A billboard with Russian President Vladimir Putin installed in the Crimean city of Kerch aftern the annexation was sprayed with black paint. September 2015 (Image: public domain)
Even Crimean residents who initially welcomed the Russian Anschluss are now disappointed with the occupation and angry at Russians for their behavior, and the Russians there, long-time residents, new arrivals and tourists, are reciprocating with anger at the local population, according to Yevgeniya Goryunova, a Crimean political scientist.
She points to five socio-economic conditions behind this deterioration between Crimean residents and Russians and devotes particular attention to the way in which Russian tourists, the only ones who now come to the Ukrainian peninsula, have exacerbated the situation by their behavior.
First of all, Goryunova points to the increasing difficulty indigenous Crimeans have in making ends meet. On the one hand, they find it difficult to get well-paying jobs unless they have connections and typically lose out to Russians. And on the other, the Russians who are paid more have driven up the rental prices beyond what most Crimeans can afford.
Second, she continues, Russian bosses prefer to hire people other than Crimeans because the latter are more knowledgeable about their rights than are Central Asian gastarbeiters and complain when those rights are violated. Consequently, the Crimeans are in a double bind because most new Russian employers would rather hire others.
Third, the occupation authorities have done almost everything in their power to destroy indigenous business and agriculture, preferring to import from Russia all kinds of goods. Now, instead of getting milk from a Crimean firm that was driven into bankruptcy, Crimean children are getting milk, often adulterated, from the Russian Federation.
Indeed, Goryunova says, “the Russian authorities are conducting an intentional policy of destroying Crimean business, including small business, by removing not only competitors but also the first flowering of a middle class which in Russia for centuries has been viewed as consisting of ‘superfluous people.’”
Fourth, Crimeans face discrimination when they try to register their children for kindergartens or schools. Russians who have arrived with the occupation are given preferential treatment, and Crimeans are left out. That is drawing increasing and increasingly negative comment, the political scientist says.
And fifth, when their rights are violated, Crimeans are quite prepared to turn to the courts or to magistrates; but when they do, they typically lose because the courts work not according to the law but rather according to the whim of the powers that be.
A particular irritant in the relationship, Goryunova says, concerns the Russian tourists who now dominate the scene. They are invariably cheap, they won’t use paid public toilets preferring instead to relieve themselves in the bushes, and they throw trash about even if there is a trash container to put it in.
Any Crimean who complains about such behavior is met with “a tirade” by Russians who say that he or she should be grateful forever to the Russians for “‘liberating’ Crimea from ‘the Ukrainian yoke.’” In short, “Russians act like masters, and Crimeans are reduced to the status of guests on their own land” from which “at any moment” they may be forced to leave.
“No one needs us in Russia,” one of Goryunova’s neighbors says. “Why then did they take us? In order then to drive us out of our own home.” The recognition of what Moscow is about in Crimea may have come later than one would like, the political scientist adds, but at least it is coming now.
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