In Crimea

Interview published on the website of Milli Firqa, Nov 1, 2015. Milli Firqa is a Crimean Tatar civil and political organization. Translation by New Cold War.org. Original title: ‘Crimea” Time to recharge batteries’.

On the current situation in the Republic of Crimea and its near-term prospects, we talk with a well-known Crimean political scientist, Director of the Crimean branch of the Institute of CIS Countries and member of the Public Chamber of the Crimean Republic, Andrey Nikiforov.

Andrey, in the spring of last year, Crimea returned to Russia. What has changed since then? What is happening with Crimeans?

Andrey Nikiforov (photo on Milli Firqa website)

Andrey Nikiforov (photo on Milli Firqa website)

When a long-held dream comes true [of reunification with Russia] and the peak of this dream has passed, all that happens afterwards pales, to a certain extent… And so it has happened with us. Crimeans had something to live for. And suddenly it happened! But what to live for from now on? For what values? To some extent now, we have mentally exhausted ourselves and this exhaustion is felt everywhere. We discharged our energies and we need time for a re-charging.

It is an ambitious goal, of course, to build a new Russian Crimea, to make it self-sufficient, prosperous and attractive – not just for investors but primarily for those who live here. But this excites the bearers of our mentality less strongly. It’s one thing to come out to a square for a protest or celebration; it’s quite another to go to work daily for the sake of an abstract future. These are completely different actions emotionally.

How can the Crimeans re-charge themselves then? What idea should wake us up today?

Crimea is now at a crossroads: either our community will find a new, sublime purpose for which we can live and fight, or without this great purpose we will rapidly turn into a boring, ordinary province. What could a new, historic mission of the Republic be? It seems to me that Crimea is able to play (and has already begun to do so) the role of a kind-of ‘Che Guevara region’, on three different levels.

Globally, we have demonstrated that the region is able to realize its dream, to restore what I call “geopolitical justice”. In addition, we are agents of change for all of the post-Soviet space, providing a new, people’s model of reintegration. (By the way, that’s why even the closest allies of Russia – the leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan – are so wary of the Crimean precedent, which they greeted without any enthusiasm. After all, if peoples, not only elites, are to reintegrate, then why do we need all these comrades such as Lukashenko [president of Belarus] and Nazarbaev [president of Kazakstan] with their whims and not always healthy ambitions?)

And lastly, Crimea has charged the energies of the whole of Russia, all regions of the Russian Federation. So, quite naturally, our own batteries have discharged….

You have said that Crimea should bring something new in the current political reality of Russia. What exactly can we give to our great Motherland?

Indeed, Crimea could become a model, a model region of the Russian Federation which could then be replicated throughout our country. This is an ambitious task, but it may be of interest not only to the Crimean political elite and it may attract not only Crimean resources. It is the task at the federal level. Incidentally, the Kremlin has already outlined the scope of the project and framework of its own involvement in it. Both, by our standards, are huge enough. But without us, even the most grandiose plans, the most generous investment will not bring positive results.

Isn’t this what we fought for? After all, it was a struggle to live alongside Russia, to share joy and to solve common problems. Common joy we have experienced. It’s time to solve common problems.

What should stimulate us when building an ideal model of the Russian region?

In a sense – it is our uniqueness, which, incidentally, is not determined by us. Look, there are not so many regions throughout the world which have been sanctioned separately from the greater state, and sanctioned by not just anybody. This means that we are treated as a special region, not as an ordinary province. This speaks not to the distinctiveness of us but to that of our status, our position. Our development – our successes and our failures – will be closely watched by our friends and also by our so-called partners. So Crimea is now something much more than its simple existence. But even in this situation, there is a threat to slip into provincialism.

We don’t have enough of our own resources, and to copy someone else’s path is quite simply dangerous for us. For example, all attempts to turn Crimea into a Monte Carlo are doomed to fail. You can ruin Crimea all you want, but we will not turn into a sort of casino-zone, competing with global peers. Those who have big money will still go to Monte Carlo and Las Vegas. The various small fry may visit us, but what they will they bring to us except their vices?

