Did sociology surveys provide cover for Vladimir Putin to incorporate Crimea? Here is one source:
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the final decision on the inclusion of Crimea and Sevastopol into Russia was made in regards to a sociological poll conducted in Crimea.
And another source:
“Russia did not prepare to incorporate Crimea, the decision on the republic’s accession to Russia was made only after data were received about the mood of local residents”, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with activists of the All-Russian People’s Front on Thursday…
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, signed reunification deals with Russia on March 18 after a referendum two days earlier in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.
While the international community is not likely to accept this reasoning, it does highlight an interesting issue: what happens when surveys show that people in one country would prefer to be in another? What then happens to national boundaries if there is strong public opinion to leave the current country? Perhaps the big difference here is that the people of Crimea didn’t revolt against Ukraine and seek to join Russia; Putin stepped in and pushed for this. But, there are likely lots of people groups in the world who might prefer to have their own country or to leave their current nation.
Another question might be regarding how this survey was conducted. I vaguely remember hearing similar figures that many in eastern Ukraine consider themselves to be Russian rather than Ukrainian while figures in the western side of the country were nearly opposite. How good are these sociological results?
Maps today are updated often so Russia’s actions in Crimea have left cartographers with a decision to make:
Online mapping tools from Google and Bing, as well as Mapquest, all list Crimea as a part of Ukraine. Wikipedia’s community is embroiled in a fierce debate over whether or not to recognize Russia’s annexation of the region.
National Geographic still has not yet reached a decision on the matter, and is waiting for annexation to be formally approved. They said in a statement:
Most political boundaries depicted in our maps and atlases are stable and uncontested. Those that are disputed receive special treatment and are shaded gray as “Areas of Special Status,” with accompanying explanatory text.
In the case of Crimea, if it is formally annexed by Russia, it would be shaded gray and its administrative center, Simferopol’, would be designated by a special symbol. When a region is contested, it is our policy to reflect that status in our maps. This does not suggest recognition of the legitimacy of the situation.
Rand McNally, on the other hand, takes its mapping data from the State Department, and so will leave its data as it currently stands. It could be a long time before the U.S. formally recognizes Russia’s takeover.
It sounds like this comes down to: (1) which authority each cartographer relies on plus (2) the perceived legitimacy of Russia’s actions. While maps may simply reflect these political realities, they also have the potential to shape current and future perceptions of the area.
If only we could go back to the good old days (20 years ago?) where it took some time for maps to be updated. As a kid, I loved maps and I remember the shift in the early 1990s to a fragmented Yugoslavia (the National Geographic Geography Bee seemed to like focusing on this rapidly changing region as well) as well as emerging post-Soviet states. It takes some time for all these maps to be updated, from online sources to printed atlases to school textbooks and maps that hang on classroom walls. Cartographers in the past might have had more time to wait out a situation like this to see what happens while today people want the newest information now.