On political and economic history of the Crimea during "zero years" of the 21st century (Part II)

Chief Editor of BlackSeaNews and "Bolshaya Yalta News",
Honoured Economist of the AR Crimea

Translation from Russian
by Alexey SOLOVIEV,

Photo from the Photo Series "The Political Faces"

Deputy Chief Editor of "Bolshaya Yalta News",
especially for BlackSeaNews

Continued, click here for part I:
On political and economic history of the Crimea during "zero years" of the 21st century (Part I)


Still, the very beginning of 2005 was dramatic for both the Crimean elite and most of its population - departure of Leonid Kuchma, Viktor Yanukovych's defeat and the victory of "nationalist" Viktor Yushchenko during the presidential elections meant the end of what was, according to their perception, just arrived the "era of prosperity".

The Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych at one of the last international functions in the Livadia Palace in 2004 might already have the presage of the near future ... Photo by M. Rozenstein, especially for BlackSeaNews

The events of the presidential campaign of late 2004 - early 2005's contributed to that major domestic threat to security, objectively encapsulated in the Crimea, started once again to "unfreeze" in 2005 - 2009 against the backdrop of external events, bringing the events of the beginning of 1990 back to memory.

Within the framework of the presidential campaign of late 2004 - early 2005, in their fight against Yushchenko the Crimean supporters of Yanukovych used "illegal methods", which consisted of wide dissemination (including the one in the official press) of tenets of the following type: "Yushchenko will give the Crimea to the Tatars”.

Thus, during this turbulent time the positive changes of the preceding several years regarding the perception of problems of the Crimean Tatars by the Crimean population were in a certain sense wiped out and the equal sign: "orange" = Tatars was formed for the years to come in the public consciousness.

Subsequently, this led to fixation of this type of identification: "Kiev = Ukrainian nationalists = Crimean Tatars." Due to this all the Crimean supporters of parties, which voted for the candidature of Viktor Yushchenko, were displaced into that niche. This fact became significant obstacle to the new recruitment into party organizations of Ukrainian parties of national-democratic spectrum in the Crimea.

In 2005 - 2007's there was the emergence of peculiar situation as the number of supporters of Ukrainian parties of the national-democratic orientation in the Crimea could be easily calculated in the regional perspective using a very simple formula: % of Crimean Tatars in the population + 1-2%. "

Later, as popularity started to decline and disillusionment among the winners of the Orange Revolution to increase, this formula would be no longer effective, including the Crimean Tatars, who by the end of the zero years again found themselves in the political solitude.

The methods of propaganda used during the presidential campaign of 2004 - 2005, left a durable imprint in the popular consciousness, caused the new stage of intensification of mental division between the Crimea and Ukraine, and created foundation for revival "on an on call basis" of sentiments and manifestations of “the Crimean separatism”, sometimes really and sometimes only symbolically threatening the security of the country.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (during her first term in this position) in Simferopol. Adoption of the concept of “The sea coast of the Crimea” at the visiting session of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2005. Photo by M. Rozenstein, especially for BlackSeaNews

After Viktor Yushchenko's victory in the presidential election, the administration of the Crimea of that time tried to stay on the top at their positions, using the legal status of the Crimea being the parliamentary republic. However, the mass inspections of Kiev uniformed services started in Crimea (primarily in the land sector - the so-called “Poroshenko commission”) forced the administration of the ARC to resign. Still, loudly announced intention of Kiev to subject to responsibility the leaders of the Crimea and the mayors of several coastal cities for the land abuse did not prove true. The cadre of local self government “paid their way out” to the “Orange Power” and stayed.

In the Crimea, for a long time, perhaps – till now, there is a strong belief that the motive of “fight against corruption” is just the technology used either to replace specific personnel or to get "smart money”.

To a great extent due to this the attempt of Kiev to change the situation on the peninsula through the appointment of “the our own good guy” Anatoly Matvienko to the Crimea as the Prime Minister, failed just few months later - as the new prime minister demonstrated strong desire to ruin the land corruption schemes, the Crimean “elite” used the status of a parliamentary republic with skilful technique and pinned down both the President Viktor Yushchenko and the new Prime Minister himself to face the fact of the vote of censure to the Crimean Prime Minister and forced him to resign.

This example of organized by them resignation of Anatoly Matvienko made the Crimean “elite” even more to come to believe of their impunity and the ability to "crunch" any of Kiev "commissars".

Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Matvienko (to the left) a few days before resignation and today's chairman of The Republican Land Resources Committee Alexander Chabanov (back then one of the leaders of the "Our Ukraine" party in Yalta) at the 1st Yalta Rally, September, 2005. Photo by M. Rozenstein, especially for BlackSeaNews

This assuredness lasted long enough - till the end of 2010, until approximately the end of the first half-year term after the appointment to the Crimea of the new administration, commonly called “Makeyevskiye = from the city of Makeyevka”, the governmental team from the Party of Regions headed by Vasily Dzharty.

