Why Crimea was Always Ours: Legitimacy Building in Russia in the Wake of the Crisis in Ukraine and the Annexation of Crimea

In: Russian Politics
View More View Less
Full Access

The legitimacy-building process in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea is investigated in this paper. A comprehensive dataset of President Putin’s speeches was analyzed using qualitative text analysis in order to reveal the basic legitimizing arguments within the narrative. Four basic subject areas were identified in the dataset – history, identity, Ukrainian context, and the international context. These subjects are further analyzed in order to present the logic and development of the legitimacy building process presented by the Russian President to domestic and international audiences.


The legitimacy-building process in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea is investigated in this paper. A comprehensive dataset of President Putin’s speeches was analyzed using qualitative text analysis in order to reveal the basic legitimizing arguments within the narrative. Four basic subject areas were identified in the dataset – history, identity, Ukrainian context, and the international context. These subjects are further analyzed in order to present the logic and development of the legitimacy building process presented by the Russian President to domestic and international audiences.

The Russian annexation of Crimea was a politically very bold and unique event in post-war Europe. Unlike other annexations in recent world history it was accomplished with a limited use of force, and the annexing power continually denied that anything extraordinary was taking place. Given these conditions, the annexation of Crimea not only attracted the huge attention of scholars and military experts towards the concepts and praxis of hybrid warfare, it also established a much broader ‘hybrid’ situation in European politics and international relations.

Some of the basic foundations of the current system became under pressure in terms of polity as well as politics during the Ukrainian crisis, and during annexation of Crimea. First of all the usual conflict resolution tool – the un Security Council – was useless in this situation. Despite its problematic efficiency in crises-solving throughout its existence, it still ascribes significant levels of legitimacy to the actions of states if they are approved by the unsc. In this case one of the permanent members possessing veto power was ‘suspected’ of breaking the rules. Under such circumstances the system proved toothless to prevent Russia from pursuing its will.

Options for joint counteraction of states outside the un system were significantly narrowed by the fact that the State they would need to ascribe ‘rogue’ status and act against, was the world´s biggest country with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, which once again proved its legendary deterrence power. Thus, the use of force to protect Ukrainian territorial integrity was basically ruled out of the question and there were only a few tools available for exerting pressure on Russia to change its behavior.

Moreover, some more general phenomena related to the Ukrainian events disturbed Western politicians. First, the want-to-be-hegemon found itself struggling for power and fueling instability rather than bringing stability in the projected area of interest. Second, the universal concept of untouchable sovereignty of the nation state was undermined and conditioned by an external actor who felt justified and powerful enough to challenge it. Third, and most disturbingly, a regional actor which felt strong enough to survive such behavior simply decided to pursue its will regardless of the opinions of the other members of the international community, including some significantly stronger ones. Thus, the number of opponents to the annexation steadily grew in number: pointing out its illegitimacy and controversial nature, they searched for tools to deal with the conflict, which have varied from condemnation to economic sanctions. All sides in the conflict had to tread carefully the line between diplomatic dispute and open conflict, which finally produced an overall hybrid situation in terms of warfare, diplomacy, legality and sovereignty.

In this paper I claim that Russian elites took an active part in this edgy process and were actively involved in building a favorable narrative for the Crimea takeover, whilst at the same time dismantling opposing narratives. In the following text we will analyses a dataset derived from the public speeches of President Putin which were delivered between March 2014 and March 2015, the first year after the annexation took place. We will focus on his efforts to construct the situation in terms of legitimacy, necessity and security, in order to maintain Russia’s gains and limit the negative impact of the action. Broader analysis of other Russian political actors would be desirable and it remains a challenge for further research. Nevertheless due to the President´s personal involvement in the events and given his position in the system, there are unlikely to appear any official sources spreading a narrative which would differ significantly from the presidential line, which makes our survey a good starting point for potentially more nuanced research in the future.

We will focus on the reasons why, according to the highest Russian official, the annexation was possible, desirable, necessary and legitimate. We will track the changes in the narrative and the development of the arguments in order to reveal the paths the Russian leader used to preserve his country´s gains and limit the possible harm caused by the controversial steps it/he took.


As if written for our study, Bukovansky writes:

Victory in battle, seizure of a territory by force, revolutionary violence, or a coup’s fait accompli can enhance and even lead to the assumption of sovereign authority, but this is rarely the sole necessary and sufficient condition for it. Rather, a coup or a revolution must acquire the trappings of legitimacy in order to sustain political power over time.1

Moreover, as the reader will see, similar claims have been made by President Putin in the dataset (see the reference: Putin, 2014-8-29 at the end of this article). Bukovansky’s text summarizes why legitimacy building is an integral part of power politics. Legitimacy makes changes and power shifts cheaper, more permanent and safer as they generate respect from the others. As Payne, Samhat and Rosenau put it: ‘Illegitimate structures and laws, it seems, lack staying-power,’2 whilst for Hurd, an order established by coercion provokes resistance, whilst an order built on widely accepted legitimate demands provokes solidarity and support.3 As Sil and Chen summarize, legitimacy allows the regime to achieve ones’ goals cooperatively rather than by force or through the use of surveillance.4 Legitimacy is usually defined as ‘recognition of the right to govern,’5 or ‘acceptance and justification of shared rule by a community.’6 While the particular words may change, the usual definitions have in common an emphasis on the instigation of ‘just rule’, which is recognized to be so by those who are governed. As for international relations Clark notes that, the concept for a long time didn’t seem to fit into the international environment which is characterized, on the contrary, by anarchy and lack of government.7 Nevertheless, developments in the ir theory as well as in the international politics have utilized the concept of legitimacy in cases of humanitarian intervention.8 Rather than investigating rightful government, questions of legitimacy in the international environment, where the hierarchy of ruling and ruled is much more blurred, may be investigated in cases of the (un)just behavior of – at least formally – equal actors.

In this paper I concur with the general consensus of scholars who argue that legitimacy is socially constructed among the member of the society (the international society in our case). Second, it rests on norms and principles agreed among the members to define appropriate behavior, as norms shape the perceptions of key concepts in international politics, such as national interest, and they also determine the appropriate strategies for their achievement.9 Third, these basic principles used to determine if an actor’s behavior is, or is not legitimate, are not fixed, but evolve historically.10 Fourth, I believe that in the bargain not all international actors have equal position, in this case I tend to agree with Bukovansky that major players participate in the bargain while others bandwagon with the powerful actor most close to their stances, or against the most unacceptable set of rules.11

In this paper we will thus focus on Russian effort to negotiate conditions under which their actions in Crimea shall be evaluated in order to achieve the most favorable situation which would secure their gains and limit resistance. If legitimacy is socially constructed, there is some space for negotiation by definition, and if combined with material power resources and the power calculations of the other major players, Russia may expect some possibility, if not to legitimize her actions completely, then at least to move them into the grey area, which does not call for immediate counter-actions. Following Clark’s remark that power ‘also impacts upon the practice of legitimacy, and contributes to the substance of the principles of legitimacy that come to be accepted,’12 we will analyze Russia’s great power status, not in the traditional sense of coercive power, but in the success of their effort to legitimize controversial actions before major players in the system.

