THE CRIMEAN TATARS IN THE CRIMEA: SOURCE OF CONFLICT OR STABILITY BETWEEN CRIMEAN RUSSIANS AND UKRAINS1?
İsmail Aydingün, Ph.D. (Public Administration and Political Science), lecturer; Başkent University, Department of Political Science and International Relations (Ankara, Turkey)
In this article, with specific reference to the Crimean Tatars, I will discuss how the strategic significance of a region shapes the fate of the groups living there through entailing important human rights violations and causing in some cases their total displacement. The role that minorities can play in ethnic relations will be another point of focus. I will also analyze the impact of global political pressure and international organizations on the restitutions to the victims of the human rights violations.
Throughout history the Crimea has been a place where numerous representatives of different cultures lived side by side, including the Crimean Tatars. The Crimean Tatars can be defined as an ethnically heterogeneous group that emerged as a result of the amalgamation of the Tatar tribes of the Golden Horde and the various ethnics living in the peninsula. The Crimean Tatars are a Hanafi, Sunni Muslim Turkic-speaking community whose ethnic identity formation as a distinct group goes back to 14th and 15th centuries.2
The Crimean Tatars used to live in the Crimea until their deportation to Central Asia and Siberia by Stalin in 1944. It is only after 45 years of exile that the Crimean Tatars obtained the right to return to their homeland. After the decision of the Supreme Soviet in 1989, they began to return to the Crimea en masse despite the discouraging attitude of the local authorities. The return process was followed by ethnic, economic and geopolitical crises. The mass return of the Crimean Tatars to their homeland entailed numerous problems including housing and unemployment. The dissolution of the Soviet Union did not facilitate but on the contrary aggravated the rehabilitation process due to changes in the political and legal systems and the changing status of the Russian Federation. Despite these difficulties, the Crimean Tatars’ struggle for constructing a new life in their homeland continues and they expect the financial and political support of international organizations for the proper realization of their rehabilitation.
According to the 1991 Law, those who were living in Ukraine before 1 November, 1991 could automatically obtain citizenship. However, those who came after that date had to wait for five years to become eligible for citizenship. Due to this law, an important number of the Crimean Tatars lack all citizenship rights. This striking fact indicates how the Crimean Tatar population lacks certain basic human rights, including also political, economic or cultural rights, that any individual has to possess. The continuation of the lack of those basic rights will constitute a source for tensions in the peninsula.
The Changing Status and Ethnic Structure of the Crimea
Given its geographical location the Crimean peninsula always had an important political, strategic, military and economic significance. Situated at the heart of the Black Sea and considered as a way of capturing the Straits, the peninsula was claimed by imperial forces which ruled over these lands and the populations that inhabited these lands throughout history. Focusing briefly on the political history of the Crimea may allow us to better understand the reasons for the present problems about the status of and claims over the peninsula.
The Crimea’s pre-Soviet period includes the periods of an Independent Crimean Tatar state, Turkish protectorship and Russian annexation. Tatar tribes of the Golden Horde settled in the Crimea starting with 14th century and together with the local populations of the peninsula they established the Crimean Khanate in the mid-15th century. From 1475 to 1774 the Peninsula was ruled by the Ottoman Empire and its vassal, the Crimean Khanate providing the Ottoman Empire both political and economic power, and security. Following the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, which was signed at the end of the Ottoman-Russian War (1768-1774), the Crimean Khanate was considered as independent despite the de facto Ottoman protection and the Crimean Tatars constituted more than 80% of the peninsula’s population.
Significant demographic and political changes began to take place with the Russian invasion in 1783.3 The Russian rule over these lands caused important demographic changes due to slavicization policies. Discriminatory policies against the Crimean Tatars and increasing poverty caused significant waves of migration, mostly to the Ottoman Empire, especially after the Crimean War (1853-1856).4 The Crimean Tatar population in the Crimea began to decrease due to these migrations and fell from 83% in 1783 to 34% in 1897; to 25% in 1939 and since the entire population was displaced in 1944, there were no Crimean Tatars left in the Crimea at that date. In the same period the percentage of the Russian population increased from 5.7% to 50% and reached 67% in 1989.5 In 1993, the Crimea’s population was composed of 57.3% Russians; 25.8% Ukrains and 11.7% Crimean Tatars. However, as correctly pointed out by Dawson,6 figures have changed so dramatically over time that the recent balance does not reflect the complexity of the Crimea’s ethnic situation.
