Translated, by Dale Street, from the website of the Russian Socialist Movement.
The government of Prime Minister Yatseniuk and President Turchinov can repeat as often as it wants the mantra that Crimea is an inseparable part of Ukraine. But the annexation of the territory of the peninsula by the Kremlin is an accomplished fact.
The majority of the local inhabitants have welcomed the Russian occupiers as liberators. In terms of popular celebrations, 16th March – the day of the scandalous referendum on the status of the republic – left far behind the New Year, the First of May, and the Day of Victory all added together.
In the south-east of the country radically pro-Russian attitudes are stronger than they have ever been.
What counts now is honestly recognizing that Maidan not only did not unite Ukraine but that it pushed to the limits long-standing contradictions which threaten the very existence of a unitary state.
I was born and have lived my whole life in Crimea. Not once during the whole period of office of President Yanukovich did I ever hear anyone here say a good word about his regime. Crimeans had no less reason to hate his government than did those who built the barricades in Kiev or those from the western regions who took part in the Maidan.
Was it really “Banderists” who allowed large-scale privatization of land and beaches on the peninsula?
Or, perhaps, the paramilitaries of the Right Sector who cut down forests on Cape Aya near Sevastopol in order to build the next dacha for a protector of the constitution?
And who, interestingly, controlled the Simferopol police, in whose dungeons people were tortured and maimed?
In the ARC (Autonomous Republic of Crimea) the Party of the Regions held complete sway during the last decade. And the population did not sit back and do nothing. In 2013 the level of protest activity was the highest in the whole of Ukraine.
Many people here spoke with enthusiasm about the revolution which would one day drive out the hated “Donets mob” [Yanukovich and his backers] and put an end to oligarchic rule. But when the revolution finally happened – it turned out that Crimeans did not regard it as “theirs”.
In fact, they were prepared to allow foreign troops on their territory and to take up arms themselves in order not to have anything to do with that revolution.
In early December of 2013 the situation in the Maidan seriously heated up. In the course of a single night it changed from being a relaxed carnival in support of association with the European Union into brutal street fighting with the authorities who had taken it upon themselves to use police violence against peaceful demonstrators on 30th November.
From the very beginning it was ordinary people who pushed forward the uprising, genuinely feeling for the first time their own strength. The masses had no confidence in the leaders of the opposition parties, or in politicians in general.
In the course of the events of January and February the current Prime Minister of Ukraine and his closest associates were dismissed as traitors by those in the Maidan more often than anyone could count.
To put it mildly, it is an odd situation when people who called the most self-sacrificing activists “provocateurs” and who did everything possible at every stage to “empty” the revolution now hold the key positions of responsibility in the government after the success of that revolution.
Most members of the new government are faces well-known to Ukrainians, and ones which always excelled in finding a common language with the “bandit regime” of Viktor Yanukovich. It is therefore completely natural that many people should see the Maidan as a case of Tweedledum replacing Tweedledee.
Having concentrated on combating dictatorship, the revolution turned out to be incapable of formulating a positive programme which could have consolidated Ukrainian society.
Signing an EU association agreement, which the movement had declared to be its goal, not only failed to resolve a single one of the existing problems confronting Ukraine. It also created a host of new ones.
Unemployment, the fall in the real standard of living, the decline in welfare provision and the commercialization of all and everything – themes which equally concerned inhabitants of Lvov, Odessa, Kharkhov and Simferopol – were completely ignored by the Maidan.
The main scene of the Kiev revolution was usurped by the likes of the confectionery capitalist Petr Poroshenko. Indisputably, no-one expects him to review the results of privatization.
The “oligarchisation” of the Maidan is in particularly sharp contrast to the uprising taking place at the same time in Bosnia. The latter, as is well-known, had an openly anti-capitalist character and was able to unite under its banner Muslims, Serbs and Croats who had enthusiastically been at each others’ throats for decades.
In spite of its autonomous status within Ukraine, in the last twenty years Crimea was firmly in the sphere of the Russian Federation’s cultural and media influence. They were accustomed here to watch Russian television, read Russian newspapers, and believed that salvation would come from the east.
Apart from the Crimean Tatars, who preserved their national separateness, and an insignificant number of ethnic Ukrainians, the inhabitants of the peninsula see themselves as part of the “Russian world”.
Until recently it was usual to blame the wretched Ukrainian state apparatus for all misfortunes and to delight in the bold and powerful Kremlin.
For Crimeans, Putin’s Russia is a beacon of stability and prosperity. As a result of many years of media manipulation, the local population is inclined to ignore the facts of the realities of Russian life.
In speaking with the average inhabitant of Simferopol or Sevastopol you learn without fail that pensions are higher everywhere in Russia, that wages are higher, and that if the opposition is driven off the streets – then only because there is good reason to do so.
The unprecedented jubilation with which many people greeted the proclamation by ARC Prime Minister Sergei Aksenovim of a “course in the direction of Russia” is beginning to dissipate only now.
Kiselev and co. [i.e. spin doctors for Putin] are also assisted by the identification of Russia with the Soviet Union, which is widespread on the peninsula and in the eastern regions of Ukraine, especially amongst the older population. Legions of politically active granddads and grandmas provide a solid basis of support for pro-Russian separatism.
These people sincerely believe that the Russian Federation has been able to preserve the welfare state, friendship between peoples and other attributes of happy Soviet life, and that the Cold War with the West did not end in 1991.
Together with the close cultural affinities and longstanding economic ties between Crimea and Russia, all this made the annexation so triumphal that it could be carried out without any need for a “small victorious war” [the expression used to describe Russia’s invasion of Chechnya in 1994].
Every revolution always bears within itself at least a pretention to be universal. The demands of the revolutionaries, their methods, the future which they promise in the event of victory must be relevant to everyone.
If this is not the case, if the revolution cannot present a corresponding project to society, then why should anyone be surprised if certain social layers attempt to separate themselves from it?
The Maidan will be “their” revolution as well only if it manages to implement a programme which really expresses the interests of the majority of the Ukrainian people, irrespective of geography, language and cultural sympathies.
The only real possibility of “returning Crimea” and not allowing a breakaway by the eastern regions is to demonstrate to their inhabitants and, at the same time, to the whole world that the Maidan sees its goal not as replacing one group of capitalists at the helm of the state by another but as the destruction of the oligarchic order as a whole.
To demonstrate that the victory of the Maidan will not lead to the oppression of Russian and other national minorities by the “main ethnicity” but, on the contrary, that it will create for the first time the conditions needed for the cohabitation of all peoples in Ukraine on the basis of equal rights.
All this, in turn, necessarily and directly raises the question of the next stage of the Ukrainian revolution – the overthrow of the oligarchic government and guaranteeing genuine popular self-government throughout the country.