Russia’s invasion of Crimea was so unexpected. I think that it has really started to change the atmosphere in Russia, and the way that Russia is viewed by the rest of the world.
I have a friend who just got back from reporting in Sevastopol (a city on the Black Sea’s Crimean Peninsula currently under dispute by Ukraine and Russia). She said the atmosphere there was incredibly tense. What surprised her most was how rabidly people seemed to express their opinions. Not only were they definitely in favor of being a part of Russia, they also seemed to think anyone of their own who thought differently was a traitor. She described watching grandmothers attack a young girl who was carrying a Ukrainian flag.
Most Russians are very much in favor of Russia’s Crimean takeover. For many of them it seems to be proof that Russia is reemerging on the world stage as a country to be contended with.
In Moscow, and much of the rest of Russia, the atmosphere is increasingly nationalistic, and anti-Western. It feels like a slow return to the Cold War.
Another American friend, traveling on a train in Siberia recently, said he found himself in a train car with a group of Russian men who made very clear how much they hated the West. At the end of their conversation, they admitted that while they still hated America, he was all right – not what they would have expected from an American.
For some other Russians, however, this new shift in atmosphere is a signal to leave. A recent Moscow Times article argued that the Crimean Annexation was pushing some Russians to emigrate:
“I feel fear,” said Valentin Dombrovsky, 28, a businessman who plans to move to Germany. “I honestly express my thoughts and write what I think on Facebook, and no one has come after me, but I think the current situation in Russia is close to the state of a terrorist attack, when you do not know when it could happen and who could be targeted.”
Another American has written that the Crimea annexation has made life in Russia more uncertain:
“Are we headed for a new Cold War? I don’t know. But I do know that decisions being made to punish Putin or punish the United States or punish Ukraine are really just punishing ordinary people who may have a wide range of views on geopolitical events but who mainly just want to go about their completely normal lives.” -Lara McCoy Roslof RBTH
For economist husband and I, Russia has started to feel less and less stable. With sanctions and visa bans in place we worried recently whether or not I’d be able to get a Russian visa. We’ve wondered if things would get so bad that he’d have to hurry out of the country. We lost a significant amount of our savings and salary a few weeks ago when the ruble fell.
Of course, many many things are still the same in daily life. Especially for someone like me who’s currently home most of the time with a baby. But there are small changes here and there – economist husband’s company has recently switched their company debit cards away from Visa to not rely on an American financial services company. The constant nationalistic, anti-Western rhetoric on Russian television starts to get to people, not to mention the decrees and orders from on top that impose sanctions, and force people and companies to make changes. Not to be dramatic, but it feels like things are going to go downhill in Russia quickly.
What about you, fellow Muscovites? Do you feel the atmosphere in Russia has changed in the last several months? What about those of you in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere? Do you view Russia differently now than you did before the Crimea Invasion?
PS. Russia map image found here.