Following the Russian revolution, in May 1917, the Crimean Tatar nationalists proclaimed the short-lived Crimean Tatar Democratic Republic which was abolished by the Bolsheviks in February 1918.7 Later in 1921, communist leaders authorized the establishment of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, with Akmescit (Simferopol) as its capital, which aimed to make a gesture to the Crimean Tatars which suffered under Tsarist regime. However, under the pretext of low percentage of the Crimean Tatar population in the Crimea, the term Tatar was not used within the name of the republic. Although the Crimean Tatar language obtained an official status and the Crimean Tatars had the opportunity to have access to high status administrative positions, this relative period of liberty did not last long. The end of 1920s was the beginning of a more totalitarian period all over the Soviet Union. Thus, this period of liberty ended up with the purge of the Crimean Tatar intelligentsia in 1930s and with the deportation of the whole population in 1944. In 1945, the Soviet Union abolished the Crimean Autonomous Republic. Later, the Crimea became an oblast in 1946 and was transferred to the Ukrainian Republic in 1954 as a “gift” to Ukraine in honor of the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s reunification with Russia.8
From 1783 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Crimea was under the control of Russians despite its transfer to Ukraine. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Crimea found itself as part of an independent Ukraine. Being part of Ukraine entailed a feeling of uncertainty among the Russians who dominated the region for a long time. The return process of the Crimean Tatars aggravated this feeling. Many Russians both those living in the Crimea and Russia still think that the Crimea is a part of Russia and they do not accept its transfer to Ukraine in 1954 as permanent and believe that it will be again part of Russia when the proper time arrives. In 1992, in a visit to the Crimea, one of the Russian deputies N. Pavlov openly declared to the newspaper Literaturnaia Rossia: “The Crimea was never Ukrainian and never will be. It was and remains Russian.”9 However, the argument of the Crimean Tatars challenges the Russian one. The Crimean Tatars argue that the annexation of the Crimea by Russia in 1783 was an illegal act. Thus, according to them, any claim of Russia over the Crimea is insubstantial.
The autonomy of the Crimea, which was abolished following the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, was restored in January 1991 after a referendum, as a result of tactical interaction between the Ukrainian government and the Crimean Communist Party.10 This was before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Ukrainian Parliament declared its independence on 24 August, 1991. Soon afterwards, the Crimean Tatar National Congress (Mejlis) was founded. The Mejlis was composed of 33 members from all over the Crimea and Mustafa Cemiloğlu became the chairman of the Mejlis.
Following Ukraine’s independence, the opposition of the Crimean Russians to Ukraine can be seen more concretely in their low support of the Ukrainian independence referendum of December 1991. While the Ukrainian independence was supported over 80 or 90 percent in different regions and cities of Ukraine; the support was only 54.19% in the Crimean A.S.S.R. and 57.07% in Sevastopol.11
Although the Crimea’s Supreme Council declared the peninsula’s independence in May 1992 and adopted a constitution with an important concession made to Kiev through including an article on the Crimea belonging to Ukraine, Ukraine’s reaction was to declare this independence as unconstitutional and ask for its cancellation. A solution was found to this crisis through granting the Crimea greater autonomy and bringing the Crimea’s constitution and laws in line with those of Ukraine.12 The autonomous status of the Crimea neither ended the emotional attachment to the Crimea of Russians, who identify the Crimea with Russian history, language and culture; nor the political claims of Russia over the Crimea and especially over Sevastopol. Territorial claims were voiced by various Russian groups. In 1992, President Yeltsin himself declared that border problems and the Crimea are the most important problems between Russia and Ukraine.13 The same year, some Russian deputies raised the Crimean issue at the parliament and asked for the revision of the status of Sevastopol, harking back to a decree adopted by the Supreme Soviet in 1948, which defined Sevastopol as a separate administrative and economic entity. According to them, this meant the removal of Sevastopol from the jurisdiction of the Crimea and consequently of Ukraine since the decree dated prior to the transfer of the Crimea to Ukraine. This was followed by Sergei Baburin’s (a leading Russian nationalist deputy) emphasis on reopening the Crimean issue in the Russian Parliament’s decision in 1993 claiming the constitutional sovereignty over the city of Sevastopol constituted a good example to the continuing claims of Russia over the Crimean territory.14 This crisis over Sevastopol was stabilized by the intervention of the United Nations. The United Nations Security Council criticized those claims and defined them as violations of international agreements.
