Could Russians in Ukraine and Kazakhstan Join Russia After Soviet Break-Up?


Not sure on Kazakhstan but in Ukraine not really. At that point power in Ukraine is in hands of the old and very powerful communist elite. They completely control all of those regions, there is no political force in there that is not in their hands.


Russia can't do much of anything at this time. It is more of situation that new power is still very weak and is trying to overcome the old one. So Yeltsin is focused on internal enemies and really does not care about Ukraine or anyone else outside Russia
Ethnic Russians in former SSRs do not necessarily get Russian citizenship. I used to work with a Russian refugee from Uzbekistan. He literally had nothing for him in Russia.
The independence of the various republics was something that was legal according to the USSR constitution (even if it was never thought to be used), while breaking up the constituent republics would not be. Thus, there is a much greater chance of civil war and in 1991 this was not something people wanted.

At least for Ukraine, many Ukrainians thought they'd be better off than Russia because Ukraine was an economic powerhouse inside the Soviet Union. It didn't turn out that way because no industry in the old Soviet Union was competitive on the world market and Ukraine lacked oil. However, at the time, people would not have believed there was even an economic reason to leave and join Russia.

I don't know about Kazakhstan. Clearly many ethnic Russians have left Kazakhstan during this time to go to Russia, but I don't think they'd have risked civil war to detach from Kazakhstan and hope Russia accepts them. After all, Yeltsin would not have liked the trouble this would have caused him.

I think everyone's main concerns at the time was to avoid bloodshed that people were seeing in Yugoslavia or between Armenians and Azeris. There were too many other problems to deal with at that time - everything was in a state of collapse.

Without a provocation, I don't see this being done in 1991.
Could ethnic Russians break away from these two counties if possible and what would the new border look like?
Kazakhstan -- don't know enough to comment.

Ukraine -- don't recall reading about seperatist movements in East Ukraine at the time but in 1990s Crimea was a contender:
The principal issue fought over by different political forces has been the sovereignty of (or over) Crimea. Three main options were debated. The first one argued for the creation of an independent Crimean Republic. [4] The second option suggested a fully-fledged autonomy within Ukraine (e.g., according to the Constitution of the Crimean Republic of 6 May 1992). The third and most radical scenario was propounded by pro-Russian forces which exerted pressure by threatening Crimean secession from Ukraine and annexation to Russia. [5] The separatist trends seemed rather successful during the first half of 90s. An anti-Ukrainian mood spread among the majority of the Crimean population, while a hesitant and feeble policy meant that the central authorities lagged behind the events, and no comprehensive strategy for solving the whole complex of Crimean problems had been elaborated.

The initial responses to Crimean crisis on the part of the world community revealed its principal preoccupation to be the rights and interests of the Russian majority, because of the obvious fears of a "Balkanization" of the Crimea problem.

As a result of the above mentioned trends, the first versions of the Crimean Constitution heavily exploited the notion of a "Crimean people" as being the subject of the right to self-determination, including the right to determine political future of the territory it occupied (and providing, in such a way, every advantage to the Russian and Russian-speaking majority of residents of the peninsula). The Russian language had to be made dominant, and any attempts - no matter how mild or irresolute - to introduce the state (Ukrainian) language as well as other measures perceived to be aiming at "Ukrainization" of Crimea, were readily resisted "from below." At that time, even those provisions declared as complying with Kyiv’s requirement to bring Crimea’s Constitution and laws in line with those of Ukraine, still defined Crimea as "a law-governed, democratic and secular state... which builds its relations with Ukraine on mutually coordinated acts and agreements." [6]

Hostility to Ukraine reached its peak in 1993 at a time of a hyperinflation and deep economic crisis, that in Ukraine seemed much more severe than in Russia. Manipulating this situation, the Crimean parliament adopted a number of resolutions and laws strengthening its autonomy, including the creation of a Crimean presidency, and scheduled presidential elections for January 1994. At the same time, following acts of civil disobedience organized by the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people, and its prolonged and complex negotiations with Crimean deputies, the Crimean Supreme Council agreed to grant Crimean Tatars a quota of 14 seats in the republican legislature. This decision also brought advantages to other groups of returnees - the formerly deported Armenians, Bulgarians, Germans and Greeks - who practically without any efforts or struggle on their own behalf were also guaranteed representation in the peninsula’s legislature (one seat for each group). The main drawback of this compromise was that it was adopted for one term only, as a provisional measure to support ethnic groups suffering from the consequences of deportation.

