How do people live in the city joined to Russia? Many believe that they simply returned "to their homeland." Ardent patriotism has many hopes.
The first paradox. The waters of the Black Sea shine brightly in the sun. You might think that you are in Nice. Although there are more Russians here. And not the “new Russians,” who hardly liked local restraint. They prefer Yalta, if they are already tired of the Cote d'Azur and in Courchevel.
In Sevastopol Crimeans live like real Russians. On Sunday evenings, many of them gather in public gardens. In the wake of nostalgia, they sing or talk about a great past, love for their newfound homeland. Often you can hear the accordion, from the sounds of which tears come to my eyes ...
World War II everywhere
A photo exhibition mounted on a wooden platform tells about the destruction during the second siege of the city by III Reich in 1941-1942, less than a century after the war with the Turks, the British and the French.
The magnificent monuments found at every step (walls, towers, statues) tell about the Great Patriotic War and glorify the heroism of the soldiers. No suffering and exploits are forgotten. All museums and forts diligently restored.
The two sieges of Sevastopol seem to the residents of the city something immeasurably more important than the current events in Ukraine. They keep the memory of heroes, soldiers and admirals, after whom streets and squares are named. Moreover, back in those days when those who talk about them with such a feeling have not yet come to light. Whoever you may say, it seems that in Sevastopol they still heal the wounds of the Second World War.
From selective memory to patriotism
Such lively patriotism has permeated the current world views. The Great Patriotic War and the huge price that the USSR had to pay in general and the martyred city of Sevastopol in particular, still remain fertile ground for Russian nationalism in the Crimea. Something like Soviet nostalgia, which is firmly embedded in the landscape and minds.
Many are characterized by selective memory of the old days, “when Sevastopol was closed to foreigners. There was confidence in the future, ”explains Svetlana. The 27-year-old girl talks about the memories of her mother, who then worked at an electrical enterprise. In the area of Vladimir Cathedral, which was once a favorite place for smugglers, there is a feeling of relative prosperity. Nearby are the well-guarded buildings of the Black Sea fleet.
"Not Ukraine and not Russia"
“Today the Crimea and Sevastopol are awakening, getting on their feet ... - continues Svetlana. - We are not like the Ukrainians. Our identity is connected with the Black Sea. We eat fish. ” As for the inhabitants, “Sevastopol is a special world”, even if, like the Crimea, which is closely connected with Russia. But he always occupied a special place, was in itself, "not Ukraine and not Russia." The city perfectly remembers the former role of the fortress and does not hide pride in this regard: “Yalta is lazier and more licentious”.
The military past and the present (it can be clearly seen from the sailors and warships) soaked the whole city. Vests are seen everywhere, crickets can be heard ... The Black Sea fleet here is the basis of the foundations. That was Catherine II’s dream in 1783. In the moored floating hospital, everyone is treated. And in the officers' club performances are held.
The gained independence from Ukraine feeds not aesthetically pleasing metaphors.
“Before [that is, before the Ukrainian crisis of 2014, approx. ed.] the city was dark, and now it glitters. ” Like limestone of local quarries (a city was built from it for centuries), it suddenly acquired new properties. After returning under the wing of Russia, a feeling of rebirth reigns in the city.
Formerly dreaming of joining Western Europe, Kiev was stingy with investments in eastern regions. Such passivity gave rise to a sense of abandonment and reasoning about the ineffective leadership in a predominantly Russophile and Russian-speaking city. Similar feelings are shared even by those who moved here from Ukraine. In the “referendum” they preferred Moscow to Kiev. Like most sailors of the Black Sea Fleet 20 years earlier.
The Kremlin did not spare the energy to achieve such a result. Industrialization programs are accompanied by an influx of finances. A branch of Moscow State University has opened in the port. There is support for cultural life and public parks.
The seeds of such a policy of active support fall on fertile soil: developing the port, Putin flatters the pride of residents who hear the city’s legendary Sevastopol several times a day.
If there are disputes, it usually comes down to simple positions. Some believe that the Russian miracle has already happened. Others are just waiting for him, hoping for the best: they blame the current developmental delays on the consequences of the Western embargo. “We need to stop the war,” they say in the city. “It’s a pity that Americans control the French policy.”
The warm climate attracts many Russians to Sevastopol, who travel there for the sun and beaches. Former Soviet border guard Pavel "fell in love with the city at first sight." Like the journalist from Karelia Alexander: because of the northern cold weather, he was able to retire earlier and move to Sevastopol with his wife, a local native.
With all the passion of converts, they work in the cultural center of Sevastopol. Each of them in its own way glorifies the "power of the Russian spirit." Anyway, disappointment quickly appears in their words: “We forget about our traditions, materialism becomes higher than spirituality. We need to keep our roots. Europe is mistaken in refusing to protect the traditional family. ”
For them, Sevastopol and Crimea are “borders of the Slavic world”. A "Black Sea - Russian Sea."
The largest military cemetery outside of France
During a trip to the French cemetery of Sevastopol (we still have to pay for gas), Paul and Alexander show no rancor.
They regret that “the embargo makes it difficult to take care of the graves of 45 from thousands of French soldiers, the largest military cemetery outside of France.” This is despite the fact that the Crimean War of 1853-1856 ended in the defeat of Russia and the Paris Treaty, under which Russia lost its rights to the fleet in the Black Sea.
Hope for the future
Since then, a lot of upheavals have fallen to the lot of Sevastopol: wars, the collapse of the Russian Empire, communism, the end of the bipolar world in which Russia played such an important role. Under Putin, the humiliated country is trying to get back on its feet, still embarrassed, and sometimes rude.
The desire to return to the forefront is driven by many people in Sevastopol. They have high hopes for a new alignment. Only here, the future that arises in their view is not very similar to what the Western leadership dreams of.