On the other hand, especially between 1991 and 1995, the Russian separatist tendency gained popularity in the Crimea under the leadership of Yuri Meshkov who failed in a short period of time. During these years, ethnic relations were tense. This was both due to the tension inrelations between Russians and Ukrains and, the unready state of mind of the local Russian and Ukrain population to accept the return of the Crimean Tatars.
In other words, the separatist tendency led by the Crimea’s political bloc “Russia” was taken into consideration by the Ukrainian government and this ended up with the repeal of the Crimea’s constitution and the abolition of the office of president.15 The most significant event that took place in 1996 was the Ukrainian Constitution which strengthened the power and control of the Ukrainian President over the Crimea. According to this new constitution any Crimean executive or legislative act had to be in accordance with the Ukrainian Constitution and the Ukrainian President could prevent any act from entering into force.16
Human Rights Violation: The 1944 Deportation17
The main reason for the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 was their so called collaboration with the Germans during World War II. The entire nation was declared as a collaborator and this constituted a pretext for the cleansing of the Crimea from Muslim Crimean Tatars who challenged the power of Russians in the region throughout history and who had close ties with the Ottoman Empire and later with Turkey. Following their deportation, the Soviet government encouraged Russians to settle in the Crimea. Although a Soviet Decree of 1967 cleared the Crimean Tatars of all charges of collaboration, it did not make the return possible until the decision of the Supreme Soviet in 1989.
When asked about their views on deportation, most Russians and Ukrains interviewed in the Crimea argued that the deportation of the Crimean Tatars was an unjust decision. While this decision was mostly defined as unfair some of the interviewees have stressed that an entire community had suffered and was punished because of few guilty people. Two Russians who experienced the deportation period said:
“Of course I do not approve the deportation of the Crimean Tatars to Central Asia. This was unfair. But some of them deserved it… but of course what was done to all Crimean Tatars was unfair and oppressive”.
“I do not know whether the decision of deportation was right or wrong. I was too young. At the time, it was maybe necessary but not for the entire community”.
A young Russian girl said:
“I think they should not have deported the Crimean Tatars. Because the Crimea is their homeland. Their deportation was unjust. Everyone has to live in his homeland”.
Another Russian said:
“When I came to the Crimea in 1976, people used to define the Crimean Tatars as traitors. For example at the moment there are debates about the forgiveness of Ukrains who collaborated with German SS’s. It is said that they worked for their own country and for the ideal of Ukraine. Maybe the Crimean Tatars were on the side of the Germans for the same reason. But this constituted a reason for their deportation to Central Asia. I wish such an event hadn’t happened because a lot of innocent people suffered. Any deportation is unjust and cannot be right. In the end, it caused all the trouble that we are going through today”.
An Ukrain interviewee pointed out a striking fact by saying:
“We do not much like to talk about but in some regions of Ukraine Germans were welcomed with bread and salt.18 In Western Ukraine, most people were against the Soviets... So they had to deport the entire Western Ukrainians”.
These quotations clearly show that deportation in general and Stalin’s deportations in particular are defined by the interviewees as inhuman political decisions. The increasing information about the long and tragic deportation and history of the Crimean Tatars in exile renders their rehabilitation demands legitimate in the eyes of most Russians and Ukrains who are also conscious that this rehabilitation is a necessary step that Ukraine should take in the process of the integration into Europe as a democratic and independent country.
