Crimea overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in 2014, and even in retrospect, Crimean public opinion is strongly in favor of joining Russia (source, source). Comparatively, the rest of Ukraine - including 73% of people in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (the Eastern Ukrainian provinces at the heart of the ongoing War in Donbass) - think the separatist-controlled areas should remain part of Ukraine (source).
Why is there such a discrepancy? Why are Crimeans so unhappy with Ukraine (or why are they so fond of Russia), while the rest of the country including Donetsk/Luhansk take the opposite view? After all, they are (were) all Ukrainians, so a priori we would expect them to have similar beliefs.
I've read some articles about how Crimeans speak Russian while the rest of Ukraine speak Ukrainian, but that doesn't seem like a good explanation because this language difference also applies to Donetsk/Luhansk, and they still view union with Russia differently. There is some indication that quality of life has improved for Crimeans after joining Russia in the second quoted source above, but presumably Crimeans could not have known that was going to happen prior to the 2014 referendum.
To illustrate the kind of answers I'm looking for:
- "Because Ukraine did/did not do XYZ in Crimea, but not in Donetsk/Luhansk" would be an explanation.
- If the answer is "because Crimeans identify as Russian not Ukrainian", then some kind of explanation why they identify as Russian + didn't switch identities after >20 peaceful (?) years as part of Ukraine, as well as an explanation for why the people of Donetsk/Luhansk don't identify as Russian.
- If the answer has something to do with the 1954 transfer of Crimea from Russia to Ukraine, then an explanation of why this event which happened almost seven decades ago still affects Crimean identity today, since not many Crimeans today would remember events in 1954.