In 2014, right after annexation of Crimea, Boris Nemtsov, one of the leaders of Russian opposition and now assassinated, predicted that upkeep of Crimea would cost Russia $4 billion dollars annually. Upkeep of Chechnya had cost then $1.5 -2 billion. So Crimea, in terms of finances, would mean for Russia having two more of Chechnyas.
The reality turned out to be even harsher. Now the former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who, by Putin’s order, is now preparing plans for getting Russia out of financial crisis, reported that in his opinion Russia should allocate about $6 to $7 billion a year to the upkeep of Crimea, and the total loss will reach $200 billion over the next few years. Kudrin thinks Russian President needs to use all resources, including a high level of support among the population, to carry out the necessary structural reforms over there.
Russian government makes a lot of efforts to vitalized Crimea as a popular summer vocation area, the way it was in Soviet time. Today one can fly from Moscow to Crimea and back with state subsidized tickets for just about $100. But there are not many vacationers in Crimea.
The popular Russian blogger–photographer Ilya Varlamov- visited Crimea this month. His photos and reports appeared on many Russian websites. We also use some of his photos here.
Varlamov said to a correspondent of the radio Echo of Moscow:
“I definitely tell you, having gone round the entire southern coast, there are much less tourists over there than there was last year. This Crimea season is a failure. People have not come; the beaches are empty, restaurants are empty, hotels are empty.
“Today there is no such category of people either in Russia, or in the world that would go to Crimea for vacation. It is not competitive with any resort area in the world, neither Turkey nor Egypt, not even with the Russian Krasnodar region. That is, no matter how little money one has, one will always find better option than Crimea.
“Crimea at the moment: it has absolutely inadequate prices, it has a complete lack of service, it lacks tourist infrastructure.”
Prior to the annexation by Russia, Crimea was used as a resort mostly by Ukrainians. The cost of living in Ukraine is much lower then in Russia. Everything used to be cheap in Crimea. Now Crimeans must buy much more expensive products from Russia, get loans from Russian banks, pay Russian taxes. To survive they need to charge more for their services.
Here is another quote from Varlamov’s interview:
“The showers, those rusty metal boxes of the Soviet times, are for pay. There are almost no free showers. The public toilets are also always for pay. I asked residents of Crimea: ‘Do you know that the kind of tourists that come to you cannot afford to pay 15 rubles (25c) for toilet?’ They answer: ‘Well, some of them pay.’ I asked them: ‘Do you understand that 90% of the turists don’t pay? What are they are doing? Do you know, what smell you have now on the beaches?’ They say: ‘But some people do pay us these 15 rubles, so we are not going to have free toilets on principle.’”
The residents of Crimea are perplexed. They didn’t like the corruption of Ukrainian authorities but Russian authorities turn out to be even more corrupt and much more prone to arbitrariness.
Lately there were demonstrations of protest in several Crimean towns. In the town of Alushta local authorities, in search for profit, covered the local beach with amusement park equipment. Protesting people, including the member of the City Council Pavel Stepanchenko, were beaten up and arrested by the police.
In the town of Kurortnoe the owner of a local big spa, supported by authorities, completely banned access of the local people to the sea. When people started to protest, he turned off the town’s sewerage, saying to towners: “Shit into your pockets!”
The Crimean blogger Alexander Gorny used the website of the radio Echo of Moscow for his plea to Putin, to make it public:
“Putin, Crimeans had believed in Russia, but look what is happening!!! Well, we have no more strength to keep quiet!!!! Russia has lost the trust of the Crimean people. Hundreds of people, Crimeans, who can not get justice, regularly speak and write about it. They had believed in Russia!
“Putin, you have lost the Crimea!! Almost lost! There is only one step left before the abyss.”
Of course most of Russians don’t have access to this information, which is not shown on state TV, which is the only source of information for majority of Russians. The polls show that most of Russians are still happy that Crimea now belongs to Russia.
Nevertheless some commentators think that, in fact, Russians have started to change their opinion. One of the most popular Russian journalists Alexander Nevzorov wrote last week in Snob.ru (150,000 read the article):
“People who take part in the polls are lead by the most primitive fear. They are afraid, just in case, of anyone, including the man with the questionnaire. And in five minutes after the conversation all these ‘passionate supporters of the annexation of Crimea’ begin to sprinkle ashes on their heads, realizing what they and their children will pay for having this peninsula.
“However, Russia has a tremendous inclination: after any positive change it goes back again to the most primitive and wild forms of despotism. So it will be the same this time, only the object in the next era of despotism will not be Crimea.
“Everyone will remember one thing: that after this annexation everything began to crumble, that this resort turned out to be too expensive for us.”