One important point stressed by Russian and Ukrain interviewees is that during World War II Ukrains too were said to have collaborated with Germans, however, only the Crimean Tatars were deported. Thus, one should take into consideration other factors than collaboration to explain the real reasons for the deportation of the Crimean Tatars. One of the main reasons is, of course, the strategic position of the Crimean peninsula. It is due to this strategic position that Russia aimed to slavicize the whole peninsula since the peninsula has been a very important place in terms of military, political and economic dimensions. Throughout history, most empires looking for controlling the Straits wanted to control the Crimean peninsula which is situated at the heart of Black Sea. During the Soviet period, the region continued to preserve its strategic meaning for the regime mainly due to the existence of the Black Sea Fleet. Thus, the existence of a community that was defined as untrustworthy in such a strategic region was not welcomed. Furthermore, it is also possible to argue that the Soviet regime always aimed to weaken the close ties of the Crimea with Turkey, which was considered as a potential enemy. The geographical and cultural proximity of the Crimean Tatars to Turkey can be said to constitute another reason for the deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar community.
The Importance of the Crimea: Nowadays More Symbolic Than Strategic?
The Crimea’s strategic importance during the Soviet period was basically military and related to the Black Sea Fleet (BSF). The Fleet represented on the one hand the military power of the Soviet regime over the Black Sea and on the other hand the Great Russian and Soviet naval tradition. However, the Crimea had another importance for the Tsarist and Soviet Russia as a resort. In other words, it was the symbol of Russian expansion power and wealth.19 Due to this both strategic and symbolic significance, Russians always perceived the Crimea as an integral part of Russia and this explains why the Crimea is still a major problem between Ukraine and Russia.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union entailed Russia’s loss of sovereignty over a large portion of its Black Sea Coast which was a strategic loss—the loss of access to warm water ports and also the loss of the BSF. These losses among others including harbors and naval bases, caused a significant decrease in the regional and global power and influence of Russia. The BSF which was for a long time the powerful southern security point, is nowadays in a poor condition, has lost its strategic value and has become a weapon for Russians to control Ukraine and its maritime trade following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It would be logical to assume that given the limited capabilities of the BSF, Russia and Ukraine would agree on the fate of these aged ships and those serving in the ranks of the BSF. However, both sides were far from finding a pragmatic solution to this issue and BSF continues to be a matter of tension between Ukraine and Russia.20 Focused more on its symbolic significance, many Russians think that the Crimea and BSF is a part of their country, they do not accept the current status as part of Ukraine and believe that it will one day be part of Russia. The Crimea and the BSF still represent for most Russians the Tsarist power of the old days. Ukrains, although not attached to the Crimea in the same manner as Russians, perceive the Russian presence in the peninsula and especially the military presence in Sevastopol as a threat to the integrity of Ukraine.
Although Russia’s attachment to the BSF seems symbolic at first sight nowadays, its insistence on keeping its military presence in the Crimea needs a careful interpretation. Nowadays, Ukrains fear that Russia wants to be present in the Crimea in order to dominate the Ukrainian coast and the Black Sea. The continuation of the Russian presence in the Crimea offers Russia the opportunity of intervention in case of any tension with Ukraine or to intervene as a peacekeeper in case of any ethnic tension that may take place in Ukraine. Thus, there are new strategic issues for Russia such as the necessity of controlling the Crimean coast to secure Ukraine’s dependence on Russia’s fossil fuels. It should also be noted that Ukrainian independence left Moscow with only two major ports, Novorossiisk and Tuapse on the distant North-East of the Black Sea.21
New strategic issues that emerged following the dissolution of the Soviet Union explain to a large extent the pressure of Russia over Ukraine. For example, the January 1992 agreement on the BSF, which gave 30 percent of the BSF to Ukraine excluding nuclear-capable warships, was not realized. The tension between Russia and Ukraine is in a way stabilized through the intervention of international actors. The role of international organizations and agreements is quite significant in eliminating certain conflicts as it has been in the case of Ukraine’s accession to the trilateral agreement of 14 January, 1994 with the United States and Russia. This agreement was a solution to the nuclear-weapons issue which was an important source of tension between Russia and Ukraine.22 In that case, U.S. involvement contributed to nuclear disarmament and to the stability of negotiations.23 A similar role is played by the U.S. in the case of the tension over the Black Sea Fleet.
At this point, one should pay attention to the reappearance of another actor, which has been absent in the peninsula since 1944. The Crimean Tatars reentered the scene in 1989. Thus, the Crimea is not only claimed by Ukraine and Russia but also by the Crimean Tatars who want to have their homeland back.
