Crimea, two years later

On March 18th many Crimeans celebrated the second anniversary of the annexation, or the "return" as they prefer to say, to Russia. Putin paid a visit to the peninsula to check out construction sites of the bridge over the Strait of Kerch and the highway to the capital. Meanwhile, the cities are in the dark and people complain about the prices that continue to rise.

None of what you read on the Crimea is hundred percent true. Yet, in all things written by media there is a bit of truth. The enthusiasm of most of the population for the "return" of the peninsula to the motherland Russia has not vanished, but the everyday life makes people struggle. "The bureaucracy is crazy," said a woman who runs a restaurant in Sevastopol. "You can go bleeding to the hospital and they will ask you to fill a thousand papers. With Ukraine it was like this". This seems a paradox, given that Kiev is not less famous for its Byzantine bureaucracy.

While in front of the Moscow House a thousand people – not that many, actually – gathered to sing the Russian anthem and wave their flags, there were some Crimeans that had nothing to celebrate for. Like a group of Ukrainian folks – definition: Russian language, born and raised in Crimea and Ukrainian by ethnicity and cultural affiliation – who toasted whispering 'Glory to Ukraine". Or like many of Tatars who continue to complain about the drastic crackdown on civil rights. Or like the majority of post-Soviet Millennials, who were born in Ukraine, raised with Hollywood movies and hamburgers, and now fascinated by the new myth of the Russian renaissance. For them, many say, Russia or Ukraine does not make much difference. Wealth is the only thing that matters.

Who are the inhabitants of the Crimea

Crimea is more multifaceted than usually is depicted by media. The simple distinction between the three main ethnic communities – Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar – does not explain it all. If you do not go deeper, to the great generational divide between the elders born in the USSR and youngsters, or to the social divide between the more and the less educated, you will never have a true picture of Crimea.

"My mother is Ukrainian, my father is Russian, I was born in Moscow and I feel Russian, but I chose to live in Crimea before the referendum because I love Ukraine. And that day two years ago I voted yes, like everyone", said Alesia, a serviceperson of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea.

A mosaic that, paradoxically, can find in this his very existence its cohesion. "What are we?", told me an aspiring writer, "We are different from Ukrainians, of course. But we are also very different from Russians. We are Crimeans, that's what we are".

The bridge on the Kerch Strait

When night falls in Simferopol, the capital of the Republic of Crimea, the darkness in the streets is filled by the buzz of electrical generators. The electricity that came from Ukraine - the peninsula is not self-sufficient - was sabotaged by Ukrainian and Tatars nationalists last November, and never restored. But on the Kerch Strait that separates it from the rest of Russia, the construction of the bridge proceeds at high speed. It is a political project before being an engineering one, and has Putin’s imprimatur that gives it the wings. It is not the same thing for the Simferopol-Kerch highway, whose works have not yet begun. Putin has complained publicly during his visit, adding that if the highway is not finished in time someone will be hanged. No matter whether in the center of the capital some roads are not paved, and there are people who still have no water in their houses. The bridge and the highway have top priority.


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