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Crimean blockade, or How in 1918 Ukrainian nationalists shared the peninsula with Tatars
Crimean blockade, or How in 1918 Ukrainian nationalists shared the peninsula with Tatars

In 1918, the troops of the anti-Soviet UPR made a march to the Crimea, intending to establish control over the peninsula and raise the Ukrainian national flag over the Black Sea Fleet. At first, everything went well for Ukraine, and foreign anti-Russian support also affected. But when the German partners, a day after the Ukrainians entered Crimea, seized the initiative, it became clear that Kiev could not see the peninsula. Not finding understanding with the freedom-loving Crimean regional government, which acted in the Kaiser's interests with the hope of independence, the Ukrainians began a land blockade.

New Kiev government and UCR

German troops in Kiev. The year is 1918

With the February Revolution of 1917, the Kiev government and nine Ukrainian-populated provinces (without the Crimean peninsula) came under the influence of the Ukrainian Central Rada (UCR). Soon the latter announced the creation of the Ukrainian People's Republic in the "entrusted" territories. The majority in the self-proclaimed parliamentary body belonged to the socialists (Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionaries and members of the USDLP). At first, the republic fought for a federal union with Russia, which is why the Provisional Government recognized the legitimacy of the new formation. If we talk about Crimea, the representatives of the UCR considered the main subject of self-determination of the Crimean Tatars. The Kiev authorities began negotiations with them.

But after the October Bolshevik coup, everything went differently. The republicans, like the Crimean regional authorities, did not see themselves under Lenin's dictatorship. Taking advantage of the confusion in Russia, at the end of 1917, representatives of the cities and villages of the Tauride province gathered in Simferopol and created a Council of People's Representatives (SNP) within their borders. The Crimean Tatars got a meager quota, and they responded with the creation of the Crimean People's Republic (PRC).

Here the Crimean Bolsheviks intervened, initiating the Bolshevik uprising in Sevastopol on the orders of Petrograd. Then the nondescript forces of the SNP, the PRC were defeated, and a wave of terror swept across the Crimea. On March 21, 1918, the Bolsheviks declared a new Socialist Soviet Republic of Taurida (SSRT), which the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR immediately recognized as an independent federal republic. In addition to the peninsula, the Bolsheviks arbitrarily included in the SSRT the mainland districts that were part of the UPR: Berdyansk, Melitopol, Dneprovsky. This fact served as a pretext for an armed conflict between the UPR and the Bolsheviks.

Tatar-German cooperation and the Crimean Republic

The German regime in the Crimea in 1918

In April 1918, on the orders of the Ukrainian Minister of War Zhukovsky, the Zaporozhye division headed by Colonel Bolobchan moved to the Crimea. The group was faced with the task of taking possession of the peninsula, subjugating the fleet and eliminating the southern Bolsheviks. The raid was successful: Bolobchan took Melitopol and came close to Sivash. The Bolsheviks were afraid to blow up the mined bridge, thanks to which the Cossacks continued their offensive. By this time, a German division was approaching the Crimea. General von Kosh acted competently, holding his subordinates and stepping onto the peninsula on the shoulders of the Ukrainians who were rushing forward.

The Bolshevik army was seriously inferior to the Bolobchan army.The revolutionaries then looked more like robbers who did not know about military discipline and tactics. The Reds were neutralized in a matter of hours, and on April 25 Simferopol and Bakhchisarai were behind the UPR army. The Kaiser's army, following the Ukrainian backs, controlled Bolobchan's agility. When the entire Crimea was under German-Ukrainian control, the German "allies" demanded the withdrawal of the UPR troops from the peninsula. Zhukovsky apologized to the Germans and complied with all their demands. The Ukrainian colonel was forced to obey.

German intentions were seen as clear: a naval base on the peninsula. The occupation German troops gave the go-ahead for the creation of local authorities in the Crimea. The Tatars volunteered to cooperate with the Germans, whose representative headed the Crimean regional government. Lieutenant General Sulkevich, with the consent of the German command, took over the organization of government power on the peninsula. The state language is Russian, and Tatar and German were allowed in office work. Crimea received the state emblem, flag and capital in Simferopol. The Sulkevich government in every possible way emphasized its isolation from mainland Ukraine, rather associating itself with the Russian historical statehood.

Discontent of Ukrainians

Ukrainian leader Skoropadsky with German partners

All this absolutely did not suit the Ukrainian "self-styledists" who considered the Crimean regime a threat to their state. Dontsov, the first ideologist of Ukrainian statehood, advocated the annexation of Crimea to Ukraine. And for this, he called on the hetman government not to disdain any measures. So between the government of Skoropadsky and the Crimean regional authority, a diplomatic war began, which grew into a customs one. Dontsov proposed a blockade of the peninsula, Kiev fully supported. This position was also beneficial to the German command. So the Germans pulled the strings of both controlled regimes, restraining Sulkevich with the threat of returning to Ukraine, and promising Skoropadsky that all his territorial claims would be satisfied.

Blockade and return of Crimea to Russia

The UPR army at the armored vehicle

In June 1918, Ukraine began a customs war. By the decision of the Ukrainian government, the goods sent to Crimea were requisitioned. Crimea was left without Ukrainian bread, and Ukraine was deprived of Crimean fruits. The food situation in Crimea suffered greatly, Simferopol and Sevastopol introduced bread cards. Prices have increased at least 2 times. The population suffered, but Sulkevich stubbornly stood for the independence of the Crimean state. The resources of the territory logically dependent on the mainland were being depleted. Only the Turks conducted trade with the Crimea, which found itself in complete isolation. This allowed it to stay afloat for some time.

By the fall, the Crimean delegation, at the suggestion of the Germans, agreed to negotiations with the discussion of Crimea's joining the UPR. Government representatives could not agree in any way on the status of the peninsula: autonomy or a subject of the federation. The blockade was lifted, and in the near future, the Crimeans, exhausted by the changing regimes, were awaited by Bolshevization, a hasty evacuation of the invaders and return to the Russian protectorate.

Needless to say, Inkerman keeps many secrets and its history is incredibly rich. By the way, it is no less interesting to know fascinating facts about Chersonesos in the Crimea.

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