Sevastopol

This is the kind of ironic critique of common-sense that I love. Even though it’s a Mail on Sunday (!) blog. (I have mixed feelings about Peter Hitchins: interesting take on Russia and on “the West’s” approach to post-Soviet Russia; dubious take on the EU.).

As Ukrainians force Russians to turn their back on their language and change their names, I ask, is this the world’s most absurd city?

Imagine some future Brussels edict has finally broken up Britain and handed Devon and Cornwall over to rule by Wales.

Imagine the Royal Navy, much shrunk and renamed the English Navy, being told it has to share Plymouth with a new Welsh fleet; that is, if it is allowed to stay there at all.

Picture the scene as cinemas in Plymouth and Exeter are forced to dub all their films into Welsh, while schools teach anti-English history and children are pressed to learn Welsh.

Street signs are in Welsh. TV is in Welsh. Police cars patrolling Dartmoor have ‘Heddlu’ blazoned on them, banks have become ‘bancs’ and taxis ‘tacsis’.

Meanwhile, Devon and Cornwall are cut off by a frontier from the rest of England, closing down industries with English links, and people are issued with new identity documents with Welsh names.

Utterly mad and unthinkable, you might say. And you would be right. But something very similar has happened in what used to be the Soviet Union, and we are supposed to think it is a good thing – because Russia is officially a bad country, and its former subject nations are therefore automatically good. [...]

I think our treatment of Russia since the fall of communism has been almost unbelievably stupid and crude. We complain now about the autocratic rule of Vladimir Putin. But it was our greed and our bullying of the wounded bear that created Putin and his shady, corrupt state. [...]

No, I am not an apologist for Comrade Putin. I like Russia, and wish it had a better government. I think it would have done if we had been more thoughtful after 1991. [...]

This sublimely silly development meant that Russia’s main naval base [Sevastopol] was suddenly in a foreign country, and its inhabitants became aliens in their own land. It gets more ridiculous. On one side of the harbour, a fortress bears the slogan ‘Glory to the Russian navy!’ A strongpoint a mile away is adorned with a banner proclaiming ‘Glory to the Ukrainian navy!’

Sevastopol’s deputy mayor, Pyotr Kudryashov, knows all about this rivalry. By an accident of history, his son Sergei, 30, and his daughter Anna, 35, are both serving at sea as naval officers – but Anna is in a Russian ship, and Sergei is in a Ukrainian one.

Both wanted to join a navy, and each joined the one that was recruiting when they graduated. In theory, if the New Cold War ever turns hot, they could be firing missiles at each other.

[...more]

…with thanks to Athol for keeping me up-to-date on media discourse on Russia!

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