At the same time using and exaggerating not always accurate and balanced statements and actions of the “orange” government regarding “Ukrainization of the Crimea”, the Crimean “elite” elaborated during this period the know-how of covering operations, "smokescreens" under the slogans of the protection of rights of Russian-speaking population of the Crimea, which was successfully employed during the entire second half of the “zero years”.

In fact, during the years of 2005 - 2009 it seemed that there was a kind of tacit consensus, formed between Kiev and Simferopol, with the message from the Kiev side being as follows: "Do whatever you want, just do not take the separatist decisions at the Verkhovna Rada of the Crimea ..."

Thus, the Crimean “elite” received "carte blanche" on continuation and development of its land business, and even on certain “Fronde” in humanitarian issues and in organizing protests against the holding of the military exercises with NATO countries on the territory of the Crimea.

Realizing such new opportunities the Crimean “political class” actively used them, converting the Verkhovna Rada of the Crimea from the main representative body of the republic into the political rostrum.

After resignation of Anatoly Matvienko in 2005, the work, launched on the initiative of his team, on new strategic programs “Sea Coast” and “Water of the Crimea” was stopped, the large-scale project of the Donuzlav port failed as well.

The failure of the President Viktor Yushchenko’s initiative to implement the project of construction of the major new sea port on the lake Donuzlav (supported by the separate decree of the President) became symptomatic. After decisions of several rural (!) councils, which deputies were interested in obtaining the land by the sea and resell it for commercial construction, a strategic project, which could have changed the lives of depressed western and northwestern parts of Crimea, was repealed by the President.

Eugene Chervonenko (Minister of Transport), Yuriy Lutsenko (Interior Minister) and the late Aleksandrov Zinchenko (the State Secretary of Ukraine) in the Crimea, 100 days of the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, Yalta, 2005. Photo by M. Rozenstein, especially for BlackSeaNews

Again, putting in office “their own good guys”: into the Verkhovna Rada and the Council of Ministers of the Crimea, the Crimean “elite” quickly psyched out the core flaws of the representatives of the new Ukrainian government, and realized that “they are just like us” and found ways to embed them into a well-organized corruption scheme in the land business.

It provided the “elite” the opportunity to survive through the most difficult first year, and then, using the democratic essence of the regime and return to the political arena of their own party fellows as they recovered from defeat - the supporters of Viktor Yanukovych - to win the local elections of 2006.

Herewith for the first time in the history of the Crimea there was an actual merger of factions of deputies of "white-blue" political spectrum with pro-Russian political forces in various forms - usually in different variations of the “Bloc for Yanukovych”.

This was the beginning of the developed further absorption of the pro-Russian Crimean electorate by the Party of Regions and the ensuing crisis of the pro-Russian organizations, which reached its peak during the local elections of 2010.

Having obtained an absolute majority in the Crimean Parliament, the representatives of the Crimean "nobles" have since 2006 virtually eliminated one of the most important functions of a representative body by just pursuing the well-known principium of the Russian State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov “the Parliament is not a place for discussions.” Sessions of the Verkhovna Rada of the Crimea - except the cases of necessity of political propaganda for its majority – started to be held without discussions with the participation of opposition factions in the session hall, during this period several records were cracked, when the plenary sessions of the Verkhovna Rada of the Crimea were over just in several minutes.

It should be noted that in 2006-2007 there were trends in governing bodies of the Crimea to use the methods of the “slashing 1990's” period: in the deputy corps one can observe both the presence and the influence of representatives of the known 10 years earlier, criminal communities; (in any case, as this is how they were called by the law enforcement agencies) and there were even attempts to return to the old familiar rhetoric of the "watchers".

2004, the presidential campaign, the Crimea. From left to right: Yuriy Yekhanurov, Michael Pozhivanov, David Zhvania, Ivan Plyusch – then members of the same team. Photo by M. Rozenstein, especially for BlackSeaNews

However, quite resolute demonstrative actions of law-enforcement agencies on investigation of the crimes of 1990’s of the Crimean criminal communities, culminating in several arrests and lawsuits, and the harsh rhetoric in the media that “the return of criminals to the Crimean government should not be allowed” bounced back.

Attempts of separate Crimean leaders to promote restoration of these technologies and the return of a number of odious figures into the Crimean “establishment” looked archaic, and generally were not successful.

Apparently, the reason for this was that the new schemes of the land business, developed in the Crimea during these years, proved to be efficient and "cleaner" - the experience of the Crimean criminal networks of mid-90's was archaic and was not in demand.