Problem of Multiple Audiences

There are many to be convinced, that the annexation of Crimea was legitimate. At the very least, we can distinguish two basic parts of the audience – domestic and international. I fully accept the point made by Bukovansky, that domestic and international legitimacy are mutually interlinked and co-constituted, whilst still being run by separate sets of legitimating rules and practices.13 In our case, we should note that there is a striking difference in the level of approval achieved among the audience domestically and internationally caused by the different shared norms and attitudes within each group.

As for the domestic, audience the Levada Center surveys show that, despite all the effort of those who oppose the annexation and have sought to turn it into bitter pill, through support for the international isolation of Russia, or the imposition of regime sanctions, domestic support for the annexation remains high. In March 2016 64% of Russians believed that Crimea was always Russian.14 It is also important that according to the same survey 52% and 29% of Russians respectively, believe that Russia’s annexation of Crimea definitely or probably, did not break international rules.15 Support for the annexation peaked around 90% soon after it took place16 and has remained high, the latest polls show support at 87%.17 It is apparent that Russian public does not need much convincing that the annexation was the right and legitimate thing to do. On the other hand those who officially recognized the annexation at the international level have been few. The un resolution confirming the territorial integrity of Ukraine was rejected by 11 states while supported by 100 in the un Assembly in 2014,18 and the number of countries officially declaring their support hasn’t significantly changed since. While de facto many recognize, that Crimea is no longer ruled from Kyiv, change in the legitimate ownership still remains unrecognized, leaving the situation in a potentially problematic vacuum, which, as we will argue below, is not an ideal situation for the Russian Federation. This reluctance of external actors to accept the annexation, forces the Russian regime to further develop its narrative, adjust it, and react to criticism, factors which have been very fruitful for this analysis.

The strikingly different results of legitimacy building on the domestic and international level may be explained by the different sets of norms and principles according to which the legitimacy of Russia’s actions are evaluated. The domestic success supports Drezner’s remarks, that domestic initiators of political action possess good information about the environment in the country.19 The annexation itself was more favorable in the eyes of Russian society, than abroad (which would be the case in all countries), and it was easier to effectively disperse possible doubts and fears regarding the risks and possible negative consequences of the annexation. On the other hand the international society in general, and particularly the major players and members of the bargain over the legitimacy in the international system remained rather unimpressed by Russian claims that their political priorities, threat perceptions and underlying norms differed from those shared by the Russian public.

Finally, one may wonder why Russia even bothers with any kind of legitimization towards the international community, especially if on the domestic front legitimacy for its actions was successfully built. As mentioned above, the chance that nato countries or some other world military power such as China would start an open armed conflict with the Russian Federation over Crimea is rather remote, and it seems tempting to say that the Russia leadership calculated that it could simply take what it wanted without bothering itself with any justifications. But Russia in fact – through the voice of her President, puts a lot of effort into complex justifications of her own steps and strategies.

There are several possible answers to this puzzle. First, as mentioned above, the annexation raised some serious doubts and worries among the members of international society and as such it provoked a very cautious reaction from the other players. The power to legitimize such action is thus crucial for any actor engaged in similar activities, as the success of the legitimizing process will define the response of the community and thus the costs which have to be paid for such action.

Second, there is the ‘Napoleon factor’. Napoleon Bonaparte divorced his beloved Josephine to marry the much more rationally chosen spouse Marie Louise in order to ‘legitimize’ himself as a member of the ruling class, despite the fact, that he already was the most prominent member of that group.20 The Russian Federation not only believes that it is a member of the international society, it believes that it is the prominent one, but to confirm this, the approval of other powers is necessary. So if Russia wants to be a great power, which is clearly one of the basic goals of Russian foreign policy,21 it needs respect (friendly or unfriendly) from the other major powers. For this reason to justify the annexation of Crimea is essential for the Russian political elite.

Third, as mentioned above, a legitimate order tends to stability and it is harder to reverse, and that is definitely a desirable outcome also for Russia in the Crimean case. Thus to gain at least a portion of legitimacy which would lead to tolerance if not direct approval is a desirable goal for Russian leaders in order to secure their gains.

Fourth, if Russia gained the approval of the international community the annexation would be cheaper, the consequences less painful, and as such it would be an even greater success to present on the domestic scene. Not only would Russia have gained important territory without resorting to war, but also without suffering any damaging consequences. Such a scenario would most likely provide a major boost to the levels of popular support for the regime which would last for several years. Nevertheless whatever the reasons were for the Russian elite to work on legitimacy building in the international context, it is very interesting to follow how the process has developed and which key issues have been utilized.

The Dataset and Major Topics

This study presents a qualitative analysis of statement made by President Putin between March 2014 and March 2015. The statements were collected under the search code ‘Crimea’ from the official Kremlin site where all official events and interviews with the president are stored in English and Russian. To this basic dataset I have added the President´s appearance in the documentary, ‘Crimea: The Way Back Home’,22 which is not transcribed on the website, but is mentioned there, it was launched within the research period and the President personally speaks in the film on this issue.

Having the dataset collected I proceeded to the first reading. Only the texts where the President´s personal remarks and comments on the annexation are transcribed were selected, and irrelevant texts containing only paraphrases or interpreted data were excluded from the dataset. Then, in the second reading, only those parts dedicated to the Crimean events were extrapolated into a separate file. In the third reading the selected excerpts were then regrouped and several main argumentation lines which were identified. These lines are: ‘History and Identity’, ‘Ukrainian Events and Politics’, and the ‘International Context’. Some excerpts did fit into more than one category and these were specifically track to find any linkages among the argumentation lines. Finally each category was analyzed in order to (a) identify the main arguments within each particular line; (b) track changes in the argumentation, and (c) explore links among arguments and argumentation lines.

