How Russian Rule Has Changed Crimea

Moscow’s Massive Social Engineering Project on the Peninsula

People hold a giant Russian national flag during a festive concert marking the second anniversary of Russia's annexation of the Crimea region, in Red Square in central Moscow, March 2016. Maxim Shemetov / REUTERS

Since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, the Ukrainian peninsula has become something akin to a “black box,” with little verifiable data on conditions available to counterbalance the official Russian narrative that all is well in the Kremlin’s newest territorial holding. Now, however, a new study has provided perhaps the most detailed look to date on the true state of political and economic play on the peninsula. Published by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, a new but well-connected think tank based in Kiev, the report—entitled “Crimea: Three Years of Occupation”—draws on data from local sources and the analysis of seasoned specialists to paint a damning picture of the human and economic costs of Russian rule, and to make a compelling case that the Kremlin’s Crimean project is a threat to Crimeans themselves, as well as to everyone else.

Russia’s control of Crimea, the report notes, represents a massive social engineering initiative. Under Moscow’s administration, Crimea has seen the imposition of a raft of draconian new laws governing everything from military conscription to alcohol consumption, a surge in human rights abuses, and the “systemic persecution” of the region’s indigenous Tatar population (whose governing body, the mejlis, has been formally banned as a “terrorist organization.”) The goal of this effort is twofold: to subjugate the region’s native population and to tether it more closely to Moscow.

The results are striking. To date, some 10 percent of Crimea’s total population (over two million in 2014) has fled. These people have been replaced through an influx of Russians—mostly civil servants, military personnel, or retirees—who have been given significant economic perks by the Russian government for resettling there. And this population shift is still a work in progress. As the study notes, Russia’s official plans for the area envisions an increase in the Crimean population by another one million Russians in the next five years.

To date, some 10 percent of Crimea’s total population has fled.

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