Crimea(13)
Irina, 50, social worker, Simferopol

What makes someone a real Russian?

I think all people are good. Who is a real Russian? We are half-Ukrainian, half-Russian. We love Russians and Ukrainians. I don't know, I was born in the Soviet Union, and was a Russian then. Afterwards I lived in Ukraine, now I'm back in Russia. But we still love both these people. Both are dear to me.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

Yes, I think I can call my actions patriotic. I have never voted before, even for these presidents – Yanukovich and Kuchma, I think there were four of them on my memory. Never voted. But when there was the referendum for Russia, for the first time in my life, in 50 years, I went to vote. I thought, if we will be part of Russia, there will be no war and everything will be good. If only I knew how things would turn out.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

I think, no. I don't really have any love for the government, while of course I love the motherland. I love my motherland, where I was born, where I live, I love both Ukraine and Russia, I even love America. I think only governments have problems with one another, whereas people are good and help one another. I attend a baptist church, for example, and we are very friendly with American baptists, they help us. I think people would live much better without our rulers.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Yes, of course. We didn't agree with Yanukovich, yet we still loved Ukraine.

Have you considered emigration?

Yes, of course, I would like to. In comparison to us, others live so well – they have health-care, jobs, and a different attitude towards people in general. But unfortunately I can't immigrate now.

What do you think about migrants?

They probably don't have a good life back home. I think, life forces them to come here.

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Ramazan, 26, chef, Yalta

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is someone who probably was born in Russia and lives his whole life there.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

Probably yes. Inherently, I'm a patriot. For example, I have always supported and participated in various public events relating to my people. And not just my people.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

No, these are different, absolutely different. One can't choose his motherland. Motherland is where you are born. And you love her not because of her actions, but just because she is. As for the government, that's just your relationship with the current regime. Governments change whilst motherland remains. Motherland is a person's soul.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course, that's possible. I think, it depends on the situation.

Have you considered emigration?

No, though I have thought about it, but decided to stay no matter what.

What do you think about migrants?

I have nothing bad to say about them. Yet motherland is a person's soul. You can't betray your motherland. Even if you have to leave, you must come back.

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Natalia, 38, entrepreneur, Sevastopol

What makes someone a real Russian?

I rarely meet real Russians in my life. Honestly, I don't know who they are. I have very little connections to Russia. Unless one counts the Black Sea fleet, Soviet Union, I actually have no connection at all to Russia. I don't have Russian friends, I don't have relatives in Russia, I have never been to Russia. When I was very little I've been to Moscow and St Petersburg, it was still Soviet Union, and I don't remember those trips. In my world there's no Russia. What I can tell about Russians is what I see on TV, in the movies, or read on Facebook.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

Probably not. What would be considered patriotic today? So, I would want to do something patriotic, but what, and for what purpose? I don't know. I know that Ukrainians wear their traditional embroided shirts and help the Ukrainian army. That's their patriotism. But to do that in Sevastopol now, is very stupid. I think if I put on a traditional embroided shirt, it's not going to be a patriotic act, it's going to be a crazy act.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Absolutely not. These are absolutely different concepts. Ukraine is my motherland, one third of my life was spent there. All of my life, my family – everything is Ukrainian. But the politics in Kyiv now, the parliament, the president – that's a totally different concept. People are separate from the government.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Yes, of course. I think if one was to answer the previous question by saying that people and the government are one and the same, as it should be in a normal country, then it means that people, the nation, the government – they all have one thing to strive for and that's the country's welfare. Since in Ukraine, the government has it's own goal, and the people have their own, so my answer is clear.

Have you considered emigration?

Of course, all the time. We don't want our children to live here, neither in Russia, nor in Ukraine. Despite my love for Ukraine, despite the people, who are very kind, generous, happy and good, I don't want my children to live here. And it's not because of the country nor the people, but because of the regime. Overall, it's because of the Soviet Union, which still exists. People say, Soviet Union fell apart, but in reality it's still here, everywhere, in us, in all of us, and I don't want my children to know what it is. It's very sad.

What do you think about migrants?

I don't really think about them. They come to work. I think that overall, the person should work where he was born. And in an ideal world, every country will have such living conditions that people won't need to leave seeking work elsewhere. I know that in my motherland, in Western Ukraine, lots of people leave to work abroad. Even my parents have left for Poland, they work there. Of course, they are not your typical migrant workers. My father has a good position at a factory in Gdansk. If they have an opportunity to earn much more than at home, why not? Lots of my fellow countrymen go to Russia, Moscow, or to Europe, for better pay. There are no jobs back home. Yet I remember when everyone had a job, everyone lived prosperous. That was the time. I just don't like people who leave their homes to look for work, I'd rather see them find what to do at home.

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Evgeny, 24, unemployed, Simferopol

What makes someone a real Russian?

Shoot, I have always thought of Crimea being in Russia. My passport says I'm Russian. So I have always been Russian. My father is Russian, my mother is Russian. I was born in the Soviet Union, so there's no other option. If I were to be born in the 1990s, I would have been born in Ukraine, and then it would have been different. As it is, I'm Russian. My dad is half-Greek and half-Russian and my mom is Russian.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I attended rallies, and also participated in the elections. I was an observer there.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Honestly I'm not very serious about it. If I like a politician I support him, but if I don't like a politician I will say that's he's no good.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

It's possible. But it depends on the country. It's possible to be a Ukrainian patriot and to disagree with the government there. But I'm no Ukrainian patriot. Ukraine is a separate country for me. I have always considered Crimea to be separate from Ukraine. Crimea was lost in a cards game. Really. Yanukovych was an okay president, yet compared to Yuschenko or Kuchma he was a great president. He increased my pension. Whatever he promised he delivered on it. Yes, he stole a lot, but that doesn't matter because he was a man of his words. My pension was increased from 800 hryvnas to 1400 hryvnas. That's a lot. So I think patriotism and politics are two different things.

Have you considered emigration?

No, never. Simferopol is my home-city, my motherland.

What do you think about migrants?

They are okay people. We've got 5 guys from Donetsk living with us, so we hang out together, and party. They've got no money so we help out. They like it here, there's no war in Crimea, and they have brought their families here now. They are very happy here, and happy with food prices and our society.

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Maria, 35, marketing manager, Yalta

What makes someone a real Russian?

It's a difficult questions, because since we had this referendum and Crimea became part of Russia I have decided to view myself as a Crimean. I'm now considering myself a Crimean because I don't want to think about all of these ethnic questions. There's so much different blood in everyone who lives on the territory of the Former Soviet Union. For example, my mom is half-Armenian, my dad – half-Russian and half-Ukrainian. There are so many different nationalities here and asking a question “who are you?” is not so simple. I think I'm a Crimean, and that's my self-identification.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

Maybe I have done something patriotic. Not sure how patriotic is the fact that I still love Ukraine very dearly, and will never stop to love it. I accept what has happened. Yet, there was this event in Ivano-Frankivsk recently, and it's not very p.c. to go to there because of the stereotypical “bandery” who kill people. But I went there anyway. It wasn't cheap nor easy to get there either. I had to fly out of here to Moscow, since our airspace is closed, and from Moscow to Kyiv, and from Kyiv I drove to Ivano-Frankivsk to attend this seminar. My parents cried when I left. My mom though I would be killed. I went, and it was great, we posted online how great it is, how wonderful the locals are, that everything said about them here is a lie. Maybe this was a patriotic act in a way. How can one live in the same country, eat the same bread together for so long, and then one day to just say, we were suffering this whole time. I don't think it's right, I grew up here, Kyiv is my capital, I love Ukraine. I have nothing to say against Moscow nor Russian Federation, but it doesn't mean I should abandon my love, my values. Why does everything has to be black-and-white. I'm for a middle ground, I accept Russia, I accept everything that has happened, but I still love Ukraine and will always love Ukraine.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

I don't know, I doubt anyone can love the government. I have seen that only in Singapore. What they have achieved there – ended corruption and other things, and all within a short amount of time. They have created one of the most progressive countries in the world from a country in which everyone was just smoking opium . That's when it's possible to love a government that has achieved all of that. I don't feel love neither toward politicians nor the government. And motherland is a very different matter. I love Crimea very much, and I'm proud to be a Crimean. I realize how lucky I am to be living here – near the sea, near the mountains. That's really great.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Such people are called dissidents. My grandfather, god rest his soul, used to say: if you want to become disappointed in humanity, go into politics. He's right. In my childhood I used to be very involved with politics, elections, campaigning. All that ended very quickly as I understood what it's all about. It's of no interest to me, and I don't want to waste my time dealing with that.

Have you considered emigration?

Lately I've been thinking about this a lot. I'm worried by what's going on. For example, what's the difference between a beach in Gurzuf and in Barcelona? In Barcelona you'll see people running with their dogs, playing Frisbee, having a picnic with their children. And in Gurzuf – I looked around – on my right there were about thirty people, many with children, teenagers, all of them with a beer in their hand. And on my left – the same. And it even appeared to me that little kids were sucking on beer bottles. And that's really scary to me. I've got a son to raise and I have to consider so many other things than just my love for the mountains, the sea and friends. Is that enough compared to how families live and spend their time in London, Paris or Munich? It's not about me, it's about my son Spartak. So, yes, I think about immigration, because I think he would be better off growing up in a different society.

What do you think about migrants?

When all of this happened, we were upset about loosing our connections. I still can keep up with my friends via social networks, but lots of people no longer want to visit us. That's sad. We can't communicate with friends of many years. But we hope that intelligent people from Moscow and St Petersburg will take their place. And actually, I think it's already happening. Yesterday I've met a man on a parking lot, who came from Russia, he and his family are very happy here and are looking for new friends. We started chatting and really enjoyed each other's company. We have decided to meet up soon for dinner, to introduce our children to one another. So I do hope we'll see more of these people, and not just beer drinkers on the beach.

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Igor, 49, unemployed, Simferopol

What makes someone a real Russian?

Foremost, a real Russian is someone who loves the city he lives in and also supports his government, cherishes historical values. By that I mean he cherishes our victory, our veterans. This is for the most part. But also, this person helps those around him. That's why I agreed to social work. I wanted to help people. Then of course, those who work earn money, no matter how little or much.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I haven't done anything patriotic. Why? Because of my lifestyle. Now I understand the meaning of life. But before I didn't, because of drugs and prison. But spending five and a half years in opioid substitution therapy I had a lot of free time to think about my life and its purpose.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

A government can change any day. You can't point at one person and love him because he might get re-elected the next day, and your love will vanish. As for motherland, it's different. Look at what's happening in the country now. I was never into politics, but I think President Putin is doing everything to the most of his ability. I can only tell from the news on TV, since I'm not a politician. He's trying his best to improve the country's economy.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

History has lots of such examples; starting with Peter the Great there were so many upheavals and revolutions. Dishonest people come to power and then that's a patriot's job to take care of them.

Have you considered emigration?

I haven't thought about this. In the 18 years I've spent in prisons in various cities, including in Belarus, I had ample opportunity to stay there. But I have always returned here. Simferopol is my motherland, I can't imagine my life somewhere else. Maybe if my head would have been wired differently I would consider immigrating when I was 25-30 years old. But I haven't thought about it.

What do you think about migrants?

I respect, I have learned to respect the choice of other people and their right to choose their own path in life. So if a person comes to earn money, why not? It's good for the economy. As long as everyone's friendly. When I started my first prison term, it was still Soviet Union, and there were different people there – Belorussians and even foreigners. And no one ever said, you are not from here. So I look at the person from the perspective whether he's kind and considerate. If a person comes here with good intentions, people will only notice his personality, but if a person comes with bad intentions, he will have dishonest and wicked people around him.

