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Today, Russia's president Vladimir Putin was talking with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Putin referred to the situation in Ukraine's breakaway regions as a 'genocide'. What exactly is he referring to? This appears to be a very confused narrative, as the separatists which unilaterally declared the Donetsk and Luhansk republics are pro-Kremlin, and claim to be defending ethnic Russians.

Is this just a theatrical way of saying the separatists are losing to the Ukrainian military? Or are there specific independently verified events in the region which constitute a genocide against ethnic Russians? And if there is such violence, is there also genocidal activity against ethnic Ukrainians by ethnic Russians?

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9 Answers 9

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According to this BBC Article from December, Putin is equating anti-Russian discrimination as equivalent to genocide:

The Russian president's remarks on Thursday were aimed at addressing the issue of discrimination against Russian speakers beyond Russia's borders, many of whom live in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

He said that Russophobia was the first step towards genocide.

"We see and know what is happening in Donbas," he said, referring to the conflict zone. "It certainly looks like genocide."

Wikipedia asserts that there has been a significant decline in racial tolerance in Ukraine since the early 2000s, mainly against Russians, Jews, and Romani. But it seems unlikely this amounts to anything like an organized genocide, and certainly does not appear to be state-sanctioned or state-sponsored. Over the 3 year period considered there were 224 racially motivated attacks and 12 racially motivated murders. Compare to the Rohingya Genocide, which saw tens of thousands of racially motivated murders (and an equivalent number of racially motivated rapes) over a roughly 5 year period.

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    @grovkin: That's what I get for using Wikipedia... DO you have any more recent and credible info? Feb 16 at 1:14
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    I deleted a lot of comments because the discussion veered from the specific accusation of genocide this question is about to any and all things happening in Ukraine which could be interpreted as some kind of nazi-stuff. Please keep comments relevant to the answer.
    – Philipp
    Feb 16 at 15:13
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    @grovkin: If you look, you'll see I currently have a 48.6k rep, so i'm not really concerned about 9 upvotes. The fact is I haven't yet seen a reasonable or compelling reason to change what i wrote. if you'd like to recommend specific revisions or data sources that i should include, please feel free to do so, and i'll consider them. Otherwise you'll have to wait until i find better info on my own. I'm not sure what you think mu 'intent' was, or what 'false impression' i'm creating, but if you're concerned it's up to you to explain what you think the 'correct' impression should be. Feb 16 at 17:31
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    @grovkin: as far as I can tell (from my slow-paced look into the issue), the link i posted may be outdated, but the sense of it isn't incorrect. for instance, I found a 2020 Amnesty International Report that indicates some ongoing problems with discrimination, imprisonment, and torture, but nothing that rises to the level of programmatic genocide. I may work that (or something similar) into my answer as i go on, but i see no reason to remove essentially correct info on specious grounds. Feb 16 at 18:52
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    Russian-speaking schools in Ukraine were closed, and you cannot open the new ones this was a government decision.
    – exebook
    Feb 18 at 15:18
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This isn't new rhetoric, though I am not sure if Russia explicitly used the label genocide before. For example, in April 2021 Kremlin Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak hinted at having to intervene in Donbass drawing some comparison to Srebrenica (where a massacre in the 1995 was genocide). According to Interfax.ru:

"Сегодня все зависит от того, какой масштаб будет у пожара. Если там будет, как говорит наш президент, Сребреница, мы, видимо, будем вынуждены встать на защиту", - сказал он.

Google Translate gives the following English translation for that (improvement in square brackets provided by grovkin in a comment)

"Today everything depends on the scale of the fire. If there is, as our president says, Srebrenica, we will probably be forced to defend ourselves [come to their defense]," he said.

Going back further, in February of 2021 Interfax.ru reported on comments of press secretary Dmitry Peskov regarding President Putin's statements in defense of Donbass. According to Interfax, he clarified:

"Вы, наверное, обратили внимание целиком на ответ Путина. Говоря о том, что "Донбасс мы не бросим, несмотря ни на что", нужно обратить внимание на слова президента, что любые шаги имеют свои последствия и их нужно уметь прогнозировать заранее", - отметил Песков.

