Victory Day has always been a big thing on Crimea and now it is even bigger. Contrary to a growing majority in Ukraine, Crimea didn’t turn its back on the sacrifice made by the Soviet Union to defeat the Nazi occupiers and liberate the occupied countries including Crimea. I am told that the past 2 celebrations on Victory Day were even bigger events than normally because now this historical event is also seen as celebration of the reunification with Russia and the sacred oath of Russia to always defend Crimea as it has done so many times, too many times, in the past. There is however a day which has an even stronger emotional value for the Crimean population and that is Naval Day. It is said that every citizen of Crimea has at least 1 family member who serves or served in the Navy. The Black Sea Fleet with its home-base on Crimea in its different roles and size over the path of history, has always been of high importance to the rulers of Russia, from the Russian Tsars to the Soviet Union, and post-Soviet leaders of Russia. The Black Sea Fleet was the main point of negotiation and tension between Ukraine and Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and the main pressure point for the USA during this phase. Some even suggest that access to the Crimean naval bases was the main reason for the USA to be involved in the Ukrainian Revolution last year and I tend to agree with that argumentation.
The Black Sea Fleet and its power base in the Black Sea and neighboring countries was also the reason that Crimea was attacked and occupied over and over again. During the Crimean War by British, French and Italian forces with support of the falling Ottoman Empire. During World War I by the German Empire. During the Russian Revolution after Crimea declaring itself a Soviet Republic by the White Army with support of British, French, Italian, Greek and Croatian Forces. During World War II by Nazi German, Romanian, Italian and Slovak and Croatian Forces. All these occupations have several things in common. Sevastopol and its surrounding natural fortified bases were always the main objective for the occupiers and Sevastopol was always the last city to fall after massive destruction by the attackers. On all occasions, the attackers and occupiers were joined by elements of Ukrainian and Tatar militias. And every occupation of Crimea showed severe ethnic cleansing against the native Russian population, reaching its dark and diabolical height during the occupation by Nazi forces. And it was always the Navy that took the last stance to defend Crimea and its population. It was always the Navy that undertook dangerous missions to evacuate civilians for approaching enemies. And during all occupations by the enemies of Crimea, it was always the Navy that made the first effort to liberate Crimea again. The Navy also played a major role in securing the referendum and reunification last year. So it is only understandable that the Navy is a big thing for Crimea and the Crimean population.
Continue reading Impressions from #Crimea (3/3) – Naval Pride
As soon as you arrive on Crimea, you will notice the happy cheerful display of the Russian identity. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look. The Russian identity is proudly displayed in every thinkable way. Very popular are the shape of Crimea in the colors of the Russian Flag, of course the Russian Flag itself, the outline of Russia including the Crimean Peninsula and basically anything that carries the colors White, Blue and Red. The only thing that comes close to the popularity of the Russian colors and the Russian flag is the portrait of Mr. Putin. People wearing shirts and jackets with his image, books, magazines, paintings on the walls, Mr. Putin is everywhere. Where World War II made many Heroes of the Soviet Union defending and liberating Crimea, Mr. Putin has become the undisputed Hero of Crimea in modern times by making the reunification with Motherland Russia happen. The next popular image are the Polite People in any way, shape or form, which filled the streets of Crimea during the referendum which lead to the reunification with Russia. The reunification so many craved for, the reunification the Crimean Parliament worked for since 1991 but wasn’t heard by neither Kiev nor Moscow.
Not aware that any of my work on the Crimean Constitution and the right for self-determination would become reality in the near future, I participated in conferences on this topic in Yalta in 2010 and 2012. Where I now see proud display of the regained Russian Identity of Crimea, I didn’t see that level of display of Ukrainian Identity on Crimea back then. There was an Ukrainian flag every now and then, mainly on official buildings, schools and the entrances of hotels where many other colors were flying, including Russian flags. In 2012, just weeks before EURO2012 started, there were certainly more Ukrainian flags carried by football fans, just like there were Russian flags carried by other fans. But nothing of that compares to how Crimea is now expressing being part of Russia and being proud of that.
Continue reading Impressions from #Crimea (2/3) – Cheerful identity
After visiting Crimea in 2010 and 2012 before the reunification and again three times this year, I want to share my impressions and the differences I have observed first hand during this trips. These are my personal observations and impressions, describing what caught my attention. A personal experience, seen through my eyes. In following posts, I will share my observations and opinions about what I have seen and experienced after leaving the airport but now I have share my experience with the airport. The same airport that was once in Ukrainian hands and left my with the most horrible travel experiences I have made since I’m handicapped.
In the past, Ukrainian Air Lines left me fully exposed to my handicap in the worst travel experience since I became handicapped!
The first impression Crimea made on me this year is a very personal and positive experience which you might only understand when you depend on your wheelchair to be mobile and independent. To put this in the proper perspective, you need to understand that with my wheelchair I am fully independent except for those odd moments where I need someone’s help to overcome an obstacle. I work out and exercise a lot to be able to overcome as much obstacles as possible without any help because my independence is very important to me. My girlfriend sometimes complains that I’m so stubborn and refuse even her help when I’m convinced that I can handle the situation alone. Once, so long ago that it seems like a different lifetime, I could climb mountains and jump from staggering heights to land on my feet with my parachute and after that run for miles with heavy package without getting tired. Those days are gone and done, nowadays my wheelchair have replaced the legs that once carried me wherever I want to go and I am proud of being able to go (almost) wherever I want with my wheelchair. Almost like in the old days.
Continue reading Impressions from #Crimea (1/3)