Western mainstream news reporting of the one-year anniversary of the referendum in Crimea to secede from Ukraine (the so-called annexation of Crimea by Russia) has been tempered and subdued by the very inconvenient, recently published surveys and news reports showing widespread satisfaction of Crimeans with the decision.
The producers of the weekday, newsmagazine program The Current on Canada’s state broadcaster, CBC, actually produced a factual account of Crimea in their broadcast of March 17. That’s a rarity these days on CBC.
The Current interviewed two scholars on the subject–John O’Loughlin, a professor of Geography at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Piotr Dutkiewicz, a professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa. O’Loughlin is one of the principal investigators behind a public opinion survey in Crimea that was published earlier this month. Dutkiewicz is a scholar on Eastern Europe and Russia who has published and edited many books, including his 2014 book, Eurasian Integration: The View from Within.
You can listen to the interviews with O’Loughlin and Dutkiewicz as broadcast on The Current on March 17, 2015 here. The broadcast is 21 minutes long.
On CBC national radio and television news, on the other hand, the Western ‘group think’ on Crimea was still very much present in the anniversary reporting. Russia “seized control” of Crimea one year ago, we CBC Radio’s correspondent in London reported. Defying the reports of those reporting from Crimea, the journalist said “prices have soared”, the currency (the Russian rouble) “has collapsed” and, citing Amnesty International, a “climate of fear” hangs over Crimea.
The will of Crimea’s population as expressed in the referendum vote on March 16, 2014 as well as in subsequent opinion surveys does not enter into the news narrative. Nor do the actual, economic and social conditions prevailing today in Crimea, which by all objective accounts have improved over the past year.
The negative narrative prevailing on CBC is typified in this Reuters news report. The headline sums it up: ‘Euphoria fades in Crimea after a year of Russian rule’. The Daily Beast‘s Anna Nemtsova went one step further with her article. It was headlined, ‘Crimea’s curse one year later’. On the other hand, the BBC grudgingly, very grudgingly, acknowledges that conditions are not as bad as it seems to wish they were.
A blatant example of how anti-Crimea and anti-Russia propaganda is being fueled by NATO governments is contained in a March 18, 2015 statement by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to mark the one-year anniversary of Crimea’s secession. The statement is written in bellicose and insulting language, including referring to the government of the Russia Federation as “Putin’s regime”. The NATO leader encourages the fantasies of extreme nationalists in Ukraine that someday, they may do what they were foiled from doing one year ago–conquer Crimea by force and violence.
A member of the Borotba left-wing group from Odessa, Ukraine has a different take on Crimea. Alexey Albu was able to take refuge there after the extreme right staged a brutal act of violence against anti-fascist protesters in his home city of Odessa on May 2, 2014. The rightists set on fire the large trade union building in the center of the city after protesters came under attack and took refuge inside. More than 40 were killed by the fire or were murdered on the spot after escaping from the burning building. None of the perpetrators have stood trial.
Albu has written an article which has been translated and published on the English-language section of the Borotba website. He explains, “Last May 8 at about ten in the evening, I got a call warning that the junta [governing regime in Kyiv] was preparing to arrest my friends and me. We got into two cars and drove to Crimea.” They were lucky to get through no less than seven Ukrainian checkpoints along the way.
Reflecting on the contrast between events in Crimea in March and those in Odessa in May, Albu writes, “Yes, Crimea was lucky. Lucky that at the crucial moment, when the central government was weak, there were those who dared to defend themselves. Polite people have become the symbol of the Crimean spring. But we must recognize that the resistance in Crimea would not have won if it had not found a leader and an organization capable of taking power.”
“Unfortunately, in Odessa the whole protest movement was scattered, spontaneous. During the crucial days, the Odessa resistance could not form a single decision-making center. The Anti-Maidan organizations did not form a coordinating council.”
Albu continues, “A year ago, I sincerely rejoiced for Crimeans — they were able to express their defiance to the nationalists and oligarchs of Ukraine. They had the opportunity to decide for themselves how to live. And the Crimean people made their choice. Let all the Ukrainian propagandists tell tall tales of illegitimacy, that the referendum [of March 16, 2014] was held at gunpoint, that it brought Crimea only harm — I will never believe it, because I myself have lived here for almost a year.
“The referendum brought stability, spared the inhabitants of Crimea from war, gave asylum to hundreds of Ukrainian opposition activists, and, most importantly, rejected the policy of nationalism of the last 25 years.”
He concludes, “I’m glad that a year ago Crimeans were able to make their choice. And I firmly believe that if we fight the junta of neo-Nazis and the oligarchs, then Odessa will be able to make its choice, too. ”
Crimea: Rebirth, by Alexey Albu, published on Borotba website, March 17, 2015, translated by Greg Butterfield