After weeks of tension in Ukraine, a referendum in Crimea tallied near-unanimous agreement among participants: nearly 97 percent wanted Russia to annex the region. But many governments, including the United States, decried the referendum as a sham, and not all Crimeans showed up to the polls. Some stayed home and protested the referendum by making traditional Ukrainian dumplings.
Crimea carries a whole lot of historical baggage, and to help make sense of the situation, Esri created an interactive map that shows the current hotspots and points of interest in the political crisis.
Crimea is slightly larger than the state of Vermont but has three times its population. 60% of its two million residents are Russians. Its capital, Simferopol, is also its largest city. Of greater strategic importance is Sevastopol; its Russian and Ukrainian naval bases provide key access to the Black Sea and, via the Bosporus, the Mediterranean. Ironically, a translation of Crimea's motto is "prosperity in unity."
Crimea is no stranger to territorial disputes (usually involving Russia). Back in the 1500s, Russia skirmished with the Crimean Khanate, a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire, and eventually, in 1783, Russia’s Catherine the Great annexed the area. Seventy years later, the Crimean War began, with Russia fighting Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire for control of the region. In World War II, both the Soviet Union and the Germans wanted control of it. The area was handed to Ukraine in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchev.