Thursday, July 30, 2015

‘In Crimea, Only the Tanks are Comfortable’

Paul Goble

NB: As readers of Windows on Eurasia know, I highly value and admire the work of Kseniya Kirillova. I have translated more than 50 of her articles into Windows over the past year alone. In posting her latest article, which is “translated” below, Kirillova says that because of health problems, she is not sure when she will be able to prepare more and in fact is uncertain whether there is any sense in continuing such work.  I am sure I join all those who have relied on her writings in saying that we hope she will recover her health quickly and that she will again produce her valuable pieces without which our understanding of Ukraine and Russia would be diminished.

            Staunton, July 30 – In an article entitled “In Crimea Only the Tanks are Comfortable,” Kseniya Kirillova features a report by a Ukrainian woman who recently visited occupied Crimea and who was shocked by the display of Russian tanks and other military equipment in the streets of cities and towns there (

            Natalya (and for obvious reasons, Kirillova does not supply her last name) says that “to see such a quantity of tanks is really awful. In the city itself also is a display of military    equipment. Everywhere Russian flags are flying, and people are walking about with ribbons” identifying themselves as supporters of the occupation.

            “To observe such aggression and militarism is morally difficult,” Natalya continues.

            The Ukrainian woman went to Crimea in order to work as a volunteer at one of the children’s camps. Her impressions from there were “stupefying: the atmosphere in the camp very much recalled Soviet times,” down to the wearing of red bandannas, marching about, and the singing of Soviet hymns.”

            “Everyone was divided into units,” Natalya reports. One, consisting of children from Luhansk was called “the Patriots,” and its members carried Russian symbols. “In the mess hall, the pictures of the children were hung,” pictures that showed tanks and other outward symbols of the occupation.

            She noted that in her own group, there were children even from Western Ukraine “who almost did not speak Russia. Nevertheless,” she says, “both the children and the leaders were prohibited from speaking among themselves in Ukrainian.” When she and some of her group sang Ukrainian songs, others “practically called us terrorists and threatened to call the FSB.”

            Local people, Natalya says, are being encouraged to snitch on others, and they are doing so. “One ‘vigilant citizen’ almost called the police when she saw that several Baptist girls were playing in the yard with children.” She added that she had been warned by local people to be “careful” when talking with people lest she be turned in.

            And she adds, she had direct experience with this.  Some “’well-wisher’ wrote a letter to the procuracy” and reported that because she had been at the Maidan, she did not deserve to receive Chernobyl accident benefits.  Moreover, the writer said, her son supposedly “works for the Americans.”

            Happily, Natalya reports, the police behaved more or less well and did not launch a criminal case this time, but the attitudes of many in Crimea now are, in the words of one Crimean resident, that they as Russian citizens “do not like to live alongside chameleons” like her.

            Kirillova concludes that in such an atmosphere, ordinary people cannot possibly feel comfortable. Only tanks can do that.

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