Shhh…I’m not sure I’m supposed to be here

Greetings from sunny, possibly forbidden, Crimea!

Why forbidden?  Super slapdash recap:  Crimea is a peninsula on the Black Sea.  It was part of the Russian empire that later became part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic– one of the states in the Soviet Union.  In 1954, Crimea was re-designated as part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.  When the Soviet Union broke up, Crimea stayed with Ukraine, except for the Black Sea Fleet stationed there, which was owned by Russia.  Naturally, there is a lot of tension in having a foreign power’s navy stationed on your territory, so for Ukraine, the fleet remained a touchy subject.  For Russia, the ownership of Crimea itself was always a sore spot:  the population is majority Russian, not Ukrainian.  In 2014, after the “revolution” (or “coup,”– what you call it depends on your politics) in Ukraine, Russia re-took the Crimea.  Western nations responded with sanctions.

Am I allowed to be here?  According to Russia, yes.  I have a Russian visa which allows me to travel all over the Russian Federation.  Crimea is Russia, so I am allowed to travel to Crimea, no questions asked.  But the U.S. government seems to think I shouldn’t.  This is what the State Department’s Russia page says:

no travel to Crimea

My argument is that I am not an “official” American.  And, despite the admonition not to travel to Crimea, there is no law preventing me, like there used to be with Cuba.  So I’m taking this to be just a suggestion, not a hard and fast rule.  If the Fulbright people get upset, well…I’m using the strategy of asking for forgiveness instead of permission.

Another snag is that recently Ukraine has been barring entry to those who have traveled to Russian Crimea.  Well, at least they barred entry to Russia’s Eurovision contest entrant.  Someday if I want to go to Ukraine I may have to delete this blog post.  Unlike Crimea, the Fulbright program specifically forbade me from going to Ukraine, so the question is moot for the time being.

There are a few other peculiarities of travel to Crimea.  US-issued visa cards don’t work here, so I have to rely on cash.  Additionally, Google Business Services does not work here– or at least doesn’t completely work here.  My work e-mail is issued through Google and my first couple of days I had no problem.  But one day Google made me try to log back in and then denied me access.  I was given the following message:

restricted google access

Interestingly, because my work e-mail never logs out on my cell phone, I’ve had no problem reading my work e-mail on my cell phone.  So this all feels a little silly.

Google Maps is apparently incredibly confused.  My Google Maps are set to English, so that means I usually get foreign names of streets written out with Latin (English) letters.  But in the case of Crimea, the names of the streets are transliterated from Ukrainian, even though in real life the street names have always been in Russian, not Ukrainian.  It’s very weird.

map

But, provided you bring cash and have some way to deal with the Google issue, there’s really no problem coming here.  Sure, there are no imported cheeses, but it’s the same all over Russia.  Prices here are comparable with Moscow.  They shouldn’t be, because this isn’t the capital, but it is because products are no longer transported by rail through Ukraine.  Now products only arrive by plane and by ferry.  The Russian government is building a bridge across the Kerch strait so that soon products will once again move by rail.  But this is a long process.  According to some accounts, work on the bridge was delayed due to the necessity of conducting archeological digs.  I’m not surprised by that because, as I am learning, Crimea has been host to many ancient civilizations, all of whom left artifacts across the peninsula.

The Crimeans I have spoken to are extremely happy about being Russian again.  General opinion seems to support the sentiment expressed on this display outside the main government building in the capital of Simferopol:

P1020459
#Crimea Russia Forever

11 Comments

Add yours →

  1. Good for you! Not the best season, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
    Does your Russian CC work there? I went last summer, and walking around with pockets for with wads of cash was a bit of a blast from the past.
    Wonder why Fulbright explicitly forbade visiting Ukraine.

    Like

    • I’m not sure why Fulbright forbade me, but I think it probably has something to do with not being or even appearing to be an arm of US foreign policy (i.e., they don’t want Fulbrighters out there encouraging or even appearing to encourage color revolutions). But I’m just guessing. It certainly wasn’t about safety (I had proposed going to Kharkiv, very safe) or visa requirements (none for US citizens).

      Like

  2. Care to throw together a quick trip report for TripAdvisor/Ricksteves forum when you get back?
    Also, if you are still there – could you try Yandex maps to see if it works better than gmaps?

    Like

  3. “Crimea is Russia” according to the Russian government. Just like according to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Kuwait was a province of Iraq.

    The majority of the world, including the UN does not recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea. The US doesn’t either.

    Russia is under sanctions because of the annexation. As an American, you should really not be supporting this area with your money.

    As a scholar you did not mention that the native population of Crimea, the Tatars, were mostly deported and Russians were moved in. It was part of the Russian Empire? Well, yeah, in conquest. Taken from the Tatars, again.

    And yes, the ones you met were happy to be Russian again, because they took that land illegally. They also shouldn’t be there to begin with.

    I am surprised that as an American you are treating this trip so nonchalantly.

    You really shouldn’t really be there.

    Like

  4. I have a news for you: if you support CRIMEA as a part of RUSSIA, you, my fellow American, support PUTIN, his regime, his bloody crimes against his own people and other nations! Get informed!

    Like

  5. Let’s make a deal. You read all my blog entries related to Crimea and then you tell me what in there is not true.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s