Leonov for his part suggests that the restoration of the name Tauride is appropriate for three reasons: first, the Greeks were on the peninsula long before the Tatars were; second, the Russian Imperial government always used this term; and third, Stalin favored restoring the term at the end of his life but Nikita Khrushchev ignored that after the dictator’s death.
The Greeks have a history on the peninsula extending back to classical times, he writes; and when Russia annexed Crimea the first time, it called the region the Tauride. Thus it remained until the end of the imperial period even though Greeks during that time were subject to harsh assimilation pressures and even deported from Crimea to other parts of the empire.
After the Bolshevik revolution, the toponym was very much a contested one. In March 1918, a Soviet Republic of the Tauride was proclaimed but five weeks later, German forces entered the region and suppressed it. Then in April 1919, a Crimean Soviet Socialist Republic was announced only to be liquidated by anti-Bolshevik White forces.
Finally, on October 18, 1921, Lenin settled the matter by signing a decree “On the formation of a Crimean Autonomous Republic.”
But according to Leonov, Tauride has a better claim. The name “Crimea” only began to be used after the 13th century when the Golden Horde expanded into the area. Before that the Tauride was much more often commonly employed, he says. The Ottomans insisted on Crimea, and that name continues to be supported by Muslims and Crimean Tatars.
After Lenin’s proclamation of a Crimean Autonomous Republic, Leonov continues, many ethnic Greeks left to return to their historical homeland, and their numbers on the peninsula declined precipitously. They were repressed as well during World War II by the Germans, Romanians and “especially” Italian occupiers.
Then, following a decision in Moscow on June 2, 1944, “almost 14,000 Crimean Greeks” were resettled in Perm oblast, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan “without the right to return to Crimea.” Nonetheless, beginning in the late 1950s some did; and they and their descendants now number approximately 3100.
That might seem too small a number to take into account, Leonov acknowledges; but he argues that “the inclusion of the name ‘Tauride’ in the official name of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has an historical basis” and not one as distant historically as its opponents try to suggest.
According to him, at the end of the 1940s and beginning of the 1950s, P.I. Titov, the head of the Crimean oblast party committee convinced Stalin that this would be a good idea and the Soviet leader approved it. “But after Stalin, this project was put on hold by his ‘comrades in arms’ and in 1954, they separated Crimea from Russia.”