Today continuing (and concluding) my review of this piece by reporter Yury Zainashev. We left off in the middle of an interesting interview with Sergei Tsekov, a veteran parliamentarian who represents Crimean interests in the upper ranks of the Russian government.
VZGLIAD: Immediately after Crimea’s reunification, there was a state of euphoria. But then, after about a year had passed, I heard that the prices of goods started rising sharply. Some people in Crimea started grumbling that “things were better under Ukraine.”
Tsekov: The feeling of joy continues to this day. People can see what is happening in Ukraine, they compare it with their current life in Crimea, and once again are convinced: The choice they made in 2014 was the correct one.
As for the prices, it’s true that they really did go up, higher than in Ukraine, for a while. But you have to take into account that in Ukraine not only the pensions, but even the salaries are relatively low, so you can’t sell goods at high prices if the purchasing power of the population is so low. That’s just the dictates of the market. Over time, gradually, in Crimea the prices started to level off, and became comparable to those of the neighboring Krasnodar Region [in the Russian mainland]. Also, if you compare with Moscow, prices here are generally lower.
And so, in general, I don’t see any deep regrets on the part of the overwhelming majority of Crimeans. As in, oh, our lives would have been better if we had stayed in Ukraine? No, I don’t see any signs of that. Even stipulating that, yes, certain products in Ukraine are cheaper than here, even now, but still the quality of life is better in Russia. And taking into account that our daily lives don’t just consist of the price of food, but also many other factors. Like transportation, schools, and so on.
VZGLIAD: Being completely objective, the social sphere of Ukraine might have been better in some ways? But now the new regions — Donbass, Kherson, and Zaporozhie — are switching over to the Russian way. Is it worth it for them to keep something of the Ukrainian experience?
Tsekov: From the point of view of real wages, everything was of an order lower, and has remained to this day. The pension age in Ukraine starts earlier, but it is a big question, how much these pensions are worth, and what are the chances of living to that age? Thus, in terms of the social sphere, the new regions do not need to keep anything from the old Ukrainian system. That is excluded.
Everything was miserable, pathetic. The pensions are still being paid, perhaps, to this very day, but just look at the prices for communal services. There is no comparison with Russian prices: gas, electricity, water. Everything is much more expensive [in Ukraine] than in Russia.
In this way, in terms of money, the older generation in the new territories will lose nothing, just as we [in Crimea] lost nothing. We only gained. After the reunification, Crimean pensions went up, by an order of magnitude, higher than they used to be under Ukraine. In 2014 our pensioners immediately felt the difference: They saw that they had started to receive 2-3 times more. And pretty much the same thing will happen with the new territories as well.
VZGLIAD: What would you say are the sharpest social and economic problems faced by the residents of the new regions?
Tsekov: The infrastructure is completely worn out: the water pipes, the roads, the bridges, street lights, hospitals, schools, kindergartens. Everything is in a horrible condition, similar to the way Crimea was, 9 years ago. Practically all of the years we spent as part of Ukraine, up until 2014, practically everything was destroyed or fell apart, everything that we had inherited from the Soviet Union.
I think that the first stage of this process [for the new regions] will somewhat resemble Crimea during the years 2015-16. Or perhaps will be better. Kherson is an agrarian region. The Khersonites always provided Crimea with their products, and now they will be able to move their goods freely into Crimea. I think that the farmers in the new regions should preserve whatever value they produced within the Ukrainian framework, while now enjoying the advantages of the Russian system. From Kiev they never received any governmental assistance for agriculture.
But after 2014, the Crimean farmers felt a very great support from the Russian government! If the harvest turned out poorly for certain seeds, if there were any epidemics, Moscow would very quickly step in and compensate them for their losses. The government also started to provide them with a large amount of agricultural technology, which they could lease, at low prices. The government started to offer incentive grants for the development of certain agrarian products. Russia guaranteed the purchases of products grown in Crimea.
Not more than a couple of years had passed since the reunification, and our farmers were already saying: “You simply can’t compare the working conditions under Ukraine and under Russia. In Russia things are so much better!” And I believe that our new regions will come to much the same conclusion.
As for other spheres [of the economy], well in Crimea, these past 9 years, the shipbuilding industry has really come alive. Several of these companies have received grants from Russia, but the main thing they have is a guaranteed market that will purchase their products. This is what really stimulated them to get to work. And the same thing, I hope, will happen in the new regions as well.
VZGLIAD: Well, the main impediment to securing a peaceful life in the new regions, well, it’s because things are still so dangerous there?
Tsekov: Many of my comrades are active there. I head an organization called “The Russian Community of Crimea”, and very many of our activists are working there. Some of them even occupy high positions, both in Zaporozhie and Kherson Oblasts. They are occupied with educational, and also material-technical issues. They experience great hardships, obviously. I am planning to take a trip and visit them in the near future, I want to see how things are going there. For example, in the schools.
The educational staff are still terrorized, as my colleagues inform me. The teachers receive constant threats from Kiev: If you continue to collaborate with Russia, then we will find you and punish you. We constantly hear this theme. This is why we have to win this war. And then those fears will fade into the past.
The people of the Dombass region will never be able to understand that the western population, the supposedly most civilized part of the world, hate them just because they are not white and want to charge them a tithe for the right to life.
I mean, most of them have white skin, technically speaking. But they are Russians, so they have to be the bad guys.
“hate them just because they are not white”
It’s the result of a propaganda against everything Russian that started with the October revolution, gained strength after the early days of Putin and reached peaks of absurd in the last 12 months.
His name might be Tsekov, but with those pointy ears he looks more like Spock!
(I hope I’m not being spaceist by writing that)
You ARE very spaceist, Bukko. And also humanist, tsk tsk.
p.s. I had to search online quite a lot to find a reasonably flattering pic of Tsekov. The guy is NOT exactly eye candy, that’s for sure. But what can you do. When it comes to war, as Donald Rumsfeld once said, you have to work with the ugly people you have, not with the handsome people you might like to have.