Staunton, November 23 – The first European poll in Crimea since the Russian Anschluss finds that Crimea residents identify even more as Crimeans than they did earlier but do not feel themselves to be Russians or consider Russia as their home, an indication that Moscow’s assimilationist plans have failed at least so far.
At the same time, the survey by the German Center for Eastern Europe and International Studies found, very few consider themselves Ukrainians or view Ukraine as their homeland either (zois-berlin.de/fileadmin/media/Dateien/ZOiS_Reports/ZOiS_Report_3_2017.pdf and ru.krymr.com/a/28870422.html).
Gwendolyn Zasse, the center’s director, said that after the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula, only 12 percent of those surveyed said they had visited other regions of Ukraine over the last three years; and “more than 40 percent” indicated that at present, they do not have any contact with their relatives in other regions of Ukraine.
But at the same time, she continued, Crimean residents over the same period did not begin going to the Russian Federation more often either. Fewer than six percent called Russia their homeland, while less than one percent identified Ukraine as their native country. Instead, the survey found that being Crimean had become “ever more important” to residents.
“Many said that this sense of belong to a Crimean community was just as strong as earlier, but for about 40 percent, it has acquired greater importance.” This suggests Moscow has been largely unsuccessful in promoting a Russian identity on the peninsula but also that Kyiv has devoted insufficient attention the region to counter Russian efforts.
As an RFE/RL reporter said in reporting on this study, “the Kremlin completely controls only the territory [of Crimea]; it does not control the minds of Crimeans.” Those most inclined to support Moscow, he continues, are the elderly – and their identification with Moscow has more to do with a Soviet identity than a Russian one.