"А что касается слов "Донбасс мы не бросим", дело в том, что там живет много русских, русскоязычных. Это люди, которые, к сожалению, лишены социального обеспечения со стороны своего государства - Украины. Это люди, которым отказано в любых государственных услугах. Именно Россия организует один за другим конвои гуманитарной помощи, Россия будет продолжать это делать, потому что, если не Россия, то больше некому это будет сделать. Вот что имел в виду президент Путин", - пояснил Песков.

Google Translate provides the following translation:

"You probably paid full attention to Putin's answer. Saying that "We will not abandon Donbass, no matter what," you need to pay attention to the president's words that any steps have their consequences and you need to be able to predict them in advance, " Peskov noted.

"As for the words 'we will not leave Donbass', the fact is that many Russians, Russian-speaking people live there. These are people who, unfortunately, are deprived of social security from their state - Ukraine. These are people who are denied any state services. It is Russia that organizes humanitarian aid convoys one after another, Russia will continue to do this, because if not Russia, then there will be no one else to do it. That's what President Putin had in mind," Peskov explained.

It's hard to say what the purpose of these statements are. There do not seem to be many other countries which consider there to be a genocide in Ukraine. Seeing that [at the time of posting the first version of this answer] Russia hadn't intervened in Donbass publicly to counter the supposed genocide, it's hard to take seriously the claim that the situation is comparable to Srebrenica.

One speculation is that this rhetoric is used to create a pretext for some future Russian intervention. The Atlantic Council hosts a blog by Peter Dickinson who is the chief editor of Business Ukraine Magazine. That blog supports the pretext claim by the fact that Russia offers passports (i.e. the Russian nationality) to those in Eastern Ukraine. With many (new) Russian citizens in those territories, it may be more plausible for Russia to justify some future intervention.

Further evidence to support the speculation for that narrative is that Russia has used the 'citizen protection' story before. According to the Atlantic's 2014 article entitled 'How the Russian Constitution Justifies War in Ukraine':

While Russia is being heavily criticized by the West for its incursion into Ukraine, the Russian constitution does, in part, allow for this kind of action in a sovereign country.

Article 61, section 2 of the constitution allows defiance of international laws in this situation. It reads, in English:

"The Russian Federation shall guarantee its citizens defense and patronage beyond its boundaries."

This is the language the Russians evoked during the 2008 war with Georgia. And it's language that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov referenced Monday, saying, "We are talking here about protection of our citizens and compatriots, about protection of the most fundamental of the human rights — the right to live, and nothing more."

Russian authorities take the language of Article 61 very seriously and uncompromisingly. In 2008, Valery Zorkin, the chief justice of Russia's constitutional court, penned an op-ed on how Article 61 justified the Georgia invasion. He wrote (translated, via Google Translate, emphasis mine), "The government and the president of Russia had no other way than in the strongest terms to ensure compliance with Article 61 of the Constitution, which in black and white that the Russian Federation shall guarantee its citizens protection and patronage abroad."

But, as the Law Library of Congress explains in a legal analysis of the war, that argument is quickly undermined by this fact, a bit of geopolitical trapeze: "The large population of Russian nationals was created artificially by handing Russian citizenship to residents of Georgian separatist regions," the reports states.

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    "With Russia not having intervened in Donbass since" You must surely be joking. Feb 16 at 6:21
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    Last night, Andrei Kelin (Russian Ambassador to UK) said that "thousands and thousands" of people had died at the hands of Ukraine: channel4.com/news/… (about 6m11s) Feb 16 at 11:20
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    I think you should mention when you use biased sources. I know the Atlantic Council is basically part of NATO, but what about this "interfax.ru"?
    – Nobody
    Feb 16 at 12:26
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    @Nobody Does it matter whether a direct quote is pulled from a Russian source or not, especially when the quote itself is presented untranslated, in Russian? Feb 16 at 12:34
  • @VladimirF what I meant to say was that Russia [hadn't at the time] publicly gone into Donbass to stop what they now call and previously hinted at as genocide. If there really was a genocide, right across the Russian border in which Russian nationals were victims then Russia would have been a lot more vocal at least or they would have gone ahead with an invasion on their own. The fact that they're just using it in press statements makes me think it's just that, a media performance. Of course that doesn't mean they couldn't use the rhetoric for some future invasion, but that's more speculative.
    – JJJ
    Feb 16 at 18:26
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Edit 24 feb 2022: It has become clear that the use of the word 'genocide' should have been taken in the context of Putin planning an invasion of Ukraine.

