5 Things That Have Changed In Crimea Since Russia’s Takeover

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Mar 19, 2015 at 8:04 AM ET

Imagine the charismatic, handsome, musical leader of Russia annexes part of your country. Now that the peninsula where you live, Crimea, belongs to Russia, your life transforms before your eyes. Your flags are different. Your police look different. Even your time zone is different. Some things get way more expensive. And the power goes out more than it ever did.

As the year anniversary of the annexation rolls around, you watch on television the more than 110,000 people that flooded central Moscow to display their proud patriotism in “reuniting” Crimea with their motherland.

Since Russia’s president Vladimir Putin signed a referendum to annex Crimea from Ukraine and make it part of Russia on March 17, 2014, the peninsula has transformed in ways both subtle and life-changing. Here are six of them:

1. Food and medicine are expensive as hell

In the past few months, prices for many medicines in Crimea have more than doubled due to inflation and limited supply, according to local media. Food prices, as well, have spiked to more than 150 percent of what they were last year. Flour costs about 75 percent more than it did a year ago, and eggs 65 percent more.

2. “Tourism” now just means Russians visiting

The number of tourists visiting Crimea was sliced in half in 2014, from 6 million in 2013, according to the Crimean government. And now they’re mostly all Russians. Last year, the majority of tourists (80 percent) traveling to Crimea were Russians. That’s a huge spike from 25 percent in 2013. Ukrainians, who made up 70 percent of all travelers to Crimea in 2013, constituted almost none of 2014’s tourists to the peninsula.

3. The power goes out a lot

Blackouts are frequent since Ukraine, the peninsula’s primary supplier of power, cut off transportation and electricity supplies in December. At the end of December, the local government began planned power outages every morning and evening until Ukraine coughed up more power, Interfax reported. The most recent power outage left 18,000 people without power on Tuesday.

4. You can only use cash to pay for things

A sanctions war between Russia and the West over the conflict in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea has led to an exodus by international banks that previously had a presence there. Cash is really the only trustworthy method of paying that’s left for citizens, Bloomberg reports.

5. Everyday errands are a pain, and sometimes frightening

Not only have lines gotten longer for everything from getting a new passport to buying groceries, public transportation has gotten more inefficient, and sometimes even terrifying. There is a mile-wide zone between Crimea and Ukraine protected by guards on both sides, and a woman named Valentina described her visits to her mother in Ukraine as scary. She used to be able to take a bus, but now she has to take a taxi to the first layer of guards and have them walk her to the other side, where she has to hail another cab, she said.

6. Get Russian or get out

The annexation spread a newfound patriotism across the peninsula, which comes with side effects of minority oppression. Reports of a climate of fear and intimidation against the Crimean Tatars, a Muslim minority in the peninsula that accounts for about 12 percent of the population, are rampant. There have been kidnappings and random search raids of Tatars, who have historically been discriminated against under Russian rule for not considering themselves ethnic Russians.

Not that any of this is likely to change anytime soon: Around 82 percent of Crimeans said they still supported the peninsula being a part of Russia, according to a recent survey from Ukrainian pollster GfK Ukraine.