The presidential elections in Crimea did take place on 16 January 1994. As a result of a broad dissatisfaction with Ukraine, the winner was Yuri Meshkov who had based his electoral campaign on a platform of union with Russia. One of his first steps was a decree on a referendum on Crimean independence. Until the end of the year, there was a persistent turmoil between Kyiv and Simferopol. Both the Ukrainian parliament and President Leonid Kravchuk responded to Crimean laws and presidential decrees with counter-resolutions and statements denouncing those steps as contradicting the Ukrainian Constitution. Leonid Kuchma, President Kravchuk’s successor in July 1994, did not come up to expectations of his Crimean electorate, and continued to veto those Crimean laws that violated Ukrainian legislation.

This situation resembled a legal vicious circle. At the same time, the very indecisiveness of the national authorities and their unwillingness to take drastic measures or use military force to curb separatist passions in Crimea meant that violent clashes were avoided and the necessary time for finding more acceptable solutions was gained. Thus, engagement in numerous negotiations between central and Crimean authorities over the status of Crimea and the separation of powers between Kyiv and Simferopol obviously helped both sides to refrain from open violence and to pacify their most aggressive elements who were demanding prompt and decisive measures to end the crisis. Meanwhile, Meshkov’s popularity had been rapidly declining as a result of his inability either to improve the economic situation or to involve Russia decisively in support of the secessionist movement. The power struggle between the executive and legislative branches in Crimea loosened Meshkov’s grip further still. Moreover, with the start of the Russian military operation in Chechnia in December 1994, pro-Russian sentiments among the Crimean population clearly diminished. Ordinary people grew much more cautious and restrained in their rhetoric, perhaps because that time, they were able to appreciate possibly the greatest advantage of Ukrainian citizenship: not being sent to fight in someone else’s land, with a big chance to be killed or become a killer.

These changes in the Crimean political environment were felt in March 1995 when the Verhovna Rada suddenly took decisive steps to integrate the ARC into the legal space of Ukraine. The Law of Ukraine on the Status of Crimea, adopted on 17 March 1995, abolished not only the Crimean Constitution of 1992 and all laws and decrees contradicting those of Ukraine, but also the very office of Crimean Presidency. The much feared mass protests in Crimea failed to occur, and the reaction from Moscow was relatively mild. The steps taken by Kyiv to draw Crimea and the City of Sevastopol closer into the Ukrainian legal space rebounded negatively on the negotiation of the Russia-Ukraine basic treaty, since some factions of the Russian State Duma refused to sign it until more concessions, particularly over the status of Sevastopol - "a city of Russian glory" - were made. [7] But this obstacle was removed in 1997, when this treaty was ratified by both sides, together with the agreement on the division of the Black Sea fleet and its bases.
At least for Ukraine, many Ukrainians thought they'd be better off than Russia because Ukraine was an economic powerhouse inside the Soviet Union. It didn't turn out that way because no industry in the old Soviet Union was competitive on the world market and Ukraine lacked oil. However, at the time, people would not have believed there was even an economic reason to leave and join Russia.
Yeah, this. There is a good article a few months back that touched on the subject:

War And Poverty Threaten Ukraine's Future

By Stephen Crowley
Jun. 04 2014 19:56
Last edited 19:56


Back in 1991, some months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, I saw a strange vision in the city of Donetsk: muscle-bound glam-rockers attending nationalist rallies calling for Ukrainian independence. With a closer look I realized these weren't tough guys in mascara, but coal miners, unable to wash that last bit of coal dust off of their eyelids.

When I asked these Russian-speaking miners why they wanted an independent Ukraine, they answered simply that they would "live better," economically and otherwise, if control shifted from Moscow to Kiev.

But the rally's leaders, Ukrainian nationalists who mostly hailed from western Ukraine, viewed independence quite differently. They saw it not as a means to a better life, but as an end in itself.

Indeed, returning to the Donbass only a few years after the Soviet collapse, in conditions of a deeply depressed Ukrainian economy, this coalition had clearly frayed. Even then, miners and others warned me of the danger of "fascism," a word they associated with nationalists in western Ukraine.

While much of the discussion of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has understandably centered on Putin's role, Ukraine's story does not begin and end with Putin. Ukraine faces two steep challenges: first, to avoid civil war, and second, to avoid economic collapse.

These two dangers are interrelated. While eastern coal miners and western nationalists united to help bring down the Soviet Union, Ukraine's regional differences are long-standing and now starkly revealed. In order to survive as a unified state, Ukraine needs to recognize those regional differences constitutionally, and then embark on a path that promises to bring Ukrainians a better life.

First, consider the regional differences. While many Ukrainians now occupy a metaphorical and geographical middle ground, the country remains polarized politically between a Ukrainian-speaking west, historically rooted in the Austro-Hungarian empire and inter-war Poland, and a Russian-speaking east, long part of the Russian empire.