The period 2005 - 2009 years, despite some sharp exertions on different political and humanitarian issues, was still the time, characterized by strategic cooperation in joint land and construction business of the “blue and white” ones, which ruled in the Crimea, with the “orange” ones, which governed in Ukraine.

In 2005 - 2009's there was a number of dramatic events directly related to the security threat - a protracted violent conflict with the Crimean Tatars in Bakhchisarai connected with the relocation of the merchandise market located on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery with the mausoleum of the Crimean khans; sharp protests against the "Sea Breeze" exercises in the Crimea and visits of warships of NATO countries to the Crimean ports, against the establishment of the U.S consulate in Simferopol, the conflicts around the Black Sea Fleet facilities in Crimea. However, majority of actions against NATO took place still in Sebastopol, and not in the AR Crimea.

The Crimean “elite” displayed the astounding helplessness in connection with the conflict in Bakhchisarai, - perhaps, they considered it as one of the usual staging of the political “smoke screens”, but, when the developments grew out of control, they were unable to stop the conflict, provoked with their participation.

And although the Kievan power ministries had to intervene to resolve the conflict, the strength of the uniting the Crimean authorities with Kiev officials “land bonds”, appeared to be enough to prevent any changes in spite the evident inability to solve the problems.

Viktor Yushchenko and his Crimean supporters, 2004. Photo by M. Rozenstein, especially for BlackSeaNews

This situation has demonstrated the high degree of the threat to the security of techniques of controlled protests, applied by the Crimean “elite” to emphasize the Crimean “peculiarity” and divert attention from their business.

In the years 2005 - 2008 the enormous damage to development of the Crimea was inflicted by unlimited (both illegal and half-legal) distribution of recreational land for commercial development.

These processes continued mechanically for some time after the collapse of land and real estate markets, which was the consequence of the crisis of 2008 – the corrupted Crimean “elite” could not believe for a long time that the period of the “land and construction prosperity” had came to the end.

Besides territorial losses that caused a significant (and in some places - irreparable) damage to the prospects of development of health resort complex and tourism, the main damage, which the Crimea suffered in those years was the durably established image of the most corrupt territory in the Ukraine, where a civilized investor has nothing to do.

Moreover, in 2005, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine actually eradicated the legal regime of the Territories of Priority Development and together with the land corruption it marked completion of the funeral of the investment image of the Crimea, created during 1996 - 2002.

This period - with the connivance and complicity of representatives from Kiev - was characterized by a peak of land and construction corruption that metastasized all relationships both inside the governmental bodies and, naturally, relations of authorities and local self-government with business and population.

During these years, the majority of the Crimean councils at all the levels - following the example of the Verkhovna Rada and the Council of Ministers of Crimea - practically cease to be concerned in the development of their territories, allotting most of their time to personal enrichment of those who have access to the shadow land and construction market.

2005 - 2008 were years of eventual degeneration and final loss of capacity of the Crimean "elite" in all the areas, except one - the personal enrichment.

Incredible as it may seem, but at the same time, despite the usual rhetoric about protecting the rights of Russian-speaking population and the availability of a majority in the Crimean parliament, Crimean “elite”, which did not want to quarrel with the “orange” Kiev and lose more and more significant land-construction income, orderly, without advertising, implemented all “ukrainization” measures of Kiev in the humanitarian sphere.

They used the principle: “let them in Kiev perform their "around the language dancing”, we need to carry business on.”

Viktor Yanukovych, the Prime Minister of Ukraine once again, on Sept. 1, 2007, Alushta, to the left - the chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of the Crimea Anatoly Gritsenko, to the right - the Crimean Prime Minister Viktor Plakida. Photo by M. Rozenstein, especially for BlackSeaNews

Therefore, in 2005 - 2009 – despite coming from the Crimea reverberating criticism of Ukrainian authorities for their hastiness in Ukrainization of higher education, television, film distribution and public service - these actions, apparently, resulted in a certain turning point: about 2 / 3 of the Crimean youth indicated in responses to questions from Russian (!) sociologists that they equally understand Russian and Ukrainian languages, the same amount of young people considered knowledge of the Ukrainian language to be necessary to continue education and public service. The share of the “absolute refuseniks/objecors” has compressed to about 15%, which seems to be the upper threshold of real support of separatist movements in the Crimea.

These trends, as they became known to the ideologues of the “Russian world” concept in 2009 lead to emergence of concern that in 2-3 years the Crimean youth would “be lost”.

It seems that all this encouraged testing of new forms of work of the Russian Federation in the Crimea through non-governmental organizations (using leading cultural figures, journalists, actors, writers and stars of the Russian rock music), which actively takes place at this time.

After Viktor Yushchenko