic within the Soviet Union could not be re-drawn without the agreement of the republic in question. The transfer was approved by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The constitutional change (articles 22 and 23) to accommodate the transfer was made several days after the decree issued by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.[2][3]

The decree was first announced, on the front page of Pravda, on 27 February 1954.[4] The full text of the decree was:[5]

On April 26, 1954 The decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet transferring the Crimea Oblast from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.

Taking into account the integral character of the economy, the territorial proximity and the close economic and cultural ties between the Crimea Province and the Ukrainian SSR, the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet decrees:

To approve the joint presentation of the Presidium of the Russian SFSR Supreme Soviet and the Presidium of the Ukrainian SSR Supreme Soviet on the transfer of the Crimea Province from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.

Consequently, amendments were made to the republican constitutions of Russia and Ukraine. On 2 June 1954 the Supreme Soviet of Russia adopted amendments to the Russian Constitution of 1937, which, among other things, excluded Crimea from list of subdivisions enumerated in article 14, and on 17 June 1954, the Verkhovna Rada added Crimea to article 18 of the 1937 Constitution of the Ukrainian SSR.[6][7]

Question of constitutionalityEdit

According to a 2009 article on Russian website Pravda.ru, the Presidium of the Supreme Council gathered for a session on 19 February 1954 when only 13 of 27 members were present. There was no quorum, but the decision was adopted unanimously.[8]

The earlier published documents and materials that have emerged more recently confirm that the transfer of Crimea from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR was carried out in accordance with the 1936 Soviet constitution, which in Article 18 stipulated that "the territory of a Union Republic may not be altered without its consent." The proceedings of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium meeting indicate that both the Russian SFSR and the Ukrainian SSR had given their consent via their republic parliaments.[9]

On 27 June 2015, after the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation accepted the request of the leader of A Just Russia party, Sergey Mironov, to evaluate the legitimacy of 1954 transfer of Crimea and stated that the transfer violated both the Constitution of the Russian SFSR [Wikidata] and the Constitution of the Soviet Union. The text of the document signed by Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Sabir Kekhlerov stated: "Neither the Constitution of the RSFSR nor the Constitution of the USSR [i.e. Ukrainian SSR] empowers the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR to consider changes in the constitutional legal status of Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics, which are members of the union republics. In view of the above, the decision adopted in 1954 by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR and the Soviet on the transfer of the Crimean region of the RSFSR to the USSR did not correspond to the Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the RSFSR or the Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the USSR."[10]


The transfer of the Crimean Oblast to Ukraine has been described as a "symbolic gesture", marking the 300th anniversary of the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav.[5][11][12] It was also attributed to Communist Party first secretary Nikita Khrushchev, although the person who signed the document was Chairman Kliment Voroshilov, Soviet Union's de jure head of state.[13]

Nina Khrushcheva, the political scientist and great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, the then First Secretary of the Communist Party, said of Khrushchev's motivation "it was somewhat symbolic, somewhat trying to reshuffle the centralized system and also, full disclosure, Nikita Khrushchev was very fond of Ukraine, 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."[5] Sergei Khrushchev, Khrushchev's son, claimed that the decision was due to the building of a hydro-electric dam on the Dnieper River and the consequent desire for all the administration to be under one body.[14] Sevastopol in Crimea being the site of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, a quintessential element of Russian and then of Soviet foreign policy, the transfer had the intended[citation needed] effect of binding Ukraine inexorably to Russia, "Eternally Together", as a poster commemorating the event of 1954 proclaimed. Other reasons given were the integration of the economies of Ukraine and Crimea and the idea that Crimea was a natural extension of the Ukrainian steppes.[15] There was also a desire to repopulate parts of Crimea with Slavic peoples after the peninsula was subject to large-scale expulsions of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia in 1944.[16]


The transfer increased the ethnic Russian population of Ukraine by almost a million people. Prominent Russian politicians such as Alexander Rutskoy considered the transfer to be controversial.[17] Controversies surrounding the legality of the transfer remained a sore point in relations between Ukraine and Russia for the first few years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and in particular in the internal politics of Crimea.

In January 1992, the Supreme Soviet of Russia questioned the constitutionality of the transfer, accusing Nikita Khrushchev of treason against the Russian people and said that the transfer was illegitimate.[18] Alexander Rutskoy, the former Vice President of Russia, said that this was a “harebrained scheme” for which Khrushchev was famous saying that those who signed the document must have been suffering from sunstroke or hangovers.[19]

There was confusion about the status of Sevastopol and whether it was a part of the transfer as it had a degree of independence from the Crimean Oblast and never formally ratified the transfer,[20] although it was later mentioned as Ukrainian territory in the Soviet Constitution and the Belavezha Accords between Ukraine and Russia.[20]

In 1994, a Russian nationalist administration under Yuriy Meshkov took over in Crimea with the promise to return Crimea to Russia, although these plans were later shelved.[21] However, in a 1997 treaty between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, Russia recognized Ukraine's borders, and accepted Ukraine's sovereignty over Crimea.[22] The treaty expired on 31 March 2019.

