Crimea in Turmoil : The February Jinx


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MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           MARCH 04 , 2014           00.30 A.M.

Never in my wildest dreams I had imagined that one day , I would be sitting in Mumbai and writing a blog about Crimea. I know this name ” Crimea ” will not ring a familiar bell for majority of my countrymen. But students of world history know about Crimea . I , as a student of history , have read about Crimean War [ 1853 – 1856 ] in detail . Much before World war I [ 1914 – 1918 ] , French Empire , Ottoman Empire , British Empire and Kingdom of Sardinia fought a bloody and fierce battle with Russian Empire over the right of Christians in Holy Land . Allied forces fought for Roman Catholics and Russian Empire fought for Orthodox Church . Crimean war , fought between October 1853 to February 1856 , resulted in the victory for Allied Forces and finally Treaty of Paris was signed between the victors and the vanquished .

Crimean War had far-reaching effect in the history of mankind. It will aways be remembered for Florence Nightingale and her pioneering service for the wounded in the war . Her work heralded the modern nursing methods . It is a little known fact that Mahatma Gandhi won Victoria Cross for his services for the British Empire during Crimean War . It is also a fact that in the aftermath of Crimean War , because of heavy financial crisis and huge debt , which he was unable to pay , Alexander II , the Czar of Russia sold Alaska region of Russian Empire to U.S.A. Alaska was admitted as the 49th state of USA on January 3, 1959 .

As a student of history I have read about Yalta Conference of February 1945 , a.k.a. Crimea Conference , and many more pages of Crimean history during World War II . By strange quirk of history and unlike Crimean War , British Empire and Russian Empire were not at loggerheads during World War II but they were fighting together as the Allied Forces along with United States of America . Franklin D. Roosevelt of U.S.A. , Winston Churchill of Great Britain and Joseph Stalin of Russia assembled at Yalta , a port city of Crimea and discussed and decided Europe’s Post – War reorganization .

Yalta Summit-1

Yalta Summit-2

Churchill , Roosevelt & Stalin at Yalta Conference

So when I read about the recent turmoil in Crimea , I was alarmed and concerned . I just wrote and posted a blog about Ukraine . I was celebrating the success of nationalist forces of Ukraine and the fall of pro – Russian Ukrainian President and a tyrant Viktor Yanukovich . But alas , it was short – lived . Viktor Yanukovich took refuge in Moscow and Russian forces slyly entered into the Simferopol , the capital of Crimea , and took control of the airport and other vital government installations .

Map - 3

Map of Crimea

Map - 1

Map of Crimea

Crimea is a peninsula and is attached to Ukraine by a narrow stretch of land which is at places not more than 5 km in width. For centuries Russian Empire was struggling to have a foothold in the warm water of Black Sea for her navy. With the decline of Ottoman Empire , and after the end of Crimean War , Russian Empire annexed Ukraine and Crimea and these regions first became part of Russian Empire and later on a Soviet Republic of USSR [ Union of Soviet Socialist Republic ] . Ukrainian Cossacks and Ukrainian Tatars [ Muslims ] resented the Russian sovereignty but to no avail . From 1922 to 1945 Crimea remained a part of USSR as the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic . On February 19 , 1954 , the Presidium of Supreme Soviet of USSR transferred Crimean region to the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic . And thus from 1945 to 1991 , Crimea remained a part of Ukraine .

As I have stated in my earlier blog about Ukraine , in 1991 USSR was disintegrated and Ukraine , along with 14 other republics became independent country . In 1991 Crimea became a part of Ukraine as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea .

This is the brief history of Crimea . Things started changing fast and situation became fluid after the fall of pro – Russian president of Ukraine , Viktor Yanukovich . On February 26 , 2014 pro – Russia and pro – Ukraine protesters clashed in front of the parliament building in Simferopol .

Protesters with Russian Tricolour in Crimea

Protesters with Russian Tricolour in Crimea

Russian parliament granted President Vladimir Putin the authority to use military force in Ukraine . And because of his unbridled ambition to regain the lost glory of Russian Empire , President Vladimir Putin wants to exercise this new-found authority . He simply forgets that in 1994 Russia backed the legal status of Crimea as part of Ukraine and signed a treaty with United States of America , United Kingdom and France and pledged to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine . This treaty was ratified in May 1997 and Russia finally accepted Ukraine’s present borders and Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea and Sevastopol .

He is emboldened by the fact that Ethnic Ukrainians make up only 24 % of the population , Ethnic Russian 58 % and Ethnic Tatar Muslims 12 % . And this 58 % Russian population is urging Russia to intervene and take control of Crimea and govern Crimea . They was to secede from Ukraine . And Vladimir Putin is more than willing to oblige .