Original answer: There is also a culture war of sorts in Ukraine. For example, in 2019 a law was passed that advances the use of Ukrainian language (I don't know the exact content of the law), and drew criticism from Russia.

The foreign ministry said Kiev was instilling an "atmosphere of resentment and fear" link

It is not as strong as claiming genocide, but the frame is similar and maybe not entirely untrue: Ukraine is trying to suppress the Russian language and culture within its borders.

Ukraine has been under heavy Russian influence for a long time and a majority of voters felt measures were necessary to boost the Ukrainian language and culture.

It is plausible that Putin's rhetoric should be taken in the context of the culture war and not the actual war.

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    This is plausible, except it seems like Putin was saying this was happening in the Russian-controlled breakaway regions of Ukraine, not in the Ukrainian-controlled parts. It doesn't seem like Ukraine would be able to suppress Russian language and culture in the parts of the country they don't control, but it's certainly possible that Putin doesn't see it that way
    – divibisan
    Feb 16 at 17:03
  • @divibisan you are right, i hadn't seen that. Maybe it just his way of saying 'confefe', who knows.
    – Ivana
    Feb 16 at 20:54
  • Maybe. It's possible that is what he meant, perhaps in the sense of "Ukraine is trying to do this, but we're resisting it" – I don't expect a high standard of precision from these kinds of statements from world leaders.
    – divibisan
    Feb 16 at 22:41
  • @divibisan they can suppress civilians themselves with constant shelling. And they do it all the time. Feb 17 at 10:54
  • And the Hungarian government has raised similar concerns: Why are PiS and Fidesz split over Russia (and Ukraine)?
    – Fizz
    Feb 17 at 17:50
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I spoke to someone in Crimea and the "genocide" is allegedly against the Russian language and people who speak it. See Wikipedia article on Ukrainization.

On September 25, 2017, a new law on education was signed by President (draft approved by Rada on September 5, 2017) which says that Ukrainian language is the language of education at all levels except for one or more subjects that are allowed to be taught in two or more languages, namely English or one of the other official languages of the European Union.

Note the year it was implemented - 2017 is after the annexation of Crimea and the signing of the Minsk II accords. At the time several countries criticized Ukraine for passing this law. Directly named are Poland, Hungary, Romania and Russia. All four countries have substantial minorities in Ukraine. However, of the four languages, Russian is the only one that is not an official language of the European Union.

Prior to the law being passed, a substantial amount of education in Ukraine was done in Russian (see tables). The amount of such Russian instruction has been decreasing, allegedly again because of the genocidal intention of the Ukrainian government. Quoting from the second source above, "The bill's language requirement would overturn a 2012 law passed under Moscow-friendly former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia and was deposed amid the Euromaidan protests. That legislation allowed for minorities to introduce their languages in regions where they represented more than 10 percent of the population."

Other examples:

