On March 16, 2014, Crimea held a referendum election on the question of rejoining the Russian Federation and seceding from Ukraine. The vote passed by an enormous margin, nearly 97% of the voters saying they wished to rejoin Russia. That number was amplified by the 83.1% voter turnout. Clearly this was a very pressing matter for the Crimean people.
But now it is just about five years later. Do the Crimean feel that their rejoining Russia has turned out well for them? TASS reported on a poll that was taken on 10 March to address this question. The agency that took the poll was the Russian Public Opinion Research Center.
Many people in the West may laugh at this title, but this is only because they are themselves steeped in the narrative that Russia is somehow still the Soviet Union, with repressive laws against freedom of speech, expression, the right to gather and so on. The results of the poll would also seem to lend further credence to this idea because the answer was overwhelmingly positive about the transition to Russian sovereignty for the province. The TASS report follows (with emphases added):
Crimea remains positive about the peninsula’s reunification with Russia and if the referendum was held today, 89% of Crimeans would support joining Russia, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center announced the results of a poll on Thursday in Simferopol.
“The attitude towards Crimea’s reunification with Russia remains decisively positive. Eighty-nine percent would cast their votes to reunite with Russia if a referendum were held next Sunday, and 93% view the reunification in a positive light. The level of negative attitudes and support for an Autonomous Republic of Crimea as part of Ukraine are minimal (3% each), the data says. The survey also noted that across Russia, 85% of respondents would support the reunification.
According to the poll, the reunification’s effects are also viewed positively. For instance, 86% of respondents believe that Crimea is developing more successfully as part of Russia, while 72% say that the reunification had a positive effect on their lives and the lives of their families. Moreover, 82% of respondents in Crimea are satisfied with their existence, which exceeds the same number across Russia (64%). More than half of those who participated in the survey (56%) are satisfied with their financial standing.
The majority of respondents (59%) also say they have noticed positive changes on the peninsula in the last year. Road works, power supplies and an improvement in communities were listed as the spheres of biggest developments.According to the poll, Crimea’s confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s is higher than in the rest of Russia. His work is viewed positively by 90% of the respondents (64% across Russia) and only 3% expressed a negative attitude.
The Russian Public Opinion Research Center conducted a nationwide poll on March 12, 2019, among respondents over 18 years of age. The poll was carried out via phone interviews with 1,600 people and margin of error being no more than 2.5%. The Center’s regional survey in Crimea was conducted on March 10.
These kind of numbers are unheard of in the West, for example, where presidential elections have so often been no wider than maybe 53-45 percent for the winner, and where a 60% approval rating is almost unheard of except in times of war. But in Russia the thought is different, and not because of government controls.
President Putin is an effective leader. While the criticism of Russia’s government from the West (and even from many people in Russia) is that there are no real choices besides Putin, this criticism ignores the reasons why there has been no good alternative to him. The Crimean poll above actually gives some reasons why his ratings are high throughout Russia, but especially so in Crimea:
- Road improvement,
- Power supply improvements,
- The completion of the Kerch Strait Bridge, joining both road and rail lines to the Russian mainland from the peninsula.
- All of these things show the Crimean that President Putin is actually interested in their welfare – the Ukrainian government is remembered as disdaining and neglecting these people.
It is quite logical that the spirits in Crimea run rather high. They have been made one of the targets where Russia can present its face to the world, especially given the American presence and influence in Ukraine, which seems not to be going so well.
Perhaps one of the reasons that American poll ratings do not rise so high is that most of the structure of the US government is designed to keep autocratic power from exceeding its bounds. One of the side effects of this is that the overall government itself does not work efficiently, so the opinion of its leadership tends to be somewhat neutralized. But the mainstream US press and politicians will usually not address this fact, preferring to claim “greater freedom” than Russia has, while the US cannot even keep its own borders secure.
In order to be fair in assessing Russia and her government, one has to examine things with an insider’s viewpoint. Many Russian people are used to seeing money disappear into the dachas of the lucky, when that money could have built a 21st century class road system. They are used to a Duma that set the pattern for many years that is now being emulated by the American representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the young prima donna of the American hard left.
Love him or hate him, President Putin has a talent and ability for getting things done in his country. While such power as he possesses may be considered the source of a problem in the West, his actual history and accomplishments show anyone willing to look honestly that President Putin has largely brought Russia back to greatness. There is still much to do, but the resounding record of the Russian leader’s actions appear to be shown in results that have helped his country get up and out of the awful position it was in not even thirty years ago.
Ukraine, by contrast, appears to be lost in corruption among its elite class, while regular people live their lives in awful conditions. This, while the US pours money and resources into the country, seeing no progress in return. In fact, in just the last day or two, President Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine, got warned by the Azov Battalion (who helped him get into power in the first place) that if he did not meet their demands, they would increase street violence and sabotage Mr. Poroshenko’s re-election chances. As it is, he is presently running last among the top three, with sixteen days remaining until the March 31 elections.
This video, made by independent British reporter Graham Phillips, gives a bit more background on Crimea, and does a bit of myth-busting about the province and the politics associated with it.
It appears that the Crimeans are feeling the love – for Russia.