National Geographic : 2011 Apr
• still hoped to join the European Union. None- theless, uneasiness lingered. "I was in Red Square in Moscow on Victory Day," Leonid Kravchuk told me. Kravchuk, Ukraine's rst president, had de ly made the transition from Communist Party boss to leader of an independent democracy. Now, resolutely Ukrainian, he was wary of the Krem- lin. "I tell you, I have seen many parades in my day. I have never seen one like this." He meant the turned-up volume on the demonstration of power. Worries that Crimea could be the next ash point between Russia and its former satellites had faded with the resetting of Kiev's foreign policy, but Kravchuk thought a replay of the 2008 conflict when Russia sent tanks into Georgia (to protect its citizens, said the Rus- sian government, though some suggest it was a reach for power in former territories) was not out of the question. "Such a thing is still pos- sible," he said. "Russia knows what it wants from Ukraine. Ukraine doesn't know what it wants from Russia." e best immunity against Russian intrusive- ness seems to rest on Ukraine's ability to solidify its sense of self, but the road will be rocky, giv- en the struggling economy and weak political traditions. True, Yanukovych had extinguished the sparks between Ukraine and Russia, but did Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov really have to say, "Everything depends on the good- will of Russians---we're like serfs." With public comments like the prime minister's it is small wonder that a national survey reported Ukrai- nians trust astrologers more than politicians. On my last day in Crimea, I sat on a veranda overlooking Sevastopol Bay with Sergey Kulik, the Russian submarine o cer turned Ukrainian think tank director. Across water the color of malachite, you could see the arc of temple-like government buildings rebuilt by Stalin a er the war. "Sometimes when I get a visa to travel," said Kulik, "the consul looks at me as if to say, Are you coming back? Don't think for a minute I won't. I am Ukrainian. I will come back." Kulik knew who he was. And the rest of Crimea, not to mention Ukraine itself? Identity is problematic, said Oleg Voloshyn, press sec- retary to the foreign minister, because Ukraine was not a classical nation like England. ough most eastern European countries were patch- work entities, Ukraine was more fragmented than most, split as it had been in successive cen- turies between Russia and Poland, Russia and Austria, then between Russia, Poland, Czecho- slovakia, and Romania, before nally becoming an independent state in 1991. Crimea, it turns out, is as much a conun- drum for Ukraine as it was for Russia. "Potem- kin called Crimea the wart on Russia's nose," I reminded former Ukraine President Leonid Kravchuk at the close of our interview. Potem- kin meant that Crimea was unruly; he worried Russia would never subdue the Tatars and gain control. "Instead of being the wart on Russia's THE LURE OF FISHING leads to a jetty in Alushta. Caught between its Russian past and its new identity as part of Ukraine, Crimea is still a work in progress. "We are babies just born," says Sevastopol lawyer Anatoliy Zhernovoy.