A reply to Steve Saideman’s piece “In Crimea’s sham referendum, all questions lead to ‘yes’,” from David Carment.
The opening paragraph in this piece is simply wrong. Crimeans will have the choice of joining Russia or remaining an autonomous republic within Ukraine as per the 1992 constitution. To suggest that Crimeans are choosing between secession or irredenta indicates a poor reading of the situation since it is not even close to what the referendum is asking voters. A direct translation of the referendum questions from Ukrainian and Russian to English confirms the choice is autonomy within Ukraine as per the 1992 constitution (Crimea is already an autonomous region with Ukraine) or joining Russia contra Saideman.
There is not a single reliable source that states that the second question pertains to full independence or secession. Even the Kyiv entry the author provides in Ukrainian states the choice as follows:
- Option 1: In favor of reuniting Crimea with Russia as a federal subject of the Russian Federation.
- Option 2: In favor of restoring the 1992 Constitution of Crimea while maintaining the status of Crimea as being part of Ukraine.
Background: In January 1991, through a referendum, Crimea regained its status as an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, which gave extended rights to the peninsula. On 26 February 1992, the Verkhovniy Sovet proclaimed self -government as the Republic of Crimea (adding a few days later a paragraph “as a part of independent Ukraine”).
During this period, using the weakness of the central Ukrainian government and relying on Russian support, the Crimean local elite voted for its first Crimean constitution on May 5, 1992 and within a few months the position of the President of Crimea was established. In the summer of 1992, an all-Crimea referendum was held and majority of the population voted in support of the new Crimean Constitution. This is the point of reference the question of March 16 will consider.