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Ukraine: A View From Crimea

Last week, Ukraine banned Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov from the country, after he called for Russia to take ownership of Sevastopol, a Ukrainian Black Sea naval port. The incident received much coverage in the Russian and Ukrainian media and blogs; some bloggers’ reactions can be found in an earlier GV translation.

Below is one more post on the issue, written by a Russophone resident of Balaklava, a Crimean town that has an official status of a district of the city of Sevastopol. Reacting to the statements made by Russian writer Aleksandr Prokhanov in defense of Luzhkov's stance on the status of Sevastopol, LJ user mix_hawk wrote this (RUS) in the ru_politics LJ community:

[…]

[Prokhanov] started telling [on RTVi Channel] about how the Russophobic attitudes are encouraged in Sevastopol, how films in Russian have been banned from screening, how forced Ukrainization is taking place, etc. And then he expressed his support for [Luzhkov] – like, enough, we've had enough, Crimea issues have to be dealt with in a harsh, tough way, because we've got important geopolitical interests there.

So here goes.

I live in Balaklava now and visit Sevastopol often. I see Russian flags on every third building there, billboards and flyers are in Russian, ribbons with the colors of the Russian flags on the cars and people's handbags. And no one is beating up these people or smashing their car windows, no one is tearing down flyers and billboards. We communicate in Russian freely and no one is hissing at us, the way it used to happen in Estonia in 1990 or in Moldova in 1993. Russophobe moods, where are you? Hello?

Regarding films – yes, there is such a thing, all screenings have to be translated into Ukrainian. But it's not specified in the decree in what form they should be translated, and the majority of Russian films are shown in Russian with subtitles. Just today I've watched [Battalions Ask for Fire] in the language of the original, only at the bottom there was a Ukrainian translation in small letters – could be a way to learn the language, by the way )))

I also don't understand in what way forced Ukrainization is carried out. Is it about official documents that have to be submitted in the state language? But do they now allow to submit documents in Azeri or Tajik in Moscow? Yes, it's the territory of Ukraine, and the state language here is Ukrainian […].

According to international treaties, Russia has recognized Ukraine's territorial integrity within current borders. Whether it's right or wrong is a different issue. I personally believe that Sevastopol is a truly Russian city, but what's done is done. What's needed now in order to change the situation aren't the rude statements by Putin on Ukraine and by Luzhkov on Crimea, but serious diplomacy work, a search for mutually convenient compromises – this is the only way for the governments of the two countries to reach a consensus. And what Luzhkov has achieved now is pushing the chance to solve the issue diplomatically a few years back, if not more.

[…]

Here is one of the comments (RUS) to this post, by LJ user ervix:

In general, your position is correct, and I guess I agree with it. There is one “but” here, though. [Luzhkov] was speaking about Sevastopol not for the residents of Sevastopol, but for the Russian voters.

Ukrainian politicians react to Russia's domestic political PR games, and their reactions result in additional tension in the relationship […].

1 comment

  • I have lived in Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine for 3 1/2 years now. I am however a native Canadian from Niagara Falls, Canada. My experiences here in Sevastopol are vast, I could write a book about all the good and bad in comparison to Western life here. There is no doubt however in my experiences that Sevastopol is a Russian city. In my time here I have learned to read/write and speak “Russian”. The problems that exist here are similar to that in Canada with Quebec. The primary difference being that Sevastopol is 90% Russian. There is no question that Ukrainian influence is trying to subdue the Russian language but it is not overbearing by any means. I remember one incident where I was at the Canadian Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine. I witnessed a Russian woman speaking to the secretary at the desk. The secretary replied, I don’t speak Russian only Ukrainian. The secretary also spoke French and Canadian. This was the first official time I witnessed that even my beloved Bi-lingual nation of Canada does not recognize that Ukraine is 50% Russian. I was embarrassed and ashamed my country leads the world in multi-ethnic origins, diversity and language sharing and yet here in Ukraine Canada is a follower not leader. The problem lies in history. Crimea was given willingly to Ukraine some 40 years ago, BUT and here’s the big but, it was of course when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union so it was strictly symbolic at the time. Sevastopol was the secret military city for the Russian Black Sea fleet. This is the place of fantasy from the James Bond movies only Sevastopol and Balaclava are real places. In my opinion however life in Sevastopol isn’t about the citizens of Sevastopol wanting to become Russian, they already feel as if they are. This is a matter that Russia simply wants Sevastopol strategically for it’s Navy and uses the fact that Sevastopol is rich in Russian history and culture to provide a reason for challenging it’s ownership. Let there be no question that Sevastopol and Balaclava are the best natural wonders in the world for a Naval base and anyone who tries to claim that Moscow has some personal love of the city itself is just plain naive. With that said, secondarily however there are many in Russia who have relatives in Sevastopol. I have personally met important naval officers and generals from Russia with relatives here in Sevastopol, they are very smart men and they are patriots from a fallen but not forgotten era. What is the solution? There isn’t one. There are only compromises. As long as there are cultural and spiritual differences among people here on Earth there will never truly be complete harmony and peace. Clearly Ukraine’s leadership has witnessed what has occurred in Georgia BUT Ukraine is not as weak as Georgia is and Ukraine has much stronger alliances with Europe and the West, Canada especially considering 1% of Canada’s population is of Ukrainian origin. I do not foresee Russia attacking Ukraine any time soon but time will tell, Russia seems to have much experience with foolish head strong actions. Even a young educated child can see that Russia’s way of going about things isn’t internationally recognized as being normal behavior BUT my experience with Russians is that in their society it is perfectly normal.

    Overall it is Russia that wants Sevastopol. Sevastopol citizens do not dream of Civil War with Ukraine and becoming Russian citizens, they instead go about their daily lives as if they are Russians if only but in their minds.

    Many times I have asked people in Sevastopol are you Ukrainian or Russian? They reply, Russian of course. I ask them what kind of Passport they have. Ukrainian is the reply. I smile at them. They shrug. That’s usually the end of the conversation. Clearly it’s a sore spot but for the majority they shrug it off and simply live life.

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