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As Russia and the United States continue to discuss the way forward past the deepening crisis afflicting Ukraine, a referendum in Crimea will be held on March 16 that will weigh heavily on the contested peninsula's future. With those sympathetic to a west-facing Ukraine expected to boycott the vote, the controversial referendum on Crimean independence is widely expected to pass, and Crimea will follow in the footsteps of its port city neighbor, Sevastopol, which unilaterally declared its independence on March 6.
According to the last census held by Ukraine in 2001, more than 58 percent of Crimea self-identified as ethnically Russian, and 77 percent of Crimeans said their native language was Russian. There is a huge gap in usage between Russian and the official state language of Ukrainian — which only 10 percent of Crimeans speak as a native language. The second most common language is Tatar, spoken by better than 11 percent of the population. Tatars, who were previously forced from Crimea after the Soviet Union routed occupying German forces during WWII, worry that a return to Russian rule could result in new ethnically motivated pressures.
Below is a map of Crimea and Sevastopol and the percentage of residents that identified Russian as their native tongue.
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