The ghosts of World War II haunt these regions: while nationalists in the west fought Soviet "Stalinists," Red Army soldiers from the east fought "fascists," including those from western Ukraine.

The differences are not merely historical and linguistic, but also economic. Unlike the largely agricultural west, the east is heavily industrialized, and its economy is closely tied to Russia.

Crucially, as political scientist Keith Darden has noted, the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his government shifted the balance of political power from east to west quite substantially: whereas 75 percent of the ministerial officials under Yanukovych came from the Russian-speaking east, under the current interim government 60 percent of officials at the ministry-level and above come from the nationalist west — regions that represent only 12 percent of Ukraine's population.

Thus while many viewed Yanukovych's downfall as a popular revolution against a corrupt president-turned-autocrat, many in the east viewed it as coup bringing an illegitimate government to power.

Those differences need not lead to a division of Ukraine, let alone a civil war. Such a war would be a catastrophe, and preventing it should be everyone's top priority. Newly elected President Petro Poroshenko should bear in mind that while conflict is inevitable, violence is not. So far he has promised a two-sided approach, seeking negotiations alongside the "anti-terror operation." Yet while the likelihood of outright civil war appears to be decreasing at present, each bloody corpse makes reconciliation that much more difficult. In the long run, negotiation and compromise is not nearly as costly as continued violence.

Yet even without the horrific prospect of civil war, enormous challenges for Ukraine remain.

While coal miners and others in the east hoped that they would live better in an independent Ukraine, economically speaking at least the reverse has been true.

While Ukraine's economy was abysmal by the Soviet Union's end, the economy of independent Ukraine has been even worse.

By 2009, Ukraine's real GDP was only 60 percent of what it was in 1989, two years before the Soviet collapse. In 2013 its GDP per capita, in terms of purchasing power, was estimated at $7,400, compared to Russia's $18,100, placing Ukraine on a par with Algeria and El Salvador.

And yet, from this lowly position, as then-interim president Oleksandr Turchynov stated back in February, "Ukraine is now in a pre-default condition and sliding into the abyss."

There are no easy answers for Ukraine's economy, but here it must not choose between east and west — in this case either Russia or Europe—but instead look to both. Like it or not, Ukraine's economy is closely linked with Russia's: not only is Ukraine dependent on Russian oil and gas, but Russia is by far Ukraine's largest single trade partner.

While many Ukrainians may wish to be free from Russian influence, it is a reality they must face. Assuming he can avoid civil war, one hopes that President-elect Poroshenko, as an experienced bargainer with business interests in Russia, can negotiate a compromise on economic relations with his Russian counterpart.

However the billionaire chocolate magnate is less well poised to confront the oligarchic and corrupt capitalism in which both Ukraine and Russia are entangled. This is what so many of the activists of Kiev's Maidan Square were hoping to bring to an end, in part by establishing closer ties with the EU, with its emphasis on the "rule of law."

Yet Ukrainians should be wary of another easy promise of a better life. The shortcomings of the EU are now clear, and include extremism, corruption and disillusionment in a number of new member states.

Moreover, as acting prime minister, Yatsenyuk acknowledged, the European Union's Association Agreement raises fears of its potentially negative impact on Ukraine's industrial regions, especially in the east. The EU's close partner, the IMF, will provide a temporary bailout of the Ukrainian economy, but only on the condition of austerity measures, combustible material when added to an already explosive political situation.

There is no single or simple answer for Ukraine. But any solution must involve the melding of east and west, both within the country and without, and provide a tangible path towards a better life, the one thing that all Ukrainians might unite behind.

Stephen Crowley, professor of politics and chair of Russian and East European studies at Oberlin College, is currently summer research scholar at the Kennan Institute of the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.


Could ethnic Russians break away from these two counties if possible and what would the new border look like?

Yeah probably, if they enough backing from the former Soviet armies it's totally doable ala transnistria. There is just the matter of how hard you can get the ethnic Russians inside Ukraine/Kazakhstan to fight to create the Russian Republic of northern Kazakhstan or w/e.

OTOH if they do try to do this then it looks an awful lot like republika srpska.
Yeah probably, if they enough backing from the former Soviet armies it's totally doable ala transnistria. There is just the matter of how hard you can get the ethnic Russians inside Ukraine/Kazakhstan to fight to create the Russian Republic of northern Kazakhstan or w/e.
IIRC if you look a the figgures you'll see that the number of Russian-speakers in both Ukraine & Kazakhstan decreased since 1991, showing that they mostly rather go to greener pastures in Russia rather than fight to form a "Russian Republic of X".