By Alexandra Nelipa
In the wake of Crimea’s overwhelming call for rejoining Russia, criticism against radicals and nationalism bring automatic labels of being “pro-Russian extremists” or “pro-Putin zombies.”
Sunday’s referendum drew 83 percent of the Crimean population, and 97 percent of them voted for rejoining the Russian Federation. On Tuesday, the Russian president signed a treaty making Crimea part of Russia again.
I don’t need to read propaganda from either side to know what is going on. Look at the photos of the protests and look for the logos on the signs. They will tell you everything you need to know.
At the beginning, I was encouraged by the spirit of “Euro-maidan” and the fight against corruption in the Ukrainian government, but soon, the Nationalists began displaying their true colors.
So after I had seen all of this, my enthusiasm turned to skepticism for the future of Ukraine. Every country has its own radicals and stupid people, and it is a shame, but in Ukraine, they become heroes without remembering what their agenda really is just because they also fighting corruption.
People have to recognize patriotism and nationalism because these are two different things and lead to opposite directions.
Crimea is the last major stronghold of opposition to the new political leadership in Ukraine.
The roots of the problem in Crimea go to a distant past.
The peninsula has always been multicultural. The 2001 census shows Russians make up 58.5 percent, Ukrainians 24.4 percent and Tatars 12.1 percent. For a long time, Crimea and Russia were inseparable, the reason the majority of the population of Crimea is Russian.
The Greeks came 2,000 years ago, the Karaims probably not long after, and today they live alongside Jews, Bulgars, Armenians, Germans and many others.
During the German occupation, almost all Jews were killed, and the Tatars, Armenians, Bulgarians and Greeks after the occupation where deported by Stalin.
Because Crimea was always a part of Russia until in 1954 former Premier Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean peninsula to the authority of the Ukrainian SSR, extracting it from Russian territory.
But this time, it was not very important because it was still part of one big country, the Soviet Union, which encompassed 15 republics.
It was like reassigning the Oklahoma panhandle to Texas authority — still the same country, ethnicity, language and culture.
The official language of Crimea was Russian, but at school, I learned Ukrainian. Teaching national languages remained in schools in other republics as well.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, all of the republics started screaming for independence. Ukraine was screaming more then anyone else.
Sometimes, there is nothing good about independence, especially if a country does not have a good leader. That is what happened to Ukraine; none of the leaders, starting from 1991, were good, strong leaders.
Ukraine is rich in resources, its agriculture made it a breadbasket for that part of the world, and it exports valuable minerals, wheat and meat products.
Despite that wealth, the Ukrainian economy rolled into an abyss because of its incompetent and corrupt leaders. New government leaders began to steal for themselves and their entourages.
This leads to the election: We had the opportunity to choose between two evils. That led to the Orange Revolution from November 2004 to January 2005.
As for me, I do not support any one party and cannot proclaim Ukraine by itself as my homeland. I was born in a country that does not exist anymore: the country where Russia and Ukraine were in a union.
There is too much hysteria about Russian solders occupying Crimea. They are there to protect people, to avoid a new “Maidan.” They have always been there; Crimea hosts a large Russian naval base.
“Maidan,” the Ukrainian name for the public square the country’s government buildings surround, is what the February tragedy is now called.
As I know from my friends in Simferopol, it is a pretty stable situation in Crimea now. Yes, there are people in military uniform, but only near government offices. Civilians still walk anywhere they want and take pictures, even with soldiers.
I hope nothing like “Maidan” will happen there. It was a big shame and waste of human lives for nothing.
For sure, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was not a good leader. The new temporary government that replaced him is no better. Their hero is Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian radical nationalist whose World War II followers aided the Nazis. For years, disdained as a traitor, his name was synonymous with Nazi.
Now the Nationalists are trying to rehabilitate his reputation, claiming he never sided with the fascists.
But their symbols show a different story: a Bandera portrait began appearing, black and red flags represent a group whose website is eerily reminiscent of Nazi propaganda, and even a slightly modified swastika and insignia of Galichina SS.
I have many friends who are Tatar, Ukrainian and other nationalities who live in Crimea. I do not care about nationalities at all until it comes to nationalism.
My mom is Russian; my dad is Ukrainian, and who I am?
I don’t care. Nationalism is not an appropriate organizing point, not like politics or economics.
“Maidan” started as a protest against the corruption and theft of President Yanukovych but finished as a victory for the Nationalist Party.
Ukrainians want to be admitted to the European Union and want the corruption to end, but nationalism is not likely to achieve either goal. The evolution of humanity is not to be found in the nation state, but in international cooperation. No one nation can achieve great things alone. Once Germany’s Nazis announced Aryan superiority, they paid dearly for that mistake.
Sometimes the two evils we have to choose between don’t leave us any options. There is no corruption in the whole universe that justifies rallying under these flags and symbols.