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    "Ukrainization" doesn't seem that different from what's happening in Russia itself. In 2020, the new constitution names the Russians as the main "nation-defining" people, along with the Russian language. The ethnic minorities' right to learn, speak, and use their own languages may not have been banned per se, but the opportunities for them to do so have decreased. See, e.g., this report by the Council of Europe from 2018. Mar 21 at 15:39
  • Calling a law that requires you to use the country's language at school "genocide" seems very strecthed. Mar 23 at 6:31
  • @ErelSegal-Halevi it's a bit more than that (see the bullets at the end), although it comes down to your definition of 'genocide' and I imagine many people will still not consider all three bullets genocide.
    – Allure
    Mar 23 at 6:43
  • @Allure The "cide" in genocide means "to kill". All these laws against the Russian language do not kill a single person. If there were a death penalty for speaking in Russian, then this could be defined as genocide, but this is not the case. So there is no way these rules can be defined as "geno-cide". Mar 23 at 8:40
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    Note that similar stuff has been going on in Estonia e.g. loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2016-08-29/… but they realized how silly it is and now they're doing "the slow way" baltictimes.com/… Yet I don't hear Putin saying there's genocide over there. Or maybe he says it, but the Western press isn't headlining that.
    – Fizz
    Mar 26 at 14:23
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The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) provides definitions of genocide that may not necessarily correspond with the past examples of state-sanctioned actions that most people immediately call to mind when they hear the term "genocide". Notably, "genocide" does not imply state actions, but can include state inaction. Also, the following are perhaps notable and allow some flexibility of interpretation:

...
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated 
    to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
...
... committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, 
    a national, ethnic, racial or religious group...

It is possible that Putin is referring to some real or imagined goings on in which the ethnically Russian residents of parts of Ukraine are being mistreated by their neighbors in ways that are so egregious that they are likely to result in this Russian ethnic group ceasing to exist.

What specific activities these might be, I'm not sure, but I suspect that he is not insinuating that ethnic Russians are being rounded up and executed.

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In a kind of normal meaning, this word was used for building serious death factories like Auschwitz and other actions the like, after that at most few percent of the those under the genocide remain alive. It has been avoided to use this word even for naming the massive deportations to Siberia under the reign of Stalin. Even that much was seen by some as "double genocide view" insulting nations that suffered the real genocide in its full and complete severity. See the double genocide theory. The word simply cannot be used in the Ukraine context under its original strong meaning.

Hence most likely a "genocide" is just in the list of the typical propaganda words that can be poured on the head of the opponent without any particular meaning, and was many times. I cannot really believe there is an extermination camp like Auschwitz there just for Russians running at full capacity now. Probably the word "holocaust" comes next.

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    Unfortunately this isn't a helpful answer, as it doesn't cite any reputable sources or attempt to explain complex evidence. Personal opinions, what you or I believe, aren't constructive here. Feb 18 at 11:44
  • There was a big discussion once if even Stalin's deportations could be called "genocide". This word originally has the meaning so strong that here is definitely used without any meaning.
    – eee
    Feb 18 at 13:36
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Do not try to find some hidden meaning. When Putin says "genocide" - he means exactly that "genocide" - "people+murder" - targeted murders of civilians who Ukrainian nationalistic forces perceive as enemy.

Putin means a targeted warfare against civilian population of breakaway republics. Ukrainian military forces and neo-nazi irregulars constantly shell civilian targets, abduct and torture "enemy" civilians. Some of those events were so egregious that caused even Ukrainian own prosecution to act: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Дело_о_преступлениях_батальона_«Торнадо», but generally Ukrainian government turns a blind eye to it.

SKR routinely releases reports about batches of unmarked civilian graves found in conflict zone and here's a fresh one dated 16th February 2022: https://sledcom.ru/news/item/1656580/?print=1. It alone talks about at least 295 dead, but total numbers are much higher.

You may heard Ukraine often mentioning number of casualties of conflict - over 10k, close to 14k, trying to somehow blame them on Russia. What they generally fail to mention than if you look at UN reports of who exactly those casualties are, largest part are civilians on LNR/DNR side, killed by Ukrainian fire.

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    Can you summarise and link to a specific UN report, to clearly evidence the claim about breakdown and responsibility of deaths in the region? Feb 17 at 12:14
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    According the UN report, From April 2014 to the end of 2018 (...) approximately 3,300 of the victims were civilians, while 4,000 were Ukrainian military and 5,500 – Russia-backed armed militants (unian.info/war/…). This contradicts your last paragraph.
    – Evargalo
    Feb 17 at 16:09
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    @Evargalo looking at the last ten reports, while the majority of casualties are combatants, it does seem that more civilian casualties are attributed to government forces' actions than to their opponents'. Link to the latest report of UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. Feb 21 at 8:15
  • @DanilaSmirnov : this is an interesting consideration (yet far from justifying an accusation of "genocide") that might figure in another answer, but I am afraid the author of this one was following an agenda, not posting in good faith, and will not retract his incorrect assumption ("largest part are civilians")...
    – Evargalo
    Feb 21 at 8:41
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This is refering to mass graves discovered in Donbas. This reference seems to describe the situation good. Here some quote of the esential part:

