Why Crimea might be worse off under Russian rule

In the hypothetical scenario of Crimea becoming a Russian oblast or, what is more likely, an entity with special federal status, there is no reason to expect that its powers vis-à-vis the center, municipal governance or the status of its ethnic minority (and indeed majority) populations would fare any better than if the Crimea were to remain part of Ukraine.

Furthermore, there are strong reasons to believe that these aspects of the peninsula’s governance would fare substantially worse under Moscow’s tutelage. The first point to note is that given Crimea’s strategic importance for Russia, the region is, and is very likely to remain, heavily militarized. Russian federal legislation has special provisions for governance of localities with substantial military, scientific, or strategic significance.

These entities are referred to as science cities, “Naukogrady,” closed territorial formations (Zakrytoe administratvno-territorial’noe obrazovanie), or closed military towns (Zakrytye voennye gorodki).  The Crimea and its municipalities with particular strategic significance are therefore likely to be subject to some form of direct administration or, at the very least, high levels of de facto central control over their politics and governance.

There are also strong reasons to be concerned about the status of the Tatar community should Crimea be incorporated into Russia.  Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, likely on orders from Moscow, has already dispatched several delegations to the Crimea, most recently a delegation headed by Tatarstan’s head Rustam Minnikhanov, pledging assistance to Crimea’s Tatars and inviting them to sign cooperation agreements.