This post first appeared on Russia Insider
An unintended effect of the 2014 "Maidan" revolution was Russia's swift annexation of Crimea. Western politicians and media were not pleased.
Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to unite with Russia, obviously under the coersion of Russian troops. How are these poor, oppressed people doing now?
It's fully provided with electrical power, there's a colossal flow of tourists thanks to the Crimean Bridge, and agriculture is rapidly developing. There were no such precedents over the time it was a part of Ukraine. This week, the Crimean authorities showed Vladimir Putin the achievements of the past 5 years. These are the years when, according to Sergey Aksyonov, the region made a breakthrough. Now, it surprises not only with its landscapes but large-scale infrastructure projects as well. The president paid close attention to each of them - from the Tavrida highway to the cultural and educational complex Sevastopol.
This is a velvet path between two seas. The railway part of the Crimean Bridge is seamless and practically noiseless. By the way, we can see it now. We're going on a shop truck. Thus, one will be able to rush under the show-white arch of the grandiose bridge. But a few months later, the first trains will run over the Kerch Strait. It doesn't even matter where they'll go - to Crimea or Taman - when there are such views outside. The 11-mile long bridge is the longest not only in Russia but also in Europe. It reliably connects the two shores. Now, a steel thread of railway connects them, too. This arrival of the train, flying like an arrow over the sea is still an ordinary event. The train transports freight. There are builders instead of passengers. Thus, the work is done even faster.
Evgeny Chibyshev, contractor: “I'd like to go to Crimea with my family on the construction that we've built.”
People will be able to buy tickets for the first train in September. But don't hurry to pack your bags. The trip will take place not earlier than in December. Lots of cars are going to Crimea so far. This is the last summer month - the peak of the high season. There's record traffic on the bridge. Thirty-six thousand cars cross it per day. The beaches are crowded. Hotels and health resorts are almost fully booked. The peninsula expects to receive seven million tourists this year.
-Tell me, how do you like Crimea?
-It's gorgeous. I'm speechless. I mean it. I came from Kaliningrad. There's sea there but it's better here.
-Crimea is changing and we like it. It's only changing for the better. We get lots of impressions. It isn't worse than abroad.
Where else is it possible that Aivazovsky meets tourists? That's the name of the new airport. It's a masterpiece worthy of the best marine painter's brush. It's like a sea wave made of glass and metal. And it's bringing a vacation vibe and unprecedented passenger traffic.
Vladimir Putin: “How is the airport working?”
Sergey Aksyonov, Head of Crimea: “Since the beginning of the year, the airport has transported 3.09 million passengers. As of now, that's 2.5% in growth compared to 2018.”
There weren't such achievements even in the best Soviet years. But new roads are required for a qualitative breakthrough. Through endless steppe over emerald hills goes the Tavrida highway. It's a cutting-edge comfort highway of the future. While some parts are being actively built, cars are rushing along other parts. The peninsula's main transportation artery goes from east to west. It's 150 miles long.
Vladimir Putin: “A few days ago, I examined how the work is being done. I flew over practically the entire highway in a helicopter. As far as I understand, the first part was already commissioned as a dual highway. How do you assess what it's yet to do?”
Viktor Perevalov, VAD Deputy CEO: “As of now, the highway is 74% complete. By September, Crimea and Sevastopol will have a very good highway, which everyone will like to drive along.”
- It'll be open to traffic in December?
- In September.
- In September. It'll already be open to traffic. The paperwork will be completed in December.
The construction project of an unprecedented scale will fundamentally change the peninsula's traffic network. It'll be much more convenient to travel around Crimea. The road is perfectly smooth. It consists of three layers. It's the main secret to longevity in asphalt concrete.
The builders guarantee that the first major repairs won't be necessary until 25 years from now. There have never been such good roads here. After them, unusual gastronomic routes appear on the Crimean map. It's a well-known local champagne. Here are young vineyards in the Balaklava valley. The seedlings are from France, the terroir is Crimean. Here is the first harvest - fragrant bunches of White Muscat grapes. This wine will be a sensation on the international market, just like the following figures. In the five years, the number of vineyards has tripled. Wine production has been annually increasing. It's useless to argue about tastes. Everyone will find his favorite here.
Elena Kostenko, Zolotaya Balka CEO: “The proximity of the warm Black Sea, the Crimean mountains, the forests, tons of sunlight, variety of soils create the distinctive taste of our Sevastopol and Crimean wines.”
One will be able to try young wine, light like a sea breeze, at the end of September. There'll be a sunny harvest festival in Balaklava. Meanwhile, Chersonesus expects tourists. The stars of world ballet stark under the starry Crimean sky. There are a rebellious gladiator and a cruel Roman commander in timeless classics. This is Spartacus. The dance reflects an extreme passion and incredible strength. Vladimir Putin watched it for the third year in a row. This stage is an exact copy of the one in the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater. It's unprecedented in size and production. It's installed in the place where performances were conducted over 2,500 years ago. This is continuity of culture.
They discussed the development of culture with the president behind the curtain during the intermission.
Sergei Polunin also met with Vladimir Putin. That evening, he performed two main roles. He played the role of the belligerent Crassus, against whom Spartacus fought. He's also the future head of the Sevastopol Academy of Choreography. These are his first students.
Vladimir Putin: “You're such a popular dancer, I'd even say sought-after. Are you going to stay here working with children?”
Sergei Polunin, ballet dancer: “I think that children are the biggest happiness.”
For children to have the best conditions, at the legendary Monument to Soldier and Sailor in the center of Sevastopol, a new cultural and educational cluster will appear soon. It combines everything: a modern movie and concert hall, a choreographic school, and even a museum of the defense of Sevastopol. It's planned to be part of that complex on that territory. While they discussed a project of the cultural cluster, young talents didn't stop whispering. They wanted to take a selfie with Putin. Of course, the president made a photo with the future prima ballerinas of the Sevastopol theater.
At parting, he even kissed a young lady's hand. This summer evening seems to be just a lovely dream. Two hours passed in an instant. People didn't stop applauding. The president personally thanked the dancers, among whom are principal dancers from Great Britain, Cuba, and Austria. The president suddenly addressed the latter ones in German.
Vladimir Putin: “ Where are you from?”
- Excuse me?
- Vienna, Austria.
-Vienna? Okay. Thank you very much.
The international opera and ballet festival is a true attraction of the peninsula and a new cultural tradition, gathering an increasingly big audience every year.
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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