Russia’s Investigative Committee has said on Wednesday that it opened a criminal case after discovering mass graves of civilians in Donbas. In a statement, the Russian Investigative Committee said, “A criminal case was initiated on the discovery of mass graves of civilians in the territory of Donbas under part 1 of article 356 of the Russian Criminal Code — ill-treatment of the civilian population, the use of means and methods in an armed conflict prohibited by an international treaty”.

It further added that remains of at least “295 civilians” who died “as a result of indiscriminate shelling by Ukrainian armed forces in 2014 were exhumed from them. It is already known that among the remains there are bodies of women of different ages”. Sputnik stated that from August 2021 to October 2021, at least five spontaneous mass graves were discovered in the village of Slavyanoserbsk, in the residential area of Sokogorovka Pervomaisk, the village of Vidnoe-1 near Lugansk and also on the outskirts of the village of Verkhneshevyrevka, Krasnodonsky district.

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    Republic TV is not a credible source and regularly traffics in false claims and fake news. Can you find a more credible citation for this claim?
    – divibisan
    Mar 16 at 23:40
  • @divibisan Since every russian sorce is fake news for you, can´t find anithing more credible one then this.
    – convert
    Mar 16 at 23:46
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    It's not "for me" – If a source regularly makes things up, or says things that are objectively not true, no one should take the claims they make as true without further confirmation. Are there mass graves in Donbas? If there are, then you should be able to find a source that isn't just parroting what the Russian government says. If the only people saying these things are people who lie regularly, have a lot to gain from people believing them, and who don't provide any outside evidence, then its very likely that the claims are not true and you should be very careful about believing them
    – divibisan
    Mar 16 at 23:53
  • @divibisan This is not about believing, western media has also lied about Iraq war for example, so if quoting media thathave lied become prohibited, there´ll be no media you can quote. Also the question is about a claim by Putin, so already this fact makes it russian propaganda to some content.
    – convert
    Mar 17 at 0:02
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    All people make mistakes and get things wrong. The difference between a credible source and an non-credible one is that they take care to prevent mistakes (fact-checking, relying on multiple sources, toning down claims that can't be fully supported) and correct themselves when they get things wrong. Even with the most credible sources, it's good to look for multiple, independent sources, but if the source is not-credible, then you really need to do so.
    – divibisan
    Mar 17 at 0:28
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This is not perhaps what Putin meant with it, but why he used the word at all. Hope it is still on-topic for the question then. There are two reasons for the word "genocide" perhaps:

  • This statement about genocide may bear some truth, not in the sense that it is happening, but in the sense that it could happen since the Ukrainians could take revenge on the forced Russian mass immigration into the area in earlier times so that the Russians in the Ukraine (also civilians) are really in danger now. If you cannot fight Russia on the military level, there could arise a civil revenge, This of course for a reason. There was a kind of genocide that the Soviet-Russians committed on Ukrainian cossacks during Holodomor which then thinned out the lands so much that Russians could settle. And even before Holodomor, in 1920, those Ukrainian cossacks who had fought against the Bolsheviks and who had fled to the Russian cossacks in the east had to flee from the Bolshevik invadors. And in even earlier times, there were also few cases when Ukrainian cossacks had fought against the Russians (mostly, they were loyal!) and had to flee from their land afterwards (without the Cossacks, Russia would not be as big as it is now anyway, they had a big share). Putting all of this together, the events now seem like a Stalinist long-term plan that thrives to be fulfilled now.
  • Saying such a thing is then also a rhetorical trick to put in a very high claim, turning around the (hi-)story by 180 degrees (since it was Soviet Russia that enforced Holodomor on the Ukrainian Cossacks), so that even after a discussion you still do not reach the original direction any more. It is like when the buyer bids a very cheap price while the seller demands the right and fair price at first, and they might meet in the middle, they will perhaps not end up at the higher entry price anymore. Same with lawsuits asking for many millions to get at least a share of it.

