Did Crimeans Support Joining Russia?

I looked at this question in depth in 2016 (see “Trump Is Factually Right on Crimea“).

TLDR: Yes, the did, and overwhelmingly so.

Opinion Polls

I am not going to go over this again, since I’d mostly just be repeating the older post. Suffice to say that since 2016, nothing has changed.

In a VCIOM poll this March marking the 5 year anniversary, some 93% of Crimeans said they have a positive view on joining Russia, and 89% said they would vote to join Russia if the referendum was to be run again.

The sole post-unification/annexation [cross out as per ideological preferences] “poll” to show ambiguity on the question is from the Russian President’s Human Rights Council. However, this was not a poll, as I pointed out at the time, but the personal opinion of a single member of the Council, Yevgeny Bobrov, who based his assessment on conversations with a couple dozen unnamed “activists.”

Incidentally, I was amused to see that Yevgeny Bobrov was put on Ukraine’s Myrotvorets blacklist either way, as commenter E commented – despite the minor propaganda he generated for them.

Ukrainian Leaders

Speaking of commenter E, he also had a much lengthier treatment of internal political discussions between top Maidan politicians during the Crimean Crisis, in which they acknowledged the vast majority of Crimeans backed the transfer:

The host site of that document, rnbo.gov.ua, is the homepage of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, currently led by the same Turchinov who was Acting President of Ukraine back then. That’s pretty convincing as proof that it’s legitimate.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a fully transcribed version, much less a translation into English. I’m not great at reading Ukrainian myself. I did find that most (but not quite all) of the text in the PDF can be copied+pasted into Google Translate.

Anyway, here are some of my own translations of relevant sections concerning the Ukraine elite’s beliefs about public opinion in Crimea (I mostly translated the Ukrainian into Russian, then that into English, manually fixing any mistakes along the way):

The 2nd paragraph of pg. 6 is where Valentin Nalivaychenko admits that the idea of joining Russia enjoys mass support in Crimea:

The fourth point concerning the situation in the Crimea is the mass support of the population for the actions of the Russian Federation.

2nd paragraph, pg. 8: Nalivaychenko:

Our military and security forces are demoralized. many of them do not recognize the new government and are not ready to carry out orders, or have already betrayed their oath. The situation in the Navy of Ukraine is especially difficult. There are signed letters of resignation, including by the Commander of the Naval Forces of Ukraine. The moral and psychological climate of the leadership is extremely low, if not entirely treasonous.

p.9 paragraphs 2&3, Avakov (Minister of Internal Affairs):

Separately, I’ll say that the majority of the population of Crimea takes a pro-Russian, anti-Ukrainian position. This is the risk we need to take into account. We are establishing communications with employees who have not betrayed us, but among the police these are very few.

p.12, Tenyukh (Ukraine’s Minister of Defense) replying to Turchinov (acting President of Ukraine), who is asking how many of Ukraine’s 15,000 nominal forces in the region would be willing to fight:

Difficult to answer. Most of the military are local contract soldiers. For them, service is money. You know the mood of the population in Crimea. There are also young people, conscripts who are unlikely to fight. Those who are ready to execute the order to use weapons will be 1.5-2 thousand maximum.

p. 16, Nalivaychenko:

Dear colleagues, I propose to invite to Kiev the leaders of Crimea’s Prosecutor’s Office, SBU and Police, because the vast majority of them are traitors. We need to know who is on our side now and who is not!

p.16-17, Vitaliy Yarema (General Prosecutor of Ukraine):

During the preparation of these preliminary steps, we discovered the dominant opinion of the civilian population. Since the premises of state institutions begin to be seized, they say, “If it’s fine to do it in Kiev, why we can’t we capture them in Crimea?”. Therefore, today I would like to address the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council Andriy Parubiy to vacate today the premises seized by the Samooborona [Self-defence forces of Maidan], as much as possible, in order to show that we have law and order…

(this suggestion was not discussed any further in the meeting, and no resolution was taken to implement it)

The only sort-of dissenting voice at the meeting was Acting President Turchinov (he also seems to admit that the Crimean public and elites are against Ukraine, but believes that their opinion is not very deeply-held and can be changed. He also, unlike the others, does not accept that the opinions of the Crimean “street” played a crucial role in the Maidan government’s quick loss of power in Crimea in the days preceding the referendum, believing that it was 100% due to the Russian troops. Turchinov’s view became the mainstream one among Western analysts), p.23-24:

The emphasis on the mass media is correct.
It’s very important that we appeal to the residents of the Crimean peninsula. They must understand that the Ukrainian government is not their enemy, that we are ready to solve their local problems. We need to dispel this myth that the Crimeans raised a rebellion against Ukraine. These are not Crimeans. It’s solely a military operation against a sovereign country. That’s why we need to inform them that these are not activists of any party or public structures, but the Russian military who are not even hiding their identity any more. It is very important to recite and to propagate this objective view of these events to Ukraine and all the world.
Andrei Vilenovich [Senchenko, head of Batkivshchyna party in Crimea], let’s have a few words concerning working with the Crimean elites. How can we drag the Crimean elite onto the side of Ukraine, and not the separatists?

I think this is the first time that any of this text has been translated into English… if anybody wants to use it, be my guest.

The Logic of Western Sanctions

One interesting aspect about the Western sanctions on Russia is that they affected Crimeans more so than Russians. Siemens has been fined for selling gas turbines that ended up in Crimea, gamers were barred from Steam, etc.

But if the Crimean referendum was rigged and illegitimate, as Kiev and the West have repeatedly argued, on what grounds are ordinary Crimeans getting punished for what is in fact Russian aggression?


The Crimean referendum accurately reflected the will of the Crimean people. In that case, the US and EU sanctions on Crimea – already getting expressed in the forms of Crimean residents losing access to the services of Western companies and even getting their money confiscated[1] – are, in effect, to punish them for voting the wrong way. In other words, it is economic blackmail by any other name.

Consequently, the only logical, self-consistent explanation is that these sanctions – the ones above those imposed on Russia as a whole – are a way to punish Crimeans for voting to join Russia. Whose main point is a warning.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. didn’t they vote for it, 99.9999999%?

    of course they did 🙂

  2. Cagey Beast says

    In 1991, Ukraine and Lithuania voted 92% and 93% in favour of independence, respectively. Were those referendums laughably rigged as well?

    Check out the numbers for Armenia, Slovenia, Iceland, Norway, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Rhodesia. It seems that landslide victories are common with such votes.

  3. I think Rhodesians understood that the UK government was about to sell them down the river.

  4. You actually see such results in some black precincts in America. In such cases, I think the percentages reflect reality, though I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the ballots themselves were fake.

  5. DB Cooper says

    I am sure the Crimean referendum accurately reflected the will of the Crimean people for many reasons. On the other hand India annexation of Sikkim in 1975 on the pretext that 97% of Sikkimese voted to join India. This is clearly rigged and illegitimate. India’s annexation of Sikkim is as brutal and illegal as Saddam’s annexation of Kuwait fifteen years later. Yet the West ignore India’s transgression and focus on a made up subject of the so called Russian annexation of Crimea. This goes to show the hypocricy and the left is right up is down narrative of the Western media.

  6. Conceptually all border changes are ‘illegal’. And yet they have happened hundreds of times in just the recent past. Every single time the losing side could – and almost always did – claim that ‘law was broken‘.

    The tension between people’s will (referendum), legal boundaries and laws, and physical force – that is pretty much the whole of human history. What is being said about Crimea is neither new, nor particularly perceptive, it is the oldest story of ethnic tribes and lands. There are really no ‘rules’ or laws to manage it to everyone’s satisfaction.

    Then there is the Kosovo precedent: 2 million Albanians in a Serb province of Kosovo were forcefully separated and given independence by Nato bombing of Serbia. All rules were also broken at that time, and thousands of civilians died in the bombing. They didn’t even bother with a referendum.

    Today the same people and Western ‘analysts’ who fully supported and justified Kosovo, claim that Crimea was a ‘violation of international law’. Right, very convincing. Kind of like ‘when I steal your cow it is good, when you steal my cow it is bad‘… It is embarrassing, and the fact that Ukraine supposedly didn’t support Kosovo bombing is irrelevant – their sponsors did and Kiev said nothing. What goes around, comes around.

  7. AnonFromTN says

    My two cents for those who only believe Western data:

    German polling company GFK


    Both polls confirmed the results of Crimean referendum: the great majority of Crimea residents wanted to get out of the Ukrainian madhouse and join a sane country. Looking at Ukraine post-2014, who can blame them?

    As an aside, those who support the separation of Kosovo from Serbia without Serbian consent (and without a referendum even in Kosovo) have no leg to stand on.

    For those who believe that that post-WWII borders are sacrosanct, your belief means that Crimea belongs to Russia (transferred to Ukraine by Khrushchev in 1956), Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Soviet Union should be restored, and Germany should be re-divided. End of story.

  8. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the ballots themselves were fake.

    According to official data, 80% of the Crimean population voted to join Russia (out of 82% who came to the referendum, 96.7% voted to join Russia; those who were against secession did not come to the referendum). These results are confirmed by all surveys.

  9. Good Discussion on Crimea

    Re: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2019/03/russia-gained-annexing-crimea-190318190011084.html

    Mark Sleboda and Olexiy Haran go at it good. The kind of rock and sock ’em point-counterpoint exchange that’s typically lacking on the major 24/7 TV news channels. The other guest, Ilya Ponomarev, comes across as a quintessential traitor to his country.

    Haran’s slant is shown by his comparing Crimea’s reunification with Russia to Saddam’s seizure of Kuwait. Actually, a better comparison (relative to Crimea) can be made with what prompted Turkey to sever northern Cyprus from the rest of Cyprus – never minding how Kosovo was forcefully separated from Serbia. The Kuwaiti population didn’t embrace Iraq’s attempt at taking over their country in the way that most Crimeans (by a well over 2/3 margin) support their area’s reunified status with Russia.

    Contrary to Haran, some Crimean Tatar activists have engaged in post-Soviet era violence. It’s also inaccurate for Haran to suggest that the Crimean Tatars are more indigenous to Crimea than the Rus Slav (Russo-Ukrainian) presence there. Regarding that very point and some other tangential issues:


  10. In addition, Crimea was saved from the brutal agression suffered by Donbas. Western Ukranianas get furious because they were deprived from the pleasure of killing Crimeans.

  11. Cagey Beast says

    True and the Crimeans likely saw something similar in their immediate future. The Crimeans had time to watch the Euromaidan drama unfold and didn’t want the same thing coming their way. They knew Crimea — with its sui generis status and Russian treaty ports — was the jewel in the crown as far as the US/EU gang was concerned.

  12. With regard to “fake ballots”, I mean in black precincts in America. Blacks often have low turnout, but in national or state elections there may be incentives to increase the number of votes artificially. In poor, black urban areas, I find it believable that they might vote something like 99% one way – knowing their psychology. That’s about what is reported anyway.

    So, what I mean to say is not all these Saddam Hussein-type votes are necessarily phony, but arguably a population voting 99% one way in some areas is a serious and largely unacknowledged flaw in the American system, and America is so gung-ho on exporting both democracy and diversity, and also is critical of 99% votes – except its own.

    But I wouldn’t put Crimea in the Saddam category because of the abstainers. 80% is quite believable to me.

  13. AnonFromTN says

    Yep. Crimea deprived the scum from their favorite enjoyments: shooting unarmed people, raping defenseless women and girls, and looting. Bandrites are mad with rage.

  14. And for the Falkand Islands referendum in favor of continued British rule, no?

  15. For those who believe that that post-WWII borders are sacrosanct, your belief means that Crimea belongs to Russia (transferred to Ukraine by Khrushchev in 1956), Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Soviet Union should be restored, and Germany should be re-divided. End of story.

    No, because federations could break up. If they do break up, however, their internal (now international) borders should be respected–or so the Western logic goes.

    The Kosovo analogy is more apt in the sense that the West violated international law there and thus can’t complain about it if Russia does the same thing in Crimea.

  16. Thanks for highlighting my translations, Anatoly.

    If I may, I’d like to request that you cross out (or remove) the sentence “Although, what’s the proof that it’s a real document? How was it published?”

    And append (or replace) it with what I later posted in that thread:
    “The host site of that document, rnbo.gov.ua, is the homepage of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, currently led by the same Turchinov who was Acting President of Ukraine back then. That’s pretty convincing as proof that it’s legitimate.”

    And if anybody doubts my translations, they can use my method and check the document for themselves.

    I should also add that Turchinov’s quote at the end is full of logical inconsistencies if read carefully… For example, he insists that there were no local elites rebelling against his government; that it was only the Russian military… And in the very next breath, asks for suggestions on how to win back the Crimean elites.

    There seems to be some dvoeverie at play here, or am I missing something?

    I’d understand if this was a press conference, but it was an exclusive meeting between top officials.

  17. Also, another small correction regarding your introduction: this wasn’t actually only “the internal Ukrainian political discussions between Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and former SBU head Valentin Nalivaychenko”, but a meeting of the entire Ukrainian elite of the new Maidan government. Even Timoshenko was there and had a say – mainly, imploring the rest of them not to start a war because she didn’t think Ukraine could win it. Which was also what Yatsenyuk was saying.

    From the Ukrainian press reports about this document, it seems that the one who released it was Turchinov, because he believed that it showed him in a good light – taking charge and maintaining a hard anti-Russian line, compared to some of the others who were urging caution and voicing fears of failure.

  18. reiner Tor says

    However, some of those federations were federations in name only. The USSR, Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia didn’t start out as a bunch of independent states freely or even under some military pressure deciding to join together, but rather previously unitary states changing their constitutions under communist party rule to nominally become federations, with the borders often arbitrarily set.

    There are partial exceptions: Yugoslavia was arguably formed by Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, three previously existing states (of which Croatia just gained independence, Montenegro lost its independence, and the newly created Slovenia was added to the mix), and arguably the changing of the constitution by the king was unconstitutional and unpopular, hence illegitimate. But then the commies added Macedonia and Bosnia (though the latter had been a separate province before 1918, so at least the internal borders weren’t totally arbitrary, rather historical – it’s worth mentioning that the province had been created in a series of historical accidents and had zero legitimacy for the majority of its population before 1918), and it’s pretty obvious that the internal borders were illegitimate already at the time of their creation.

    With Czechoslovakia, the internal border was legitimate and historical, but then it was the most peaceful of all the breakups with exactly zero casualties or violence.

    With the USSR, the internal borders were usually set absolutely arbitrarily, with zero legitimacy, except in the case of the Baltic states. (The borders of Estonia and Latvia were even here changed arbitrarily, with both losing some smaller border areas to Russia, though arguably those areas had a mostly Russian population and the borders had been set arbitrarily after the Russian civil war anyway. So at least in the case of the Baltic states the internal borders were more or less legitimate.) Those borders were then even sometimes changed arbitrarily, especially in the case of Crimea, which is the border contested here.

    On the other hand, it’s difficult to see how the breakups of these federations – whether nominal or not – should or could not have been accepted by the international community. For example in the case of the USSR, the constituent republics declared their independence in mutual agreement with each other, then the Supreme Soviet of the USSR became permanently disabled after the Russian deputies were withdrawn, then the president declared that he would cease his activities as president, and lastly the last legislative body, the Council of The Republics declared its dissolution (and that of the country).

    So what could other countries do other than accept this reality? Start an embargo against these countries?

    Then once this precedent was accepted, they basically had to accept similar outcomes for other federations as well. It was way messier in Yugoslavia (and so wasn’t accepted for a while). Epigon complained that the Germans started the international recognition against the wishes of the Americans. I think it’s an oversimplification: American opinion was divided from the beginning, and so the Germans had some room for maneuver. But then a few months later the Americans recognized the independence of Bosnia as well (which was definitely not a German initiative), though in part it was driven by the (stupid) idea that it would stop the war already starting there. Anyway, Kosovo (and the NATO bombing) was totally unprecedented and a deliberate policy of choice. You cannot say it was a hastily decided blunder.

    Czechoslovakia already had multiple precedents and the acceptance of both constituent republics, so again, the international community had to accept it.

  19. Cagey Beast says

    Yes, that one too.