The Russian lower house, called the “State Duma,” seems prepared to seize this unique historic opportunity and reinstate Crimea with its ancient Greek name, following the same decision made by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great in 1783, when the Peninsula was annexed to the Russian Empire. The symbolism is by no means accidental.
According to the Russian newspaper “Izvestia,” far-right LDPR MP Mikhail Degtyarev proposed that the Peninsula should be renamed to Tauris or Taurica, which would bear more resemblance to the historic path of the region.
The Russian MP mentioned that giving one of the proposed names to the region — the name “Crimea” is attributed to the Tatars — would also be in accordance to the message of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who asked for recognition on the Peninsula of three languages; Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar.
This particular view was also endorsed by the MP of the current ruling centrist party “United Russia” in the State Duma, Alexei Zhuravlev, who however insisted on leaving the people of Crimea to decide.
The leader of the Kuban Cossacks, Anatoly Mariette, also positioned himself in favor of the name change. “Crimea is a name of Tatar origin and stands as a symbol of 300 years of slavery, when the Tatars invaded the Russian land and hundreds of thousands of prisoners were transported to distant places,” he said.
The Crimean Peninsula was named Taurica (or Tauris) by the Greeks long before the 6th century BC, when the first Greek colonies were created there. According to Greek mythology, the Tauri were the people to whom Iphigeneia was sent after the goddess Artemis rescued her from her father Agamemnon, who was about to sacrifice her to appease Artemis. There, the young woman became a priestess at the goddess’s temple.
The Crimean region has been conquered and has become a colony for many historic empires and nomadic tribes throughout history. Scythians, Greeks, Byzantines and Genoese were among the people who fought over the influence on the region, while nomadic tribes such as the Goths and the Huns also tried to conquer the area.
The Peninsula was conquered mostly by the Turk-Mongols, who assimilated with the Turkic tribes already residing there. In 1441 they formed the “Crimean Khanate.” The Turkish-speaking natives are known today as the Crimean Tatars.
In 1774, after a peace treaty was signed between Russia and the Ottoman Empire on the war in which the Ottomans lost, Crimea was annexed to the Russian Empire and organized by Catherine the Great into the “Taurida Governorate.”
The region stayed under Russian authority until the 1950s, when USSR leader of Ukrainian origin Nikita Khrushchev annexed the Peninsula to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
In 1991, a referendum with an approval rating of 93.26 percent made Crimea an autonomous region within the USSR. As promised, though, a referendum on the secession of the region from Ukraine was upheld, thus betraying the Crimean people.
Today, it is estimated that 97 percent of the Crimean population is Russian-speaking, around 1,200,000 (58.3 percent) identify as Russians, 500,000 (24 percent) as Ukrainians and 12 percent as Tartars.