And if there is such violence, is there also genocidal activity against ethnic Ukrainians by ethnic Russians?

At least there have been such threats in the historical past, which makes it politically relevant for now as well, see the following.

History and end

I took this from another question that was closed, Can the aggressions of Russia against Ukrainian territory be understood in a politico-historical light?, therefore, it does not fully answer the question here in each sentence. It just gives more grip to the points above.

From searching for a map of "Moscow Russian expansion", you find out quickly that it all started from tiny Moscow area, taken from here but you will find many more of course.

enter image description here

Cossacks

Here is a longer read-through of the cossaks wiki, TL/DR. Read just the wrap up at the end.

The cossacks were a name for a kind of border police of the Slavic Russian-Ukrainian area. They were Ukrainians or Russians, but those cossacks that are relevant for the Ukraine nowadays are of course the Ukrainian cossacks.

  • Cossacks may play a key role in marking Russia as the main aggressor with too expansionist aims and Crimea only as a satellite area since the cossacks that are relevant lived in rural Ukraine and eastwards around the Ukraine (Don and Kuban) where nowadays are Russians.

Map of the "Wild fields" / Wilderness which was colonized by cossacks in the 15th century. Map is linked on the main wiki page about cossacks.

enter image description here

Wild Fields / wilderness area (nowadays eastern Ukraine):

According to Ukrainian historian Vitaliy Shcherbak the term [Wildfields] appeared sometime in the 15th century for territory between the Dniester and mid-Volga when colonization of the region by Zaporozhian Cossacks started.2 Shcherbak notes that the term's contemporaries, such as Michalo Lituanus,3 Blaise de Vigenère, and Józef Wereszczyński [pl; ru],5 wrote about the great natural riches of the steppes and the Dnieper basin.2

For centuries, the region was only sparsely populated by various nomadic groups such as Scythians, Alans, Huns, Bulgars, Pechenegs, Kipchaks, Turco-Mongols, Tatars and Nogais.

Read the full text about Cossacks, also take a short glimpse at a famous Russian cossack Yemelyan Pugachev to see that not only Ukrainian cossacks play a role here. Russian Cossacks would normally have to have had their own homeland in the east of Ukraine as they had it from 1918 to 1920, but Bolshevik Russia took it back and took their independence.

  • By early 1920, the Bolsheviks had overrun most of the Kuban region and the soldiers of the Volunteer Army [the Volunteer Army that was fighting against the Bolsheviks], along with their families had fled to Crimea.

From Kuban cossacks

where you also find the map:

enter image description here

And those Ukrainian cossacks on the Ukraine side who lived in the rural areas and who were not loyal to Russia had to flee to the Russian cossacks or starved or froze to death during Holodomor later, so that Russians could settle the area.

Among others, from the cossacks wiki:

The Zaporizhian Cossacks became particularly strong in the first quarter of the 17th century under the leadership of hetman Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny, who launched successful campaigns against the Tatars and Turks. Tsar Boris Godunov had incurred the hatred of Ukrainian Cossacks by ordering the Don Cossacks to drive away from the Don all the Ukrainian Cossacks fleeing the failed uprisings of the 1590s. This contributed to the Ukrainian Cossacks' willingness to fight against him.[36] In 1604, 2000 Zaporizhian Cossacks fought on the side of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and their proposal for the Tsar (Dmitri I), against the Muscovite army.[37] By September 1604, Dmitri I had gathered a force of 2500 men, of whom 1400 were Cossacks. Two thirds of these "cossacks", however, were in fact Ukrainian civilians, only 500 being professional Ukrainian Cossacks.[38] On July 4, 1610, 4000 Ukrainian Cossacks fought in the Battle of Klushino, on the side of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. They helped to defeat a combined Muscovite-Swedish army and facilitate the occupation of Moscow from 1610 to 1611, riding into Moscow with Stanisław Żółkiewski.[39] --> This shows that Ukraine and cossacks are strongly linked, that theses cossacks also fought the Tatars and Turks, and that they tried to get their own independent homeland.

