I've been in StPetersburg and Moscow for the past two weeks. As for the tragedy being played out in Ukraine, it's been surprising to find total uniformity of opinion from Russian citizens, including groups of our CCI alumni. This is not due to "controlled media," since all I've spoken with check a multitude of media sources daily on Internet, including CNN. Their ages range from 25 to 55 years, generally they are the builders of Russia's middle class. It is not long-term support for Putin, because at least half of them weren't supporters of Putin previously. But today the situation has changed.
Crimea––they are adamant that Crimea has always been Russian; that Russia fought battles to keep Crimea in former centuries, and except for a small percentage of Tartars, Crimeans are ethnic Russians––and that Khrushchev turning Crimea over to Ukraine was just a fluke on paper of a discredited Soviet leader trying to impress his birthplace with his power. Many of our alumni vacation in Crimea (it has enviable warm weather), they claim they have never heard any language other than Russian spoken on Crimean streets, further that Crimeans are Russian Orthodox, and feel themselves to be Russian. I'm told that in 1991 when Yeltsin gave all areas outside of Russia their freedom, that the Crimeans declared themselves independent. Four months later, the bureaucrats in Kiev disagreed, and unfortunately Crimea has remained politically bound to Ukraine since. Our friends remind that as children they went to summer youth camps in Crimea and vacation there routinely as adults. They have always considered Crimea a part of Russia as did the locals. Hence, when it became obvious that Kiev would no longer permit Russian as official language and rapidly began institutionalizing Western Ukrainian culture in Crimea, the locals balked. Our alumni add that Crimeans were grateful and excited to be officially rejoined with Russia.