Andrey Zubov: Russians regret taking over Crimea, but haven’t repented yet

Andrei Zubov, archive photo from

Andrei Zubov, archive photo from 

Analysis & Opinion, Crimea, Politics, Russia, Ukraine

A prominent Russian historian and political scientist, Andrey Zubov was dismissed from his post of Professor at the MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations ) after criticizing Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine. Two years after the annexation of Crimea, I meet him in Stockholm where he was taking part in a seminar about Russia’s domestic policy at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.

“I rarely refuse an interview to Ukrainian journalists. As a Russian, I feel guilty,” says Zubov and shares that bad relations between Russia and Ukraine are painful for him and, he believes, the majority of Russians.

You’ve been predicting that Russia will eventually give Crimea back. But the proceedings against Crimean activists are gaining momentum, Crimean land has recently been surveyed for a Russian property register. That does not happen to a land that is to be returned.

This is a usual political demonstration of ownership. When the time comes, Russia will give Crimea back. Prosecutions (related to the anti-annexation protests) of 26th February, those against Oleh Sentsov, Haiser Dzhemilev are considered as bills of exchange that will be used later as a pay off  (for the annexation of Crimea – ed. ) -but I don’t think anyone will speak about paying anyone off. Russia will just need to give back what it took.

Russian political elites speak about Crimea like a “suitcase without a handle.” (more trouble than it is worth, ed.) The Opposition supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity. In academic circles, the less people are fascinated by Soviet imperialism, the more they condemn the annexation of Crimea.

Without giving Crimea back and agreeing to a referendum with an unpredictable result, Russia has no future in Europe. It will never accept Russia in its current state as the aggressor.

Russia doesn’t seem to admit that either the annexation of Crimea or that the invasion of Donbas was a mistake.

Russia’s ruling elite clearly understands that there is no chance of going back to the reestablishment of the Soviet empire. During the first months after annexation, there was much talk about Russian minorities in Kazakhstan, Eastern Belarus, even Latvia and Estonia – but not any more. The aggression failed; Crimea was the only “accomplishment,” (one) that turned out to be an unbearable political and economic burden.

The lesson still to be learned is about stealing someone’s land. For some reason, this has a very intoxicating effect on people. The Russian people were fascinated by an annexed Crimea, it was the apple that the serpent offered to Eve. Now Russians must grasp that evangelical principle “do not unto others what you don’t want done to yourself” is applicable in the realm of international politics.

Read also: Crimean Anschluss opened way for justification of Stalin and Soviet system, Zubov says

The more the economic situation in Russia worsens, the bigger the realization will be that this was the wrong thing to do. Unless some feeling of guilt and repentance appear, there is no future in relations between Russian and Ukraine.

The Russian economy is already in bad condition but we’ve seen people cheering the burning of food. How bad should things get before people repent?

Nobody can predict that. It depends on various factors. No one is happy to have Crimea, but the repentance hasn’t come yet, either. Now we’re witnessing a very interesting psychological moment: silence and confusion. It is when people realize the price they have paid but aren’t yet ready to admit it.

If the situation doesn’t improve in the near future, Putin’s politics will be very loudly condemned by the people – maybe even in the upcoming spring or summer. That is why the parliamentary elections were rescheduled for September instead of December.

The formal reason was to save money, which is fair, but actually they expect hatred towards authorities to be extremely high in December. Hence, it is better to have elections in September, while people are still relaxed after the summer holidays.

When can Crimea become de facto Ukrainian again?

As soon as the Donbas issue is resolved, Crimea will be the next stage. You can’t solve it all at once. It would’ve been possible if Russia capitulated, but this won’t happen.

Apparently, after fulfillment of Minsk-2, part of the sanctions will be lifted. You should give a piece of candy for each good deed. But part of the important sanctions, including the personal ones, will remain until the Crimean issue is fully resolved.

