Tag Archives: Ukraine

Obamabear Penalty

A bear, symbolizing Russia, bites into Crimea, a region of Ukraine, while U.S. President Barack Obama trims the bear’s nails with clippers labeled “sanctions.”
A bear, symbolizing Russia, bites into Crimea, a region of Ukraine, while U.S. President Barack Obama trims the bear’s nails with clippers labeled “sanctions.”

In 2014, Ukraine was a country that many Americans had not heard of- let alone could point to on a map. Buffeted through the wars and conflict of the 20th century, Ukraine had to fight for its independence while being treated as a voiceless territory by Russia and other European neighbors. Into the 21st century, Ukraine had a short-lived independence from the early 1990’s to 2014, until Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula and triggered an armed conflict over the territory that has continued into 2018. Ukraine’s internal divide between pro-Russian and nationalist regions allowed Russia to easily infiltrate the government and invade the peninsula under President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s persistent and unforgiving leader. Global powers have and continue to criticize Russia to no avail; ultimately, Ukraine has been left to fend for itself against a country with a centuries-long record of militaristic and political prowess. A 2014 article in the Christian Science Monitor, titled “Russia Advances into Ukraine, West Wonders What to Do Now,” discusses reactions to the Ukrainian crisis, yet the root of the conflict starts a century before, not 2014. In A.F. Branco’s cartoon, “Obamabear Penalty,” Russia’s aggressive actions are showcased in the form of a bear unflinching to the meager efforts of the U.S President, Barack Obama, as he clips the bear’s nails. Russia is shown tearing into Crimea, representing its self-serving purpose and apathetic regard for Ukraine’s struggles.

Ukraine had been a land made up of many ethnicities, influenced greatly by Poland and Russia before the 20th century. It’s own sense of nationalism emerged in the mid 19th century. Ukraine began to establish political parties and a stronger government, but ethnic and cultural conflicts persisted in some of its regions (Yekelchyk). Through WWI, Russia had become so involved in Ukraine that in 1917 Ukraine was absorbed into Russia as a province- Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea was of key interest to Russia (Yekelchyk). This was during Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution, and as politics shifted, Ukraine tried to distance itself from Russia. Soon, both countries were claiming opposite ideas about Ukrainian independence. After a short conflict, Russia ceded Ukraine a year later, and Ukraine claimed the Crimean Peninsula as its own. Crimea had previously belonged to Russia since the 18th century (Kuzio). However, the country endured political unrest until Ukraine, along with Crimea, fell back into Russia’s hands in the 1920’s (Yekelchyk).

The Union of Soviet Social Republics(U.S.S.R.) was formed in 1922, with Ukraine as one of the four founding states, yet Russia ruled over the other members of the union with unequal power. Ukrainian resentment towards Russian mistreatment began to grow.

WWII threw Europe into extreme turmoil and Ukraine was occupied by Germany. Many of Ukraine’s Jews were exterminated. After the war Russia liberated the country, once again absorbing it and bringing back into the Soviet Union for the next five decades.

A movement for independence began to develop, and in 1991 the U.S.S.R. was disbanded because of Russian political unrest (Brown). Ukraine was now autonomous, yet not without difficulties. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Crimea began to develop a movement for pro- Russian secession, yet nothing came to fruition because of Ukrainian pressure and lack of Russian support (Kuzio). Crimea, along with other eastern regions, identified more with Russia because of an intimate history, geographic proximity and a shared language(Russian). Ukraine had a rocky independence through the 1990’s and 2000’s with many economic issues. Nevertheless, Russian relations remained friendly, especially since they were still allowed access to the Black Sea through the Crimean Peninsula (Kuzio).

In 2013, the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, was facing criticism for deciding not to sign a European Union trade deal. Russia pressured Ukraine to not get too close to the EU and to keep Russia as its main ally. This sparked some protests in the capital city of Kiev, as citizens were angry that the President was throwing away a beneficial deal. The violence began in February 2014 when protesters were attacked and killed by government snipers and police(Thompson). President Yanukovych fled to Russia, and within days Russian troops entered Crimea effortlessly; east Ukraine was sympathetic to the cause as the troops slowly began to establish checkpoints (Simpson). The government in Kiev started a campaign against pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine, with fruitless ceasefires being established only to be broken repeatedly.

