How Ukraine rebuilt Crimea (“Khrushchev’s Gift”)

By Peter Volvach
21 February 2011
Translated by Stepan Nikitchuk and Voices of Ukraine staff and Edited by Voices of Ukraine

No, there was no “gift from “Khrushchev.” On February 19, 1954, at the request of the Kremlin, Ukraine assumed the task of saving the Crimea, which had been extremely neglected by the Russian Federation; a region with its economy in ruins and a population that had been heavily deported out of the region. A contemporary account in “The Crimean Truth” newspaper wrote…

“The enduring friendship, the communist attitude toward work by the collective farmers at the Kalinin cooperative, is evident everywhere. In the early morning, trucks from the collective farm fill the street with noise: drivers, among them – half immigrants from Ukraine – traveled to Simferopol for fertilizer.

“Grigory A. Shevchenko who is the foreman for technical and oilseed plant cultures hurries to work in the seed warehouse. He’s from Kanev, the homeland of the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. Last year, his team harvested 34 metric centers of sage from a hectare, which far exceeded the planned target.

“Now his team prepares seeds for the spring. Sorting machines work noisily from morning through evening. Team members Vera and Sophia Soumko, who moved here from Chernihiv, are highly-productive role models of labor for all collective farmers: every day they exceed their targets by almost half.

“The collective farm fully provided itself with seeds for all crops for the spring planting season, finished cleaning them, and tested them for germination. The seeds are stored in a dry and clean place.

“Despite this, the agricultural specialist Comrade Redko who moved to the Crimea from the Kyiv region, reminds Comrade Gaponenko, the warehouse director who moved from Chernihiv: “Watch carefully, Evgeniy, so the seeds don’t get wet or warm.”

“Last year, the vegetable-growing team, led by Paul Krinichniy, a Ukrainian from Uman region, harvested 465 metric centers of late cabbage from every hectare. Savely Logvinov’s team did slightly less – 445 metric centers, hurting his feelings as an original inhabitant of Krasnokrymki village. So this year, he decided to out produce his friend at any cost.

“This socialist competition has friendship brigades half of which consist of immigrants from Ukraine.”

— I. Polyakov. Kalinin Collective Farm of Zuyskii District. “The Crimean Truth”, № 12 (9417) for 17 January, 1954”

Problems long resolved by history and life itself should not be, it seems, the concern of politicians, who have no relationship with specialists in psychiatry.

Nonetheless, politicians project their contemporary vision on historical situations. They try to address their real earthly affairs, primarily concerning the welfare and well-being in their home, village, town and country in general.

Despite the perfect legality of the 1954 transfer of the Crimean region to Ukraine, and a whole number of inter-state and international agreements, and expert evaluations, questions about the legitimacy of this act continue to agitate Russian politicians.

It is surprising that some pro-Russian members of the Crimean parliament (and they are, by the way, also citizens of Ukraine elected to serve the interests of the state in which they live and which feeds them), in order to raise their fallen political rating in society, continue to exploit the act of transfer of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954.

Trying to sow discord and unrest to rouse the Crimean population – a society which only recently began to recover from political and ethnic strife – they force an idea of the illegality of this transfer decided by the highest legislative bodies of the USSR, the Russian Federation and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), by calling it a “gift from Khrushchev,” whom they paint, not just as a sympathizer, but as an ardent Ukrainian nationalist.

To bring some clarity to the issue and put an end to the political provocations, innuendo, speculation and gossip, let us once again return to the remarkable events that took place in February 1954 – a decision on the induction of the Crimean region into the Ukrainian SSR.

We deliberately do not use authoritative sources, deciding instead to take a look at the problem from an inside perspective, that is from the Crimea itself. To do this, we had to study regional statistical data and browse the Crimean press, published on the eve of the region’s transfer, i.e. during the whole of 1953 and from the beginning of 1954 up to May.

After studying these sources, it was concluded that the origins of the decision to transfer the Crimean Oblast from the Russian Federation to the Ukrainian SSR should be examined for 1944, a year of tragedy for the Crimean Peninsula.

For the Crimea, World War II ended in the spring of 1944. Certainly, during 1941-1944 its economy suffered huge losses because the devastating waves of war rolled over the peninsula twice.

The disastrous consequences of the war in Crimea, just as in other regions of Ukraine, Belarus and the occupied areas of Russia, were not significantly different. None of them could reach pre-war levels of economic activity for a long time. But in Crimea, the economic and social situation in the post-war days was extraordinarily difficult, even catastrophic.

To a large extent the economic crisis, especially in agriculture, was by caused the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Armenians, Czechs and Bulgarians. In the early days of the war, over 50 thousand Germans who lived there from the time of Catherine II were also taken from Crimea.