But Crimea is more difficult than Donbas. People do not want to come back to Ukraine while Ukrainian politicians threaten to deprive all Russia’s supporters of Ukrainian citizenship. Fair enough, that makes Crimean residents refuse to go back to Ukraine even more. How can you deprive someone of citizenship? It happened during Soviet times, but even Putin doesn’t do this.

What strategy should Kyiv have towards Crimea?

Was there any revenge when Elsass-Lothringen [Alsace-Lorraine] was reunited with France after World War II? No, they were accepted as brothers. That’s why it is now an integral part of France. Same with Ukraine: there can’t be any Soviet-style manifestation of hatred, of national phobias. Ukrainians need to follow European examples, not Soviet ones.

Also, the fate of Crimea should be decided by its residents, even the ones who were deported by Soviets a couple of generations ago. Crimean Tatars in Central Asia should also get a voice.

After Minsk-2 is fulfilled, the West will most likely feel satisfied and gladly forget about Crimea. Will it have the political will to fight for restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity?

The initiative to bring Crimea back should come from Ukraine after the fulfillment of Minsk-2. Ukraine should offer some framework proposal to Europe, not to Russia.

After some time Crimea should become something that was called a “plebiscite territory” after World War I. It is a territory where a referendum is being prepared under the supervision of international organizations, most probably the UN.

All sides, including Russia, have to temporarily admit that Crimea is a part of Ukraine until the results of a referendum held under international control are tallied. There should be law enforcement units of the UN as well as bodies to prepare the referendum, and Russian and Ukrainian law enforcement units should be absent.

Ukraine will earn many points in the world if it steps forward with such an initiative, though not inside the country. The majority of Ukrainians will call the politician who proposes it a traitor. Ukrainians and Russians have the same Soviet heritage: they value the land more than the people.


Further Reading: Andrei Zubov’s on the roots of the Soviet mentality and the resurgence of Stalin in Russia.

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  • anonymous

    The illegal and criminal act is Crimea made a republic of Russia. Crimean’s know that they cannot be a standalone country. If the choice were Crimea alone (without Russian fleet, pensions, etc), the choice would be Ukraine. Certainly, many areas of the world would vote to become part of this or that country but the taking of another country’s land or peoples is not a legal choice; it is a criminal act.

  • Quartermaster

    I’m happy for you that you aren’t trying to be a stand up comic. You would fail miserably.
    You have no idea of what you are talking about, as usual. Just the normal ignorant bluster of a Rooski criminal who sees nothing wrong with theft. Your a supporter of international criminals. The end of such people has, historically been rather rough. That truth is for you to deal with.

    • Quartermaster

      The two sources you’ve named are among the most unreliable in the west. There is only one poll that will count, and that would be taken after your filthy Army leave Crimea and allows a free vote to take place. After the voter rolls have been cleaned of the ringers Putin imported.

      If it was as you claim, Russian troops would not have to patrol the place.

      The man who is delusional is you. The more that comes out of Crimea, the worse your case becomes. In fact, it proves that you are a liar.

      • Quartermaster

        Democracy isn’t what you Russian filth think it is. You also don’t seem to get it through your thick skulls that no one outside of Russia accepts your “referendum” run under the close supervision of the Russian Armed Forces. No referendum will be internationally recognized unless certain things take place before it is conducted,
        1. The Russian Armed Forces are removed, and all Russian Military installations are completely closed.
        2. Everyone of the Russian imported by Putin’s Neo-Nazi regime are removed from Crimea and not allowed to influence the vote in any way.
        3. Everyone expelled by the Russian Neo-Nazi regime is allowed back in Crimea and allowed the vote their Ukrainian citizenship allows them.
        4. The vote is supervised by outside people that have any vested interest in the outcome of the vote.

        That is a vote you Nazis will never allow. You know you will be thrown out permanently, and will have all your military installations closed as a result. The Crimean Tatars will have nothing less. Given how they were treated under Stalin, and now under Putin, they would accept no less, and they deserve no less.

        • Quartermaster

          What a moron. It would be best if you avoided the major product of North Korea. crystal methamphetamine will mess up your mind, and it looks like you are well along that road.

          Your simply getting to a pathetic parody of yourself. The Russian regime has been killing journalists, and arresting people that merely obnoxious, but poking at Putin and his regime. Neither has happened in Ukraine. Only in Russia, dude, only in Russia.

          You and your fellow filth need to go home and leave your neighbors alone. When it came time for independence, those “Russians’ voted heavily for independence from Russia. It was also a landslide in Crimea as well.

          I know the facts are not on your side here, but you simply keep trying to up the ante. You also keep losing because you won’t go home when it is clear reality is not on your side. Russia Insider is full of fools like yourself. You’d be far more comfortable among your fellow idiots. The Neo-Nazis are in residence in Moscow. Go home and live among your own people. Both you, and the world, will be better off.

          • Quartermaster

            The Neo-Soviet dictator is Putin. Crimea is no longer home to any Russian. You are a colonizer and a danger to a world that simply wishes for peace. Just as Hitler was a danger to his European neighbors, so are the modern Russians under Putin.

            Crimea will never be your home now. It could have been if you were not a thief and murderer, but you made your choice.

            No one has to invade Crimea as Russia is tearing itself apart as I write. It will be bankrupt by the end of the year and not able to hold what it has now, much less Crimea. Further breaks are coming, and morons like yourself are too blind to see that doing what Putin did in Crimea will only make things worse. It’s past time for you crooks to go home. Go home and fix your own country and get out of Ukraine. Crimea has been, is, and will always be Ukraine. Your Russian thieves can’t change that fact.

          • Quartermaster

            Crimea is temporarily home to Russians who invaded and collaborated with the invaders. Crimea does not have to “go back to Ukraine” because Crimea is Ukraine.

            You obviously haven’t kept up with the AIDS infection rate in Russia. It makes that of Ukraine look like a mere cold epidemic. Time is not on the side of Russia and whistling past the graveyard is not a solution. The Neo-Nazi regime in Moscow has to pull in its horns, recall their troops from Crimea and the Donbas, go home and solve their own problems. Lashing out at peaceful neighbors is not how civilizaed people solve problems. it’s how Mongols solve problems.

            See me die? Dream on fella. I’m eating very well. Russia is the one that itself off form agricultural imports. Russia is a country that hasn’t been able to feed itself since Tsarist times. So go ahead and dream about others starving. Russia is suffering more economically than Ukraine. Only by reasserting control over the Russian press has the neo-Nazi in charge been able to keep the news bottled up, but it is still seeping out, and the news for the average Russian is bad and getting worse by the day.

            By the by. If you want to try to watch me die, come get your ring side seat. If you dare. 😛

          • Quartermaster

            We’ve already been over using Wikipedia as a source. No one regards it as a reliable source.
            Regardless of your fevered imagination, Russia is imploding. Putin is spending money on his delusions of Tsarist grandeur and driving Russia into the poor house. Crimea will be given up because Russia can’t afford it. It can’t afford the Police and troops required to keep its people down.
            I’m not the one ranting, you are. Nor am I crying as I delight in watching what fools such as yourself, are doing to Putinstan.

          • Quartermaster

            You can always dream, I guess. Ukraine certainly has problems, but no where near what Russia has. We don’t have to do much. Just relax, pop some popcorn, and enjoy the show as Russia comes up against the wall she’s built for herself. The collapse is coming and, like that of the Soviet Union, it will come quick and be a surprise to anyone who, like yourself, refuses to face reality.

            Ukraine, on the other hand, will be watching the collapse take place. She will continue. Muscovy will go the way of the Mongol hoard. Into infamy and the dust bin of history.

          • Quartermaster

            Yes, you accomplished a lot:
            1. Crimea stolen from its rightful owners
            2. Donbas destroyed by Russian invaders who make
            agreements not worth the paper they are written on
            2. Russia a pariah state because of her Nazi ways
            3. Russia well on the road to financial collapse
            4. Ukraine united against the Russian invader

            The “partisans of Kharkiv and Odessa had their heads handed to them. The Slavic world extends a lot further than you think. Obviously you were educated on Wikipedia, the resource for morons.

