National Geographic : 2011 Apr
In exchange, Russia gave Ukraine, still drowning in debt, a 30 percent discount on natural gas. Reaction was split, as usual, between the Russian-speaking east and south of Ukraine and the western regions, where Ukrainian national- ism runs strong. Galina was pleased. e Russian Navy is in her genes. "My grandson is in the St. Petersburg military academy. My husband was a naval o - cer. My grandmother sewed sailor uniforms. I grew up in a house of heroes in a city of heroes." A city of heroes, a shrine to war. ere are 2,300 memorials in Sevastopol; the city itself is practically bronzed. In 1945 it was awarded the Order of Lenin by the Soviet Union and named a Hero City for enduring a 247-day siege by Ger- many in World War II. Nearly a century earlier it su ered a 349-day siege by French, British, and Turkish troops in the Crimean War. A cautionary note: Crimean history would suggest that it is folly to think that possession of any place, especially paradise, is anything other than a tenancy. Crimea has passed from hand to hand, from Scythians to Greeks to Romans, Goths, Huns, Mongols, and Tatars. e latter, Turkic Muslims who migrated from the Eur- asian steppes in the 13th century, were brutally targeted by Joseph Stalin and suffered mass deportation. For three days in May 1944, Soviet militia pounded on Tatar doors, rounded up families, ordered them to pack, and expelled them to Central Asia---some 200,000 in all. Nearly half died from illness or starvation. "I was a young boy the night they came," said Aydin Shemi- zade, a 76-year-old retired professor from Mos- cow. "I remember reaching for my book bag hanging on the wall. A soldier ripped it out of my hands." His voice cracked. It was 20 years before he saw his homeland again. In 1989 Mikhail Gorbachev allowed Tatars to return to Crimea. About 260,000 have done so, and they now represent 13 percent of Crimea's population. Many live in squatters' shacks on PHOSPHORESCENT DUSK settles over Yalta, a fashionable resort for Russian nobility in the 19th century, war scorched in the 20th. Winston Churchill, participating in the 1945 conference that reconfigured postwar Europe, called the area the "Riviera of Hades."