In order to move forward, we need those who will lead. What is the current Crimean government? What are its weaknesses and its strengths?

Ceremony in Simferopol mark one year anniversary of 'Crimea Spring' (Maxim Shemetov, Reuters)

Ceremony in Simferopol mark one year anniversary of ‘Crimea Spring’ (Maxim Shemetov, Reuters)

Our political elite is going through a difficult transition period. It started a bit earlier than our return to Russia and will last, most likely, longer than the transition period of our adaptation to the Russian Federation. The destruction of the old Crimean elites began under President Yanukovych when he sent here his team (from Makeyevka [city in Donetsk region] and Donetsk). Very soon they shoved from power practically all levels of the local political elite which had been forming on the peninsula during the previous two decades. Many representatives of the former Crimean elite were shipped back to Kiev. By the way, this actually allowed the sprouts of the new political elite to achieve maximum results during the Crimean Spring [2014]

Some think that the Crimean government should be ‘strengthened’ by experts from the Russian mainland. What do you think about this “strengthening”

The cadre policy should be one of the most important issues for the Crimean authorities, because whatever the means, whatever resources would be sent here, if there are not enough people who know how to use them effectively, it may all be just wasted. Therefore, the classical Soviet slogan “Cadres decide everything!” should become the dominant slogan for 2015, and for the years to follow. The necessary cadres for sure can be found in our vast country. Our task is to put them to work

It will be worse, at least for local elites, if Moscow at some point decides to take the cadre policy into its own hands and begins forming the management of the Crimean federal district. We should not let this happen. The active involvement of Russian mainland staff does not mean that we should not educate and promoteour own cadres.Training of cadres in Crimea should reach a new level; it should be effective and targeted

A Crimean is then a new Russian phenomenon

A Crimean is first and foremost a person who knows Crimea, lives by its interests and is actively involved in creative activity for the benefit of Crimea. Typically this should be associated with a certain rootedness in Crimea. I know people who have recently arrived in Crimea and very quickly became Crimeans. At the same time, there are examples of the opposite – people who have lived on the peninsula their entire lives, who have several generations of ancestors who have lived here, but could not develop a Crimean identity. There was a certain rejection – hostility towards Crimea – among “conscious Ukrainians” who were sent here, landed here under various circumstances. Now their ranks have thinned out considerably. Some of them are hiding (temporarily, they believe), waiting for our mistakes. We must not give them the slightest chance for revenge, because their revenge would be a disaster for Crimea

Concerning those keeping their heads down, we often hear today in Crimea the name of a well-known Russian-philologist, a Crimean, who became inflamed with love for the Russophobic, official ideology of Ukraine. It seems he even wants to leave Crimea. Should they not follow his example, meaning the hidden fifth column, safely entrenched in our universities? What can such Russophobes teach Crimean students? What should be our attitude towards them? What to do with this phenomenon?

What do they teach Russian students, including Crimeans, on the Russian mainland? Unfortunately, this sort of fifth column in the milieu of intellectuals and the so-called ‘lumpen-intelligentsia’ is one of the distinctive features of the Russian socio-political culture. We in Crimea are lucky in this sense: a large part of these “educated” Russophobes departed to the Kherson region of Ukraine and even further to the north. But, of course, not all of them left. What to do with this? I suppose to defeat them with our humanism. I mean, we know for sure who is right. And if we are not to become like the former fifth column of Russophobes and instead be honest, morally clean and professionally impeccable, they will disappear like greenflies under the sunlight. By the way, note that in Crimea, the sun shines brighter than in other regions of our country. That is why these freely convertible philologists and other evil spirits are fleeing Crimea

Crimea is undergoing a process of purification. This process is painful and is not easy. But we will overcome it. Because we are Crimeans.

*****

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