Thus, the total number of people evacuated from Crimea reached 300,000. The peninsula was practically depopulated considering the adult male population fought on the fronts and suffered heavy losses after the deportation of the Crimean Tatars and other minorities.

Official statistics show that during the war, the population in Crimea fell by half and by May 1944 it amounted to 780 thousand people, and after the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, the remaining population was only about 500 thousand.

Speaking figuratively, then, all the post-war inhabitants of Crimea could have been gathered in the area of the two modern-day cities of Simferopol and Feodosia.

Already in the first days and months after the liberation of Crimea from the Nazi occupiers, its agriculture, which had been neglected through the war, suffered huge losses. Stalin-Beria henchmen, as if deliberately, timed the deportation of Crimean Tatars at the height of the spring planting season, at a time when the foundations were being laid for the future harvest.

Already by the summertime in the majority of Crimean villages, there was no one to harvest even the scarce fruits of the land. Only starving cats and dogs wandered through the deserted and robbed Tatar villages and farmsteads.

The first wave of migrants to Crimea from the deep regions of Russia did not bring desired results. It was difficult for people from woodland Russia to take root in the steppe and to adapt to the mountainous terrain.

Even more difficult to adapt to for these settlers were the complex and specialized agricultural crops. For the Russian settlers in Crimea, it was the first experience many had with orchards, grapes, aromatic crops, tobacco, industrial crops, and even corn.

In 1940 the landmass under crops in Crimea equated to 987.4 thousand hectares; in 1950 it fell by almost 100 thousand (881.9 thousand hectares).

Before the war, the steppe region specialized in growing high-quality varieties of premium wheat. The area of winter wheat in the Crimea in 1940 amounted to 447.5 thousand hectares, and in 1950 it decreased by almost half (257.5 hectares).

The area under industrial crops was significantly reduced (72.9 thousand hectares in 1940 and 53.6 thousand hectares in 1950).

Key areas of the Crimean economy, such as horticulture, viticulture and winemaking, were also in a very poor condition.

Compared with 1940, in all categories of farms, the area under fruit orchards decreased by 6,000 hectares to 20 thousand hectares in 1950. In home orchards, fruit trees were cut down because of the exorbitant taxes introduced by “father Stalin,” and collective and state farms used them for firewood.

An even more disturbing picture of the state of Crimean agriculture in the post-war years emerges after studying the official statistical material on the leading crop yields.

Even a fairly cursory study of the statistics by any unbiased person will convincingly lead them to the true cause of “Khrushchev’s generous gift.”

So, let us have some patience to reflect on these unique statistics:

In 1913, the average yield of crops in the Crimean land was 11.2 metric centners/ha (c/ha), in 1940 – 10.7 c/ha, while in 1950 – 3.9 c/ha. Accordingly, the yield of top grain crops – winter wheat was 13.1 c/ha in 1913, 11.5 c/ha in 1940, and 4.4 c/ha in 1950.

Even before the Revolution, the regional average for Crimean farmers in the arid steppe was 5 c/ha of sunflower. In 1940, under the collective-state-owned system of farm management, they managed to raise this figure by only 0.8 c/ha. In 1950, the yield of sunflowers in the Crimea was a low 1.7 c/ha.

The yield declined by half compared to the pre-war period for tobacco plantations (from 7 c/ha to 3.3 c/ha), for potatoes (from 68 c/ha to 35 c/ha), for vegetables (from 120 c/ha to 61 c/ha) and grapes were reduced 2.5 times (from 26.1 c/ha to 11.5 c/ha).

The yield of fruit orchards declined significantly too. In 1950, a year of favorable conditions for an orchard harvest, the average yield was 42.7 c/ha, while in 1940 this figure was 53.6 c/ha. In the following years, the harvest of fruit in the orchards of Crimea declined by almost half and varied within the range of 20 – 22 c/ha, a range that in pre-revolutionary times could have been harvested from  private orchards with a mere one to two trees of Crimean Sinap apple.

As for the number of cattle, in all types of farms in Crimea there was substantial gap between the early 50’s and pre-war figures. If in 1940 the number of cattle reached 244.8 thousand, then in 1950 it decreased to 215.9 thousand.

The number of cows declined by almost by 50 thousand (from 121.2 thousand in 1940 to 86.3 thousand in 1950), pigs –respectively, from 127 thousand to 84.3 thousand, sheep and goats – from 961.4 thousand to 556.7 thousand.