For practical reasons I suggest a slightly unusual style of references in the following text. The source of all data is the website, all of it is presented by President Putin. Moreover all statements were made in 2014 or 2015 and even after careful selection there were sixty documents in the dataset which would normally all be referenced as Putin, 2014 or Putin, 2015 with alphabetical indexes. For better orientation of the reader I will identify the documents in a more detailed fashion in the year-month-day format (i.e., Putin 2015-3-26 for a speech delivered on March 26th 2015) which will not only make it easier to find the source (see the list of references to the database at the end of this article), but it also provides the reader with a useful orientation regarding the timeframe of some of the twists in the argumentation.

Why Crimea was Always Ours – History and Identity

Issues of history and identity are very strongly interlinked in the dataset and for that reason we will analyze them as one argumentation line. In general, topics of identity and history utilize and legitimize some very important differences between the Western and Russian narratives.

First, within Western discourse the change of state affiliation of the Crimean peninsula is referred to in terms of annexation – meaning that Russia actively added part of another country´s territory to its own territory – and as such it is highly controversial or even illegal and it became the reason for launching sanctions against the regime.23 Nevertheless, in the dataset this interpretation is expressly rejected several times (Putin 2014-4-17; Putin 2014-8-14b; Putin 2014-8-29). In the Russian narrative the event is framed as the ‘return’ of Russian territory to Russia and, moreover, a fair deal of activity is (as explored below) ascribed to Crimean authorities and citizens rather than to Russia. The President repeatedly talks about re-joining, reunification or return of Crimea to the Motherland (Putin 2014-3-18a; Putin 2014-3-18b; Putin 2014-4-14; Putin 2014-6-26, and many others.). In the dataset the event represents a return to ‘the natural state’, a correction of the mistaken situation and this interpretation is supported by arguments fueled by issues of identity and history.

Second, regarding the relations of Russians and Ukrainians, the metaphor of the family is used several times in the narrative. Not only citizens of Crimea returned home, but also regarding the Ukrainians, a narrative of closeness and congeniality is used, as Ukraine is referred to, as a ‘fraternal nation’ (Putin 14-3-18a; Putin 14-5-23b), a ‘family’ (Putin 2014-3-18b) or even more so as made up of ‘one people’ (Putin 2014-3-18a), a ‘single nation’ (Putin 2014-4-17) etc. Nevertheless these statements become more confusing when compared with other claims in the dataset. The very idea of the return of Crimea from somewhere where it didn’t belong to the natural state within Russia suggests that there are still differences among the ‘one people’. This assumption is supported also by the President’s praise of the Crimeans whom, he stresses, have kept their ‘love of the Fatherland through the years and generations. And now, the Fatherland embraces you once again as family, as daughters and sons’ (Putin 2014-5-9b), and also his declaration that, ‘After a long, hard and exhausting voyage, Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to their harbor, to their native shores, to their home port, to Russia’ (Putin 2014-3-18b). All this suggests that Crimea was not home in recent years, even that it was a rather unpleasant place,24 and it is unclear how to interpret this within the metaphors of family and a single nation.

The issues of history or identity are probably most interlinked when referring to the baptism of Grand Prince Vladimir in Chersonesus. The roots of Russian solidarity with Crimea are drawn from this moment in the dataset (Putin, 2014-3-18a; Putin 2014-8-29; Putin 2014-11-5). The historical event is in all the above mentioned cases, introduced in a mystical and mythical manner – referring to the region as sacred, holy or spiritual for Russians – and strongly binds the region with the very core of Russian identity. The best example of this was given in the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly in December 2014:

Christianity was a powerful spiritual unifying force that helped involve various tribes and tribal unions of the vast Eastern Slavic world in the creation of a Russian nation and Russian state. It was thanks to this spiritual unity that our forefathers for the first time and forevermore saw themselves as a united nation. All of this allows us to say that Crimea, the ancient Korsun or Chersonesus, and Sevastopol have invaluable civilizational and even sacral importance for Russia, like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for the followers of Islam and Judaism.

putin 2014-12-4
Besides the spiritual importance and the cultural ties to the most famous Russian cultural figures (Putin, 2014-8-14a), the ‘Russian’ nature of Crimea is also explained by the fact, that Russia ‘fought for legitimate presence (in the region) for centuries’ (Putin, 2014-5-24). This expression shows that legitimacy is also a time-related concept for President Putin, as in the rest of the dataset one of his strongest arguments is, that legitimate rule cannot be imposed by force (see below). Nevertheless in historical perspective the heroic efforts of Russian soldiers to gain and defend the possession of Crimea ‘since the times of Peter the Great or maybe even earlier’ (Putin, 2014-7-1) make it a place which belongs to Russia (Putin 2014-4-17; Putin 2014-5-9a). The events of the Crimean War, the civil war and the Great Patriotic War are the most cited cases of the historical sacrifices Russian soldiers made to keep Crimea Russian.

Also in this regard, the fact that Sevastopol is city of Russian naval glory is mentioned several times in the dataset. Given Russian geopolitical realities, especially after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it is hard to overestimate the strategic importance of this port for the Russian Navy, and here the emphasis on Sevastopol’s special place in Russian military and naval history, imbues this strategic importance with a deeper symbolic narrative (Putin 2014-11-5; Putin 2014-4-17; Putin 2014-7-1).

In general, history and identity serve a great deal to support the idea of Crimea’s return to its natural home, as they are used to confirm that, ‘In people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia’ (Putin 2014-3-18a). Saying this, it is of course necessary for advocates of such an idea to explain how Crimea in fact ended up separated from Russia. Two historical motifs are mentioned in this regard, first the Soviet belief in the indestructibility of Soviet Union, and second, obviously, the unexpected event of its dissolution.

The former is actually mentioned in the dataset also in regard to south-east Ukraine. The Novorossiya25 region, we are reminded, was ‘given to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government. Why? Who knows? They were won by Potyomkin and Catherine the Great in a series of well-known wars. … Russian lost these territories for various reasons, but the people remained’ (Putin 2014-4-17). This quote confirms our abovementioned arguments. Here, again, the historical struggles provide Russia with a natural bond to the territory and the ‘administrative’ decision to move them elsewhere is referred to as a loss. And again, despite the references to a single people and one nation, the difference between Russians and Ukrainians is clearly underlined, especially in the Presidents famous ‘Crimean speech,’ where he stressed, that the move was made with ‘no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population’ (Putin 2014-3-18a).

