In Crimea, Feature Articles, Ukraine, Ukraine language and nation

The history of multinational Crimea, buried under a mountain of anti-Russia propaganda, comes alive in a 21 year-old television documentary

Introduction by New Cold, Feb. 27, 2015–The following video news report from one year ago is based on film footage from 1993. The report was broadcast on Russian-language television on March 24, 2014. Now a transcript is available in English (below) thanks to Fort Russ website. It is published on Fort Russ, Feb. 26, 2015. (You can watch the original, Russian-language broadcast by clicking the screen below.)

Crimeans in Sevastopol protest forced Ukrainianization in 1993

Crimeans in Sevastopol protest forced Ukrainianization in 1993

The news report reveals to today’s viewer (or reader) the ‘untold story’ of the proganda campaign against the people of Crimea over their decision last year to secede from Ukraine. The propaganda says that Russia “annexed” Crimea in March 2014. But in reality, Crimea was “annexed” by the Soviet Union to Ukraine in 1954. It was an administrative decision to assist the difficult work of post-WW2 reconstruction. But regardless, the people were given no free vote on the matter.

In December 1991, Crimea was the only region in all of Ukraine in which a majority did not vote in favour of independence (from the successor project to the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States). The post-independence government in Kyiv then blocked the attempts of Crimeans to hold their own referendum vote on their future. Crimeans did, however, succeed in establishing an autonomous regional government, unique in Ukraine. They also resisted the national chauvinist, ‘Ukrainianization’ drive which the Ukraine government tried to impose. That resistance is the subject of the 1993 film footage.

Crimea languished as the poor and neglected cousin of Ukraine. When a right-wing coup in Kyiv overthrew Ukraine’s elected president in February 2014, the elected, autonomous government in Crimea convened a referendum on March 16, 2014. A large majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

* * *

Crimean residents protest against forced Ukranization in lost footage from 1993 (video)

By reporter Alexey Denisov, for the television program “Vesti of the Week”, March 24, 2014. Translation of the text of the original broadcast by Kristina Rus of Fort Russ website.

Now you will see unique footage filmed 21 years ago. The program was called “The Russian World” and it reported the struggle of Sevastopol residents against forced Ukranization and for the right to speak and think in their native language.

Here we are in the summer 1993 at one of the first rallies in Sevastopol, next to the Nakhimov monument. The city residents are outraged by the attempts of Kiev officials to impose new national heroes, like Stephan Bandera, and to root out any reminder of Russia and Russian history in Crimea. Then there were also tears, but tears of despair.

– Sevastopol is a historically Russian city. I cannot talk about it without tears, HOW can Sevastopol be Ukrainian? This is our RUSSIAN city! Let Ukrainians, Tatars, anyone live here, but as long as the world exists – it has been a Russian city!

– I have lived in Sevastopol since 1979. I served 27 years in the Navy, and we will not give up our fleet and Sevastopol to the Bandera thugs!

– The government and the people are on their own. The wishes of the people are not taken into account at all. Now they want to impose this Trident [Ukraine national symbol] on us. Why to they want to force something on us that we do not want?  We just want peace!  Of course we have nothing to argue about with the Ukrainian people, it is all – the government.  And we are suffering.

A real shock for the Sevastopol residents was the unwritten order from the Ukrainian authorities to remove the Russian language from daily life. By orders from Kiev, even the packaging of the popular pelmeni (dumplings) was turned inside out to hide the Russian name of the product, “Russian Pelmeni”. Russian vodka was only allowed to be sold with the label in Ukrainian language: ‘Rossijska Gorilka’.

Families of Black Sea fleet officers were receiving letters from Ukrainian nationalists with threats and demands to get out of Crimea: “Crimea will be Ukrainian or deserted. And all of you will be khokhlonized [Khokhol means “Ukrainian”] to teh very last one! So you should forget about your Moskal habits! Remember, creepers, and tell your children, that we, the Ukrainians will fight until the last drop of blood of our enemies! RUH!”

The official publication of the Ukrainian Navy was overwhelmed by a wave of insults addressed to those officers who wanted to serve Russia. Here is a fragment from the official article from the newspaper “Ukrainian Horizons”: “For 200 year the Andreev flag has covered the rot of the Russian empire, now they want to cover with it the cretinism of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States]. Enough!”

The commander of the Ukrainian Navy, Boris Kozhin, has shocked the city residents with his first speech in Sevastopol: “The education of Ukrainian navy men should incorporate the emerging Ukrainian nationalism. Ukrainian nationalism is an expression of patriotism, a bright and kind concept!”

The resident of multinational Sevastopol took these words as some kind of cave barbarity. Although back then in 1993, Sevastopol residents could not imagine in their worst nightmare that in some 20 years, nurtured on the ‘kind and bright’ concepts of Ukrainian nationalism, Nazis from the Right Sector and Svoboda party would openly call for butchering the residents of Crimea as ‘separatists’ and representatives of the enemy diaspora.

– I am Russian by nationality, my mother is Russian, my dad is Ukrainian. We have Jewish, Russian and Tatar friends. We never knew about this nationalism, which is being imposed on us. We were always friends, and sang Ukrainian and Russian songs at the table. And never pointed a finger at people of other nationalities.

An apotheosis of nationalistic stupor was a special conference of Kiev and Western Ukrainian historians dedicated to the history of the Black Sea fleet. One of the reports stated that the first submarine was invented not by the Dutch or the French, but by Zaporozhian cossacks. As if back in the 18th century, they carried out raids to Crimea in under-water canoes covered with leather and soaked in resin. Therefore the Ukrainian fleet is older then Russian, and there should not be any Russian navy base in Sevastopol.

– My wife is Ukrainian. My mother is Ukrainian and my father is Russian.  But I don’t understand this Ukrainian nationalist policy. Our Black Sea fleet officers don’t understand this. We want peace, and we want to be with Russia! Because Sevastopol is a sacred land, and only Sevastopol residents can understand this. I want to address all the Russian people: don’t abandon us, and we will not betray you!!!

And they didn’t. They persevered and won!

Commentary by translator and Fort Russ editor Kristina Rus:

Incidentally, I was in Sevastopol and Crimea in 1993. I was very young and did not care for politics, but nothing led me to believe that it was Ukraine. To me, it felt like Russia!

As one Russian analyst noted, when after the break up of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian and the so called neutral or pro-Russian elites were dividing the power, the most sought-after spheres were business, natural resources and economy. In order to give Ukrainian nationalists “something” to keep them satisfied, they were given education and culture at their disposal, which they had used to the fullest!

Naturally, the Eastern Ukrainian elites (such as Yanukovich) could always rely on the Eastern Ukrainian population for support without giving much in return, as the alternative of Western Ukrainian nationalists was horrifying to the pro-Russian population. Likely, this led to complacency on the part of the “pro-Russian” elites, since both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian elites were first of all “pro-profit”, and just played on the antagonizing national issues to gain votes.

As the Galician ideology spread to Central Ukraine, the Central Ukrainian elites realized that they cannot capitalize on the shrinking pro-Russian sentiment, as it was firmly behind the Donbass elites. They sold themselves and the country to Ukrainian nationalism, gaining support in the West and helping spread this ideology to Central Ukraine, therefore gaining more electorate.

With every Russian and Ukrainian who denounced their allegiance to Russia and embraced Ukrainian nationalism, the Central and Western Ukrainian elites took another vote away from the South-Eastern elites. Since Western Ukraine has been more rural and agricultural, most Ukrainian oligarchs had emerged in the industrial East and Central Ukraine, and the battle of Ukrainian elites centered between Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk.

Original broadcast (in Russian), March 24, 2014:


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