Russian President Putin denied Russia’s involvement in Ukraine for many months, attempting to remain as unassuming as possible despite clear evidence of its military in Crimea. Russia was able to skirt behind the line so that its actions could not be considered a direct invasion. This left the United Nations unable to punish Russia harshly, resulting in only sanctions as a threat. Yet these sanctions did not hinder Russia, as portrayed in Branco’s cartoon.

96.7% of Crimeans voted to join Russia in a referendum, yet the ballot didn’t even have the option of remaining in Ukraine (Tamkin). Through 2015, over 1,000 people had been killed in Ukraine, and casualties continued to rise as the stalemate proceeded through the years, trapping Eastern Ukrainian citizens in a bleak war zone to this day(Tamkin).

The Christian Science Monitor article, “Russia Advances in Ukraine, West Wonders What to do Now”, explains the dilemma of the U.N. as it decided how to act when Russia first entered Crimea. The United States had denied providing armed assistance to the Ukrainians, fearing an escalation of conflict with Russia. Russia responded to criticism by blaming Ukraine for the conflict and warning Western countries not to interfere. Although President Obama had spoken of providing arms, training and equipment to Ukraine, no action was taken to realize such a plan.

This inaction on the U.N.’s part is reminiscent of the conflict over Manchuria in the early 1930’s, when Japan invaded the region and broke a global agreement of peace. A political cartoon by the Dallas Morning News’ John Knott in 1932 depicts Russia as watchful of Japan’s hold over Manchuria. At the time, the League of Nations only imposed sanctions in response to the invasion. Russia was a key player in that dispute since it had interests in Manchuria’s sea ports, much like the access to the Black Sea in Crimea. In both situations, Russia was able to avoid resistance from other powers because of its patient tactics. In Manchuria, Russia waited for Japan to be weak enough to (re)claim power in that territory. Similarly, Russia avoided military conflict by influencing rebellion within the Ukrainian population, secretly sending in troops without a grand expression of violence that would warrant heavy punishment from the United Nations.

Russia has always been an imperial, assertive force, whereas Ukraine never has been able to find peace. The back-and-forth relationship between Ukraine and Russia has stretched over the past century with peace never lasting long. Russia had always believed it had a right to Ukraine, and its divided population has made it unclear what would be best for regions such as Crimea. Perhaps the stalemate dragging on today might convince the two countries to finally come to an agreement.

Works Cited:

Branco, A F. “Branco Cartoon – ObamaBear Penalty.” Le·Gal In·Sur·Rec·Tion, Le·Gal In·Sur·Rec·Tion, 24 Mar. 2014, legalinsurrection.com/2014/03/branco-cartoon-obamabear-penalty/.

BROWN, ARCHIE. “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 4, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 1608-1610. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3404101426/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=aec45a99. Accessed 1 May 2018

KUZIO, TARAS. “Crimea.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 339-340. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3404100316/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=0a98946e. Accessed 18 Apr. 2018.

LaFranchi, Howard. “Russia Advances into Ukraine, West Wonders What to Do Now.” The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor, 28 Aug. 2014, m.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2014/0828/Russia-advances-into-Ukraine-West-wonders-what-to-do-now.

Simpson, John. “Russia’s Crimea Plan Detailed, Secret and Successful.” BBC News, BBC, 19 Mar. 2014, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26644082.

Tamkin, Emily. “A Timeline of Vladimir Putin’s Excuses and Evasions Regarding Russia’s Actions in Ukraine.” Slate Magazine, The Slate Group, 5 Sept. 2014, www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/09/05/the_art_of_doublespeak_a_timeline_of_vladimir_putin_s_excuses_and_evasions.html

Thompson, Nick. “Ukraine: Everything You Need to Know about How We Got Here.” CNN, Cable News Network, 3 Feb. 2017, www.cnn.com/2015/02/10/europe/ukraine-war-how-we-got-here/index.html.

