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Je Suis Russia # 11 – A Few Random Thoughts

Friday, October 28, 2016 Sevastopol, Crimea

The weather here has been overcast and somewhat mild. Only two days of sunshine when I first arrived. I’m guessing temps are in the 50’s F.

There is soooo much information to process. Thank goodness I make video interviews to help me remember.

It should be noted that Russians do not all agree on the same things. For example, President Putin. Some think he has been a great leader on the international stage and has restored pride in Russia. Others think he hasn’t done enough on the economy and many Russians have not been helped by the change to some kind of Capitalism. Some believe everything was better during the Soviet Era. Others scoff at that. The young people of course have no idea what it was like during the Soviet Era and think life is pretty good now. But, yesterday, some university students told me that life is good for people in St. Petersburg and Moscow, and some large cities, but not so good for people in rural Russia….which represents a whole lot of places.

Military service is compulsory for males. All must serve two years. That doesn’t mean they all check out after two year, obviously! Russia’s military is large, modern and strong. That said, I have not seen one – AK-47 anywhere, and few police have weapons of the handgun variety. One does see police and military all over, but NOT in an aggressive or imposing manner.

Drugs, alcohol and marijuana….the young people told me you can get marijuana just about anywhere. Dealers even write their phone numbers on the sidewalks advertising their wares. Drugs are also present and a problem. It seems there is a movement to encourage avoidance of alcohol and drugs. Many of my friends do not drink and do not smoke. However, many more Russians smoke…young, old, men, women, and young girls and guys.

Russians do not seem concerned with the aggressiveness of the US and NATO, although they know they are surrounded. In fact, they are not paying a whole lot of attention to being surrounded and to the situation in Syria. When asked, they question why does America think they have to tell everyone what to do, and why does America always make war? They do not believe that war will happen because, being very pragmatic people, they say modern war does not benefit anyone, much less nuclear war. Surprisingly, unlike Merica and Europe right now, they are not hysterical and fear mongering about it.

When asked about Syria, most think that Russia is right to defend their ally and their own interests in Syria, and they add, Russia was “invited” to help Syria and has acted according do international law, whereas the US and NATO are in violation of international law and were not invited to enter the country. Will there be direct confrontation between US/NATO and Russia and China?…perhaps an accident might happen, but it will not lead to war.

Regarding the Tatars in Crimea and Russia….not ready to comment on that yet. I will interview a Tatar man tomorrow on the way to Yalta. So far, two journalists deny that there is persecution and that Putin has done nothing to re-integrate them into Russia. Stay tuned for more in-depth report on this situation.

I will be interviewed on a Crimean TV station today. They heard about me being here and speaking to the students at the university. Should be interesting.

Regarding the two groups of students I met with….they are every bit like our own kids. Very bright, humorous, and well-informed. To a person, they do not want war. “Make peace, not war” was their unanimous reply.

Russian education is quite different than in the U.S.. There are no sports teams in the system, only club teams after school. I saw several kids carrying hockey sticks and equipment bags on the metro going to games. Also, there are out-of-school language classes, music classes, and other extracurricular activities…and these are all fee-based.

Final thoughts on Crimea. It is obvious that the infrastructure here needs a lot of work because Crimea was neglected for more than 20 years when it was part of Ukraine. President Putin has channeled millions of rubles to Crimea to help with infrastructure improvement: roads, water, electricity, gas, etc. and millions in development and investment projects. However, everyone agrees that it will take time to make the transition back into the Russian system. People are hopeful, but they say their patience is not unlimited.

For the most part, President Putin is a rock star here. His photo is on billboards along the highway, painted on the side of buildings, on coffee cups, t-shirts, and I have even seen his bust for sale, a la Greek and Roman sculptures.

I will have much more on the politics of Crimea, the referendum, and the situation with Ukraine in a couple of days.

And that’s the way it is today, October 28, 2016 in Crimea, Russian Federation.

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