Crimea has always been something of an anomaly: at the time of the formation of the Soviet Union, its majority population was Tatar. Subsequent Russian immigration meant that, by 2001, over 60 per cent of the population claimed Russian ethnicity, and 77 per cent Russian as their native language. By then, Crimea was an autonomous region within the Ukrainian Republic, independent since 1992, although Russia retained a lease on port facilities at Sevastopol for its Black Sea fleet. Upon dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Crimean Supreme Council attempted to declare independence, but withdrew under Ukrainian pressure. Its assignment to Ukraine initially occurred in 1954, in a somewhat impulsive gesture by First Secretary Khrushchev, to cement Ukrainian solidarity within the Soviet Union; but its Ukrainian population has never exceeded 30 per cent. The highest concentrations of Russian speakers in the peninsula are on the tourist Riviera, Sevastopol, and manufacturing centres of Kerch, Dzhankoy and Simferopol.
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