In Dave Granlund’s political cartoon, Russia Moves on Crimea, Crimea is shown to be in a dire situation following the Ukraine Crisis in 2013 which provided Russia advantages in claiming Crimea by making it appear as if Russia was able to assist Crimea in the middle of the crisis by annexing it. Russia is depicted as a bear, symbolizing the stereotype of Russia being “fierce and angry” and related to “frost” and “despotism” (Khrustalyov). In addition, Crimea is portrayed as a fish, the water as the Ukraine, and the dangerous features of the wave as the crisis. The political cartoon revolves around a political “tug-of-war” between Russia and Ukraine over who should rightfully have Crimea as a part of their nation (Ellicott). Although not a communist establishment anymore ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia still sought to expand, not ideologically as it did with communism, but territorially to grow as a larger superpower, which explains the reason why Russia sought to claim the Crimean Peninsula , an area that once belonged to it (Ellicott). At the time the cartoon was published on Granlund’s website, March 3rd, 2014, Crimea belonged to the Ukraine, yet Crimea was already leaning towards Russia since it seemed as if they could save the country from the crisis, hence the bear saying, “I’m saving you from drowning!” Furthermore, the grayish color tone of the cartoon highlights the seriousness of how the “tug-of-war” over Crimea was.
The Ukraine Crisis occurred as a result of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of an association agreement with the European Union (EU) in November 2013 (Ellicott). Yanukovych was pro-Russian and the decision was made as a response to Russian threats to disrupt trade in order to keep Ukraine-Russian trade stable since Russians didn’t want the Ukraine to align more with Europe (Ellicott). However, it led to pro-EU protests in the Ukraine, which further led to pro-Russian influences triggering more “violent demonstrations” in the country (Ellicott). After failing to disperse these events, the Ukraine parliament sided with the protesters and voted Yanukovych out of office, after “four months of civil unrest and political deadlock between demonstrators and Yanukovych’s government” (Jalabi). Prior to this event, Ukraine-Russian relations were fairly calm since the two countries were trade partners and shared the similarity of once being a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Ellicott). However, as a result of Yanukovych being ousted for avoiding EU relations and trying to create closer ties with Russia, Russia reacted with “immediate hostility to the new pro-Western leadership” in the Ukraine, causing more tensions between the two countries. In addition, pro-Russian troops stormed into Crimea, influencing the peninsula into wanting to be a part of Russia as it was once Russian’s territory and already carried several pro-Russian citizens (Ellicott). It can be seen in Granlund’s cartoon that Crimea relied on Russia to rescue the country as the fish fearfully looks back at the wave representing the Ukraine Crisis and had no choice but to let the bear save it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that people of Crimea wanted to join Russia as a result of their repression by the government that “took power when Ukraine’s unpopular President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev”, the capital of Ukraine, in February of 2014 (US Official News). His claim proved to be true as Crimea held a referendum on March 16, 2014 that had 95 percent of voters favoring to secede from Ukraine and to be annexed by Russia with an 80 percent voter turnout (Schofield).
As a result, on March 18, 2014, Russia officially signed a treaty with Crimea to have it be annexed as a part of Russian territory once again (Ellicott). Granlund’s political cartoon displays this annexation as the bear saving the fish from drowning in the water, parallel to Russia saving Crimea from Ukraine. However, the bear’s sharp teeth symbolized the force that Russia pressed on Crimea before the annexation. Russia approved military intervention and seized several areas in Crimea by force to counteract Ukraine’s military stationed in Crimea (Jalabi).
The political cartoon Russia Moves On Crimea by Granlund parallels with John Knott’s political cartoon, On Fertile Soil, over the vulnerability of China to Russian influence in the country in 1931. Both cartoons depict the idea of Russian expansion, even though Granlund’s cartoon primarily focused on territorial issues rather than ideological ones like in Knott’s cartoon over communism. The Russian government in Granlund’s cartoon differs from the government in Knott’s cartoon as time progressed and Soviet Union had fallen on December 26, 1991 as a result of communist leaders being incompetent and several countries overthrowing the communist government in their territories (Stock). After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation became its “successor state” in 1991 and pushed towards “democratic and economic reforms” and became more of a democratic government in 2014 as Russian officials were eventually chosen by elections (Ellicott). Even though not a communist country anymore as it was in 1931, Russia in 2014 sought to expand its territories by claiming areas such as Crimea to further build the power of its nation.
Further similarities of Knott and Granlund’s cartoons include how both foreshadowed events that were controversial at the time their cartoons were published. Knott’s cartoon predicted that communism will take over China as a result of Russian influence and the country’s unrest which proved to be true as the People’s Republic of China established a communist government influenced by the Soviet Union in 1949 (Hyer). Furthermore, at the time of Granlund’s cartoon, the debate over the annexation of Crimea by Russia was already leaning towards annexation as a result of the unrest that occurred in Ukraine in 2013 that affect Crimea’s stance in the middle of the “tug-of-war” (Ellicott). Grandlund’s political cartoon that displayed hints of Crimea wanting to join Russia was created before Crimea’s referendum and Russia’s annexation, foreshadowing these events that happened only a few days after the publication of this cartoon.
Russia Moves On Crimea by Dave Granlund summarizes the Crimean annexation that resulted from Russia seeking expansion in territorial powers while On Fertile Soil by John Knott displayed expansion of communist ideology as Soviet influence was depicted in China. After discovering the communist system was a failure after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia adopted a more democratic government and went under many reforms for the economy, constitution, banking, labor, and private property (Ellicott). To further increase their growth as a nation, Russia decided to claim back the land that was once theirs; the Crimean Peninsula, which played a large role in providing Russia access to the Black Sea (Ellicott). After incorporating a more stable type of government, Russia now primarily focuses on developing as a more powerful federation through territorial expansion rather than revolving its nation around a single ideology and expanding it.