Elena Sannikova: “If I were a Ukrainian….”

posted 6 Apr 2014, 14:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Apr 2014, 14:12 ]
31 March 2014

Еlena Sannikova

Source: HRO.org
Elena Sannikova, human rights activist and former Soviet political prisoner, Moscow: 

“If I were a Ukrainian, I would definitely tell myself and close friends:

Well, how nice we don’t have Crimea anymore! Dreaming of a return back to the USSR, the autonomous region had the biggest percentage of votes against our freedom even during the year of the “Orange” Maidan.

And at the latest elections the former criminal Yanukovich would not have been elected if there had been no Crimea. And in the future, Crimea would have pulled us backwards to the loss of freedom, increasing votes against our efforts towards democracy and to unity with a civilised, peaceful Europe…..

Of course we will be sorry for the people of Crimea when their expectations are not met, their dreams are not realised and when the high fences of country homes and residences of the Russian elite bar them from the coast.

Having returned, not to the Russia they have dreamed of, but to the real Russia, they run up against the arbitrariness and cruelty of the authorities, with their greedy corruption, with the servitude of conscription, with the lawlessness of the prison system and many other things they run up against…. But we cannot help them in any way and this will no longer be our fault or concern ….

But I am not a Ukrainian and I cannot say such words. I am a citizen of the state which occupied Crimea and that is why I cannot feel anything before my brothers except a burning sense of shame.

But they tell me that there is no reason for shame, that this is not a conquest, but a return, a reunification. But this shamelessly enthusiastic lie is becoming increasing distressing for me. What sort of reunification? What sort of return? Crimea has never been a member of that state structure which calls itself the RF and which is just over twenty years old.

But that interesting fact that almost two and a half centuries ago the Russian Empire conquered an independent Crimea does not give today’s Russia the slightest right to declare any rights over the peninsula, geographically and organically attached to the territory of Ukraine, not Russia.

In 1921 the autonomous Crimean SSR was able, with the same success, to become a member of the Ukrainian Republic with which it joined the RSFSR. And it was not at all the unification with the Ukrainian SSR that was a problem for Crimea, but the peninsula’s loss in 1954 of the status of autonomous republic.

The tragedy of the Crimean Tatars, the mass deportation linked with mass deaths, became a key moment in the Soviet history of Crimea.

And if we are talking about historical justice, then it is up to the Russians and Ukrainians to leave Crimea in order to hand it back to its rightful owners – the Crimean Tatars.

I am ashamed of my fellow countrymen who are rejoicing today as if Crimea is now theirs. I am ashamed of this imperial jubilation, the blindness, and the mentally backward, barbaric joy of the conqueror. And I am dumbfounded when I think how we must appear today from the side.

But then nobody has been stopping my fellow countrymen from going to Crimea to enjoy its beauty all these past 20-plus years. Crimea has been welcoming Russians much more warmly than the Russian Black Sea coast and even a foreign passport was never necessary for any inhabitant from the Russian outback to have a holiday in Crimea.

Today then Crimea has not come nearer, but distanced itself from us. Now travel there from Russia will be more complicated, and a break in Crimea will be several times more expensive, while taking into account, which is very important, the process of the impoverishment of Russians.

And what about the permit regime between the border of Russia with Ukraine? It turns out that having backed the results of the hasty referendum held during a military occupation of Crimea, my fellow citizens have not only not acquired Crimea, but also lost Ukraine.

Now they cannot travel to Ukraine as they could just half a year ago, and instead of a good and peaceful neighbourliness, there will be only mistrust and chilliness to meet them there, and not just in Ukraine.

But how can we look Ukrainians in the eye today? How do we share the bitterness and sadness of that Russia which does not want war, which does not agree with those who have grabbed power in the country and made it a land of the usurper, a land of the invader, a land of the robber?

This sadness is beyond words. It is just possible to report to the Ukrainians that it is still there – a Russia which does not believe the stream of outrageous lies from the television stations about Ukraine and Maidan; which does not accept this outrageous Anschluss, which today feels shame for its own country and for its fellow citizens.

The anti-war demonstrations of the start of March showed in Moscow and throughout Russia that this is the case.

Perhaps sometime even Russia will be free from imperial ambitions, and from an overweening power that knows no limits.

But meanwhile we can only rejoice for a Ukraine which has managed to free itself from its own usurpers and to wish for a haven of peace, freedom and independence, with goodness and a decent chance to build a fine and friendly government with the undoubted priority of freedom and rights of man.

Even though I am not a Ukrainian, I still dare to say that in losing Crimea, Ukraine doesn’t lose much.

But we, Russian citizens, lose immeasurably more. Such moral losses will not be easy to replenish and such an historical disgrace will not be easy to excise.

But maybe, an outcry on our part might be able return to us some small part of these losses: Forgive us, our Ukrainian brothers and sisters! Forgive us that we have not found the will or strength within ourselves to bring reason to the madmen who dared to destroy the borders of your state. Forgive us that we have allowed such people to come to power in our country.

And those citizens of Russia whose bitter feelings can be expressed today in such words, you should still not lose hope that one day even Russia will be free.

And so – to your freedom and ours, Ukrainian friends!" 

Source: Grani.ru. Photos: HRO.org

Translated by Frances Robson