They’re everywhere. Every set of billboards between my flat and the school I work at has at least one of them. And I can see one from my bedroom window:
Thankfully it doesn’t fill my window anywhere near this much. It’s the one I dislike the most, although it’s a close-run thing.
I took all of the following photos during a 20-minute walk from my flat.
This one started appearing in a couple of places about three weeks ago, but there are more of them now. As far as I know, the painting is from the ‘Defence of Sevastopol‘ during the Second World War. The photo on the right shows red and black flags, which are considered fascist by many here.
There are four billboards about the referendum in this photo, although you might have to look closely to spot them all:
There are also the two billboards I’ve already shared:
There is another one which I haven’t managed to get a photo of yet, but the BBC have, showing marching feet and the slogan ‘Vote in the referendum to stop fascism’.
(Update: I photographed it a couple of days later. Here it is.)
The same BBC article describes the range of ways in which Crimeans are being urged to vote for Russia. My students have commented on the fact that there are now no (or only one – it depends who you talk to) Ukrainian language TV stations being broadcast in Sevastopol.
The large TV screen in the photo below shows video advertising accompanied by music. It’s just around the corner from my flat. When I walked past there was a series of slogans like ‘Our history’, ‘Our heroes’, ‘Our city’, all accompanied by pictures, with the phrase ‘Все на референдум’, loosely translated as ‘Everyone to the referendum’, at the end.
And then there’s the graffiti:
In a distorted local propaganda campaign, the referendum is often presented to Crimeans as a choice between securing peace, prosperity and security as a Russian protectorate, or being subject to discrimination and violence under a “fascist Ukraine.”
So it seems pretty much a given that this time in four days I’ll be living in Russia. Bridget Kendall, from the BBC, shows how the map of Ukraine has changed over time, and it looks like it’ll change again soon.
Moscow is apparently already sending humanitarian aid to the city of Sevastopol, although their definition of humanitarian aid differs somewhat from what I always thought it was. Hospital supplies, fair enough, but computer equipment for schools and bonuses for war veterans sound slightly suspicious to me.
On a side note, I’ve noticed that the range of flags which used to adorn bus drivers’ dashboards have largely disappeared. A month or so ago, you could see Russian, Ukrainian, Black Sea Fleet, Sevastopol, and Mercedes Benz (!) flags in various combinations, including the Russian and Ukrainian flag side by side on the same dashboard. I can only remember seeing a couple of Sevastopol banners (230 years of the city) in the past three weeks, although I’ve noticed more Russian flags appearing in cars instead.
The BBC’s Christian Fraser interviewed some Crimeans (in Simferopol I think) about their views of the future. The generation gap is visible again. He also talked about what Ukraine has threatened to do, in terms of cutting off food and fuel supplies. As we were saying today at school, that’s hardly likely to encourage people to vote to stay part of Ukraine.
The Moscow Times has also talked about how the residents of Crimea see the future. I’ll leave you with the final two lines, which are particularly telling:
While the situation in Crimea is often represented in clear-cut, unequivocal terms, people living on the peninsula seem to be more perplexed than anything else.
“Many people are in favor of Russia, many are against it, but most do not even understand what is going on,” Meshkov said.
Update: 19th March 2014
Today I went to Yalta, and saw three more referendum billboards which we didn’t have in Sevastopol/I missed – the ones I shared before are still all over Sevastopol, although they’re gradually starting to disappear.