In the case of Crimea, the President talks about Nikita Khrushchev´s decision to join Crimea to Ukraine several times in the dataset (Putin, 2014-8-29; Putin 2014-10-24) – most openly again in his Crimean speech, where he says ‘This was the personal initiative of the Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev. What stood behind this decision of his – a desire to win the support of the Ukrainian political establishment or to atone for the mass repressions of the 1930’s in Ukraine – is for historians to figure out’ (Putin 2014-3-18a). Nevertheless, while in the case of Novorossiya, the President only slightly hints at his negative stance to the handover, in the case of Crimea, in all cases he states that, the move was not legal even under Soviet rule, because it was not approved by the Republican Supreme Soviets. So in his perception, the removal of Crimea from Russia happened illegally and as a result of the political calculations of one person.

The President mentions that in both cases the Bolsheviks believed it was a formality to move territories from one administrative unit to another, as they believed in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless their historical mistake proved fatal for Crimea and Russia, as ‘It was only when Crimea ended up as part of different country that Russia realized that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered’ (Putin, 2014-3-18). Thus, the narrative suggests that Russian territory was illegally taken from Russia and then because Russia was too weak and busy to reclaim it during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Crimea became part of an independent Ukraine.

To sum up, historical and identity arguments in the dataset create and support two basic argumentation lines. First, that Crimea is a natural part of Russia and second that it ended up in Ukraine by mistake and illegal political calculus. Both points are very stable and do not change much throughout the dataset. Nevertheless regardless of the passionate presentation and emotional value of such arguments, they can only provide arguments for those who want to accept the new citizenship of the peninsula. To legitimize the sudden annexation itself, it needs more than this, and so several other argumentation lines are developed in the dataset. First, the recent events on Ukraine are presented as the reason which made the return of Crimea not only possible but even necessary.

Why Crimea Became Ours Now – The Ukrainian Events

The Ukrainian crisis serves a twofold purposes within the dataset. First, as mentioned above, it is presented as an environment changer which made the annexation necessary. Second it serves as a reference point to the legality and legitimacy of the annexation. The legitimacy building process and the President´s logic of legitimacy is nicely displayed in the dataset and we will follow it in the chronological order of the events.

The refusal of President Yanukovych to sign the Association agreement with the eu is usually presented as the original cause of all the events. It is also the case in our dataset, where the narrative undergoes interesting enrichments over the time. Originally, the event is presented as a decision of the Ukrainian President, which fully falls into his competencies (Putin, 2014-3-4; Putin, 2014-4-17). Later the advisory role of the Russian Federation appears in the narrative; first for Ukrainians (Putin, 2014-5-23b) shortly afterwards the whole complex process of negotiations between Russia, Ukraine and the eu is revealed. We learn, that Russia tried to persuade the eu to postpone the agreement, but didn’t succeed, so it turned to the Ukrainians again and persuaded them to wait (Putin, 2014-5-24; Putin, 2014-6-4). Finally, the President adds further reasoning to the Russian involvement into the negotiating process. He argues that due to the simultaneous integration of Ukraine with the eu and the cis, European firms would use the Ukraine as backdoors to the Russian market (Putin, 2014-10-24; Putin, 2014-11-17; Putin, 2014-12-4). Thus, over the time, part of the activity in the event is moved from the Ukrainian President to the Russian elite and the reasoning for the postponement, moves from defense of the Ukrainian economy to protection of the Russian one.

The Maidan protests are at first presented as entailing the solidarity of ordinary people who demanded a change of Ukrainian politics (Putin 2014-3-4, Putin 2014-3-18a), but this line vanes away from the dataset and is not mentioned later. Simultaneously the President warns that protests may open the Pandora box of nationalist sentiments and warns that the original ideas of the Maidan were kidnapped by nationalists and semi-fascists. Already in his Crimean speech, Putin notes that, ‘Those who stood behind the latest events in Ukraine had a different agenda: they were preparing yet another government takeover; they wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup’ (Putin 2014-3-18a). Later, forces related to Maidan are portrayed almost exclusively in a negative light, either as extremists or organizers of an illegal coup (Putin, 2014-6-24; Putin, 2014-8-29; Putin, 2014-10-15; Putin, 2014-10-24).

The coup itself is presented as illegal and dangerous. The overall message is formulated already by the very beginning of the dataset, ‘Only constitutional means should be used in the post-Soviet space, where political structures are still very fragile, and economies are still weak. Going beyond the constitutional field would always be a cardinal mistake in such a situation’ (Putin, 2014-3-4). There is not only a clear link drawn between the coup and the risk of extreme forces being unleashed, as mentioned above, but also a link between the coup and chaos leading to civil war, is also drawn in the dataset (Putin, 2014-5-23a; Putin, 2014-5-23b; Putin, 2014-12-4; Putin). Through this argumentation a very powerful message – that a coup can lead to the breakup of a country and war – is sent to all audiences – to the international community, which feared the dissolution of Russia in the 1990s, and also to Russia´s own citizens.

Regarding the legality or legitimacy of events we can explore the President´s sense of legality and legitimacy quite closely. His main argument repeated throughout the dataset is, that revolutions and violence are not the ways to achieve a legitimate change of power. Nevertheless this stance is not completely unchallenged within the dataset. First it may look contradictory to the abovementioned reasoning concerning Russia’s legitimate possession of territories, by the fact that Russia fought for them in the past. Second, more interestingly, it seems not to be in complete accord with the Presidents stances towards the conflict in eastern Ukraine. He mentions there is a possibility to send troops to eastern Ukraine, which was sanctioned by the Federation Council, and that if this were to happen, it would be in order to defend the people’s right to determine their own fate (Putin, 2014-4-17). Later, even after the Ukrainian elections and the formation of new authorities in Kyiv, when commenting on Eastern Ukraine, he declared: ‘I insist that people – wherever they live – have their rights and they must be able to fight for them’ (Putin, 2014-6-4). If we consider that the right to determine the fate of the country was also a leitmotif presented at Maidan demonstrations, where the President clearly opposes any use of violence, it seems these arguments are not in accord, and the paradox is not explained throughout the dataset. Nevertheless regarding the Kyiv events, the President is very clear that he opposes any use of violence against the legitimate government.

In the analyzed statements, legitimacy is very closely tied to legality, and legality is derived from the existing legal order. The President develops an argumentation line, which is presented as value-free and rather legalistic – either something is in accord with the constitution and the existing laws and thus it is legal and legitimate, or it is not, and thus it is illegal and illegitimate. In this sense, of course, the coup itself becomes and stays illegal regardless of the reasons leading up to it, because it by definition breaks the law.