            It’s rather amusing that Russia has caused a rebirth of Ukrainian identity. Russia is nothing if not a state giving a mass of bumbling fools jobs. Too bad it will cost you your country when it breaks apart because of the foolishness of Putinstan’s foolish Fuehrer.

            By the by, Many Crimeans did accept Russian passports. Given the pressure Ukrainians are under in the Crimea, it is no surprise that some weakened. Those that did not are under severe repression by the Russian invaders occupying the stolen land. The truth about the Russian invaders and their behavior is out in the open. Russia will reap what it has sown, and the payback will horrific and will mean the total end of the Russia the Tsars built.

          • Eddy Verhaeghe

            Nikita wasn’t Ukrainian. Better to learn some basis facts before you engage in a discussion…

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Khrushchev was born in Kalinovka, Kursk Gubernate which was and is in Russia/Dwarfstan, NOT the Ukraine. Furthermore, he always regarded himself as Russian, not Ukrainian. Read his memoirs, you might learn something. .

          • Oknemfrod

            Not to mention that both of his parents were ethnically Russian.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Check your history books, old boy- and I mean REAL history books, not the drivel you have as “history books” at 55, ul. Savushkina. Stalin’s successor was Georgi Malenkov, NOT Khrushchev. It was under Malenkov that the Crimea was transferred in January 1954. Malenkov remained in power until 1955 when he was deposed as Prime Minister, though he remained as a member of the Politburo for several more years. His successor as PM was Nikolai Bulganin.
            Malenkov ended as managing director of a power plant in Kazakhstan. He was lucky- in Stalin’s time anyone who fell from grace was shot.

    • Eddy Verhaeghe

      “According to an opinion poll in February conducted by pollster GfK, 93% of the people asked said that they were happy that Crimea was under Russian control.”
      Any poll that states that half of the Tatar and all of the Ukrainian population of the Crimea is happy that they are under Russian control is highly suspect to say the very least…
      You can of course juggle with the figures and say that all of the Tatar and more than a third of the Ukrainian population of the Crimea is happy now.
      Wouldn’t be suspect anymore but simply ridiculous…

      • Quartermaster

        You and the rest of you Muscovy partisans can go back to your home in Mongolia.
        As was pointed out above, your statistics aren’t just suspect, they are silly. Morons like yourself believe them because it’s all you have. Everyone else, not so much.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Polls in ANY dictatorship are worthless- they are as worthless in Dwarfstan as they were in Adolf’s Germany, Mao Tse-tung’s China, Stalin’s Gulag Empire, Videla’s Argentina etc etc.

  • Dirk Smith

    LOL. Just like fascist ruSSia’s economy collapsing-AGAIN. Deal with it.

    • Quartermaster

      He can’t. That’s why they keep him in asylum in Novosibirsk.

    • Quartermaster

      Yeah, yeah, yeah. Crimeans just Love it under the Nazi regime in Moscow. That’s why an occupying Army is in Crimea to keep the Russia loving Crimeans assured of Russia’s love and care.

      You seem unaware of just inaccurate most polls such as you appeal to have been shown to be dead wrong. When a population is under military occupation, they are highly suspect.

      But I would bet you believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth fairy too.

      • Quartermaster

        You believe the fairy tale that stealing makes something yours. It does not. If Crimeans wanted to stay in Russia, and they do not, you wouldn’t have to keep troops on the street. People that want to be part of a country don’t require an Army of occupation to keep them there. Crimea is occupied territory and thinking otherwise means you are either insane or a liar.

        • Quartermaster

          Poor, poor baby. Not feeling appreciated? Too bad. No one likes a thief and there is no honor among thieves because thieves know what a thief is and do not trust them.