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Ukraine is in trouble . Crimea is in turmoil . Jinx of February seems to be working again in the troubled history of Crimea . Have a look :

Crimean War : February 1856

Yalta Conference : February 1945

Crimea Became Part of Ukraine : February 1954

Crimean Occupation by Russia : February 2014

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On behalf of all the students and staff of VIDUR Acting Institute , I express my solidarity with the Ukrainian people , with the Crimean people .

VIDUR Editing Studio , VIDUR Club and VIDUR Theatre would also like to wish them well and pray for their glorious future ahead .

[ All the dates and certain historical facts about Crimea and Ukraine have been taken from Wikipedia and are quoted here in this blog . I express my gratitude . ]

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Svetlana Alliluyeva : From Russia With Love


Svetlana Alliluyeva

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           JANUARY 14 , 2012           02.55 A.M.

Svetlana Alliluyeva , daughter of Soviet Communist dictator Josef Stalin , died on November 22 , 2011 at the age of 85 . She died in Wisconsin , U. S. A.

I missed the news then . When I was going through the bunch of old news papers few days ago , I came across a small news item about her death in the Times of India . This innocuous news of Svetlana’s death brought back some forgotten memories . It opened a dog – ear – page of my book of life  . Some sepia – toned photos rushed to the firmament of my being .

The year was 1967 . I passed High School and went to Allahabad for further studies . In the Government Inter College of Allahabad , I was slowly opening up . I was curious to know everything . I wanted to know all the aspects of the world and I used to devour knowledge of every kind .

News papers of 1966 were full of  the Svetlana episode . Svetlana left USSR [ Union of Soviet Socialist Republic ] in 1966 , and came to India with the ashes of her third husband Brijesh Singh , a scion of Kalakankar state in Uttar Pradesh . Indian news papers were full of her stories and every one was anxious and curious to know more about her .

Svetlana Alliluyeva

Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva , youngest child and only daughter of Josef Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva was raised by a nanny . Her mother died when Svetlana was only 6 years old . According to Soviet premiere Nikita Khrushchev , Stalin was an abusive husband . It is rumoured that Nadezhda Alliluyeva committed suicide due to the atrocities of Stalin . According to some , she was killed by Stalin himself .

Josef Stalin

Stalin & Svetlana

Svetlana married twice but her marriages were not successful . Stalin died in 1953 . Svetlana was 27 years old then . After her father’s death , she worked as a lecturer of history and political thought in Moscow . Apart from Russian , she was fluent in German , French and English .

Svetlana & Stalin

Svetlana met Brijesh Singh , her third husband in a hospital in 1963 . She was admitted for a minor surgery and Brijesh Singh , a scion of Kalakankar state of Uttar Pradesh , was very ill at that time and was admitted for a major operation . They met , fell in love and love blossomed when they shifted to a resort near Black Sea . Couple returned to Moscow in 1965 but were not allowed to marry .  Singh died in 1966 and with his ashes , Svetlana left USSR [ Union of Soviet Socialist Republic ] in 1966 , and came to India with the ashes to immerse it in the Holy Ganga .

She stayed in Kalakankar Palace for 8 months and wanted to take asylum in India . It was refused and she approached U. S. A. embassy in New Delhi and was granted U. S. citizenship .


सैकत शैय्या पर दुग्ध धवल ,
तन्वंगी गंगा ग्रीष्म विरल ,
बैठीं हैं शांत क्लांत निश्चल ||
कालाकांकर का राज भवन ……..

I still remember these lines of famous Hindi poet Sumitra Nandan Pant . Kalakankar was etched in my memory .  Like the other fellow students of my age , I was aghast that the Congress government of Indira Nehru Gandhi didn’t grant asylum to Svetlana . Majority of students of Allahabad University were critical of the Congress government’s decision .

She got asylum in United States of America and later on became a citizen also . Later on she wrote a best-selling book ; ” Twenty Letters To A Friend ” and married there and had a daughter , Olga .

Cover of

Cover of Twenty Letters to a Friend

She moved back to Soviet Union in 1980 and again returned to U. S. A. within a year . Slowly she moved away from the front pages of the news papers . Slowly her memory faded .

Last week , when I read about her death . flood of memories gushed to my mind and I started remembering those days of 1966 , when Svetlana came to India seeking asylum and was denied that . We suspected that the Congress government refused asylum to her under pressure from government of the then USSR .

With her death , a forgotten and faded chapter of my dog – eared book of life is lost forever .

Svetlana Alliluyeva

Farewell Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva ! May you rest in peace !

I am sorry that my country , which is famous for not refusing shelter to anyone , failed for the first time . I am sorry that a long tradition of granting shelter to the shelter – seekers was broken for the first time during the tenure of Indira Nehru Gandhi of the Congress , The Indian National Congress .

I was ashamed then and I am saddened now .

VIDUR

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