Moreover, possible objections against such a legalistic attitude towards the coup are addressed by reference to the agreement signed between president Yanukovych and the opposition on February 21. It is presented, that all the opposition demands were fulfilled in this agreement and the agreement would, lead to a legal and thus a legitimate change in Ukrainian politics. Instead the opposition misused the situation, and as soon as the President left Kyiv, it took over power (Putin, 2014-3-4; Putin, 2014-4-17; Putin, 2014-5-23b; Putin, 2014-10-24; Putin, 2014-11-17). This narrative is very stable within the dataset. What changes, however, is the level of involvement of the external actors in these events, which will be analyzed in next part of this text. For this moment we can conclude, that the Ukrainian coup is portrayed as illegal, thus illegitimate and, if not directly villainous, then at least unnecessary. Together with the abovementioned link to the coup-war, this creates very strong argumentation line against any change to the existing legal order. The objection that it is not possible to achieve actual change in the legal order which is not co-created or co-controlled by the opposition, or any reference to the values which drove the coup – which resonates loudly in the Western views of the situation – is not taken into account, and the President claims the illegal coup was only: ‘followed by hypocritical statements on the protection of international law and human rights. This is just cynical’ (Putin, 2014-12-4).

An interesting development can be traced in assessments of the legitimacy of the authorities in Kyiv. In the beginning of the dataset Yanukovych is presented as ‘the only undoubtedly legitimate President of Ukraine’ (Putin, 2014-3-4). In April the President claimed, that it was necessary to change the Ukrainian constitution in order to elect a new President, because there was no other legal method to solve this constitutional problem (Putin, 2014-4-17). The President held this view right up until the very last moment, even after he learned that Ukrainian leaders had decided to go ahead with elections (Putin, 2014-5-23b; Putin, 2014-5-24). Despite this persistent objection, the President soon adapted to the new situation, and after the elections he started to call Yanukovych the ‘former President’ (Putin, 2014-8-29) or the, ‘then President’ (Putin, 2014-11-17). Also, by the end of the dataset, there are some doubts expressed regarding Yanukovych´s qualities to handle the extraordinary situation. President Putin says that Yanukovych left Kyiv and withdrew the police forces from there against his recommendation (Putin, 2014-10-24). In general, President Yanukovych vanes from the dataset slowly and he is clearly not considered a political figure important for Ukraine after the new elections. When his link re-appears later, it is only to emphasize the illegality of the coup.

Simultaneously, as Yanukovych vanishes, the new Ukrainian authorities slowly gain their positions in the dataset. The provisional President Turchynov is clearly rejected by Putin, who at the time was still campaigning for Yanukovych (Putin, 2014-4-3), and the authorities established after the coup are labelled the ‘so-called authorities’, or even the ‘ideological heirs of Bandera’ (Putin, 2014-3-18a), or as a ‘junta’ (Putin, 2014-4-24), and they are openly called ‘illegitimate’ because they were not elected (Putin, 2014-4-17). The situation changes with the elections held in May. After the elections, despite the fact that the constitution has not changed, and thus according to President’s own arguments, Yanukovych is still the legitimate president, President Putin with reference to the ‘will of Ukrainian people’ (Putin, 2014-5-23b; Putin, 2014-4-24) changes his attitude and accepts the newly elected authorities. In June Poroshenko is titled ‘President’ without any negative attributes (Putin, 2014-6-24), and despite the fact that the President often criticizes Ukrainian leaders, he does not question his status.

Emphasizing the illegitimate status of the provisional authorities is a very important argument with regard to Crimea. First, despite the historical and identity nearness mentioned above, if it wasn’t for the situation in Ukraine, Russia would not have had an opportunity to re-gain Crimea at all, and certainly not at such a low cost. In this regard some levels of crisis would be the condition of the annexation, in any case. Nevertheless, due to the emphasis on the unlawful nature of the current Ukrainian coup, the President may argue, that Russia hasn’t acted against the legal authorities of Ukraine, because those, whom the President calls legitimate are not in power or even are in (Russian) exile. The question whether Russia could not wait two more months for the newly elected Ukrainian authorities is probably solved by notions of the threat of war, which forced Russia to act without hesitation. Only once in the beginning of the dataset does the President go against the abovementioned line of the legality of the old order and the illegality of the new when he declares, that if the West is right, and Maidan was a revolution, then in revolution the old order is destroyed and under such a situation, Russia has no binding agreements with Ukraine, including the Budapest memorandum (Putin 2014-3-4). This inconsistency appears only once, but it is fair to note, that throughout the dataset which includes several interviews with western journalists only once is the President asked about the Budapest memorandum.26

The emphasis – in terms of frequency or expressivity – given to atrocities committed in Ukraine grows over time. The President repeatedly refers to clashes in Odessa, where ‘people were burnt alive’ he brings in cases of torture and killings of innocent people by the extremists (Putin, 2014-3-4; Putin, 2014-5-23a; Putin, 2014-10-24). When referring to eastern Ukraine the humanitarian appeal appears quite strongly in his arguments. The President refers to the suffering of innocent people (Putin, 2014-12-18; Putin, 2014-7-1) or to ‘hundreds of thousands refugees’ in eastern Ukraine (Putin, 2014-8-14b).

The humanitarian link proves quite important in the legitimacy building process regarding Crimea. The President uses the examples of the cases of atrocities and the humanitarian aspect of the Ukrainian conflicts as reasons why the annexation was necessary and desirable. The annexation in this light has a humanitarian dimension illustrated as follows: ‘I think it is clear to everyone – when we look at the events in Donbass, Lugansk and Odessa – it is now clear to everyone what would have happened to Crimea, if we had not taken corresponding measures to ensure that people could freely express their will’ (Putin, 2014-8-29). Once this line appears in the dataset it is there to stay, even if it gets weaker towards the end of the period, as the geopolitical circumstances gain importance (see below). We can also note that securitization of the situation in Crimea shortly before the referendum intensifies in the dataset. The President refers first to threats of repression (Putin, 2014-3-18a), later he calls them ‘tangible’ (Putin, 2014-4-17) and then directly declares that Russian action prevented things worse than those which occurred in Odessa from happening in Crimea (Putin, 2014-5-23b). In July he states that Russia ‘had no right to abandon the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol to the mercy of nationalist and radical militants’ (Putin, 2014-7-1), this tendency culminates in Kondrashov’s documentary,27 where events are portrayed as being on the verge of a violent attack from Ukraine. Thus, the narrative evolves dramatically from threats to the language rights of the Russian population, to risks of massacres, thereby building a humanitarian link to justify Russian action.

