In Boulevard Voltaire, November 8, 2015
Translated from French by Tom Winter, November 12, 2015
Barack Obama recently declared that he will never recognize the outcome of the referendum over the return of Crimea to the Russian Federation, a position reprised last Thursday by Evelyn Farkas, former US assistant secretary of Defense.
Well, after three months living in the peninsula and numberless contacts with the inhabitants, the reasons for the overwhelming vote to return have become pretty plain.
By Ukraine time, it was 11 p.m. when the private fireworks in Simferopol were set off for the midnight marking the New Year. Why? Because in Crimea they were popping the champagne on Moscow time! An instance of the feeling of belonging to the Russian community.
A Crimean of Tatar origin told me that at the time of the vote, he had some concerns, but that they were swept away by the resentment he felt towards Kiev, due to promises not kept, and Kiev’s obvious indifference. Then one of the first laws passed made Tatar an official language, and when you come into town, the direction to the mosque is up in the signs, just like for the church or the museum.
Despite the inflation and the rise in prices, the retirees have seen their pensions go up pari passu, and they are unconcerned: their pensions come in on time and on the dot. Further, they understand the text of the rules as well as the functionaries do, because the the language they are written in is Russian, not Ukrainian, a language foreign to them.
Crimeans who recall the fall of the Soviet Union remember well their resentment when the college catalog rubriques for the Russian classes got switched to the rubrique “Foreign Languages”! They remember the default of the Ukrainian state in the face of crime, the onset of the oligarchy, and its attendant corruption. They remember that first winter [as part of Ukraine] when public services, heating included, just disappeared. They recall the Crimean Parliament getting stripped of its powers, Crimean presidency and all.
During the twenty years of disregard, they accumulated a bitterness toward the Kievan state that refused to maintain the infrastructure in sanitation, energy,roads and highways, preferring to just let them go. Today they witness public works in the hospitals, the streets, the energy grid, the water supply, and all. They see corrupt officials disappearing bit by bit. They are aware that the road will be long for effacing the traces of abandonment during the age of the Ukrainian parenthesis.
One night on a patio in Sebastopol, my friend Maxim Korolenko confided to me “You know, in the time of Ukraine, I just lived in a country. But now I live in a country I love, and that I’m proud of.”
Mr Obama has to stop fantasizing about a Ukrainian Crimea. The people of Crimea are happy and proud that they have re-found their fatherland. His imprecations could never alter the love that the people of Crimea have toward their country: Russia.