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Anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia: No one said everything would be easy

March 12, 2015, 17:23 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Embankment in Sevastopol, Crimea

Embankment in Sevastopol, Crimea

© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, March 12. /TASS/. Despite current economic tension and uncertainties, the first anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia is generally seen in Russia as a historic event and it will be marked as a real holiday, polled experts told TASS.

The referendum on future statehood for Crimea and the city of Sevastopol was held on March 16, 2014. Locals rushed to polling stations to choose between wider powers for the region inside Ukraine and reunification with Russia. As many as 96.77% of those who cast their ballots voted for joining Russia. On March 17, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a special decree recognizing the Republic of Crimea as a sovereign and independent state. The next day, the Republic of Crimea and Russia signed a treaty making the peninsula a constituent territory of the Russian Federation.

A year later, national pollster VTSIOM has found that 91% of Crimea’s people hail the results of their return to the fold of Russian jurisdiction. Asked if another referendum on Crimea’s reunification with Russia were called today, 90% of residents would vote in favour, 86% assessing themselves pretty happy with what their life is like today. At the same time, most of Crimea’s residents (79%) mentioned the key problems of inflation (79%), unemployment (56%) and bad roads (47%).

"I have been able to see for myself that Crimeans live quite happy and peaceful lives today," Japan’s former prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, said on Wednesday after visiting Crimea.

Director of the CIS Countries Institute Konstantin Zatulin says the impressions he received during his trips about the peninsula made him certain that Crimeans feel no doubts their decision to join Russia was correct, though the process of getting used to Russia’s socio-economic conditions was not entirely painless.

"Back one year ago, not a single person expected everything would be easy, though all of Crimea’s problems are solvable," Zatulin told TASS. "For instance, before a future Kerch Bridge is built between mainland Russia and Crimea, the problem of cargo traffic can be addressed by using ports in Russia’s Krasnodar Territory and Sevastopol seaport, which has the required logistics infrastructures. The potentials of Russia and Crimea have never worked together before and now their synergy will surely yield positive effects before long."

Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Globalization Problems Institute, recalls that over the past 23 years since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has systematically ruined Crimea, keeping it a depressed, subsidised region. "Over four years to come, Russia plans to put huge financial muscle into its economy - about 860 billion rubles or approximately half of what was spent to build facilities for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. We coped with the Winter Olympics and we will certainly cope with the task of bringing about Crimea’s upturn," Delyagin told TASS.

"It should be remembered that Crimea as a region is a generator of profit, not losses," he said. "The peninsula has oil, gas, advanced agriculture, good wineries and tourist facilities. The region’s worst problems are infrastructure, water supply, power supply and cargo traffic. A ferry link will operate until 2018, when a bridge across the Kerch Strait is hopefully to be put up. Two transformer substations and the laying of water pipelines is not so much a matter of funding as of good organisation. In a couple of years from now, Crimea, once a recipient of subsidies, may well achieve self-sufficiency," said Delyagin.

"Looking at Crimea from an accountant’s point of view would be fundamentally wrong," he said. "It is far more important that Russia has assumed responsibility for the future of 2.3 million people. In this way, Moscow demonstrated its firm commitment to European values, of which the main one is the democratic right of choice by people who voted for reunification with their historic motherland. It is the right to use the mother tongue, and for an overwhelming majority of Crimea’s residents the mother tongue is Russian. The Swiss Constitution grants official status to four languages, including Rhaeto-Romanic, spoken by a tiny faction of four percent of the population."

Political Studies Institute director and Civic Chamber member Sergey Markov believes that against the backdrop of bloody hostilities in the east of Ukraine, where Kiev’s current authorities have conducted a punitive operation against Russian speakers for the past year, Crimean residents may now be shuddering in horror at the thought they might have suffered the same plight.

"This explains well why the anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia is being celebrated nationwide as a true national holiday," said Markov.

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