          As i said above, no one has to invade. Russia is fading away because of her own stupidity. Russia is already in the first stages of breaking apart even more. You’re not going to have a home to go back to. Crimea isn’t home, and never will be. That belongs to civilized people who are good neighbors, unlike Putin’s Russians.

          No, Muscovy is going to shrink again. Just as the Mongol hoard that established it faded away. As idiots like yourself and the people that post over at Russia Insider prove on a daily basis, the makings of civilization aren’t in you. When there’s nothing left to steal, you fail and fade away.

          What uncivilized morons like yourself have to say about anything doesn’t matter. You are less than nothing and not fit to admitted to the association of nations. Russia is a cancer on the world. God will deal with your country and will deal with it harshly. Your fate has already been sealed. Read Ezekial Chapters 38-39. Your own stupidity and hubris is going to kill you.

        • Quartermaster

          All that film and pics are lying, eh? Your imagination is running wild again. You need to get off the krokodil buddy. It’s rotting your mind.

    • Dirk Smith

      LOL. Your analysis is as legitimate as the ‘election’ in Crimea.

    • kievjoy

      Perhaps you’d like to come to Ukraine and talk to the Crimeans who have fled Crimea for now. Of course you won’t, you’ll hear the truth. Most still have their Crimean passports saying Ukraine.

  • Dagwood Bumstead

    Au contraire, Mr. Zubov, ALL inhabitants of the Crimea who held a Dwarfstanian passport before the Dwarfstanian invasion and occupation of the Crimea should be expelled as undesirable and unreliable aliens. A foreigner does not have a RIGHT to live in another country- it is a FAVOUR that the host country may withdraw at any time. There can be no question of 5th columnists staying on Ukrainian soil.
    Aksyonov and his titushki, and everybody else who held a Ukrainian passport before the invasion and collaborated with the Dwarfstanian occupiers in any way, should be tried for high treason and when found guilty should, after serving their sentence (ideally, hanged or shot), also be expelled. The Crimea should be forbidden territory for ALL Dwarfstanians in perpetuity.
    And there can, of course, be no question of Dwarfstanian troops being based on the Crimea or any other part of the Ukraine any longer. The pertaining treaty should be annulled forthwith.
    As for a new referendum, there can be no question of that. The Crimea belongs to the Ukraine, end of story.

    • Nowhere Girl

      I don’t know why are you so eager to see brutality.
      Anyway, it just doesn’t work. Do you know what was a very important factor in making Hitler rise to power? Harsh terms imposed on Germany after the First World War (even though Germany wasn’t guilty of the war having started and was only partially guilty of prolonging it). And what was a very important factor in preventing such a situation from happening again? Not repeating the same mistake: even though in case of Second World War Germany was definitely guilty of pushing the war and of horrible atrocities, after the war it was financially treated AS IF IT HAD BEEN THE WAR’S VICTIM, NOT THE GUILTY PART. And it worked: the wounds healed, mentality slowly changed and now most people in Germany fully accept democracy.
      If Ukraine starts taking revenge after reunification of Crimea, the wounds won’t heal. Yes, authorities should keep a close eye on those who would want to repeat the situation. But it should also offer people a new social contract without revenge. Only this way can Crimea stop acting as a time bomb for Ukraine.

      • Quartermaster

        Yes and no. Anyone that collaborated in the invasion should be expelled. The rest should be left in peace.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        One could argue that post-WW2 harsh terms were also imposed on Germany. Russia stole part of East Prussia for instance. Both Soviets and US, France and UK dismantled most of Germany’s industry. Between 1945 and 1947 the Germans were starved by the occupiers. I’d hardly call that being treated as the war’s victim.