Over the years, the post-war Crimean region did not meet its state targets for all kinds of agricultural products. In 1950, as compared with 1940, Crimean production declined by almost 5 times for grain (from 425.7 thousand tons in 1940 to 92.9 thousand tons in 1950), by three times for tobacco (from 5.9 to 1 8 thousand tons), by half for vegetables (from 60.3 to 31.1 thousand tons), by almost 5.5 times for potatoes (from 22.7 to 4 thousand tons), by 5 times for aromatic plants (from 9.1 to 1.8 tons ), almost by half for grapes (from 9.8 thousand tons to 6.5 thousand tons), and by 2.5 times for wool.

Also, the production of cattle significantly declined – from 10.9 thousand tons in 1940 to 8.1 thousand tons in 1950.

So as not to be accused by our possible opponents of exaggerating the economic problems of Crimea, let’s try to look at the economic state of the region in the post-war years through the eyes of area residents themselves. To do this, let’s flip through the time-yellowed pages of “Crimean Pravda” [The Crimean Truth] – the newspaper of the Crimean regional committee of the Communist Party.

In October 1958, the Council of Ministers of Ukraine decided to build the world's longest trolleybus line: Simferopol-Alushta-Yalta. The first phase of this line, Simferopol - Alushta, a length of 52 km, was built and commissioned in record time - 11 months. It was built by more than 80 experts from 10 cities in Ukraine.  In the photo from Wikipedia - the opening line to Alushta.

In October 1958, the Council of Ministers of Ukraine decided to build the world’s longest trolleybus line: Simferopol-Alushta-Yalta. The first phase of this line, Simferopol – Alushta, a length of 52 km, was built and commissioned in record time – 11 months. It was built by more than 80 experts from 10 cities in Ukraine.
In the photo from Wikipedia – the opening line to Alushta.

We will not provide the analysis for the whole period, and will specifically focus on the year of 1953 that reflects/mirrors the state of economy and the agriculture in particular, on the eve of the oblast transfer to Ukraine.

We will focus our attention on a few sectors of agriculture: viticulture, horticulture, and vegetable gardening…

First Secretary of the Yalta City Committee and member of the Communist party Sergiy Medunov said in the”Crimean Pravda [Crimean Truth]” newspaper from September 1, 1953:

“The vast majority of vineyards have been planted many years ago. Thus, vineyards on 80 hectares of the “Hurzuf” state farm have been planted between 80 and 100 years ago, and the ones on the “Girskyi” [Mountain] farm – between 60 and 70 years ago. These vines are chaotic and heavily thinned.

The harvesting yield of these vineyards constitutes 12 centner/ha [metric centners per hectare]. Nevertheless, only a tenth of the area has been reconstructed. Viticulture is still being run in the old-fashioned way. Trelissing is not used on all the vines. Vines are affected by mildew and oidium [fungus].”

Professor Pavel Bolharev [Viticulture Department head at the Crimea state agricultural institute] also noted the level of vineyard care, “After planting, the vines remain unprotected from livestock and agricultural pests. They did not properly attend to or care for the plants. As such, the planted vines died, resulting in great losses for the country and collective farms. The speed of planting in previous years cannot be considered satisfactory,” (“Crimean Pravda,” October 8, 1953).

This important sector of agriculture proved to be neglected not only at average local and national collective farms, but also at the specialized farms of the Crimean winemaking trust.

According to G. Tetyenkov and V. Dyunin, the correspondents of “Crimean Pravda,” it was impossible to buy vintage wines like “Sun Valley,” “Sudak [Pike],” “Kahor,” and “Tashli,” even at retail stores.

The factories of the Crimean winetrust were forced to manufacture almost a half of their wine from imported grapes, because local farms grew a very small amount of their own grapes.

The abovementioned authors write:

“In recent years, the national collective farms harvested very low yields and failed to provide the needed amount of raw materials to the factories. New plantations are expanding slowly, and the old vineyards keep declining and thinning out.

Instead of updating the plantations, the trust advises the state farms to write off old vineyards as economic losses. Thus, 30 hectares of vineyards have been written off at “Sun Valley” farm, and there are plans to write off 24 hectares of neglected plantations at “Feodosiyskyi” state collective farm.

New plantations are being slowly created. Instead of 210 hectares allocated by the trust, only 31 hectares have been planted. The “Sun Valley” state collective farm harvested only 16.1 centner/ha of grapes, whereas they grew up to 60 centner/ha of sunberries [wonderberries] before the war. The farm hardly uses the farming equipment. Row spacing across 316 hectares of vines is not developed. The old chaotic plantings are not treated at all” (“Crimean Pravda” of June 7, 1953).

Before the war, Alushta vineyards were famous for their fruitful harvest and the production of unique vintage wines. However, the new owners were unable to revive the industry during the ten postwar years.

