Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Ordinary Life in Crimea

Today is the first day of school for many people here in North America, so it is perhaps appropriate to write about an interesting blog by an English teacher who lives in Sebastopol, Crimea. Crimea, you will recall, used to belong to Ukraine but was annexed by Russia following a referendum this spring.  I have seen very little coverage in the mainstream media since then of how things are going there.

The blog, at http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/tag/crimea, tells about  subjects such as the impact of changes in currency from hryvnia to ruble on ordinary people, and includes many photos. It gives the impression that, at least in Sebastopol, the change in government was quite welcome and the economic impact minimal.

This is not completely surprising--even when in visited in 2010 it was obvious that Sebastopol was very much a Russian town, since it is the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and Russian naval officers and sailors were in evidence everywhere. According to a guidebook, it is also one of the cleanest-appearing towns in Crimea, very shipshape compared with more casual places.

The currency change in Crimea is somewhat similar to what happened in East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. I remember being told by a guide in Dresden in 1991 that there had not been much problem for most people. Ostmarks were converted into Deutschmarks at a ratio of one-to-one up to a certain limit. I forget exactly what the limit was--certainly no more than 10,000. This didn't bother many people, since few had large amounts of savings in Ostmarks, and the one-to-one ratio was very generous compared with the actual value of the Ostmark.

In any case, it is encouraging to discover from Millin's blog that life in Sebastopol seems to be proceeding normally, with people going about their ordinary business and with tourists still arriving, at least from Eastern Europe. She says she has heard of some people leaving because they do not want to live in Russia, but others who are planning to leave eventually are in no hurry to do so. Apparently no one anticipates the imposition of a new Iron Curtain to keep Russians from leaving the country.

Unfortunately Millin does not update her information on life in Crimea very often, since she also writes about other topics such as learning English and her own efforts to learn Russian. She is missing a good chance to provide citizen journalism from an interesting part of the world.

Sorry about the fact that part of this post is in italics. My computer is acting up and I'm not sure how to get back to plain type while using this application. Below, the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia. It was Catherine the Great who originally added Crimea to the Russian Empire.


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