...

[Black Sea, Azov and Danubian Sich Cossacks:] But the majority of Zaporizhian Cossacks, particularly the Ukrainian-speaking Eastern Orthodox, remained loyal to Russia despite Sich destruction. This group became known as the Black Sea Cossacks. Both Azov and Black Sea Cossacks were resettled to colonize the Kuban steppe, a crucial foothold for Russian expansion in the Caucasus. --> Cossacks helped Russia in expanding into the Caucasus

...

[-- Russian Cossacks: ] Cossacks served as border guards and protectors of towns, forts, settlements, and trading posts. They performed policing functions on the frontiers, and also came to represent an integral part of the Russian army. In the 16th century, to protect the borderland area from Tatar invasions, Cossacks carried out sentry and patrol duties, guarding against Crimean Tatars and nomads of the Nogai Horde in the steppe region.

The most popular weapons of the Cossack cavalrymen were the sabre, or shashka, and the long spear.

From the 16th to 19th centuries, Russian Cossacks played a key role in the expansion of the Russian Empire into Siberia (particularly by Yermak Timofeyevich), the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Cossacks also served as guides to most Russian expeditions of civil and military geographers and surveyors, traders, and explorers. In 1648, the Russian Cossack Semyon Dezhnyov discovered a passage between North America and Asia. Cossack units played a role in many wars in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including the Russo-Turkish Wars, the Russo-Persian Wars, and the annexation of Central Asia.

...

[-- Don Cossacks, east of Ukrainian border:] The gene pool comprises mainly the East Slavic component, with a significant Ukrainian contribution. There is no influence of the peoples of the Caucasus; and the steppe populations, represented by the Nogais, have only limited impact. --> Ukraine and cossacks are strongly linked

...

[-- Kuban Cossacks, southeast of Ukrainian border, directly touching Crimea:] are Cossacks who live in the Kuban region of Russia. Although many Cossack groups came to inhabit the Western North Caucasus, most of the Kuban Cossacks are descendants of the Black Sea Cossack Host (originally the Zaporozhian Cossacks), and the Caucasus Line Cossack Host. A distinguishing feature is the Chupryna or Oseledets hairstyle, a roach haircut popular among some Kubanians. This tradition traces back to the Zaporizhian Sich. --> one could guess that Crimea was rather Cossackian than Russian or Ukrainian?

...

In late 1943, the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories and Wehrmacht headquarters issued a joint proclamation promising the Cossacks independence once their homelands were “liberated” from the Red Army. --> there is a homeland that was ruled by expansionist Russia

...

[Cossacks in the Soviet Union:] The Bolsheviks embarked on a genocidal policy of “de-Cossackization”, intended to end the Cossack threat to the Soviet regime. This was pursued through resettlement, widespread executions of Cossack veterans from the White armies, and favoring the outlanders within the Cossack hosts. Ultimately, the de-Cossackization campaign led to a renewed rebellion among Cossacks in Soviet-occupied districts, and produced a new round of setbacks for the Red Army in 1919.

...

In 1932–1933, another famine, known as the Holodomor, devastated Ukraine and some parts of South Russia, causing a population decline of about 20–30%. While urban areas were less affected, the decline was even higher in the rural areas, populated largely by ethnic Cossacks.

Robert Conquest estimates the number of famine-related deaths in the Northern Caucasus at about one million.[94] Government officials expropriated grain and other produce from rural Cossack families, leaving them to starve and die.[95] Many families were forced from their homes in the severe winter and froze to death. --> Many Cossacks lived eastwards from eastern Ukraine

Cossack wrap up:

The cossack history shows how expansionist Russia used the cossack's help for its expansion only to deport, suppress and diminish them in Soviet time (“de-Cossackization”, Holodomor). Those cossacks who had fought for their own homeland which the Germans had promised were also deported to die. Since Russia is a deeply expansionist state from the start and since Cossacks were the rural population of Ukrainia way before the Russians came, it is perhaps not a question of Crimea being historically Russian, but about whether this border region and eastern Ukraine would not rather be land of the cossacks, which is likely in the Ukrainian area where now Russians live. Anything else accepts the cruelties of the Stalinist Regime.

