The U.S and European Union may want to save Crimeans from themselves. But the Crimeans are happy right where they are.
One year after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea, poll after poll shows that the locals there — be they Ukrainians, ethnic Russians or Tartars are all in agreement: life with Russia is better than life with Ukraine.
Little has changed over the last 12 months. Despite huge efforts on the part of Kiev, Brussels, Washington and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the bulk of humanity living on the Black Sea peninsula believe the referendum to secede from Ukraine was legit. At some point, the West will have to recognize Crimea’s right to self rule. Unless we are all to believe that the locals polled by Gallup and GfK were done so with FSB bogey men standing by with guns in their hands.
In June 2014, a Gallup poll with the Broadcasting Board of Governors asked Crimeans if the results in the March 16, 2014 referendum to secede reflected the views of the people. A total of 82.8% of Crimeans said yes. When broken down by ethnicity, 93.6% of ethnic Russians said they believed the vote to secede was legitimate, while 68.4% of Ukrainians felt so. Moreover, when asked if joining Russia will ultimately make life better for them and their family, 73.9% said yes while 5.5% said no.
In February 2015, a poll by German polling firm GfK revealed that attitudes have not changed. When asked “Do you endorse Russia’s annexation of Crimea?”, a total of 82% of the respondents answered “yes, definitely,” and another 11% answered “yes, for the most part.” Only 2% said they didn’t know, and another 2% said no. Three percent did not specify their position.
With two studies out of the way, both Western-based, it seems without question that the vast majority of Crimeans do not feel they were duped into voting for annexation, and that life with Russia will be better for them and their families than life with Ukraine. A year ago this week, 83% of Crimeans went to the polling stations and almost 97% expressed support for reunification with their former Soviet parent. The majority of people living on the peninsula are ethnic Russians.
The U.S. made a big deal about ethnic minorities there known as the Tartars, which account for around 10% of the population. Of the 4% total that said they did not endorse Russia’s annexation, the vast majority — 55% — said that they feel that way because they believe it should have been allowed by Kiev in accordance with international law. Another 24% said the referendum vote was “held under pressure”, which likely means political or military threats to vote and vote in favor.
The GfK survey also asked if the Ukrainian media have given Crimea a fair assessment. Only 1% said that the Ukrainian media “provides entirely truthful information” and only 4% said it was “more often truthful than deceitful.”