Some readers may not be aware that Russians lamented over the loss of the Crimea many years prior to the annexation which took place earlier this year. The rhetoric about Khruschev giving it away existed when I arrived in 2006 and likely goes all the way back to the 1990’s. Now Russia’s more intellectually-challenged citizens are jumping for joy now that Master Putin has supposedly given them the Crimea. But what was it like when the Crimea wasn’t “theirs?” How did being a part of the Ukrainian state affect the status of Russians who wanted to visit that part of the world, some time after they visited Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, Germany, Spain, New York City, London, Hainan, and half a dozen other places Russians prefer to take their vacations?
Prior to the annexation of the Crimea, things were very different for Russians who wanted to visit the peninsula. First they had to get on an airplane, train, or ferry. Then they had to go through passport control, either at the airport or a border checkpoint. Their passports would be stamped, because Russian citizens didn’t require visas to visit Ukraine before 2014. And that’s it.
Well of course there are some differences now. For example, Ukraine cut off crucial water supplies which were needed for irrigation, as well as part of the power grid. So there’s that. Also Russians can’t go by train anymore, and instead have to wait in massive lines for a ferry across the Kerch straits if they don’t go by plane. Oh there’s that and the fact that half the world hates them now, and the government raided their pensions to pay for the annexation, and Russia’s been slapped with sanctions on top of an already declining economy. Ukraine will definitely end up in NATO, bases are being planned all over Eastern Europe, and the government is cracking down on freedom of speech left and right, panicking at the most ridiculous examples of “propaganda.”
However, Russian visiting the Crimea no longer need to go through passport control.