As already mentioned, the Ukrainian events also serve as a point of reference for legitimacy building in the case of the Crimean referendum. The old Yanukovych regime is, as demonstrated above, presented as legitimate up until the Ukrainian elections in May. But while his power cannot be enforced, because the authorities are not in power, and the rightful powers were kidnapped by illegitimate people, who are portrayed as dangerous extremists – in Crimea in contrast, we are informed, the authorities were not overthrown and thus the President considers them legitimate. Changes in the Crimean leadership are considered legal and thus legitimate by President (Putin, 2014-4-3). At this moment more than everywhere else in the dataset the President shows his logic of legitimacy – what is in formal accordance with the procedures described in the law are legitimate – this approach is presented as value-free, rational and hardly disputable.

As a result, the referendum is described within the following context: the legitimate political order in Ukraine was overthrown by an illegal and thus illegitimate one, while in one part of the country the old authorities were still in place even if they reorganized themselves. The reorganization is not questioned, because under the presented logic, if it follows prescribed procedures it is legitimate. Then the threat of an attack from illegitimate central authorities enters the narrative and the remains of the legitimate order are found to be in danger. Finally, the idea of an endangered Russian population is knitted into the narrative, making the situation much more important for the Russian Federation. This is the interpretation of conditions under which the Russian army was deployed. Russian involvement is exclusively portrayed as one of ‘protection’. First, the Russian army protects Crimeans in order to let them ‘express their free will’ (Putin, 2014-12-19) later, as analyzed below, Russian strategic interests are also to be protected. The approach once again gives us slightly mixed results. The Crimean referendum is presented as an legitimate expression of public will, because it happened under the directions of an authority which the President presents as legitimate, even if, as a result, the old – legitimate – Yanukovych order is completely destroyed, and the state appurtenance of the region changes. At the same time the expression of public will performed on Maidan is presented as illegitimate, with arguments focusing on the fact that it destroyed Yanukovych´s authority in an uncontrolled way, following no prescribed procedures.

Regarding the referendum itself, it is interesting how often the President justifies its legitimacy and voluntariness. The President clearly presents the referendum as the ultimate proof of legitimacy of the whole annexation. I would suggest that his arguments in this regard are at least partially based on his perceptions of Western ‘needs’. The President repeatedly argues that the will of the people is the decisive factor and he repeatedly cites the fact that the overwhelming majority of people voted to join Russia (Putin, 2014-3-18; 2014-4-17; Putin, 2014-5-23; Putin, 2014-10-24). The referendum in this context is presented as a Crimean activity for which the Russian Federation only provided the peaceful conditions. It was on the basis of the referendum results that Russia accepted the request by the Crimean authorities to join the Russian Federation. In this sense the annexation is framed in accordance with the narrative of a ‘Crimean return’ to Russia.

In most parts of the dataset, the President claims that Russia would not have considered the option of the annexation of Crimea, unless the results of referendum were clear. The President even states that ‘I didn’t add the concluding line to my Kremlin speech – about initiating a draft law on the inclusion of Crimea in the Russian Federation – until the very last day, the last moment, because I was waiting for the referendum results,’ (Putin, 2014-4-17). Nevertheless, the dataset proves him wrong in this case. First, he admits in the documentary ‘Crimea: The Way Back Home’, that he gave an order to prepare the action already when Viktor Yanukovych was transported to Russia. Second for the more sensitive reader, it is apparent that the President is clearly preparing the ground for the annexation before the referendum. From the beginning of March he expressed in a similar fashion, that: ‘wherever a person lives, whatever part of the country, he or she should have the right to equal participation in determining the future of the country’ (Putin, 2014-3-4).

As for deployment of military forces, the President does not admit there were Russian forces deployed on Crimea at the beginning of the dataset (Putin, 2014-3-4), nevertheless he hints at this several times. For example, the President reminds Western journalists that he has had an official request from the legitimate President of Ukraine (Yanukovych) to use force in order to protect Ukrainians (Putin 2014-3-4). This ‘invitation’ probably gives us another reason for the support Putin given to Yanukovych’s presidency in the early stages of the dataset. Later, as the President slowly reveals the role of the Russian military in the Crimean events, this link vanishes from the dataset and the reason to deploy military forces becomes more clearly based on ‘humanitarian’ factors – to protect the citizens of Crimea so that they can express their will. It is probable that the growing emphasis on atrocities and danger and later on civil war in south-east Ukraine serves to support the argument of the humanitarian need for action. It is apparent that, in this issue, the President moves from a seemingly value-free ‘legal’ logic to a rather value-driven reasoning, probably because of the lack of the persuasiveness of the former.

Also, later in the dataset the President admits that Russian troops were part of the events, but emphasizes, it was only those who were already deployed in Sevastopol and thus, again, legally speaking, he stresses, the Russian army didn’t enter Ukrainian territory other than in cases governed by existing agreements (Putin, 2014-3-4). Later in March he openly congratulates and gives thanks to the military personnel whose ‘firmness and calm, personal courage, and well-organized professional action that made it possible to prevent provocations, avoid bloodshed, and ensure the referendum, took place in a peaceful and free manner’ (Putin, 2014-3-28 and Putin-2014-6-26). Finally, in April – a month after the referendum, the support of the Russian military to the so-called Crimean self-defense units is openly admitted (Putin, 2014-4-19). It is possible that denial of Russia’s military role in the events was meant to support the legitimacy and voluntariness of the referendum – because later in the dataset the President feels it is necessary to emphasize that, ‘you can´t force 80 percent, in fact almost 90 percent, of voters to cast the right ballots’ (Putin-2014-5-23a; similarly also in: Putin-2014-4-19; Putin-2014-10-24; Putin-2014-11-17). Mention of the role of Russian troops grows throughout the dataset, which is clearly considered destabilizing for the legitimacy building process, and thus the legitimacy of the referendum is repeatedly supported by reference to its high turnout and overwhelming support among voters. Any doubts expressed towards the referendum are not addressed and the figures are left unchallenged.

Why Crimea Won’t be Yours – The International Context

The international context of the Crimean events is the most rapidly evolving argumentation line in the narrative, and all that has been discussed so far, shall be framed within these developments. There are two basic changes in the role of external actors in the dataset – it becomes more significant and it becomes more dangerous for Russia. The international link serves as an explanation for some confusing points in the existing narrative – i.e., how did part of the brotherly nation turn into dangerous extremists – it supports the Russian stances in the most controversial moments – i.e., why Crimea had to be protected from falling into the hands of the central authorities – and finally it also serves the legitimacy-building process concerning Crimea’s separation from Ukraine and its merger with Russia.

