Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Sevastopol: past memories, future hopes

by Mihail Loginov

September, 7th 2011

In the past Soviet citizens would flock to Crimea for their summer holidays. In 1954 Khrushchev handed it over to Ukraine; in 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and Crimea suddenly became ‘abroad,’ a tricky situation for the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Feelings ran high, but have calmed down recently, though memories of the past continue to be hugely important, says Mikhail Loginov.

Crimea as Churchill’s family vault

“At the Yalta Conference Churchill asked Stalin to make him a present of Crimea.  Stalin’s reply was ‘I will, if you can guess where my middle finger is.’ Churchill didn’t know that Stalin had a withered arm and couldn’t bend all his fingers…”

On the ride from Simferopol Airport to Sevastopol taxi driver Sergei tells every passenger the story of Britain’s attempts to wrest Crimea from the USSR. He doesn’t reduce his speed when demonstrating the clenched fist gesture that Stalin is supposed to have shown Churchill. He drives quickly and safely, is polite to passengers, helping them put baggage into the car and take it out. His firm doesn’t have meters, but Sergei always agrees a price in advance and without a tip. He’s not a professional taxi driver, but a former sailor in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

But why did Churchill want Crimea? Sergei has an explanation for that.

“We shall be passing Balaklava. It was here, in the Valley of Death, that the Russians destroyed the English Light Brigade during the Crimean War. Many English nobles died, including Churchill’s great grandfather.”

So Churchill was interested in Crimea as a family vault? Sergei doesn’t bother with the logic of his words. He is more interested in looking for confirmation that England has always been interested in Crimea, and that Churchill had personal reasons for this.

We pass the Golden Beam vineyards in the valley where the famous battle took place.  The walls of a roadside restaurant are decorated with drawings: British cavalry holding huge flags – a red cross on a white background – fall, decimated by the Russian artillery’s grapeshot.

Our taxi driver Sergei, so full of historical legends, and the restaurant decorated with battle scenes are typical of Sevastopol. The city lives by its past. It remembers, it tells the stories to its guests and it defends the past, often selflessly and aggressively. “Defend Sevastopol!” said Admiral Kornilov, fatally wounded by an English cannonball. These words are remembered in Sevastopol, but there’s no war now, so the fight is for the memories of past battles, shown on posters with admirals from the Crimean War, generals from WWII and the 1905 revolutionary Peter Schmidt. “We have a right to our past” is written under the portraits.

The Stalingrad Ambassador

But man cannot live by memories of the past alone. Stanislav, a captain II rank, has been luckier than Sergei. He used to work in one of the analytical divisions of the Black Sea Fleet HQ. He was made redundant, but managed to get a job in the Volgograd Region representative office. “Now I’m ambassador for the hero-city Stalingrad in the hero-city Sevastopol,” he says.

The fact that Russian cities have the stewardship of the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) ships and the city itself is one of the factors contributing to its prosperity. Ex Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov is more popular here today than he is in the capital, because Moscow funds paid for the construction of several large apartment blocks for the officers of the BSF, whereas it was the government of Ukraine that had to find the money to build accommodation for the officers of the Ukrainian Navy.

The level of support is less now, because Moscow and Kiev have agreed on “cheaper gas in return for the lease of the base until 2042.” “The less controversy there is over the BSF, the less often Russia remembers about us,” sighs Stanislav. “If only Georgia would build a new fleet and attack Abkhazia, we could destroy that fleet.”

But Sevastopol too has its local wars.

“We sank it in the middle of the bay”

Every Sunday Sevastopol sees a procession of people carrying banners and marching through its central streets. They carry the state flag of Russia, the (St) Andrew Flag, the Russian Navy Flag and the so-called Imperial Flag (dating from the time of Alexander II). They lower the flags when they approach the monument to Empress Catherine II [the Great], who founded Sevastopol, the monuments to war heroes and the memorial plaques. The people carrying the banners call this ceremony the Sevastopol Ritual.

Alexei regularly takes part. He is a student and he tells us that the Ritual takes place winter and summer. Sometimes there are only 7 people taking part, at other times more than 30. Passers-by greet the Ritual with shouts and drivers hoot their horns.

Alexei takes part in other, more interesting, events too. On 5 July 2008 he was in the stand-off on Grafsky Embankment, when sailors from the Ukrainian Navy set up a memorial plaque in honour of the raising of Ukrainian flag on ships of the BSF 90 years before. Pro-Russian activists considered this an act of treachery: they organised a large demonstration, which broke through the ranks of Ukrainian Marines and tore the plaque off the wall.

“We took it to one of the regular launches which was going north, and dropped it overboard in the middle of the bay,” says Alexei with pride.

And there it lies to this day. 7 people were put on trial, but Alexei managed to avoid arrest and a trial.

