As Russia claims the Crimea peninsula as her own, the question rises: what is it and why is it important?
Crimea is a Ukrainian peninsula located on the northern coast of the Black Sea.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea occupies most of the peninsula. It was often referred to with the definite article, as the Crimea, until well into the 20th century.
According to 2001 Ukrainian Census, the population of Crimea was 2,033,700.
The ethnic makeup comprised the following self-reported groups:
- Russians: 58.32%;
- Ukrainians: 24.32%;
- Crimean Tatars: 12.1%;
- Belarusians: 1.44%;
- Tatars: 0.54%;
- Armenians: 0.43%;
- Jews: 0.22%,
- Greeks: 0.15%
- and others.
Crimea has been a part of Ukraine since 1954, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev “gave” it to Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. Since that time, Crimea has existed as a semi-autonomous region of the Ukrainian nation, with strong political bonds to Ukraine — and equally strong cultural ties to Russia.
Beyond the strategic importance of Crimea and Ukraine, the situation in the region is complicated by both the abundance and scarcity of certain natural resources.
Ukraine has been called “the breadbasket of Russia” for centuries, since the region produced much of the grain needed to feed the country’s vast czarist empire. Even today, Ukraine is one of the world’s largest producers of corn and wheat, and much of that passes through Crimean ports.
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