        Traitors should be dealt with harshly. The British hanged William Joyce, better known as Lord Haw-Haw, for instance. Between 1945 and 1950 the Dutch deported pro-German citizens, taking them to the border and telling them “Get out and stay out.” And the Norwegians weren’t exactly friendly to those who had fraternised with Germans either- ask ABBA singer Annifrid.
        Given the betrayal by Dwarfstan citizens in the Crimea who stabbed the Ukraine in the back, and the collaboration by the likes of Aksyonov and his titushki, there can be no question of allowing any of them to stay in any part of the Ukraine. They will simply be a cancer cell that continues to gnaw at the Ukraine. And like all cancer cells, this one should be cut out.
        It’s not brutality. It’s common sense.

        • Vlad Pufagtinenko


    • Quartermaster

      Crimea is Ukraine. It is simply stolen goods right now. You won’t get to keep stolen goods. Dream all you like.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        Oh yes it was and is. Both Yeltsin and the demented dwarf Tsar Vladimir the not-so-Great himself signed treaties in which Russia/Dwarfstan explicitly recognizes that the Crimea is part of the Ukraine.
        The Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 by Malenkov, all according to the laws of the USSR. The decree concerning the transfer was signed on 19/2/1954 by Head of State Voroshilov. NOT ONE Leader of the USSR after Malenkov ever objected to the transfer- not Khrushchev, not Brezhnev, not Andropov, not Chernenko, not Gorbachev. Nor did any other member of the Politburo- Podgorny, Kosygin, Grim Grom Gromyko. Mikoyan etc. They had more than 30 years to do so, but didn’t.
        As Quartermaster pointed out, theft is theft. The Crimea WILL be returned.

        • kievjoy

          Yes democracy, when tey bus people in from another country (Russia) with a free holiday and allow them to vote in Crimea. Democracy when the result of a referendum is given out the day BEFORE the referendum and the result is the same as the day after the referendum. If you really want to go back to who Crimea really belonged to, think Turkey. That was why the soviets sent the Tatars into exile.

      • Quartermaster

        Ukraine was before Muscovy. Muscovy is a product of the Mongol hoard. Crimea is simply stolen goods.

      • Lev Havryliv

        The Russian imperialists are so smug and arrogant. But since their empire is based on lies and falsehoods it will collapse. Just as the prison of nations called the USSR did.

    • kievjoy

      Perhaps you’d like to tell the hundreds of thousands who fled to free Ukraine to get away from the Russians, or the family of the boy who was beaten up and murdered for speaking is own language, Ukrainian, on the stree in Crimea. Also know plenty there who haven’t left as they are afraid of having their home taken over by Russians.

    • Lev Havryliv

      Proud to defend the bully and aggressor nation Russia are you?

  • Vlad Pufagtinenko

    “Ukrainians and Russians have the same Soviet heritage”…Mr. Zukov is a Putin stooge and no different that the Russian paid trolls on this site. The “same Soviet Heritage” was imposed on Ukraine by bullets in Ukrainian heads and the stealing of Ukrainian wheat in the 1930’s. Millions of Ukrainians died. Russia is dead to Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers have shown that they can defend Ukraine from its rabid Northern neighbour. Glory to Ukraine.

    • Czech Mate

      Zubov is a good guy but still a Russian, that should say it all. But you won’t get much better “partners” than the likes of him Ukraine, sad but true.

      • Vlad Pufagtinenko

        Ukraine doesn’t need a Russian partner of any kind. They are all vermin

  • Czech Mate

    “Now we’re witnessing a very interesting psychological moment: silence and confusion.

    If the situation doesn’t improve in the near future, Putin’s politics
    will be very loudly condemned by the people – maybe even in the upcoming
    spring or summer. That is why the parliamentary elections were
    rescheduled for September instead of December.

    ..they expect hatred towards authorities to be extremely high in December. Hence, it is better to have elections in September, while people are still relaxed after the summer holidays.”

  • Lev Havryliv

    Very few Russians can free themselves from Russian imperialist and chauvinist thinking.

    Andrei Zubov goes a long way in this regard and this is appreciated.

    To talk about a “common Soviet heritage” however is absurd and offensive to the countless Ukrainians over many generations who have fought and died to establish an independent Ukrainian nation free from foreign occupation.