After the overthrow of President Victor Yanukovych during the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, the territories of Sevastopol and Crimea were seized by the Russian Federation; the annexation was formalized following a referendum in which 96% of the Crimean population is reported to have voted "Yes." This move was denounced by the new Ukrainian government and disregarded by most UN states, which continue to recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine.[23][24] The Venice Commission (an advisory body of the Council of Europe in the field of constitutional law) issued an opinion in 2014, concluding that the referendum was illegal under the Ukrainian constitution and that "circumstances in Crimea did not allow the holding of a referendum in line with European democratic standards."[25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mark Kramer (19 March 2014). "Why Did Russia Give Away Crimea Sixty Years Ago?".
  2. ^ "The Gift of Crimea". www.macalester.edu. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
  3. ^ Ignatius, David (2 March 2014). "Historical claim shows why Crimea matters to Russia". PunditFact, PolitiFact.com. Tampa Bay Times.
  4. ^ Siegelbaum, Lewis, 1954: The Gift of Crimea, SovietHistory.org, archived from the original on 10 March 2014, retrieved 3 March 2014
  5. ^ a b c Calamur, Krishnadev (27 February 2014). "Crimea: A Gift To Ukraine Becomes A Political Flash Point". NPR. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  6. ^ Dmitry Karaichev (11 January 2013). Мифы о незаконности передачи Крыма в 1954 году [Myth of illegality of the 1954 transfer of Crimea]. Dzerkalo Tyzhnia (in Russian). Archived from the original on 16 March 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  7. ^ Yarmysh, Oleksandr; Cherviatsova, Alina (2016). "Transferring Crimea from Russia to Ukraine: Historical and Legal Analysis of Soviet Legislation". In Nicolini, Matteo; Palermo, Francesco; Milano, Enrico (eds.). Law, Territory and Conflict Resolution Law as a Problem and Law as a Solution. pp. 151–152. ISBN 9789004311299. Retrieved 28 February 2018. However, at that time, Ukraine could not fully claim jurisdiction over Crimea. Indeed, further legislative acts and constitutional amendments were needed to legitimise the territorial changes in that region. On 2 June 1954, the Supreme Council of the Russian SFSR adopted the Law on the introduction of changes and amendments to Article 14 of the Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the SFSR, according to which the Crimean Region was excluded from Soviet Russia at the same time that the Supreme Council of the Ukrainian SFSR introduced changes to the Ukrainian Constitution.
  8. ^ "USSR's Nikita Khrushchev gave Russia's Crimea away to Ukraine in only 15 minutes". pravda.ru. 19 February 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Why Did Russia Give Away Crimea Sixty Years Ago?". wilsoncenter.org. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  10. ^ "Генпрокуратура РФ: передача Крыма Украине в 1954–м была незаконной". BBC. 27 June 2015.
  11. ^ Arutunyan, Anna (2 March 2014). "Russia testing the waters on Ukraine invasion". USA Today. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  12. ^ Keating, Joshua (25 February 2014). "Khrushchev's Gift". Retrieved 12 February 2017 – via Slate.
  13. ^ "Meeting of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics," 19 February 1954, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, GARF, f.7523 op.57, d.963, ll. 1-10. Published in "Istoricheskii arkhiv," issue 1, vol. 1 (1992). Translated by Gary Goldberg. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/119638
  14. ^ Khrushchev's Son: Giving Crimea Back to Russia Not an Option, Andre de Nesnera, Voice of America, 6 March 2014
  15. ^ "The Transfer of Crimea to Ukraine". International Committee for Crimea. July 2005. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  16. ^ To understand Crimea, take a look back at its complicated history, Adam Taylor, The Washington Post, 27 February 2014
  17. ^ Vladimir P. Lukin, “Our Security Predicament”, Foreign Policy, No. 88 (Autumn, 1992), pp. 57–75
  18. ^ USSR's Nikita Khrushchev gave Russia's Crimea away to Ukraine in only 15 minutes, Pravda.ru, 19 February 2009
  19. ^ Page 5, Crimea: Dynamics, Challenges and Prospects, edited by Maria Drohobycky
  20. ^ a b Forget Kiev. The Real Fight Will Be for Crimea, Andrei Malgin, Moscow Times, 25 February 2014
  21. ^ Celestine Bohlen, Russia vs. Ukraine: A Case of the Crimean Jitters, The New York Times (23 March 1994).
  22. ^ Subtelny, Orest, Ukraine: A History (University of Toronto Press) 2000, ISBN 0-8020-8390-0, 600
  23. ^ "Ukraine Crisis: World Leaders React to Unfolding Disaster in Crimea". International Business Times. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  24. ^ "Sanctions threat grows as Ukraine tensions rise". Mainichi Shimbun. 4 March 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  25. ^ Opinion no. 762 / 2014, Venice Commission (21 March 2014).

External linksEdit