Within this context the President often uses arguments in reverse logic – Russia is punished for the same behavior for which the West, and especially the United States are not, Russia only does what the West already did, etc. The most striking and most confusing case of this praxis is the repeatedly invoked precedent of Kosovo. The President repeatedly brings the Kosovo case into the conversation, as a precedent according to which ‘in very similar situation’ (Putin, 2014-3-18a) Russia acted. He even insists, that the Crimean way was more democratic, because: ‘Kosovo’s decision on state independence was taken by its Parliament, and in Crimea the decision on state independence was based on the national referendum’ (Putin, 2014-5-24; similarly in Putin, 2014-8-29). The main arguments developed from the Kosovo case are, that there is an undeniable right for self-determination (Putin, 2014-10-24), that the exercises of this right are supposed to be uniformly recognized by the international community (Putin, 2014-8-29), and that the domestic authorities do not need to agree with the secession (Putin, 2014-11-17). What is very confusing in this case, is the fact, that Russia has never recognized Kosovo, and that President himself called it a ‘terrible precedent which will de facto blow apart the whole system of international relations.’28 The President’s urges that, ‘(w)e must find a way to reach common ground by agreeing to act in one way or the other and refraining from saying that white is black and black is white’ (Putin, 2014-5-24), seem to be valid also for the Russian side of the argumentation.

Similar reverse logic is deployed in justification for the use of the military. Here the humanitarian link and the prevention of atrocities serve a similar purpose as it did for ‘humanitarian interventions’ which the West conducted in Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. Nevertheless Russian opposition to these Western interventions is years-long and also omnipresent in the dataset. The moral and legal resistance towards these Western adventures does not prevent the President from using them as justification for Russian action in Crimea, which is, on the contrary, is presented as completely legal, despite the fact, that it was not approved by the un, which has usually been the biggest factor cited by Russia in its objections to some of the West’s military actions. The President in this regard even claims that: ‘When issues are being resolved unilaterally, this does not last long’ (Putin, 2014-8-29). The addressees of his words are American endeavors in Iraq and Libya, but probably also Russian actions may be measured according to the same lines.

Regarding the Kyiv events, the role of external actors tends to get bigger throughout the dataset. This is probably aimed to help us understand the dramatic changes which turned parts of the brother nation into areas where dangerous right-wingers emerged who sought to kill Russians and occupy Crimea by force. First the West is presented as a supporter of the coup (Putin, 2014-3-4; Putin, 2014-3-18a; Putin, 2014-4-19), in May the President labels the Ukrainian events as another color revolution, and openly states that ‘the United States and Europe employed brutal and unlawful methods in Ukraine by prompting a government coup’ (Putin, 2014-5-24). Later in August the logic is already completely reversed when the President claims that ‘Our Western partners, with the support of fairly radically inclined and nationalist-leaning groups, carried out a coup d’état there’ (Putin, 2014-8-29). This argument then stays in the narrative until the end of the research period. External influence can probably explain the paradox of a brotherly nation endangering the Crimea, nevertheless there is still one thing to explain – what is there for the West in Ukraine.

The President offers two basic explanations, one of them is more specific, and the second is more general. First, the specific bonus for the West would be Ukrainian membership in nato. nato would have the ability to install a missile defense system close to Russian borders and it would push Russian navy from its most strategic port in the Black sea region. This argument appeared for the first time in the President´s Crimean speech where he claimed that: ‘I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit nato sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way round’ (Putin, 2014-3-18a). The Ukrainian membership in nato and also instalment of the missile defense system there, which the President considers to be ‘a threat not only to Russia, but to the world as a whole’ (Putin, 2014-12-4), is repeated many times in the dataset (Putin, 2014-6-4; Putin, 2014-4-17; Putin, 2014-5-14).

As for the more general reason as to why the West would get so eagerly involved in the events in Ukraine, the strategy of containment is cited in the dataset. The President repeatedly claims, that: ‘the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position’ (Putin, 2014-3-18a). We read in the dataset, that Russia is treated nicely only if it is weak and as it gets stronger the others (it clearly results from the narrative that here the President means Western countries) start to push it back and subvert it’s rise and power (Putin, 2014-11-24; Putin, 2014-10-24; Putin, 2014-12-4). It is apparent that this link is getting stronger toward the end of the dataset. Parallel to this is a weakening of the humanitarian as a justification for the annexation.


In this paper we analyzed president Putin’s speeches regarding the annexation of Crimea in order to reveal the main lines of argumentation he provides in legitimizing this controversial action. For that purpose we have analyzed all of the statements he made on this issue in the first year after the annexation, which were stored on the official website of Kremlin. The dataset was organized according to three main lines: history and identity, Ukrainian events, and the international context.

After analysis of all argumentation lines, we may now conclude that there is an overall tendency present throughout the dataset – as the narrative evolves the whole situation becomes more and more of a Russian issue rather than a Ukrainian one. The identity and history arguments are focused almost exclusively on confirmation of the ‘Russian nature’ of Crimea. The arguments are made through reference to the national brotherly closeness of Russians and Ukrainians, through the spiritual value of Crimea for Russia, and through historical events which confirm Russian possession of the region or explain how it ended up becoming separated from Russia. The overall message of this part of the dataset is clear and is explicitly stated – Crimea was always Russian.

As for Ukrainian events, the importance of admitting Russian involvement grows over time. The President continually reveals how Russia was involved in Ukrainian negotiations with the eu regarding the association agreement, how Putin advised President Yanukovych regarding the crisis in Kyiv, and how Russia helped with the organization of referendum, and how Russian soldiers provided support to Crimean forces. The foreign link provides an important layer to the dataset. Despite the large number of excerpts which are dedicated to the Ukrainian events, over time there is a significant shift in focus to Russia and the West. Ukraine becomes much more passive and in a sense is portrayed as a hostage in big geopolitical game which is aimed at weakening Russia in the international system. This link gets stronger at the end of the dataset.

The shift towards Russia, not only as more active player but also as the main target of the Ukrainian events, is reflected in the stylistics of the dataset as well as in the nature of the argument. Russia is increasingly described as an active player by using dynamic verbs, rhetorical questions regarding the intentions of the opponents, and more ostentatious phrases to describe the situation. The tone clearly evolves toward Russia moving events forward while at the beginning of the dataset it is was more often portrayed as reacting to events taking place all around it.

Also the nature of arguments evolves. At the beginning of the dataset, the President often relies on ‘legal’ arguments presented as rational, technical, clear and value-free. He criticizes or supports events based on their adherence to prescribed procedures. Despite the fact that this is apparently the President’s favorite line of argumentation, it is significantly broadened by different types of arguments over time. As the theme of the West gets stronger in the dataset, more elusive and value-driven concepts of conspiracy against Russia, or predictions of future developments if Russia fails to take preventive measures, mark the style of the argumentation. The legitimacy building process moves from an emphasis on some of the legal conditions of the Ukrainian transformation to a fight for the security and survival of Russia in international relations.