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In other countries, you either agree with the government and dig the ditch, or you disagree and don’t dig the ditch. In Russia it's different: you disagree with the authorities but you still dig the ditch—not because you are told to do so, but out of spite.

 

Elena, brand manager, Sevastopol

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is a patriot of his country. He's a person for whom spiritual is more important than tangibles. But foremost, it's important for a Russian to know that those who are close and dear to him, be it his family or friends, are safe and comfortable. He's a person who cares more for others than for himself. More or less like that.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I can say that I have abandoned my career for the sake of my family. Yes. I used to work as a national marketing manager in one international firm, and I understood that I can work in any country in the world, because this firm has 180 factories across the world. But I have decided to channel my energy towards my city, my relatives, so that their lives are better. I can spend my entire life earning a lot of money working for someone, making his dream come true. Or, I can spend my energy improving the world around me.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Of course not. Governments can be very different, and motherland is just one and will remain one and only one. These are absolutely different things.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course it's possible. Regarding the current government, what happened with Crimea, I'm most certainly thankful to the government that all of this has happened without any victims. I have lots of Ukrainian friends, including those who serve in the Navy. I am thankful that we don't have bombs dropped on us, and we don't have religious nor ethnic tensions. Crimea is a region where an ethnic conflict can start very easily. Everything was done very smartly and safely for the local population.

Have you considered emigration?

No, I never thought of immigration. I love my Sevastopol very much, I want to live here, and I want my children and my grandchildren to live here too. Of course, they will be making their own decisions, but I definitely want them to grow up in Sevastopol. And that's why I quit my job, though my boss thought I'm crazy for doing that.

What do you think about migrants?

Why not? This is their chance for a better life. It's important that people come with good intentions. If they are ready to respect traditions of this county and not to impose their own traditions, they are welcome. If they come here with good intentions – to live here and work, we will treat them nicely.

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Akim, 38, butcher, Bakhchysarai

What makes someone a real Russian?

A person who lives in Russia is probably a real Russian. A person born there. A person's motherland is where he was born, and so is for Russians. And now we have become Russian too.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I can't answer this question. For so many years we have lived in Ukraine and we were used to that. Still I feel closer to Ukraine. We'll see whether it changes. Since it's not up to us, it doesn't matter whether we discuss it or not. We used to live in Ukraine, Crimea, and now we'll live in Russia. What matters is for all of us to be treated equally, all of our problems taken care of justly. There is a sense of wrong, but I hope it will be cured in the future.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

What can I say, motherland is motherland. As for the government, as long as it's understanding, it's okay. When the government pays attention to everyone equally, it's a good government. When the government starts to treat different people differently, then what sort of love can it expect? Everyone should be equal, law applies to everyone with no exceptions. All of us abide by the law, no matter where we live, be it Uzbekistan, Ukraine or Russia. It can't be that Crimean Tatars have one set of laws, Russians have their own, and Ukrainians – their own too.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

How can one disagree? Of course I am a patriot. I think, one has to agree. But it doesn't matter what I think, the government makes its decisions without us.

Have you considered emigration?

No.

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Andrei, 31, hostel manager, Sevastopol

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian probably loves Russia, his motherland and takes care of his country. That's if one is to look at it globally. Life has changed drastically recently, and lots of people are starting to love their country. But it's not enough just to love her, one has to take care of her too. One can start with cleaning his own staircases. The easiest thing to do is to sit at home, watch TV and complain about the government.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

Probably yes. I can't be idle, I'm always looking for something to do. So when I was serving in the army, I was a sergeant in the military prosecutors office here, and I decided to organize a lecture for officers, conscripts, sailors. Every September an organization called something like a union for people's sobriety comes here to Sevastopol. So I have asked this organization to give a lecture, and it all worked out – 600 people attended, and I have organized it all on my own, even without the prosecutor's help.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

A government can change all the time, while how can the motherland? But honestly, Sevastopol has become my second motherland.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

It's possible. Every person is unique with his own opinions, and every person can have his own understanding of what's happening in the world.

