National Geographic : 2011 Apr
under the Soviets. Prices were arti cially low. "You could get a kilo of sugar for 78 kopeks," she said. "Butter, only 60! Now, I don't even buy it." Education and medical care were free. As for a vacation: "I could go to a resort"---now completely out of the question on her monthly pension of $130. "Yes, we have a longing for the Soviet Union," she said. "But it cannot come back, no matter how much we wish. We can only toskavat." Toskavat, verb, to long for. Toska, noun, a longing, darker than nostalgia, verging on de- pression. Russian culture is embedded in a ma- trix of toska. When in ree Sisters, by Anton Chekhov (who owned a dacha in Crimea), Irina wistfully says, "Oh, to go to Moscow, to Mos- cow!" that is toska. If Sevastopol, where 70 per- cent of the population is ethnic Russian, could talk, I imagine it too saying, To Moscow, to Mos- cow. In a 2009 poll by the Razumkov Centre, a top Ukrainian think tank, nearly a third of the Crimean respondents said they wanted their region to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia. In some ways it still is. But not just Russia. Crimea is practically a throwback to the old Soviet Union: the Early Concrete Bunker style of architecture, the rusting hulks of Russian warships in the harbor, the hammer-and-sickle medallions on the iron gates of Primorsky Park. It's also attitude. Brusque, rigid, humorless: the worst kind of Soviet hangover. You can take Crimea out of the Soviet Union; to pry the Soviet Union out of Crimea is something else. When I asked Yelena Nikolayevna Bazhenova, direc- tor of a Sevastopol-based tour company, why Crimea with its lovely seaside didn't attract more tourists, she hesitated. "We are not accustomed to greeting people with a smile," she nally said. Crimea also sounds Russian. Ukrainian may TO REMEMBER THE SACRIFICE of fallen soldiers is viewed as a holy duty in Sevastopol, which endured a 247-day-long siege by Hitler's army in 1941-42. Yuri Perov, a Ukrainian naval cadet, takes the bus to his barracks after rehearsal for the Victory Day parade. Editor at Large Cathy Newman wrote about Venice in August 2009. Gerd Ludwig photographed "Moscow Never Sleeps" for the August 2008 issue.