The Crimea: Homeland of the Crimean Tatars
The Supreme Soviet legalized the rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars in 1989. The Soviet government planned a three-stage rehabilitation for the Crimean Tatars and a commission was founded for this purpose. The commission was supposed to organize the infrastructure and housing as the first stage; as the second stage, the return of the Crimean Tatars on an individual basis was supposed to be planned; as the final stage, a mass return and foundation of new villages and towns were to be organized.24
The rehabilitation program of the Soviet regime failed for two reasons. First, local authorities in the Crimea and the Ukrainian government did not welcome the decisions taken by the central government. Second, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 entailed a confusion about the validity of the decisions taken before 1991 and the commission was abolished. The financial support promised to the Crimean Tatars by Uzbek, Tadjik, Ukrainian SSRs and the Russian Federation was not provided as planned.25
One of the major problems that emerged following the return of the Crimean Tatars was the problem of settlement. The Crimean Tatars, who began to return en masse, built tents in the empty lands they found since they faced important difficulties when they wanted to buy houses or apartments in cities. Local authorities did not allow them to settle and buy property in city centers. Consequently, The Crimean Tatars were pushed to settle in the hinterlands of cities in a segregated way and no municipal services were provided to those areas. The Crimean Tatars, thus, had to struggle with problems of infrastructure and public transportation. The wish of those who wanted to live in cities and especially in cities or towns where their families used to live before the deportation did not come true.
The limitation of their settlement in big cities and obstacles to buying apartments in cities bring important housing problems. Most Crimean Tatars are building their own houses. Since these houses are located in rural areas, lack of running water, telephone, electricity, roads, public transport, central heating, food stores, school and health service still are important problems that the Crimean Tatars face. Most of the Crimean Tatars are currently settled in Bahçesaray, Akmescit (Simferopol), and Karasubazar (Belogorsk).
One should point out that a new process has taken place as a result of the return of the Crimean Tatars to their homeland. This is the deurbanization of an urban people.26 Although urbanized after the end of the special settlement regime, most Crimean Tatars who returned to the Crimea in the post-1989 period had been oriented by the authorities toward the rural areas and only less than 30 percent live in cities. One of the major results of this deurbanization is high rate of unemployment since most of the qualified Crimean Tatars remain unemployed in rural areas or have jobs which do not correspond to their qualifications.
The fieldwork data showed an extremely high rate of unemployment among the Crimean Tatars and indicated that they mostly have irregular jobs and almost none of them work in their field of specialization. Many educated Crimean Tatars are forced to work in the markets, to adapt to rural conditions and grow their own food.
A young Crimean Tatar woman told the story of her own family:
“My mother is not working now. She could not find a job in the Crimea. My father could not find a job in his own profession. When we first came to the Crimea, he could not find any job. Then, someone helped him and he became a tractor driver. He has been working in the same place for 13 years. He is an engineer but what he is doing now is to rent land from the state and cultivate potatoes and tomatoes”.
Another woman, who could not find a job after moving to the Crimea, explained her situation in the following words:
“I came to the Crimea in 1994. Until 2000 I could not find a job. Then I started to work in the market. My husband was unemployed too. He is an agricultural engineer but he is working as a driver since he could not find any job in which he can practice his own profession.”
Until 1998, there was legislation prohibiting the Crimean Tatars from living on the southern shore and limiting the number of residence permits (propiska) in big cities.27 This legislation which was repealed only few years ago had an impact on the current social, economic and political situation of the Crimean Tatars. The fact that local authorities denied them land in the southern part constituted a barrier to the Crimean Tatars finding jobs and starting small businesses in tourist resorts where they can make a living more easily.
Due to the 1991 citizenship law, many Criman Tatars, who have returned to their homeland after November 1991, lack Ukrainian citizenship and all citizenship rights, including the right to participate in elections and to privatization. Lacking access to privatization means of course that they will be excluded from the process of small or medium-sized businesses. Almost 100,000 Crimean Tatars are still not Ukrainian citizens.28 According to official statistics, in November 1997, 164,638 Crimean Tatars of voting age were living in the Crimea and only 91,910 possessed Ukrainian citizenship.29 It is estimated that half of the Crimean Tatars living in Crimea do not have Ukrainian citizenship, being either citizens of other republics or without any citizenship. Crimean laws discriminated against the Crimean Tatars and prevented them reaching more than 20 percent in any region.30
Although the mass return of the Crimean Tatars was not welcomed by both local people and authorities, the ethnic tension which was expected by certain analysts to increase contrary to those expectations diminished mostly due to the non-violent and tolerant methods of struggle adopted by the Crimean Tatar leaders. Fieldwork data indicate that increasing interaction between the Crimean Tatars, Russians and Ukrains contribute to the decrease of potential ethnic tensions.
