With everything currently going on in the world it seems crazy that we were visiting Crimea in 2015 as a tourist group. Sadly this is something that is not likely to happen again soon.
Controversially annexed by Russia from the Ukraine, it now enjoys a high value military position for Russia in the current “special military operation”. For many years though it was the place for Soviet, Ukrainian and Russian tourists.
A background to the Crimea
The Crimea has a long history as part of the Russian federation and has long been famous for its beaches. It was all host to the Crimean War, which saw the advent of the modern nurse AKA Florence Nightingale.
When Soviet times came it was part of the Russian Soviet Republic, before being gifted to the Ukrainian SSR during the 1950’s. And it is this timeline that makes things icky, generally speaking when it comes to Russia it is pre-war borders that are to be respected, hence why the Baltic States were not seen as part of the USSR by the west.
Why Crimea was handed to the Ukraine no one really knows, but the time it did not seem to matter as the Soviet Union was one state.
After independence Russia and the Ukraine remained friends, the black sea fleet were allowed to stay in Crimea and things looked OK, and then there was the coup/uprising.
The Maidan Protests
Known for years the Maidan Protests, they have since been retconned as the Euromaidan revolution. Whether it was a resolution is debated by both sides, but what happened was a pro-Moscow government was replaced by a pro-western one.
Russia did not like this and pretty the Donetsk Peoples Republic was declared alongside the Luhansk Peoples Republic. What many do not realise is that there was almost an Odeesa Peoples Republic, before a bunch of people got burned alive in a building.
Less ambiguous though was the annexation of Crimea, a permanently Russian faroriing region, which declared “independence” before e referendum made them a part of Russia.
Th read about Russia annexing Crimea click here.
Organising a Tour to visit Crimea in 2015
The annexation of Crimea into Russia might have been popular in Russia, but it was not recognised by the rest of the world, so visiting here was controversial thing. There was also no bridge at this point, so getting here would involve flying.
We had personally arranged a tour with an Italian chap who runs Soviet Tours, alas he ditched is literally on the day of the tour. Keep that in mind if you do ever consider booking a tour with him……
We are though professionals, so a very pretty and accomplished Ukrainian guide was procured and we flew from Moscow into Simferopol, although far later than what we had hoped for.
What was it like visiting Crimea in 2015?
We did all the normal sites we would have done regardless of who was in charge, but there was a real forbidding sense of Russian nationalism in the air, with those pro-annexation being very vocal and those against merely staying quiet.
This was most profound in Sevastopol where the beach vendors were selling anything they could related to Russia, which included classic t-shirts of a shirtless Putin riding a horse. Of course people purchased them, for indeed for a while they were very popular, as silly and as inappropriate as that might feel now.
What though was perhaps most surreal about visiting Crimea in 2015 was the normality one felt at the beaches of Sevastopol, or eating in the beautiful restaurants of the waterfront, as well as at the numerous Soviet monuments.
Overall though I am glad that I got to see Crimea in all its glory, for I do not see it happening again anytime soon. Whatever happens in this current conflict and whoever wins, Crimea is now a part of Russia Putin, or whoever may follow him is unlikely to give up.
To read about our Soviet Tours click here.