Photo Essay

  • Balaklava, on the Crimean Peninsula. During the Soviet era the city was closed to the public for more than 30 years on account of an underground submarine base that was situated there.
  • A public beach in Balaklava, on the Crimean peninsula. The city is part of the city of Sevastopol.
  • A Russian soldier poses for a picture in Balaklava, Crimea. In 1991, Crimea became part of independent Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • Newly built hotels are seen through the fog. After years of being one of the most secretive places in the Soviet Union, due to an underground submarine base that was operational until 1993, the Ukrainian government moved to make Balaklava an attractive tourist destination.
  • A fence along the Ukrainian military base in Balaklava in Jan. 2014. Balaklava is part of the city of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is located.
  • Fishermen have lunch after work in Balaklava, Crimea.
  • Crimea has a history of over 2000 years, during which Balaklava was renamed “a fish nest” in Turkish, when the Ottoman Empire took possession of the city in 1475.
  • Visitors look at a model of a submarine in a museum in Balaklava. The former underground military facility was operational until 1993.
  • A woman dives into the cold water of the Black Sea, off the coast of Balaklava, in Jan. 2014.
  • A stone quarry in Balaklava, the former city that is now part of Sevastopol.
  • Denis and his family members organize a club that reenacts scenes from World War II. During the Second World War, Balaklava was the southern-most point in the Soviet-German lines.
  • A woman works in the office of the Communist Party in Balaklava. The former city is part of Sevastopol, Ukraine, which gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
  • Alexander, a director of the military orchestra in Balaklava, poses for a picture while singing a song about his native town, Balaklava.
  • The entertainment center for Submariners in the House of Culture in Balaklava, Crimea.
  • One of the halls in the underground military museum in Balaklava. The city, now a part of Sevastopol, has a history of over 2000 years and changed hands many times. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union built an underground submarine base that led to Balaklava being one of the most secretive places on the peninsula.
  • A local beauty salon in Balaklava, May 2011.
  • A Ukrainian army officer, May 2011. Since Crimea became part of the the newly independent Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a delicate stability has always existed between the two countries.
  • People enjoy a sunny day on a public beach in Balaklava. The former city is part of the city of Sevastopol, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimean Peninsula.
  • A young girl works in a beauty salon in Balaklava.
  • A view of the Balaklava bay, May 2011. Balaklava is part of the city of Sevastopol, which is the second largest port in Ukraine after the Port of Odessa.
  • City Hall, Balaklava, Crimea.
  • A stone quarry in Balaklava, the former city that is now part of Sevastopol, is one of the primary employers here.
  • A worker in the street of Balaklava. In 1954 Balaklava passed from Russia to Ukraine, and became part of the independent state of Ukraine in 1991.
  • Denis and his brother pose for a picture near old cars with World War II uniforms on. Sevastopol, of which Balaklava is now a part, is also an important center of marine biology. Dolphins have been studied and trained in the city since the end of World War II, when a special naval program was created to use the animals for special undersea operations.
  • A guard in the underground Naval museum complex in Balaklava. One of the many monuments dedicated to the remembrance of military valor in past wars includes the underground submarine base that was operational until 1993. The last Russian submarine left the base in 1996.
  • A local woman is seen in a bus window in Balaklava. During the Cold War, the Soviets made Balaklava one of the most secretive locations, building a submarine base there even though the country had been technically part of Ukraine since the 1950s.
  • Battleships in Sevastopol bay, Jan. 2014. Sevastopol is the second largest port in Ukraine, home to a Ukrainian naval base as well as the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
  • An ex-captain of a submarine in full dress in his apartment. The port city of Sevastopol, in Crimea, where Balaklava is based, is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet as well as a Ukrainian naval base.
  • A man by the sea, Balaklava. During the Soviet era, the small city by the sea on the Crimean Peninsula was a city that didn’t exist to the outside world. The town was closed to the public for more the 30 years due to the submarine base that the Soviets had built there. The base was decommissioned in 1993 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the last Russian submarine left in 1996.
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‘Unwanted people:’ A portrait of Crimea

Updated

Russia shocked the world last Friday when, just weeks after garnering a stockpile of goodwill from the Sochi Olympic games, it sent military and paramilitary troops to seize control of the airport and other installations in Crimea, a narrow strip of land extending from Ukraine into the Black Sea.

A former Soviet Republic, Crimea is now an autonomous parliamentary republic within the country of Ukraine. More than half of its citizens are ethnic Russian. Ukrainians have been locked in a civil conflict for months over recently-ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to bypass an economic agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Ukraine Monday night to show support for the interim government, while Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted Yanukovych’s ouster as an “unconstitutional coup and military grab of power,” but cooled tensions with the West by saying “there is no need” for a full-scale military intervention by the Russians at this point.

Photographer Oksana Yushko explored the lasting effects of a lifetime under Soviet rule by photographing residents of Balaklava, a small seaside town on the Crimean Peninsula that enjoyed prosperity as host to a Soviet naval base. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the division of the military assets once hosted on the peninsula, Yushko writes, the “system collapse turned the once privileged Soviet officers into unwanted people.”

“I saw traces of this not only in the town but also on people’s faces. They still live in the past,’ Yushko says. “Things have changed, but people’s minds and attitudes have not.”

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography.