How the Russians became the largest ethnic group in Crimea, in a haunting picture

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Gus Lubin

A Crimean Tatar holds the Tatar flag during a protest against the break-up of the country outside Simferopol, Ukraine. AP Photo / Vadim Ghirda

Crimea may have a predominantly Russian population today, but it was not always so.

The dark history of ethnic cleansing on the peninsula can be seen in the following graphic from Reuters.

The graph shows a collapse of the population of native Crimean Tatars from 34.1% in 1987 to zero in 1959, marking a brutal harassment that led to the forced deportation of the entire population by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1944, with nearly half of the death in the process. It took decades for the population to rise to 12% in 2001.

As the population of Ukrainians and especially Russians grew, the percentage of the population falling into an unlisted category also fell from over 20% in 1921 to around 5% in 1959. This was a consequence of the deportation of Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and other groups.

With a story like this – and an equally tragic story across Ukraine – it’s not hard to see why many say it’s unfair not to mention that it’s illegal to force Crimeans to organize a referendum on accession to Russia.

Population graph of Crimea


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