Have you considered emigration?

Yes, I thought about it. I've looked at Canada, Bulgaria and some more exotic countries like Thailand or India. But it didn't really work out so I decided that's for the best. I actually quite enjoy living here, it's not bad. Maybe those were the moments of despair.

What do you think about migrants?

I think migrants come here because it's difficult in their countries. So they think that they can come to Moscow, earn money and feed their families. Of course, as long as they don't drink all of that money away nor succumb to Moscow's temptations. So that's what they do, and so many of them come to Moscow that their labor becomes even cheaper. But I think it's okay, let them come. I think the government should regulate migrants. If they are needed, then they should be encouraged, if there are too many of them then it should be banned. Especially considering that Russia is a police state: if the government wants to, it can bring order into any issue.

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Nikita, 8, Yalta

What makes someone a real Russian?

A person who voted for Russia.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

Honestly I don't know.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

I think not, but I'm not sure.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Probably no.

Have you considered emigration?

Beyond Yalta borders – of course.

What do you think about migrants?

They are just refugees, because stupid Ukrainians are bombing their own people.

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Maks, 31, entrepreneur, Alushta

What makes someone a real Russian?

That's a tough question. I can't really answer it yet, because I became Russian myself just recently. I am not even sure what they look like. I haven't understood it yet.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

A real patriotic act? Probably not. First comes patriotism, patriotic acts follow. Here, we don't really love nor respect anyone, it's difficult to do something patriotic.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

No, absolutely no. Government is one thing, and motherland is completely different.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Yes.

Have you considered emigration?

I constantly think about this. I wake up thinking about immigration and go to bed thinking the same.

What do you think about migrants?

They are hostages of the current situation: nothing to do at home and looking for easy money.

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Ksenia, 26, waitress, Alushta

What makes someone a real Russian?

I don't know who a real Russian is. Maybe a patriot, a person who lives in Russia, drinks vodka, bears and gypsies, eats dumplings. Maybe a worker, who loves his job, or not.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

No. I've never attended rallies, nor have I voted. I haven't voted for 26 years, and I don't think I ever will. Maybe that's not a good thing, but I don't really care. It doesn't matter.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

I think, no. Motherland is where you are born, where you spend your childhood. As for the government – why would you love it? It changes day to day.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Probably no. Yet maybe, yes. Probably yes.

Have you considered emigration?

Yes, probably. But not forever, I would want to leave but to return one day.

What do you think about migrants?

People want to earn money, it doesn't matter whether they do it in one country or another. I am absolutely fine with them. It's cool when a person works.

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Ismail, 61, construction worker, Bakhchysarai

What makes someone a real Russian?

I don't divide nations. We are all guests in this world. One person was born over there, his ancestors lived there and they've got Russia. Our ancestors lived in this land from time immemorial, so it's ours. But I don't divide people into nationalities.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I'm a patriot when it comes to my national traditions. I want everyone to cherish our traditions and ways so that they continue to be. I have done nothing patriotic in a political sense though. But I honor my family and my people, and that's patriotic in my understanding.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Motherland is like air. When a person misses something it's air. When air is gone, a person dies. I believe that motherland is air. As for the government – it's a structure, it changes all the time. But of course, one has to respect the current leader, like one would a family patriarch.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Yes, it's possible. If the government doesn't look after you, your people, then you can disagree with it. The government – it's like a father of, say, five children, he has to pay attention equally to all of them. If he doesn't then children argue with their father. And so with the government.

Have you considered emigration?

No, I never thought about immigration. I know that when it's difficult, when one needs to study or work somewhere else, it's okay to leave. But why would I want to leave, if I'm left to be, if everything's to my liking. In my opinion, it's okay to travel, to look at other countries. Our nation is so small.

What do you think about migrants?

We always had lots of migrant workers here, before the war – from Ukraine. And many would leave too, to the West, Turkey. When life's difficult, a person tries to improve it, because it's short, everyone wants to live, to have a family, a house, and so much more.

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