Chushka—Could this be the Future of Volna?
The village of Chushka, a former state collective farm and fishery, was previously home to several hundred families. Its population has dramatically declined in the past two years as the Port of Kavkaz is constructed on the edge of the village. Chushka is located on the opposite end of Taman from the Russkiy Mir site, and has been devastated by the construction of the Port of Kavkaz, an oil, gas and chemical terminal that has begun loading and off-loading petroleum products and other chemicals for shipment out of the Sea of Azov and into the Black Sea.
The village is entirely located within the Sanitary Protection Zone of the port, and, according to Russian Federation law, should have been relocated and compensated by the company, Port of Kavkaz. However, a proper relocation has not occurred and the village’s most vulnerable population—elderly people and single women with children—have been left in the community. Their air is polluted by heavy petroleum fumes from the port, and children are beginning to get ill: nose bleeds, skin rashes, vision problems and other health problems. Many of the symptoms described by the Chushka villagers are identical to the problems encountered in Berezovka, Kazakhstan, which is located near the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field and whose population also suffers from severe air pollution from oil and gas emissions.
Crude Accountability and EWNC interviewed several women from the village in May 2007, who told us how they had been intimidated and effectively evicted from their home by thugs from Port of Kavkaz in September 2006. A number of families lived in a dormitory on the edge of the village. They worked at the Port of Kavkaz and were long-time residents of Chushka. Several women told us they had lived in the community for over thirty years.
Local residents told us their story: They were woken up at 6AM on September 6th, 2006 as they heard cars braking outside their dormitory. A group of men ran from the cars, carrying sledge-hammers and other tools, climbed the roof, and began smashing in the roof. At the time, children and women were asleep inside the building. In the mayhem that followed, the women woke their children and removed them from the building to protect them from the roof as it fell in around them. When they demanded that the men stop destroying the building, they were told that they were “renovating” the building, that it belonged to them, and that the women had no rights. They then smashed in all the windows, boarded them up and claimed that the building was uninhabitable.
A group of the women who were living in the dormitory sued the owner of Port of Kavkaz claiming that he had destroyed their home. They provided their documents, entitling them to live in the building, to the judge and demanded that the Director of Port of Kavkaz show his ownership documents. He claimed to have lost them, but the villagers have yet to win their case in court. Some of them spent the winter months living in their summer kitchens (rooms with no heat, gas or insulation), and all of them are seeking compensation for their loss.
Around twenty-five families remain in Chushka, awaiting the compensation that is rightfully theirs from Port of Kavkaz. In a clear case of corruption, the Director of the company, Mr. Viktor Mikhailovich Zelenskiy, continues to operate the Port, has paid no compensation, and states that the compensation claims the villagers have made are unreasonable. Most of the remaining residents of the village have lived there for over 30 years. They were part of the original community that built the village, worked in the fishing collective and made a living off the land. They have built their homes, worked their gardens, put in banyas and built fishing boats. From one side of the village they see a Ramsar-designated wetlands site; from the other, they can swim in the Sea of Azov. As one woman stated, “How can they compensate us for leaving such a beautiful place? They have taken everything from us.”
A number of Chushka’s residents have filed lawsuits demanding compensation for the destruction of their homes and the costs of relocation—because the community is inside the Sanitary Protection Zone, the residents are required to move. However, the compensation offered for relocation is inadequate to obtain a new home even in the village closest to Chushka.
An Alternative Economic Vision—Taman as a Tourist Destination
Taman’s residents are eager to preserve the cultural history, environmental beauty, and sustainable way of living that they have enjoyed for centuries. Taman boasts two thousand six hundred years of continuous human habitation—without oil and gas terminals and the pollution, illness and degradation that threaten the peninsula with their introduction.
Local residents are interested in continuing their traditions of tourism, recreation, fishing and agriculture. With careful, sustainable planning and investment, this would be possible. Taman residents envision an economic future that protects and maintains their current way of life. Oil and gas development—and the development of the Russkiy Mir Terminal—threaten this vision of a sustainable, healthy future.