YEKELCHYK, SERHY. “Ukraine and Ukrainians.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 4, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 1600-1605. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3404101422/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=77b16099. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

Russia’s Invasion of Crimea 2014

Carrying a large Russian rifle, a nearly naked Vladimir Putin aggressively advances into Crimea.
Carrying a large Russian rifle, a nearly naked Vladimir Putin aggressively advances into Crimea.

On February 28, 2014, Russian troops arrived in the dark of night, orchestrating a military invasion and occupation of the Crimean peninsula. Unidentified, uniformed Pro-Russian gunmen seized control of the main airports at Simferopol and Sevastopol, also taking over the Crimean parliament located in Simferopol. Despite Ukraine’s independence from the U.S.S.R in 1991, Russia had been maintaining its fleets at Sevastpol since that same year. Because of this, the Russian Foreign Ministry reasoned that troops were “required to protect deployment places of the Black Sea fleet in Ukraine” (MacAskill 46). However, the Ukrainian interior minister claimed that the Russian attack was a “military invasion and occupation in violation of all international treaties and norms,” which were outlined in the United Nation Charter (Article 2(4)), a document that prohibits ‘the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations” (MacAskill 21). Therefore, it was apparent that Russia’s military actions were aggressive and illegal and that they were occupying the Crimean peninsula only to increase Russia’s geopolitical power.

In Tom Toles’ political cartoon, “Naked Aggression,” (Tole cartoon) published in the Washington Post on March 4, 2014, he satirizes the military aggression and unjust actions taken by Russia in order to claim Crimea. The cartoon depicts Vladamir Putin as a villainous individual who is seen with only his red underwear on, which is humorously embellished with an array of skulls and crossbones. Additionally, Putin is illustrated without a shirt, referencing his well-known and proud penchant for being photographed bare-chested, while engaging in “macho” adventures such as hunting, boating, and spearfishing (Brown 3). Putin is characterized as aggressively advancing across the land while carrying a large Russian rifle. Particularly, he steps on the word, “Crimea,” as he marches into that territory. Two men in the background state, “Now he’s dropped his trousers too,” as they observe Putin “nakedly” marching into Crimea.

The context of this comic revolves around the climactic and geographic factors that limited pre-Soviet imperial Russia’s economy. Due to the vast amount of bitter cold regions in Russia, this limited Russia’s agricultural activity to about ten percent of the country’s land area. Of this amount of land, approximately sixty-percent of it was used for cultivating crop (“Russia- Agriculture”). During the beginning of the twentieth- century, “agriculture constituted the single largest sector of the Russian economy, producing approximately one-half of the national income” (Jackson). However, due to the lack of technological advancement, the Russian agricultural industry began to decline. Crops and livestock failed to withstand Russia’s harsh winter, ultimately leading to famines. Gradually, this led to Russia’s imperialistic nature of searching outwardly in other countries for land, resources, and even for warm water ports for year-round trading and building their navy. The agricultural difficulties that limited Russia’s economy not only influenced social reforms, but it also contributed to the rise of the Bolshevik revolution.

The Bolsheviks, headed by Vladimir Lenin, were a revolutionary party devoted to the philosophies of Karl Marx (“Bolsheviks”). They believed that the working class should liberate themselves from the economic and political bindings of the ruling classes. Since Russia was a backward agriculture country, a mass amount of peasants demanded more land, and factory workers began to protest the wretched working conditions and economic turmoil. Therefore, the Bolsheviks, became increasingly popular among the working class, eventually overthrowing the Provisional Government in 1917 (“Bolsheviks”). Soon after the Bolshevik Revolution, they changed their name to the Russian Communist Party in 1918, beginning the reign of a socialist government (“Bolsheviks”).

During the reign of the Soviet Union from 1922-1991, it consisted of fifteen Soviet Socialist Republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirgiziya, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan (Dewdey 8). During its existence, the total area possessed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R) constituted the world’s largest country – essentially covering one-sixth of the Earth’s land surface (Dewdey 31). Not only did the Soviet Union obtain vast areas of land during its reign, but it also possessed control over a multitude of waterways and valuable resources, thereby aggrandizing its geopolitical power.

However, by 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader, rose to power the Soviet Union experienced severe stagnation both politically and economically.  In order to remedy this, Gorbachev introduced the two-tiered policy: “perestroika” (“restructuring”) and “glasnost” (“openness”). The policy of perestroika was an economic reform program that would attempt to replace the centralized command economy with a progressive version of market economy, while the policy of glasnost enabled the freedom of speech among citizens (Dewdey 116). However, this change to the economy was unsuccessful, resulting in a further decline in production. Because of this economic regression, the citizens of the U.S.S.R and its republics utilized their new freedom of speech to criticize Gorbachev’s failure to improve the economy. Consequently, non-Russian areas such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania began to demand their own autonomy. With the combination of countries demanding their independence and democratic momentum within the U.S.S.R, this eventually led to the downfall and disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991(Dewdey 134).

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, only twelve republics emerged from the U.S.S.R. These remaining republics formed the Russian Federation. Boris Yeltsin became President of the Russian Republic in 1990 (“Boris Yeltsin”). He attempted to repair the country by supporting a market-oriented economy and the right of Soviet republics to greater autonomy within the Soviet Union. However, his popularity declined quickly as he failed to reform the free-market economy in order to spur economic growth. Yeltsin was eventually forced to resign in 1999, when Vladimir Putin, who was a former KGB (the primary security agency of the Soviet Union which is now known as the FSB) official, threatened to expose Tatyana Dyachenko, Yeltsin’s daughter, who had been taking part in “high-level corruption and financial malfeasance” within the government (Bolhen 26).

Vladimir Putin was soon elected President in 1999 (“Vladimir Putin”). Since his election, Putin had been attempting to rebuild “Soviet Russia,” stating that the “demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” (“Putin: Soviet Collapse a ‘Genuine Tragedy’ ”). Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia continued to experience severe economic turmoil. However, in order to increase geopolitical and economic security, Vladimir Putin deployed Russian troops on an overnight mission on February 27, 2014 to seize the Supreme Council and the Crimean peninsula. The surprising and sly invasion of Crimea underscored Putin’s “flagrant violation of international law and the postwar order” land “was an aggressive move to return to a world in which Russia was still an international superpower” (Pinkham 58).

While Russia characterized the invasion as simply deploying soldiers to protect Russian fleets in Crimea, it was evident that the access to oil and gas reservoirs located in the Black Sea were the real objectives. The vast amount of valuable resources within the Black Sea not only would provide a much more stable and powerful economy, but the possession of the port would also extend Russia’s maritime boundaries (Goncharov 9). This strategic waterway served as an important naval port, increasing Russia’s geopolitical power.

These aggressive military actions mirror the hostile actions made by Japan in demanding the cessation on the boycott of Japanese goods in Shanghai during the 1930’s. In the midst of its imperial conquest, Japan invaded and conquered Manchuria through the Mukden incident that took place in 1931 (Byas 2). Manchuria was a territory rich with valuable resources that was legally governed by China. After the establishment of the pseudo-government, “Manchukuo,” in Manchuria, Japan began to use excessive military force in Shanghai to suppress Chinese boycotts of Japanese goods that arose out anti-Japanese resentment. In doing this, Japan hoped to occupy Shanghai in the process, gaining a foothold in another valuable area in order to spread its sphere of influence. Ultimately, these aggressive acts carried out by Japan not only violated its legal obligation to denunciate war, as outlined by the League of Nations, but also further heightened tensions that already existed between the two nations.

Similarly, Russia invaded Crimea, violating the United Nations charter by committing an aggressive and unjust act of imperialism. By possessing control of the Black Sea, it was evident that this was Russia’s key to geopolitical and economic stability. In Tole’s cartoon, Putin embodies a similar body language and image to the Japanese militant in John Knott’s cartoon, “Having Crushed the Chinese ‘Bandits’ ” (Knott cartoon). Putin and the Japanese soldier both possess a large military gun as they invade into a territory that is not their own. Furthermore, the bully-like characterization of the soldier compares to Putin’s “nakedness.” While the immense size and strength of the militant corresponded to Japan’s militaristic demeanor, Putin’s nearly naked state parallels to his “naked” or bold aggression that was portrayed by the Russian invasion on Crimea. Therefore, both cartoons resonate with the sheer aggression exhibited by Japan and Russia.