Despite all the declarations, the dataset does not provide a coherent narrative, which reveals the fact there are value and power driven mechanisms behind it. The narrative evolves sometimes quite dramatically in reaction to new events. As a result we have found several confusing declarations and cases of tactical withholding of information. But we also learned a good deal about legitimacy building in Russian foreign policy and we found several stable features in the process, such as the emphasis on order and stability for which the existing legal order is used as the ultimate measure; a mistrust of partners in the international system, towards whom the logic of criticism can be reversed at any time, and most of all we once again learned how important the West is in Russian foreign policy, either as the most important friend or the most important enemy.

References to the Statements of President Putin Recorded in the Database

1 Mlada Bukovansky, Legitimacy and Power politics (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002): 24.

2 R.A. Payne, N.H. Samhat, and J.N. Rosenau, Democratizing Global Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014): 1.

3 I. Hurd, "Legitimacy and Authority in International Politics,“ International Organization 53, no. 2 (Spring, 1999): 379–408, quoted in Payne, Samhat and Rosenau (2014): 1.

4 Rudra Sil, and Cheng Chen (2004), ‘State Legitimacy and the (In)significance of Democracy in Post-Communist Russia’, Europe-Asia Studies 56, no. 3 (2004): 347–368, 348.

5 Jean-Marc Coicaud, Legitimacy and Politics: A contribution to the Study of Political Right and Political Responsibility (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002): 10.

6 Steven Bernstein, and William D. Coleman, Introduction: Autonomy, Legitimacy, and Power in an Era of Globalization, in Bernstein and Coleman eds., Unsettled Legitimacy (Vancouver: ubc Press, 2009): 5.

7 Ian Clark, Legitimacy in International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007): 11.

8 Peter Nyers, Sovereignty Redux? Autonomy and Protection in Military Intervetion, in S. Bernstein and W.D. Coleman, eds., Unsettled Legitimacy (Vancouver: ubc Press, 2009): 197.

9 Martha Finnemore, ‘Constructing Norms of Humanitarian Intervention’, in P.J. Katzenstein, ed., The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York, Columbia University Press, 1996).

10 Clark, Legitimacy in International Society, 13.

11 Bukovansky, Legitimacy and Power, 2.

12 Clark, Legitimacy in International Society, 20.

13 Bukovansky, Legitimacy and Power, 10.

14 The data and also one of the President’s statements inspired the title of this article.

15 Levada Centre: “Krym dva goda spustya: vnmanie, otsenki, sanktsii”,, accessed, 1. 6. 2016.

16 The number includes those who decisively agree, and rather agree. See Levada Centre, “‘Maidan’, Ukraina, Krym.”, accessed, 15. 5. 2016.

17 Levada Centre: ‘Krym dva goda spustya: vnmanie, otsenki, sanktsii’,, accessed, 1. 6. 2016.

18 General Assembly Adopts Resolution Calling upon States Not to Recognize Changes in Status of Crimea Region. United Nations Meeting Coverage and Press Releases, accessed, 12.4.2016.

19 Daniel Drezner, Locating the Proper Authorities : The Interaction of Domestic and International Institutions (Universit of Michigan Press, 2010): 11.

20 Bukovansky, Legitimacy and Power, 24.

21 See, Magda Leichtova, Misunderstanding Russia (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014); Andrei P. Tsygankov, Russia’s Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010); Bobo Lo, Russian Foreign Policy in the post-Soviet Era: Reality, Illusion, and Mythmaking (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002); Hanna Smith, Russia and Its Foreign Policy (Helsinki: Alexanteri Intitute, 2005).

22 Andrei Kondrashov, "Crimea – Way Back Home“. tv Documentary, 2015. Available at:, accessed, 14.3.2016.

23 In case of United States: "finding that the actions and policies of the Government of the Russian Federation, including its purported annexation of Crimea and its use of force in Ukraine, continue to undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine“ (See. White House Executive order on “Blocking the Property of Additional Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine”, 2014. Available at:­contributing-situat, accessed 12.5.2016, or in case of European Union "persons and entities responsible for action against Ukraine’s territorial integrity, persons providing support to or benefitting Russian decision-makers and 13 entities in Crimea and Sevastopol that were confiscated or that have benefitted from a transfer of ownership contrary to Ukrainian law“ (see, “eu sanctions against Russia over Ukraine crisis”, available at:, accessed, 12.5.2016.

24 This suspicion is also supported in other parts of the dataset, where violations of Russian rights and limited autonomy of Crimea under Ukrainian rule are mentioned or in more practical terms in grievances on underinvested infrastructure and undeveloped potential of the newly gained territory.

25 Novorossiya – the term used also in the dataset – is historical label for the south-eastern Ukraine, which haven´t been used for decades and was revived only in recent events.

26 See, Council on Foreign Relations, Budapest Memorandums on Security Assurances. ­Available at:­budapest-memorandums-security-assurances-1994/p32484, accessed, 2.3.2016.

27 Kondrashov, "Crimea – The Way Back Home“, 2015. Available at:, accessed, 14.3.2016.

  • 1

    Mlada Bukovansky, Legitimacy and Power politics (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002): 24.

  • 4

    Rudra Sil, and Cheng Chen (2004), ‘State Legitimacy and the (In)significance of Democracy in Post-Communist Russia’, Europe-Asia Studies 56, no. 3 (2004): 347–368, 348.

  • 5

    Jean-Marc Coicaud, Legitimacy and Politics: A contribution to the Study of Political Right and Political Responsibility (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002): 10.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7

    Ian Clark, Legitimacy in International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007): 11.

  • 10

    Clark, Legitimacy in International Society, 13.

  • 11

    Bukovansky, Legitimacy and Power, 2.

  • 12

    Clark, Legitimacy in International Society, 20.

  • 13

    Bukovansky, Legitimacy and Power, 10.

  • 20

    Bukovansky, Legitimacy and Power, 24.

  • 21

     See, Magda Leichtova, Misunderstanding Russia (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014); Andrei P. Tsygankov, Russia’s Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010); Bobo Lo, Russian Foreign Policy in the post-Soviet Era: Reality, Illusion, and Mythmaking (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002); Hanna Smith, Russia and Its Foreign Policy (Helsinki: Alexanteri Intitute, 2005).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 901 199 0
Full Text Views 617 305 25
PDF Views & Downloads 879 676 74