When we asked about views on changes in ethnic relations from 1989 to today, the Russians, Ukrains, and Crimean Tatars all gave similar answers.31 Most interviewees stressed that the increasing interaction among these three nations had had a positive impact on inter-communal relations. We found that this opinion is more widely held by young people. The following is the opinion of a young Russian interviewee:
“I used to live in Novotroitsky Rayon. There were no Tatars in our village. The elderly used to say bad things about them. Now I live in Alekseyevka. I have now changed my mind. They are normal people like us… The more I know them, the more I feel close to them. In the beginning, I used to say only hello to my Tatar neighbors. Now, when I call them for help, they never say no.”
Another Russian said:
“Interaction changes everything. Relations are getting better. The coming generations will be closer. We remember the things that our parents told us. The young will forget and won’t even think about who is who. The young people perceive everything differently because they all grew up here.”
A Crimean Tatar, who emphasized the positive impact of interaction among different groups on ethnic relations, said:
“When we came to the Crimea Russians were not welcoming. The kids of our neighbors used to throw stones at our houses. One day my father wanted to go out to argue and my mother intervened. She cooked our national meal ‘mantı’ and invited all the neighbors. We ate and talked together. We explained the reason why we came here. Now relations are much better. We became friends and we help each other.”
However, one should remember that the relations of the Crimean Tatars with the Crimean Russians is mostly based on a feeling of distrust since the return of the Crimean Tatars had an impact on the demographic structure of the Crimea challenging the dominance of the Russians. Furthermore, due to their pro-Ukrainian attitude the Crimean Tatars are perceived by the Russians as potential allies of the Ukrains, who had weak political and demographic power until the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
They defend the argument that they both constitute a threat to the integration of the Crimea, and to their peaceful existence in the Crimea by encouraging nationalist sentiments among the Crimean Tatars. One of them said:
“The Russians and Ukrains I know have a negative perception about the Crimean Tatars. The elderly Crimean Tatars think that this land is theirs, and they do not want to share it with anybody else”.
Another one said:
“The funny thing is the idea that the Crimean Tatars have about capturing Crimea. Will all the Russians and Ukrains leave Crimea? I don’t think such a thing could ever happen”.
The interviews show that although for a significant number of Russians and Ukrains, the Crimean Tatars as individuals are not associated with a negative feeling, the high birth rate of the Crimean Tatars and the continuing return of the Crimean Tatars still dispersed in different parts of the ex-Soviet territory are an important factors that particularly attract the attention of both Russians and Ukrains. Despite the cautious attitude of most of the Ukrains toward the Crimean Tatars, it will not be wrong to argue that most of them consider the Crimean Tatars as natural allies against the Russians and a population that they can count on to keep the Crimea as part of Ukraine. The attitude and declarations of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, the parliament composed of 33 members representing the Crimean Tatar community, can be said to respond to the expectations of Ukrains considering the integrity of Ukraine.
It is also necessary to point out that the Crimean Tatar national movement has been one of the most dissident and effective movements of the Soviet period and afterwards. The role played by the Crimean Tatar leader, Mustafa Cemiloğlu, has been doubtless very important. His strong personality has been very influential several times in either containing certain conflicts which could intensify very easily—as was the case of the two Crimean Tatar young boys killed in Feodosiya market in 1995,32 or giving strong speeches when necessary, for example, just following the attacks directed toward the first returnees he declared, “we will not be the first to shoot. But if such attacks happen, we’ll be forced to provide measures for the defence of our people.”33 The leaders of the Crimean Tatar movement struggle for the recognition of their political and cultural rights and expect the support of international organizations through bringing their problems into the international legal sphere.
Ukraine as a newly independent state continues to establish its identity and international profile. In that sense, all problems are caused by this search for identity both at national and international levels. While aiming at founding a nation-state Ukraine has to balance its relations with Russia and all the ethnic groups living within the borders of Ukraine, including the Crimean Tatars. This newly emerging nation-state needs also international recognition and respect for human rights constitutes an indispensible element for that recognition. In that sense, success in the rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars is compulsory for Ukraine’s relations with Europe and to be part of Europe. Ukraine should also consider the slow but sure recognition of the Crimean Tatars by European countries. For instance, the Crimean Tatar Mejlis became a full member of the Federal Union of European National Minorities in 1997.34 Being conscious of the role that international organizations can play, the Crimean Tatar leaders place great importance on the definition of their people as “indigenous people” and not as a “minority” since the United Nations’ draft Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples provides them with special rights and prerogatives. In brief, the Crimean Tatar leaders want the right of their people to be protected by international organizations.35
In fact, Ukraine has a program of repatriation and settlement for the Crimean Tatars. However, it is very difficult to argue that it is an effective one. The Ukrainian government and the Crimean authorities do little to ameliorate the socioeconomic conditions of the Crimean Tatars despite Ukraine’s ratification of the Bishkek Accord in October 1992. According to the first article of this accord, the deportees who have voluntarily returned to their original homelands should be given equal rights as permanent residents. However, the Ukrainian government is far from securing the rights of the Crimean Tatars.36
Ukraine has repeatedly appealed for assistance from the international community since it is obvious that given its current economic situation, Ukraine is far from having the economic potential to realize Crimean Tatar rehabilitation. Ukraine as a democratizing state should however take into consideration in a more determined manner both the individual and communal rights of the Crimean Tatars. Ukraine should also continue to appeal for assistance from the international community.
The internationalization of Crimea’s problems is important since international actors, either western countries or international organizations, may make their contributions to reaching peaceful solutions to the tensions which have the potential to increase. Furthermore, the intervention of these actors constitutes a power that can balance Russia’s influence.
This study has indicated that the issue of the rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars goes beyond the limits of the relations between the Crimean Tatars and the Crimean Authorities or Ukraine. The Crimean Tatar issue is very much related to the relations between Russia and Ukraine which are much more complicated, including problems such as Ukrainian territorial integrity, discussions about the status of Sevastopol, the issue of dual citizenship for the Russians living in Ukraine, disputes over the transit fee for the energy that is transferred from Ukrainian territory.37 In such a context, both countries may attempt to manipulate the Crimean Tatar population. This possibility should be taken into consideration by both the international actors and the group itself.
1 This term refers to ethnically Ukrainians and not to all citizens of Ukraine. Back to text
2 See: B.G. Williams, “The Crimean Tatar Exile in Central Asia: A Case Study in Group Destruction and Survival,” Central Asian Survey, Vol. 17, No. 2, 1998, p. 287; “The Formation of Diaspora: The Crimean Tatars of Turkey, The Balkans and Central Asia,” Bulletin of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2001; V.E. Vozgrin, Istoricheskiye sud’by Krymskikh Tatar, Mysl Publishers, Moscow, 1992, p. 134. Back to text
3 See: H. Kırımlı, Kırım Tatarlarında Milli Kimlik ve Milli Hareketler 1905-1916, Atatürk Kültür, Dil ve Tarih Yüksek Kurumu, Türk Tarih Kurumu Yayınları, Ankara, 1996; Turko-Ukrainian Relations and the Crimean Tatars [http://www.iccrimea.org/scholarly/tuarel-hakan.html], 2003. Back to text