“A year later,” he continues, “we lowered a wreath with the words ‘Rest in Peace’ into the water at the place where we had sunk the plaque. A year later again Yushchenko came for Ukrainian Navy Day. When he arrived at Grafsky Embankment, we unfurled an enormous Russian flag (held by 10 people) on a hill across the bay. Yushchenko and his retinue weren’t looking at the ships, they were looking at us. We stood there for a quarter of an hour, then we were warned that the police would soon be along, so we rolled up the flag and left.”

Alexei’s words demonstrate that police officers and their superiors are fairly tolerant in their dealings with Russian patriots. Arrests are infrequent, except in the case of controversial events like the battle of 5 July 2008.

While Yushchenko was in power there were many protest demonstrations and they were very violent. Then the “Orange President” was replaced by Yanukovych and the aggression decreased. Ukrainian campaigners no longer come to Sevastopol to fight with Russian patriots. On Sundays Alexei marches in the Ritual, then drinks beer with other activists and they reminisce about recent battles.

Life on the beach

Pavel is the same age as Alexei, but not interested in politics. During the tourist season he sells beer on the Uchkuyevka beach, then earns a bit extra as a porter at the market. “I don’t care how long the Fleet is here. I want global warming to make the tourist season last all year round,” he says.

Uchkuyevka is a typical Crimean beach: a sandy strip about 50m wide full of holidaymakers. Further on there’s a promenade with lots of cafés and little shops. Beer on tap can be bought quite cheaply right at the edge of the surf or you can watch the sun go down in a café higher up, lying on cushions like a Turkish sultan.

In Sevastopol itself and nearby there are dozens more beaches, both tame and wilder, and the street vendors are as brazen, as they are in other parts of Crimea. There are lots of houses in Sevastopol, so renting a cheap flat is no problem.

Tourists coming to Sevastopol are often from the east of Ukraine – Donetsk, Zaporozhye, Kharkov – and the south of Russia. Russians come because the restaurants, shops and markets are relatively cheap, and people in the city speak Russian. The fact that you have to pay in Ukrainian hrivnas together with the Ukrainian names creates the slight illusion of abroad.

“You’ve come in your hordes, but don’t go”

Anna Petrovna works in a scientific institute which is poorly funded from Kiev, but pays a salary that is equivalent to her husband’s pension from the Navy. On Sundays she and her husband take their granddaughter to the beach. Anna Petrovna doesn’t like the fact that the former naval base has turned into a resort, like Yalta or Yevpatoria. There are so many tourists in the summer that the buses and the beach are full and it’s difficult to squeeze in. “If only they wouldn’t come on Sundays too,” she sighs.

Her neighbour Yelena doesn’t agree. From June to mid-September she lets her flat and goes to live with her mother. She is sure that Sevastopol wouldn’t survive without the tourists. And it’s true – industry is under-developed and the fleets (Black Sea and Ukrainian) bring in less and less because Moscow and Kiev are economising. The Ukrainian company Avlita, which owns the harbour in Dock Bay, has a plan to develop Ukraine’s deepest water port and a coal terminal. All the local inhabitants are protesting about the clouds of coal dust that will settle on the streets and the beaches. Better the tourists.

On the last Sunday in July Russia celebrates Navy Day and this is Sevastopol’s chief day of festivities. All day and evening the Primorsky Boulevard and the city’s embankments are full of tourists and locals. Tickets for the evening fireworks are sold as far away as Simferopol and Yalta and the bay is full of launches crowded with spectators. The sky over the bay is lit up and Russia’s decorated warships look like part of the pyrotechnical entertainment.

But holidays come to an end and Sevastopol returns to its ordinary life: looking after 2 fleets and the tourists, remembering the achievements of the past and prepared to fight for it.

About the author

Mihail Loginov is a journalist and novelist based in St. Petersburg. He is the author of the recently published bestselling political thriller “Battle for Kremlin”.

Read the oroginal here

Read the translation into Russian here

“Ukraine is totally inconceivable in Crimea” – Crimean Supreme council MP Alexandra Kuzel

by Oleg Smirnov

The Crimean Supreme council MP Alexandra KUZEL claimed that “Ukraine is totally inconceivable in Crimea”. She said that in her interview to “Ukrainskaya pravda“.

According to Mrs Kuzel, people in Crimea think this way ‘I will sit without sewerage, without water, without heating, but it’s essential that Russian language and frienship with Russia remains’.

Mrs Kuzel also admitted that the citezens of Sevastopol do not wish to change their mentality.

‘I am telling people in Sevastopol ‘You sing “Sevastopol, Sevastopol, the city of Russian seamen’. Let’s say “Sevastopol is for its citizens, no matter if they are Juw, Russian, Tatar, Ukrainian’ And that it the end. Their eyes fade, hey do not hear me’, explained the politician.

Mrs Kuzel highlighted that she speaks Russian, but she felt herself much more Ukrainian in Crimea then in Ukraine.

