Crimea crisis: Echoes from history as big powers look to Yalta

Conference of the three leaders in February 1945 was an attempt to usher stability and peace

Yalta

The choir of the Russian Black Sea Fleet sang rousing battle hymns of the Great Patriotic War to an exultant crowd; Slavic heritage was celebrated with traditional dancing; bikers and Chechens united in praise of Putin as they came to show solidarity along with far right MPs from Moscow and vigilantes dressed in black.

Sixty years after Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met here to carve up post-war Europe, Yalta was marking a new and incendiary redrawing of the map of the Continent; the annexation of Crimea by the Kremlin after the impending referendum, followed, many here vocally hoped, by other parts of Ukraine in the near future.

The conference of the three leaders in February 1945 was an attempt to usher stability and peace after the devastating years of strife. It was at Yalta that territory Poland had claimed went to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, one of the causes of the bitter divisions in the country today.

The idea was to keep Stalin happy, before the Cold War ended the wartime alliance against the common enemy. The echoes of this event were very much present at Yalta on this sunny day.

Russian sailors danced with local girls as they had done when the siege by Hitler's forces was lifted; the Hammer and Sickle flew alongside the current red, white and blue flag of the Russian Federation; the now familiar orange and black ribbons of the military order of St George, commemorating victory over Germany, seemed to be everywhere. There were also signs proclaiming "Nato, No!" and "America Keep Away" and "Fascists from the West, We will Fight You!"

The last was not aimed at the US or the European Union, but the new government in Ukraine and the supposed 'storm troopers' from the Maidan, the centre of protests in Kiev which overthrew Viktor Yanukovych. Posters for the referendum on the road here showed two maps of Crimea, one under Russian, the other enveloped in a Swastika.

Taking down the colours of the adversary and raising one's own has been one of the rituals during the upheaval. As the concert by the Black Sea Fleet continued on the stage, under a statue of Lenin, a group of local youths tried repeatedly to haul down the Ukrainian flag flying over the square.

But the confrontation has gone far beyond just symbolism. Fierce clashes have continued in the eastern city of Donetsk between Ukrainian and Russian factions, the government in Kiev, meanwhile, has charged that exercises on the border by Moscow's forces could be preparations for an imminent invasion.

To Ilya Drozdov, standing on the promenade in Yalta, whether there is peace or war depends on the Kiev government. The MP from Moscow - the deputy head of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's right-wing party and a key figure in the Duma's committee to 'reintegrate' former Soviet countries - has introduced amendments to the law to fast track Ukrainians into Russian citizenship.

Under sanctions being discussed by Western governments, Mr Drozdov could be among Russian officials facing a visa ban for helping to dismember Crimea. "That does not bother me at all. So, we won't go to England or America, we'll take our holidays here, in India, China, countries which are strong enough to stand up to Western bullies. But we won't stop helping the people in Ukraine.

"As we can see, there are many who simply don't want to be part of Ukraine and this illegal government in Kiev should not stand in their way, if they do, there'll be trouble, violence", said Mr Drozdov. "Crimea will become a part of the Russian Federation very soon, in weeks. The east and the south will be in Russia within four or five months. These people feel they belong in Russia, the only way those currently in power in Kiev can stop this is by force."

Culture was a fundamental factor in Nadia Chuchirova voting to leave Ukraine. "We are Russian, this was Russia until Khruschev gave us away. If the people in Lviv and other places want to join the West let them do so, it's not our culture". I pointed out that she was saying this in a branch of MacDonald's. "It's convenient", she shrugged. Her husband Viktor laughed: "it feels like we are already back in Russia, look at how long we have been queuing".

Dimitri Svedorsky and Viktor Taranowski were fervent followers of another strand of Western culture; both are Hell's Angels. They had met Mr Putin, also a keen biker, when he rode a Harley Davidson at a convention in Sevastopol two years ago; a motorcycle group, Night Wolves, close to the Russian president, have been manning checkpoints alongside separatist forces in Crimea in the current crisis.

The two Yalta bikers said economic concerns over joining the European Union was a reason for their desire to leave Ukraine. They also looked forward to "strong leadership Putin provides." The admiration for firm rule was shared by Zahur Zorabof, a 21 year old from Chechnya. There had been reports of fighters loyal to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov arriving to bolster pro-Russian forces, but Mr Zorabof stressed he was not one of them." I do not have a vote in the referendum, but I'd vote to join Russia if I had one," he said. "The government in Chechnya is with Putin. It is more strict than even during the Soviet time, but everybody needs strong leaders."

There are countless pictures and mementos of the three strong leaders who signed the Yalta Declaration at Livadia Palace. The popular tourist attraction was almost void of people apart from a small party of slightly bewildered looking Japanese tourists. At the dingy waxwork display, the member of the curating staff collecting the tickets was unsure whether she would have a job for long. "I don't know whether they would employ many of us if people keep staying away", Elaina Andreyeva sighed. She was from Donetsk in the east, could that, too, become a part of Russia? "Maybe".

Natalya Petrovna, one of two visitors in the room, was from the west of the country. "I am 50 years old and it is my first visit here, I don't know whether we will be able to come to Crimea in the future, so I am really glad I came". What did she think of the way Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill divided up countries, especially Ukraine? "I don't know enough to judge. But people can live together peacefully if allowed to. I really hope Ukraine stays together".

Back on the promenade a group of men were sitting on the roof terrace of a café watching the concert below. Their baseball hat bore an "anti-terrorist" logo in English. They were polite, but refused to identify themselves beyond they were there to "prevent attacks", one, Alexei, said he had been in the Russian Navy.

People from the square had turned away from the music to look up beyond us to where the youths in combat fatigues and boots were still trying unsuccessfully to bring down the flag: "amateurs" snorted Alexei. As we left, the blue and yellow colours Ukraine were still there, defiantly flying in the breeze.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teacher

£36000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: Experienced SEN Teacher n...

Volunteer Mentor for people who have offended

This is an unpaid volunteer role. : Belong: We are looking for volunteers who ...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: Experienced TA's urgently...

Business StudiesTeacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Supply Business Studies Teacher...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?