P. Kibalov, a researcher with the “Magarach” institute, wrote in “Crimean Pravda” newspaper for September 11, 1953:

“Despite the favorable natural conditions and availability of MTS tractors, machines and agricultural equipment in Alushta, as well as a strong power base, the grape harvest remains rather low in recent years.

The main reason [for the low harvest] is the systematic failure, or poor conduct, of farming activities. The farms almost entirely neglect to introduce new developments in science and best farming practices.”

Information by T. Grigoriev from Kirov district indicates the catastrophic state of the horticultural industry in the postwar years:

“Last fall, as before, vineyard growers and gardeners from the district are not pleased with their homeland and themselves with an abundance of grapes and fruit. Almost everywhere the harvest proved to be quite low …

The garden at Malenkov collective farm was planted long ago. Last fall, they were supposed to gather the first harvest, but there was nothing to pick. And how can anyone be surprised at following the plan if the garden was transformed into a pasture for cattle” (“Crimean Pravda,” January 16, 1954).

Even ten years after the war the horticulture in Crimea did not reach its pre-war production figures and was unable to meet the needs of the local population. In an editorial from August 14, 1953 the “Crimean Pravda” newspaper in its analysis of the state of horticulture production wrote:

“Unfortunately, the current state of horticulture in our oblast [the Crimean oblast by 1991, later became the Autonomous Republic of Crimea] does not meet the needs of the population for fresh vegetables in the winter and spring seasons. And this year, many farms have poorly coped with planting seeds and vegetable plants late in the season and neglected to take good care of the plants.

Vegetable gardens are overgrown with weeds, the soil is not loosened on time, watering is done sporadically. Early vegetable farms and state farms contributed ridiculously small amounts [of vegetable harvest]. The mass collection and delivery of vegetables started only in June.

There were a total of six greenhouses in Crimea at the end of 1953. In April of 1953, the Oblast Executive Committee adopted a resolution on the construction of greenhouses in Alushta, Bakhchysarai, Yevpatoria, Zuysk, Saki and Starokrymsk rayons [districts]. However, this resolution has remained unfulfilled (“Crimean Pravda,” August 14,1953).

How did the regional party organization assess the state of agriculture in the early postwar years and what role did it play in the revival of the agricultural industry?

If you evaluate the activity of the party and agricultural bodies based on their final results, it should be recognized that the contribution of the regional “leading and guiding force” at the time to the re-development of agriculture was rather low, and their performance was ineffective.

The regional leadership’s future orientation on the renewal of human resources in the region solely through immigrants from Russia proved to be futile. Even when Crimea was part of the Russian Soviet Republic, it became clear that in this very complex and capricious climatic region only people from a steppe agricultural culture could become accustomed to it.

Today, the current editor-in-chief of the independent from conscience and historical truth “Crimean Pravda” newspaper, Michael Bakharev and his “girlfriend in battle” Tetyana Ryabchykova, are the hopeless patients of Ukrainophobia, trying to convince unsuspecting readers that the “Ukrainian invasion of Crimea” was launched in 1954.

It is unnecessary to dispute Ukrainian historical roots in this land with experts of such caliber. But the current chief of “Crimean Pravda” should have read publications by his predecessors. Their own “Crimean Pravda” from January 12, 1954 – before the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine – wrote:

“In the late fall of 1952, immigrants arrived at the Kalinin collective farm in Zuysk district. There were 86 families, all from the Chernihiv oblast of Ukraine. For a long time, the farm had problems with the stockbreeding. There was not enough space, food for the cattle; the farm labor discipline was very low. We had to take drastic measures.”

It turns out that the most drastic measure, was, in fact, the resettlement in Crimea of hardworking Ukrainian peasants.

“Within two years, – says the correspondent of this newspaper, I. Polyakov – the farm commissioned a pigpen and a calf house, each with a 100 head capacity, as well as the barn with a 120 head capacity.” “Now the barns at the farm, – the reporter admiringly says, – are warm rooms full of light. There are suspended roads, automated drinking bowls, and feed kitchens on the farms.”

Unfortunately, this idyllic picture was not observed at all farms; hundreds of Ukrainian peasant families were not resettled into every Crimean village in 1952. This process would pick up during the spring of 1954 and would last throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

To be objective, the question of changing the subordination of the Crimean oblast ideologically and economically was substantiated at the September plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] in 1953, dedicated to the problems of agriculture. It was made with a comprehensive report by Nikita Khrushchev, an indisputable expert in this field.

That’s when he was elected the First Secretary of the CPSU’s Central Committee, while Georgy Malenkov remained the Chairman of the Presidium of the Central Committee as well as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers. The Crimean Regional Committee responded to the decision of the September plenum of the Central Committee only at the end of October, almost 1 ½ months after it took place.