Crimea / Eastern Ukraine wrap up

Having Crimea still as Ukrainian would not bring back those Cossacks, though, when mainly Russians live there nowadays. It is politically not realistic to resettle Russians of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea elsewhere nowadays unless Ukrainians start a civil war against them (which then would likely become war against Russia). Weighing everything up, it comes all down to whether the expansionist Russia with the Stalinist repressions are bad enough to be guilty up to nowadays or not, and this question does not need to be answered. The question is already politically decided by the mere political and military power of Russia. Seems like only the NATO is more powerful which then makes it clear why Ukraine tries to become its member.

Full history of Crimea in keywords

See History of Crimea for details, list of cultures:

  • Yamnaya culture(about 3300-2600 BC), ~half DNA in Russians and Ukrainians:

Per Haak et al. (2015), the Yamnaya contribution in the modern populations of Eastern Europe ranges from 46.8% among Russians to 42.8% in Ukrainians..

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Then Tauri and Scythians, Greeks, "Roman Empire" (Crimea was invaded or occupied successively by the Goths (AD 250), the Huns (376), the Bulgars (4th–8th century), the Khazars (8th century). Crimean Gothic ... spoken by the Crimean Goths in some isolated locations in Crimea until the late 18th century), Rus' and Byzantium, Mongol invasion, Ottomans / Tatars, Cossacks, Ottomans / Tatars, Russians / Greeks / Tatars, Stalin repressions against Tatars + Greeks, Kuban cossacks, Soviet Russian settlement.

End

The statement on genocide may aim at blurring the genocide of Soviet-Russia on the Ukrainian cossacks during Holodomor (and other suppressions during earlier cases when those Ukrainian cossacks that were not loyal to Russia had to flee). Talking about "genocide" makes the highest possible claim in favor of the Russians, as history was the other way round: Ukrainian cossacks were those that suffered. Talking about risks of "genocide" is still not just a saying out of thin air since with this historically grown background, it may well happen that civilians of both parties are really in danger, and the ethnic Russians much more than the ethnic Ukrainians, in a hidden civil war against the civilians which would not be astonishing. Perhaps, the only way to reach security against such far-right threats against civilians is to fully separate Ukrainians from Russians - something that seems to and needs to happen the more both parties get alienated from each other.

4
  • I do not know why this gets downvoted so heavily, and without anyone saying why. This answer is not saying that there is a genocide on the Russians (genocide is a much broader word anyway), it only says that there might come such a thing since the Ukrainians suffered from genocide before and could see the time to pay it back. This answer does not support Russia, but shows that there is a risk of civil attacks against Russians with Holodomor as the historical reason, Holodomor can be the driver. This would also not be "genocide" of Russians then, it is just the reason for the word at all.
    – ETathome
    Feb 26 at 9:58
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    The answer was likely downvoted because, although highly detailed (which is great), it seemed to meander away from the actual question, providing historical context which was at best incidental and not causal. Basically, most of the answer isn't actually answering the question. It's providing a context which doesn't look relevant. Mar 11 at 10:44
  • @inappropriateCode Thanks for your feedback. "it does not look relevant" is only for those who do not know about it. Talking about genocide against the Russians when Ukraine instead calls for more attention of the Ukrainian genocide by Soviet-Russia in the public talk and campaigns since the Crimea occupation is most likely not by accident, but a chosen wording by Putin and instead of "not relevant" rather the reason to use the word. And this then an answer to the question. And "highly detailed": it is a copy paste summary from wikipedia since most do not take the time to read through wiki.
    – ETathome
    Mar 12 at 11:19
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    I think it's possible to summarise stuff like Stalin's repatriation of the cossacks, the holodomor, etc, concisely, and put in links to wikipedia or other reputable news agencies for further reading. I answered one question RE oligarchs, recently, which was well received. Maybe the way I have structured this could be a helpful example. Mar 12 at 12:04

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