More on that topic:

Crimea should secede Ukraine – pro-Western Ukrainian writer Andruhovich

Status of Sevastopol should be discussed internationally – Kornilov

(video) Sevastopol and Crimea belong to Ukraine for unclear reasons – Russian LDPR party

Ukrainian MP Gritsenko considers Ukraine as an administrative district of Russia

Ukrainian central authorities stopped the development of Crimea – Yanukovich

Sevastopol is not Ukraine – popular Ukrainian TV journalist Mustafa Naiem

Saratov went online in Sevastopol

Sevastopol city state administration head Valeriy SARATOV replied to the questions which citizens sent him via blog.

He posted video with responds online and promissed to do so weekly.

According to Mr.SARATOV, he received 40 questions during the week after his blog has been launched.

Sevastopol “mayor” went online (speaks Russian)

More on this subject:

Journalists of “Sevastopolskaya gazeta” meet Hampton mayor in US

Ukrainian party leader asks BBC to speak Russian instead of Ukrainian in Sevastopol

The Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine leader Natalia VITRENKO insists that BBC journalists should use Russian instead of Ukrainian language while addressing people in Sevastopol.

Vitrenko told that during her online conference on November, 18th 2010.

“I am convinced that in the city of Russian glory Sevastopol where everyone speaks Russian, a journalist must also use Russian having respect to the local community”, she said.

Prior to this, BBC correspondent Alexandr SHTALTOVNYI has asked Mrs Vitrenko a question in Ukrainian at the press-conference and was given a dressing-down in response.

According to Ukrainian population census of 2001, more then 90% of Sevastopol citizens called Russian their native language, while Ukrainian is native for less then 7% of citizens.

Crimea has been given to Ukraine accidentally – Russian actor Alexei Panin

Popular Russian actor Alexei PANIN expressed his opinion that Crimean peninsula has been given to Ukraine (by Russia – SevastopolNEWS) accidentally at live Ukrainian TV show.

“Savik, tell me, please: it has happened accidentally… It’s not because a Russian Nazi came, but it has just happened so that Crimea was given to Ukraine. Well, it has accidentally happen like that. Accidentally. Let’s be honest’, said Panin appealing to Savik Shooster who hosted the TV show.

“Many Russian politics raise the question of territory”, reacted Mr.Shooster.

“I’m just telling that we are the same people, composed with the stones of history”, resumed Russian actor.

It’s not the first time that Russians and Ukrainians dispute the status of Crimea and Sevastopol.

In August 2010 a pro-western Ukrainian writer Yuriy Andruhovich told Polish newspaper “Rzeczpospolita“ that Ukraine should consider secession from Crimea and the eastern region of Donbass.

In October 2010 Ukrainian TV journalist Mustapha Naiem wrote in his blog “Sevastopol is not Ukraine” after anchoring a live broadcast from Sevastopol.

In July 2010 the head of Ukrainian branch of the Institute of CIS countries Vladimir KORNILOV said that the status of Sevastopol should be discussed internationally.

In 2008 Yuri Luzkov claimed that Russia will continue contending for the Russian official status of Sevastopol (Crimea). Moscow mayor delivered his speech in the central Nakhimov square in Sevastopol. He was banned from entry to Ukraine since then, but reaffirmed his statement before visiting Sevastopol in 2010.

(video) Russia Extended the Lease on its Black Sea Fleet Base

by Rose Griffin (“Russia Profile”)

But Russia’s eagerness to retain a presence in Sevastopol could reflect more than just a desire to protect its southern borders.

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine / It doesn’t take long for a visitor to Sevastopol to notice evidence of the city’s historic role as a heroic defender of Russia. Souvenir stalls sell Russian flags, and monuments and street names refer to Russian naval commanders as well as cultural icons. Ukrainian national symbols are confined to municipal buildings, including a conspicuously orange and blue post office on the main thoroughfare, Bolshaya Morskaya Street.

This image has been cultivated since its inception, as Mikhail YURLOV, a former Ukrainian diplomat and director of NGO Fund “Sevastopol,” as well as an advisor to the chairman of the Sevastopol City Administration, said: “Sevastopol is different to any other city in the Crimea, because it was built in 1783 as a Russian military fortress and developed as such over two centuries.” This history, Yurlov believes, came to define its inhabitants’ mentality.

Pages: 1 2

Categories: History, Politics

(photo+video) Ukrainian separatism

Separatism flourishes in the western regions of Ukraine. Some people who live there wish their cities to belong to Poland or Romania. You can even see such labels in Kiev on the independence day of Ukraine.

photo by Andrei Yanitskiy (

This label imitates a sign “UA” that Ukrainian drivers often stick on their cars. Letters “HAL” mean Halichina or Galichina, western separatist regions of Ukraine.

More on that topic:

Lvov city council deputy Yuri Mikhalchishin delivering a nationalistic speech

(in Ukrainian)


Crimea should secede Ukraine – pro-Western Ukrainian writer Andruhovich

Sevastopol is not Ukraine – popular Ukrainian TV journalist Mustafa Naiem

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