Divided by history: SMC student sees country annexed by Russia and deals with a split passport

He is a student at Santa Monica College, but his nationality has been quite literally torn in half. An anonymous student sat down with a Corsair contributor to discuss being from Crimea, the former Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia through a popular vote last year. The annexation was the result of a 2014 revolt in Ukraine which overthrew a Moscow-aligned government, replacing it with a pro-EU government now engaged in conflict with separatist rebels in the east rumored to be friendly to Russia. But for the common citizen, like the student interviewed here, the change in border lines means having to directly experience the fallout of world-changing events.

I want to ask you about you deciding to remain anonymous. What are you afraid of?

First of all, they (Crimean government) makes us change passports in Crimea.

How does this situation affect you?

You must have official Russian internal document. When I was flying to Crimea not long ago custom house officers asked me why I had the Ukrainian passport as I was from Crimea. I replied that, unfortunately, I hadn’t received it yet as now I study in America. They advised me to apply to the American Embassy and obtain passport of the Russian Federation. It goes without saying that I have a heap of visas in my Ukrainian passport. But I don’t want to disclose this information, you see. An average guy from Crimea with two passports, studying in America.

No one knows here that I am from Crimea. I have a residence permit in Kiev, not in Crimea. I did it in order not to have an array of problems. I haven’t been to Kiev for two years,as they may make me join the army. It’s so risky. My parents don’t allow me to visit Kiev.

Of course, with the current conflict still going on.

I am not going to visit Crimea. I don’t want to take a risk with my passport.

Let’s start from the scratch. Did you like the government led by Viktor Yanukovych (ex-president of Ukraine)?

Yes. I really liked it. Though there was corruption the situation was quite stable. The exchange rate of grivna (Ukrainian currency) was 8. It was really much better than now.

Did you ever support "Euromaidan" (popular term used for the revolution in Ukraine)?

It was a great mistake. Now there is a military conflict. The economic and political situation in Russia also changed for the worse. When Victor Yanukovich was the President, Russia and Crimea were on friendly terms. Nobody wanted to leave Crimea and move to Russia. All citizens were satisfied with the state of things. Russian was a common language there. Nobody wanted to strike people’s rights. Of course you can say that there was corruption. All presidents steal something and live in castles.

Do you believe the claim being made by Russia and Yanukovych that people were paid to protest in Maidan?

I guess yes. I’m confident that some people from Crimea were paid only for non –participation in the Yanukovich [re-]election campaign. What normal people will go there to break everything and simply destroy the capital? They don’t need to do that.

Were you in Crimea when it voted to join the Russian Federation after the Maidan revolt?

I was in Crimea all this time. My Mom and me took part in election campaign. All people voted for joining Russia .

Because of the mess in the Ukrainian mainland?

People got frightened. They felt Russia defended them. Military men were standing in the streets. Everyone was eager to take a photo with them.

Can you say the elections were legitimate?

Yes. Everybody voted for Russia.

When did they start to exchange your passports for the Russian ones?

In May. People were staying in the queues in order to exchange them.

Did authorities leave your original documents to you?

They left only Ukrainian passports, as far as I’m concerned. Now they take those away.

Do people have double citizenship?

Yes, they do. I also have double citizenship.

What is your attitude towards the new president of Ukraine, the pro-EU, pro-US Petro Poroshenko?

My attitude is very negative because there is a mess and ordinary people suffer from his policies.

What is your prognosis for the near future? Will Crimea remain Russian?

I am absolutely sure. Russian president Vladimir Putin controls the situation. He is very powerful.

But Putin can’t live forever.

After Putin, his followers will still run the country. Putin has great support in Russia.

Is a second revolt in Ukraine possible?

The average salary in Ukraine as well as in Nigeria and Zimbabwe is $45-50. It is not a decent salary to live by.


By Yulia Magurdumova