4 See: Open Society Institute Report, Crimean Tatars: Repatriation and Conflict Prevention, New York, 1996, pp. 17-20; A. Saydam, Kırım ve Kafkas Göçleri 1856-1876, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara, 1997, pp. 81-93. Back to text
5 See: Open Society Institute Report, p. 21; [http://www.iccrimea.org/population.html]. Back to text
6 See: J. Dawson, “Ethnicity, Ideology and Geopolitics in the Crimea,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 30, No. 4, 1997, p. 429. Back to text
7 See: D.R. Marples & D.F. Duke, “Ukraine, Russia, and the Question of Crimea,” Nationalities Papers, Vol. 23, No. 2, 1995, p. 264. Back to text
8 See: T. Kuzio, “Russia-Crimea-Ukraine: Triangle of Conflict,” Conflict Studies, No. 267, 1994, p. 20. Back to text
9 Quoted from: D.R. Marples & D.F. Duke, op. cit., p. 277. Back to text
10 See: Open Society Institute Report, p. 41; S. Stewart, “Autonomy as a Mechanism for Conflict Regulation? The Case of Crimea,” Nationalism & Ethnic Politics, Vol. 7, No. 4, 2001, pp. 118-119. Back to text
11 See: R. Solchanyk, “The Politics of State Building: Center-Periphery Relations in Post-Soviet Ukraine,” Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 46, No. 1, 1994, p. 48. Back to text
12 See: O. Deychakiwsky, “OSCE Roundtable in Yalta Focuses on Crimean Tatars,” The Ukrainian Weekly, Vol. LXIII, No. 44, 1995, p. xxviii. Back to text
13 See: T. Kuzio, op. cit., pp. 4-5. Back to text
14 See: R. Solchanyk, op. cit., pp. 57-58; T. Kuzio, op. cit.; J. Lester, “Russian Political Attitude to Ukrainian Independence,” The Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, Vol. 10, No. 2, 1994, p. 219. Back to text
15 See: L.R. Budzhurova, “The Current Sociopolitical Situation of the Crimean Tatars,” The Harriman Review, Vol. 11, No. 1-2, 1998, p. 25. Back to text
16 S. Stewart, op. cit., p. 23. Back to text
17 This section is based on the data gathered during the fieldwork carried out in the Crimea in December 2001 and April 2002. In-depth interviews were carried out and the views of Russians and Ukrains together with the Crimean Tatars were considered. Back to text
18 According to the old Slav tradition, it signifies respect for the guest. For more detail, see: N. Hablemitoğlu, Kırım’da Türk Soykırımı, IQ Kültür Sanat Yayıncılık, İstanbul, 2002, p. 75. Back to text
19 See: J. Jaworsky, “Crimea’s Importance to Ukraine and its Future Security,” in: Crimea: Dynamics, Challenges, and Prospects, ed. by M. Drohobycky, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., USA, 1995, p. 136. Back to text
20 Ibid., pp. 135-136. Back to text
21 See: R. Wolczuk, Ukraine’s Foreign and Security Policy 1991-2000, London and New York, 2003, p. 132. Back to text
22 Ibid., pp. 29, 30; D. Bazoğlu Sezer, “Balance of Power in the Black Sea in the Post-Cold War Era: Russia, Turkey and Ukraine,” in: Crimea: Dynamics, Challenges, and Prospects, p. 162. Back to text
23 See: S.W. Garnett, “U.S. National-Security Interests in Crimea,” in: Crimea: Dynamics, Challenges, and Prospects, pp. 198-199. Back to text
24 See: K. Özcan, Vatana Dönüş: Kırım Türklerinin Sürgünü ve Milli Mücadele Hareketi 1944-1991, Tarih ve Tabiat Vakfı, İstanbul, 2002, p. 212. Back to text
25 See: B.G. Williams, op. cit., p. 451. Back to text
26 See: B.G. Williams, op. cit., pp. 450-451; E. Payin, “Population Transfer: The Crimean Tatars Return Home,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1992, p. 33. Back to text
27 See: L.R. Budzhurova, op. cit., p. 21; S. Burney, “Identity, Ethnicity, and Ethnogenesis: The Reintegration of Formerly Deported Crimean Tatars,” The Harriman Review, Vol. 13, No. 4, 2002, p. 10. Back to text
28 See: O. Deychakiwsky, op. cit., p. 2. Back to text
29 See: L.R. Budzhurova, op. cit., p. 25. Back to text
30 See: T. Kuzio, op. cit., p. 26. Back to text
31 These quotations are from the fieldwork data mentioned above. Back to text
32 See: J. Dawson, op. cit., p. 442. Back to text
33 Quoted from: T. Kuzio, op. cit. Back to text
34 See: L.R. Budzhurova, op. cit., p. 24. Back to text
35 Interview with Nadir Bekirov, December 2001, Akmescit; see also: B.G. Williams, op. cit., p. 445. Back to text
36 See: L.R. Budzhurova, op. cit., p. 26. Back to text
37 See: T. Kuzio, op. cit., p. 6. Back to text