At the meeting of the party economic department in Crimea, no serious analysis of the state of the agricultural sector (i.e., without search and criticism towards the culprits – so to speak, at home) was made.

The main narrator, First Secretary P. Tytov, an expert in charge of this area, gave a rather loyal criticism of the apparatus of the regional and district committees for lack of leadership in agriculture. Speakers, mostly secretaries of district committees, mainly emphasized the errors by the Regional Directorate of Agriculture, management of the machine – and tractor stations, as well as water management organizations. No criticism was directed at the people in charge of the [Crimea] oblast.

First Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU Nikita Khrushchev, who was well aware of the situation in Crimea, did not like the complacency of Crimean leadership very much. Since official reports and numerous complaints convinced [him] otherwise. It is possible that this [discovery] is what led to his secret appearance in Crimea in the late fall of 1953.

There is no mention of Khrushchev’s visit in the omniscient Crimean press of that time. Only memoirs by Alexei Adzhubei, Khrushchev’s son in law, who accompanied the First Secretary at his inspection trip to Crimea, attest to the reality of this fact.

Gateway to the North-Crimean Canal (1960). Giant irrigation, built in 1961-1971, supplies water from the Dnieper "mainland" in the region - into the steppe areas in Simferopol, Feodosia, Kerch, Sudak.

Gateway to the North-Crimean Canal (1960). Giant irrigation, built in 1961-1971, supplies water from the Dnieper “mainland” in the region – into the steppe areas in Simferopol, Feodosia, Kerch, Sudak.

In the early 90’s, when the separatist passion aroused by Moscow reached its climax, and the region had become a bone of contention between Russia and Ukraine, some chauvinistic forces tried to use the prominent journalist Alexei Adjoubei to substantiate the malarkey of “Khrushchev’s gift to Ukraine.”

At their request in the journal “Novoye Vremya” [New Time] № 6 in 1992 he published a biased article with the title “How Khrushchev gave the Crimea to Ukraine.” However, the veteran journalist also introduced a second title – “Memories on a Pre-assigned Topic.”

With this article, Alexei Adjoubei, in my opinion, did a disservice to his clients, because it actually confirms that the transfer of the Crimea was forced by the economic situation. The Crimean reality of 1953, as he depicts it, is impressive for its hopelessness.

According to Adjoubei, excited and noisy crowds of outraged Russian immigrants–who torpedoed The First Secretary Khrushchev’s car–stunned, thrilled and outraged the First Secretary. People complained about unbearable living conditions, poor housing, lack of food, and demanded help.

“I write: they came here – said Adjoubei, -while they shouted, “We were forcefully driven here.” Completely hysterical screams were voiced from the crowd: “Potatoes do not grow here, cabbage withers.” Or suddenly very sad, “Fleas devour us.”

“How is it that you went to the Crimea?” – asked Khrushchev. – And the crowd yelled: “We were lied to.”

According to Alexei Adjoubei , Khrushchev, on the same day, immediately went to Kyiv. Upon arrival at the Marijinsky Palace, he had a long conversation with the leadership of the republic. The main theme was the Crimean issue and the unpleasant experiences of the trip.

Taking advantage of his enormous authority over Kyiv party leadership, Khrushchev tried to persuade the Ukrainians to help in the revival of Crimean land. “Southern people are needed there, who love orchards and corn, not potatoes,” – he urged.

Certainly, the decision on the transfer of the Crimean Oblast from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR was a product of the collective thought of senior leaders of the Party and the Soviet government. Without the participation of Stalin’s “old guard” – Malenkov, Molotov, Kaganovich, Voroshilov, Bulganin – it would not have happened.

Khrushchev’s positions in the party and the country at that time were not yet strong enough to let him arbitrarily decide the fate of such a strategically important region as the Crimea. Therefore, the attempts by some Russian politicians and local Crimean separatists to lay the responsibility at the feet of Nikita Khrushchev scientifically are unsound and are opportunistic and speculative.

There is no document that confirmed Khrushchev’s decisive role on the Crimean issue in 1954, let alone his attempts to benefit Ukraine. This is gross chauvinist fiction.

As someone who knew and was responsible for agriculture, indeed he could offer Crimea ways out of the economic crisis. The Kremlin was well aware of the close integration of the economies of Crimea and Ukraine.

While it was within the Russian SFSR, the Crimean region remained in the economic sphere of Ukraine. The fuel and energy complex, metallurgy and light industry, the railway transport of Ukraine and Crimea in reality were united.

Even before 1954, Ukraine gave the Crimean region a great deal of assistance in urban regeneration, rebuilding factories and mills, in solving the problems of water supply and construction. 

“Ukrainian Pravda” [Ukrainian Truth] newspaper is now managed by the Ukrainophobe Michael Baharev and cries of terrible oppression and robbery of Crimea by Kyivan “uncles.” But there were times when, even before the region’s transfer to Ukraine, that “Ukrainian Pravda” always honored the Ukrainian people for their enormous help to the peninsula.

Here is what this newspaper wrote on January 17, 1954:

“Ukrainians reciprocate. They actively help inhabitants of Crimea build fine cities and resorts, and develop industrial production. From Ukraine, powerful machines and equipment come in a continuous stream for the construction of the hero-city of Sevastopol and the resort city of Yalta. 

The capitol of Ukraine – Kyiv sends powerful mechanical loaders, automatic dosing devices for concrete plants; Kharkiv gives electric tower cranes and tractors; Mykolaiv – conveyors for concrete plants, bulldozers; Dnepropetrovsk and Debalcevo – industrial tanks for enterprises producing limestone flux; Osipenko (Berdyansk) – road machines; Kremenchug – asphalt-concrete mixers; Pryłuki – equipment for mechanization of plastering work; while Melitopol sends compressors of latest models.”

On the basis of the available materials, we conclude that the decision of the top Soviet leadership to transfer the Crimean region to Ukraine developed in late 1953–early 1954. During this period, intense preparatory work was carried out. Intense ideological work continued so as to was to prepare Crimeans for the change.

It was at this time that Ukrainian subjects started to appear in the pages of the Crimean press. For example, only in January 1954 “Crimean Pravda” dedicated a Ukrainian theme to such materials as “The Triumph of Friendship of the Peoples of the Great Motherland,” “Unbreakable Brotherhood,” “Forever Together,” “The Soviet Kyiv” (with a photo of Khreschatyk St., one of Kyiv’s most famous streets).

In issues from the 17th and 19th of January, the newspaper is dedicated to the theme of: “Flourish, Soviet Ukraine.” These publications in a government newspaper of another republic convincingly attest to the beginnings of preparing public opinion.

The January Plenum of the Crimean Regional Party Committee was also an integral part of the Kremlin’s program to solve the Crimean problem. As far back as 1953, one of the most prestigious main streets was renamed Boulevard of Ivan Franko [famous Ukrainian 19th-century poet and intellectual].

The existence of this program is attested to by the classified file titled “On the Status of Crimean agriculture” of January 4, 1954, prepared for the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party A.I. Kirichenko. It was found relatively recently in the Central State Archive of Public Organizations of Ukraine (TsGAOO of Ukraine. F-1 OPZO. File 3590. Ark. 109 -110).

The very name, let alone the contents of this extremely valuable document conclusively prove the true cause of the re-subordination of the Crimea.

The date of receipt of the memorandum by the first person of the republic is proof of a serious approach to solving Crimean economic problems by the leadership of the USSR. That is why the notion of a spontaneous decision by a single—even though quite highly-placed—official in the country is out of the question.

It is a pity that this important document to this day remains little known. Ask present-day shiftless Crimean political loudmouths and distributors of the “Khrushchev’s gift” myth what would be a reason for the First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party Central Committee to load his brain with information about the disgraceful state of agriculture of the Crimean region, which is subordinated to the Russian SFSR?

Why would Alexei Kirichenko take care of someone else’s troubles, when in his own house there were enough problems? The said file describes the catastrophic state of agriculture and the profound neglect of the social infrastructure of Crimea on the eve of the transfer of the area to Ukraine in a concentrated form and without any ideological fireworks.

Overall the document confirms all previously mentioned problems of the economic crisis in Crimea.

Therefore, according to this document, we have the opportunity to find out what the Kremlin leadership in Ukraine “gave,” or rather imposed, and what, in the words of today’s politicians, was this “medal on the chest of the planet” [ie: Crimea] like in 1954?

With the help of the certificate, we discover that in 1954 the crops area in Crimea fell by 70,000 hectares compared to 1940. Of the 30 existing farms, only three managed to master the field and fodder crop rotation. The 1953 yield of all major agricultural crops in [Crimea] oblast did not reach pre-war levels.

As of January 1, 1954, the overall garden area constituted only 87%, and vineyards area – 79% of 1940 levels.

Livestock farms in most of the collective and state farms in Crimea had only 37% of needed animal feed in the winter of 1953 and. In 1953, only 35.6% of cowsheds and calf houses, and 43% of poultry sheds were built in accordance with construction plans.

The region lacked more than 1,100 tractors. The agriculture of Crimea suffered from acute water shortages. As of January 1954, Crimean farms irrigated only 40,900 hectares of farmland.

In 1953, the oblast failed to fulfill the plan of collecting taxes to the treasury and came short by 6,060,000 rubles.

Consumer-oriented [light] and food industries were extremely neglected as well. In 1953, all companies in this sector failed to fulfill the plan. The oblast has been unable to master the huge funds allocated by the state for capital construction. Because of this, in 1953, the Council of Ministers of the Russian SFSR [Soviet Federative Social Republic] was forced to reduce capital investments in Yalta only to 5.2 million rubles.

The social sector of the oblast went through a deep crisis as well.

Today, no one would believe that at the end of 1953 in Crimea there were only three bakeries, 18 meat shops, eight shops that sold milk products, 2 fabric shops, nine shoe shops, five stores that sold building materials and 28 bookshops.

 “They completely stopped selling vegetables and potatoes in the public sector” (CSAPO [Central State Archives of Public Organizations]: F-1 -OP 52. Case 490. Ar. 9. Cit. Vasyl Chumakov, 1993). Anxiety and despair were heard even from the tribunes of party conferences.

“Ten years after the war, – said Secretary Moyseyev of the Feodosiya Local Party Committee from the podium of the Crimea Oblast Party Conference (1954), – the workers put forward their legitimate demands, when will we rebuild the city and establish minimum living conditions?

The city has no water, sufficient electricity, bath and laundry plant… During the war, 40% of the housing stock was destroyed, and the city executive committee only rebuilt one house with eight apartments in it… Many of these issues have been repeatedly submitted to higher authorities – the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR and ministries. But…” (CSAPO: F.1. – Op. 52. – Case 4990. – Arch. 125).

“Who is rebuilding the Kirov district of Kerch – the downtown area? – Secretary of the City Committee Smorodin asked standing at the same podium and replied himself: – Nobody! There is no such building trust… At this rate, we are not be able to rebuild the city in even 100 years…”

Relevant decisions (the speaker gives specific examples) were already adopted by governments of RSFSR and the Soviet Union in 1952 and 1953, but “it’s already the year 1954,” and the construction of many objects, in particular “the marina, the milk factory and such has not even started ” (Ibid. Arc. 115 – 116). (Quote from the book by Mykhaylo Lukinyuk, p. 193).

After reading through all of these staggering documents, let’s think hard about this: is the transfer of the Crimea Oblast to the USSR [Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic] “a generous gift” or an economic yoke?

Experienced political tricksters and schemers, who have been training at “Stalin’s universities” for many years, were well aware that the transfer of Crimea had to come on reliable ideological grounds. The 300-year anniversary of the Pereyasliv Rada [Council] became such a basis, quite beneficial and understandable to Soviet masses, and represented as a union of Ukraine and Russia by both the royal propaganda machine and the Bolshevik empire.

It was decided that this date should be celebrated loudly and widely at the state level. The transfer of the Crimea oblast to Ukraine on the eve of the grand celebration “of the eternal friendship of two brotherly nations” perfectly fit into the carefully planned Kremlin script.

Subsequent events have shown that such a loud propaganda show, held in Crimea in the second half of May of 1954, on the 300th anniversary reunion, did not happen in any of the other Ukrainian oblasts, not even in Pereyaslav. 

According to the Resolution by the Executive Committee of the Crimea oblast and Simferopil city Councils of People’s Deputies, a united commemorative session of the 300th anniversary of the reunification of Ukraine with Russia took place on May 16, 1954.

The meeting took place in the regional theater, “Gorky.” On May 24, 1954 “Crimean Pravda” wrote: “What a big and joyous celebration are the workers of Crimea having to commemorate the landmark date – the 300th anniversary of the reunion of Ukraine and Russia.”

From May to June, the “Bohdan Khmelnytsky” play by Oleksandr Korniychuk performed at the oblast [regional] theatre with great success. On May 23, a rally took place in the central square of the city.

After this [rally], the grand performance was moved to the “Kharchovyk” stadium. The scale of the performance can be judged from the fact that just the choir of Simferopil and Tavryskiy Military District included 1,000 people. This powerful community of singers sang songs, among them, “The mighty Dnieper roars and bellows,” with lyrics from the poem by Taras Shevchenko.

The holiday was equally celebrated in other Crimean cities and towns, including Sevastopol. There is no doubt that a performance of such scope and grandeur constructed on the peninsula at the same time was celebrating the formal transfer of Crimea to Ukraine.


Obverse – of the same coin. 25 wheat sheafs bound tight with the Dnieper River – a symbol that a united Ukraine is rich and strong.


Reverse – commemorative coins 5 hryven, issued by the National Bank, chaired by Sergei Tigipko, for the 50th anniversary of the annexation of Crimea.

As is already known, from a legal standpoint, that the transfer of Crimea from the RSFSR to the USSR was performed flawlessly. Today, on the basis of available data, it is possible to trace the process of solving this issue [the transfer of Crimea], which some Russian politicians, devoid of historical memory, even now put to doubt.

