Anya Free, Ph.D., is a scholar of Soviet and Russian history and human rights. Her academic expertise is on Soviet propaganda and museums during the World War II and postwar period. She has recently published on the events in Ukraine.
- Putin’s use of the rhetoric developed by Catherine the Great is just one instance of the Kremlin’s habit of recycling and repurposing propagandistic tropes for its strategic needs. Putin’s reinforcement of the myth of Crimea as possessing a civilizational status for Russia, which represented an attempt to legitimize the annexation, elevated the symbolic status of the strategic peninsula, turning it into one of the cornerstones of Russian neo-imperialist ideology.
- After absorbing Crimea [in 2014], the Kremlin began recolonizing the peninsula. While tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians relocated from Crimea after the 2014 annexation, a large influx of Russian citizens replaced them and took up residence on the peninsula. The remaining Crimean Tatars are often persecuted. The policies that caused displacement of the Crimean population and incentivized Russian recolonization of Crimea removed the potentially hostile population from the crucial militarized region and further reinforced the myth of Crimean inherent Russianness.
- Crimea has a central role in the Russian imperialist ideology and propaganda that continues erasing the peninsula’s diverse history, presenting Russians as its indigenous population.
- The return of Crimea to Ukraine, whenever it may happen, would not only restore the international order. It would also have the potential to deliver a crucial blow to Russia’s neo-imperial aspirations, which is essential for achieving security in the region, and would contribute to Russia’s own rebuilding as a democratic and prosperous nation.