Due to the economic and geopolitical pressures that Japan and Russia experienced during their respective time periods, these factors pushed them to aggressively seize territories, even if it was illegal, in order to achieve economic and geopolitical stability. While the 1928 Kellogg- Briand Pact and the 2014 United Nations Charter (Article 2(4)) were both designed to urge nations to reject war, the geopolitical and economic circumstances presently occurring in the world may cause countries to act in their self interest in order to gain stability. Therefore, it is important to keep the past in mind to better evaluate the future outcomes of Russia’s war on Crimea.


Works Cited

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Bolshevik.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 26 Apr. 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/Bolshevik.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Boris Yeltsin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 16 Apr. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Boris-Yeltsin.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Vladimir Putin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 19 Mar. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Vladimir-Putin.

Bohlen, Celestine. “YELTSIN RESIGNS: THE OVERVIEW; Yeltsin Resigns, Naming Putin as Acting President To Run in March Election.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2000, www.nytimes.com/2000/01/01/world/yeltsin-resigns-overview-yeltsin-resigns-naming-putin-acting-president-run-march.html.

Brown, Chris. “Vacationing like a ‘Real’ Man: Photos from Putin’s Macho Holiday Seen as Part of Re-Election Bid | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 7 Aug. 2017, www.cbc.ca/news/world/vladimir-putin-images-siberian-holiday-1.4237878.

Dewdney, John C., et al. “Soviet Union.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 20 Apr. 2018, www.britannica.com/place/Soviet-Union.

Goncharov, Vladimir Petrovich, et al. “Black Sea.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 13 Mar. 2018, www.britannica.com/place/Black-Sea.

Jackson, George D., and Robert James Devlin. Dictionary of the Russian Revolution. New York: Greenwood, 1989. Print

Kara-Murza, Vladimir V. “Ukraine Is Putin’s, Not Russia’s, War.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 4 Mar. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ukraine-is-putins-not-russias-war/2014/03/04/f587b698-a337-11e3-84d4-e59b1709222c_story.html?utm_term=.5c1b9a1d2417.

Knott, John. “Having Crushed the Chinese ‘Bandits’.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 28 January 1932. Newspaper. 18 April 2018.

MacAskill, Ewen, et al. “Russian Invasion of Crimea Fuels Fear of Ukraine Conflict.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 Mar. 2014, www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/28/russia-crimea-white-house.

Pinkham, Sophie. “How Annexing Crimea Allowed Putin to Claim He Had Made Russia Great Again | Sophie Pinkham.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 22 Mar. 2017, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/22/annexing-crimea-putin-make-russia-great-again.

“Putin: Soviet Collapse a ‘Genuine Tragedy’.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 25 Apr. 2005, www.nbcnews.com/id/7632057/ns/world_news/t/putin-soviet-collapse-genuine-tragedy/#.WvSSy4gvxPY.

“Russia – Agriculture.” Portugal – FAMILY AND KINSHIP RELATIONS, countrystudies.us/russia/60.htm.

Toles, Tom. “Naked Aggression.” Cartoon. Washington Post 4 March 2014. Newspaper. 20 April 2018.





All in Favor of Joining Russia


The military occupation of Ukrainian city Crimea by Vladimir Putin’s russian forces has caused unrest and tension between russian supporters and ukrainian loyalists. The conflict in Ukraine began in 2014 with the decline of an economic deal proposed by the European Union and has since escalated into military intervention.

Depicted in this contemporary political cartoon is a man being threatened by a tank. The man being confronted by the tank is old and dressed in casual clothes with a cap that looks European (for lack of a better term). The man is labeled Crimea and he has his arms raised above his head in surrender and looks alarmed. The man inside the tank is labeled Putin and looks down at the Crimean man threateningly, saying “All those in favor of joining Russia, raise their hands…”.

The beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict started with a proposed economic deal from the European Union. Ukrainians desired involvement with the stronger economies of Western Europe and the European Union wanted connections with more Eastern European economies. However, despite the benefits to both sides, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych started to express his doubts about the agreement. The Ukrainian people saw this hesitation as a sign that the president was giving in to President Vladimir Putin of Russia’s pressure to decline the EU’s deal, which he eventually did, accepting a different economic deal from Russia in it’s place.

This angered the people of Ukraine for two reasons: first, the majority of the population wanted to ally themselves with the more productive western economies, and second, the new agreement showed a strengthened alignment with Russia. Protests broke out in the capital city of Kiev, which was met with harsh retaliation from the Ukrainian government who sent in riot police and armed guards. Conflict between the the Pro-Russian groups and the Anti-Russian groups steadily increased. On April 15, 2014, Crimea, a center of Pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine, was declared to be a territory under provisional occupation by the Russian military. This military occupation has continued into the present day of 2016. Currently the United Nations has condemned this occupation on the grounds that the condition of human rights has deteriorated in Crimea since the military forces took over.

The humor of this cartoon comes in the irony of Putin’s words. He is talking about Crimea joining Russia as if it was up to them, telling them to raise their hands if they agree. Judging just from his words, it sounds fair and democratic. However, the Crimean man is raising his hands out of fear and surrender, face to face with the gun part of the tank. There is brute force juxtaposed with the seemingly innocuous suggestion Putin makes. Putin offers a choice, but in reality there is no choice; the Crimean man must raise his hands or face possible death. The shock of the threat the tank poses elicits a humorous response from the reader, since it is incongruous with the compromising nature of Putin’s words.

Some elements that enhance the meaning of this cartoon include the clothes of Putin and the Crimean man, as well as their positions and the background of the illustration. Putin wears a black suit, appropriate for the office he holds, that gives off the suggestion of power and competence. This is contrasted with the simple clothes of the Crimean man, who wears a cap that is reminiscent of a stereotypical Eastern European peasant’s hat. He is lower class than Putin, and does not hold nearly the same amount of power. The simplicity of his attire suggests vulnerability. The background is filled with a smokey gray haze, creating an atmosphere of fear and dismay that reflects the attitude of the Crimean man. Putin’s thinly veiled demand for his country to join Russia does not bode well.

Works Cited

“Ukraine: Everything You Need to Know about How We Got Here.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

News, BBC. “Why Crimea Is so Dangerous.” BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

“UN Committee Condemns Russian Occupation of Crimea.” VOA. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Curran, John. “Russian-Ukrainian Conflict Explained.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.


Russia Moves On Crimea

Cartoonist highlights the tension between Russia and Ukraine on territorial disputes over Crimea.
Cartoonist highlights the tension between Russia and Ukraine on territorial disputes over Crimea.

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.

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“Emperors, 1800–1912.” Encyclopedia of Modern China, edited by David Pong, vol. 1, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2009, pp. 505-509. Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Granlund, Dave. “Russia Moves On Crimea.” Cartoon. DaveGrandlund.com. DaveGrandlund.com, 3 Mar. 2014. Web. 

Hyer, Eric. “China–Russia Relations.” Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, edited by Karen Christensen and David Levinson, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002, pp. 15-21. Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Jalabi, Raya. “Crimea’s Referendum to Leave Ukraine: How Did We Get Here?” The Guardian. The Guardian, 13 Mar. 2013. Web.

Khrustalyov, Rossomahin. “Russia Medvedev: Origins Imaging (XVI-XVIII Centuries).” Center for Ethnic and National Research ISU. Ivanovo State University, n.d. Web. 

“One Year After the Annexation, a Darkness Falls Over Crimea.” US Official News. Plus Media Solutions, 19 Mar. 2015. Web.

Schofield, Matthew. “Crimea Votes for Secession.” The Tampa Tribune. The Tribune Co., 17 Mar. 2014. Web.