To overcome historical ignorance, they must all refer to relevant documents, and “Mister” Bakharev should be put into archival filings, in particular the “Crimean Pravda” newspaper edition of February 19,1954. Let the graduate of the Kyiv [V.I. Lenin] Higher Party School make up wasted time there and justify the money of Ukrainian taxpayers.

After the adequate passage of the “Crimean issue” through all instances of the RSFSR and the USSR, as well as the discussion at the meeting of the Supreme Council of the USSR, on February 19, 1954, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR unanimously adopted a decree “On the transfer of Crimea region from the RSFSR into the Ukrainian SSR.”

 “Given the commonality of the economy, the territorial proximity and close economic and cultural ties between the Crimea oblast and the Ukrainian SSR, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics resolves: to approve a joint submission of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR regarding the transfer of the Crimea oblast out of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.”

The decree was published in the media, including the Crimean media on February 27. The next day, on February 28, 1954, the “Crimean Pravda” newspaper was already published as an agency of the Crimean Oblast Committee of the Communist Party.

However, the final legislative decision on the decree on the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine took place just two months later, on April 26, 1954. Under the current laws, the decision to change existing borders between the republics could only be adopted by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR with the consent of those republics. The following version of the law was adopted:

“On transfer of the Crimea oblast out of the RSFSR into the Ukrainian SSR. THE LAW OF THE SUPREME COUNCIL OF USSR

Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics decides to:

1. Approve the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from February 19, 1954 on the transfer of the Crimea oblast of the RSFSR to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

2. Amend the Articles 22 and 23 of the Constitution of the USSR accordingly.”

At the end of March, 1954, the XVIII Congress of the Communist Party took place in Kyiv. The First Secretary of the Crimean regional committee, Dmytro Polyanskyi, noted in his address at the Congress:

“Today at the Congress, I would like to briefly report to you about the youngest oblast of the Ukrainian republic – Crimea. The decision by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR regarding the transfer of the Crimean oblast to the Ukrainian republic is a testament to the further strengthening of unity and unbreakable friendship between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples in the great and powerful family of the peoples of the Soviet Union. Besides the generality of the economy, terrirorial proximity, close economic and cultural ties that Crimea and Ukraine have in common, they also have commonality between centuries of historical development.

Transfer of Crimea to the Ukrainian republic will certainly have a positive impact on a comprehensive and more rapid development of the Crimea oblast and will contribute to the further development of the Ukrainian economy.

The workers of the Crimea oblast were exceptionally pleased by the statement of the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Comrade Kirichenko, that of the Government of the Ukrainian Republic and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine will give due attention to the further development of the national economy of Crimea and the improvement of material welfare of the workers in the oblast. Workers of the Crimea oblast are convinced of this.”

Undoubtedly, Dmitry Polyansky was right in hoping for economic support of the Crimea oblast by Ukraine. It must be admitted that by reducing the funding for other oblasts and investments in other regions of Ukraine, this support was comprehensive and vast.

Figuratively speaking, in 1954, war-torn Ukraine received another economic burden from the Kremlin – forcing it to rebuild Crimea, badly neglected by the Russian RFSR.

The rapid economic growth of all industries in the first decade after the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine is the most significant evidence of the decisive contribution of the Ukrainian people in the post-war revival of the peninsula.

Thus Crimea became the medal “on the chest of the planet” (Pablo Neruda’s words), and hence forward it became a part of Ukraine.


Peter Volvach Senior Fellow VIKTS in Simferopol. Chairman of the Crimean branch of the Shevchenko Scientific Society. UEAN Academician, Honored Worker of Science of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Peter Volvach
Senior Fellow VIKTS in Simferopol.
Chairman of the Crimean branch of the Shevchenko Scientific Society.
UEAN Academician, Honored Worker of Science of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.


The original title of the article was: Would Crimea become the “Medal on the Chest of the Planet” if not for its Ukrainian calluses? (For the 50-year anniversary of Crimea’s annexation to Ukraine).

It was first published in the Crimean newspaper “Crimean Entryway” in two issues: (13.02.2004)
and (28.2.2014)

This entry was posted in Analytics, Crimea, English, English News, Languages, Maidan Diary, Pictures and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How Ukraine rebuilt Crimea (“Khrushchev’s Gift”)

  1. chervonaruta says:

    Reblogged this on Euromaidan PR and commented:

    A look back to 1954 when the Soviet leadership, not Khrushchev, decided to transfer Crimea to Ukraine

  2. Pingback: How Ukraine rebuilt Crimea from ruins in 1954 | Infographic -Euromaidan Press |

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