RESOLUTION of the Parliament of Ukraine

On holding the parliamentary hearings on  the legislative regulation and realization of a State policy on  ensuring the rights of the Crimean Tatar People and national minorities who have been deported and now voluntarily return to Ukraine



Problems of repatriation, settlement and restoration of the rights of Crimean Tatar people in Ukraine.

(brief review of Center of Information and Documentation of Crimean Tatars)

Prehistory of the question.

Crimean Tatars are indigenous people of Crimea. The process of ethnogeny of Crimean Tatar people, as well as any other ethnos of the present, is extremely complicated. During the centuries, Crimea due to the favorable geographical location played the important role in history of many peoples of West and East, North and South. Crimea was within peculiar corridor, located to the north of the Black sea, by which from Asia to Europe moved huge migratory flows…


The Constitutional Process in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in the Context of Interethnic Relations and Conflict Settlement

by Natalya Belitser, Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, Kyiv, Ukraine

On 21 October, 1998, the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC) adopted the Constitution  of the ARC which was then approved by the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine on 23 December, 1998. It was signed almost immediately by the President of Ukraine, and entered into force on 12 January, 1999…


Repatriation and integration of the Tatars of Crimea

Doc. 8655

18 February 2000 Report  Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography Rapporteur: Lord Ponsonby, United Kingdom, Socialist Group


The Crimean Tatars are a Turkic people who inhabited the Crimean peninsula, now part of Ukraine, for very many centuries. In the 1440s they established their own Khanate and remained an important power in Eastern Europe until 1783, when Crimea was annexed to Russia…


International Renaissance Foundation - Contribution into Building Democratic, Tolerant Society in Crimea

Yuriy Buznytsky, Co-head of Program "Integration…" Supervisory Board

There is no doubt that one of the most successful programs of the International Renaissance Foundation in the area of building open, multiethnic, conflict-free society is the Program “Integration of the Formerly Deported Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks, Germans into Ukrainian Community.”…



Petr Garchev, Doctor of historical sciences Professor of Simferopol State University.

The Ukrainian socialist parties, the Central Council, and its chairman -the prominent scientist and politician, Mikhaylo Grushevskii, at the beginning of July 1917, obtained from the Provisional Government the revival of Ukrainian statehood in the form of political autonomy within the composition of democratic Russia….



Serhii Latshenko, «Independence», ¹ 388 (15208), December 29, 1999

Some ten years ago, for an average Ukrainian the word "Crimea" associated with the sea, sun, beaches, picturesque nature, orchards and vineyards.  That is to say, it produced unambiguously positive associations.  Time has changed this perception. Currently, at the threshold of the third millennium, the Crimea is perceived differently, without euphoria.  The most beautiful peninsula ("Medal on bosom of the planet,"  as the Crimean Tatars like to say) has become a source of anxieties: too many problems have arisen at once after Ukraine acquired independence.



Yuri Polkanov, Member of the Academy  Technical sciences of Ukraine

The silent witnesses of the past of the Crimean Karaites (Karai) are monuments of their material culture, above all temples named kenasa.  For example, near the Golden Gate in Kiev one can see a remarkable dome building created by architect Gorodetsky (today, it is called the Actors’ House). There are well-preserved kenasas in Sevastopol, Kharkiv, Berdyansk, Yevpatoria and Bakhchesaray, as well as in the ancient Karai metropolis, the city-fortress Dzhuft Kale (Twin Fortress).  In the past, there were such temples in Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Yalta, Feodosia and elsewhere.  Until recently one could find them in Lutsk and Galich.







of the Parliament of Ukraine

On holding the parliamentary hearings on  the legislative regulation and realization of a State policy on  ensuring the rights of the Crimean Tatar People and national minorities who have been deported and now voluntarily return to Ukraine

The Parliament of Ukraine decrees to:

1. Hold the parliamentary hearings at 16.00, on 5 April 2000, in sitting of the Parliament of Ukraine, on:


“The legislative regulation and realization of a State policy on ensuring the rights of the Crimean Tatar People and national minorities who have been deported and now voluntarily return to Ukraine”

2. The Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations jointly with representatives of Central and local bodies of executive power, Supreme Council and Cabinet of Ministers of Autonomous Republic of Crimea, including the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar People and public organizations representing national minorities to take the necessary measures for organizing the hearings.

3. Address to the Prime Minister of Ukraine with a proposal to appoint his deputy Mykola Julynsky as the main rapporteur from the government at the parliamentary hearings.

4. National radio broadcasting with press - service of Secretariat of the Parliament of Ukraine to provide the direct translation of the whole hearings.



Chairman of

the Parliament of Ukraine                                                             I. PLUTSCH



On 2 March 2000

¹ 1532-III








Problems of repatriation, settlement and restoration of the rights of Crimean Tatar people in Ukraine.

(brief review of Center of Information and Documentation of Crimean Tatars)


Prehistory of the question.

Crimean Tatars are indigenous people of Crimea. The process of ethnogeny of Crimean Tatar people, as well as any other ethnos of the present, is extremely complicated. During the centuries, Crimea due to the favourable geographical location played the important role in history of many peoples of West and East, North and South. Crimea was within peculiar corridor, located to the north of the Black sea, by which from Asia to Europe moved huge migratory flows. Some part of these human waves from time to time settled in Crimea, mixing with those who lived on the peninsula. In mixture of different cultures and languages had been formed the Crimean Tatar ethnos, which subsequently established one of the powerful states in the history of Europe - The Crimean Khanate.

Most historians agree that in the ethnogeny of Crimean Tatar people participated descendants of ancient ethnically inhomogeneous tribes, inhabited on the Crimean peninsula during different periods: Kimmers, Tavrs, Skiffes, Alans, Gotts, Gunns, Khazars, Genuees, Turks, Nogays. During the Soviet regime, the official historiography encouraged the circulation of works only those historians, who, ignoring the scientific facts, considered the appearance of Crimean Tatars in Crimea to the XIII century. Such point of view served as one of the Soviet regime's grounds for refusal to Crimean Tatars back from their deportation places to the Motherland.

Crimean Tatar language belongs to the group of Turkic languages. Crimean Tatars are Muslims.

Formed in 1433 Crimean Khanate existed till 1783, when the Russian empire annexed the territory of Crimea. The Russian empire's frank policy of colonization towards indigenous people of Crimea resulted during next years to mass migration of Crimean Tatars from Crimea, at the same time, the compulsory expropriation of lands caused to impetuous decline of economic independence of remained Crimean Tatars.

In 1917, during break-up of the Russian empire, Crimean Tatars conducted the National Congress - Kurultay, where elected their own government and proclaimed the intention to unite with political organizations of other national communities of Crimea with purpose to create a democratic society on the peninsula. The establishment of a communist dictatorship did not let to realize the plans, because of the leaders of the Crimean Tatar government, and also other democratic organizations of Crimea have been executed. In 1920, the Soviet regime was established in Crimea, in first years of which communists had to consider the aspiration of the Crimean Tatar people for freedom. In October 1921, they gave a status of autonomy to Crimea. However, already, since 1926, they started intentional repressions against Crimean Tatars. Thus, in the beginning of the 1930-th, they announced the dozens thousands of Crimean Tatars as class enemies and deported to Ural, as well physically executed the Crimean Tatar intelligence from the middle of the 1930-th to the beginning of the 1940-th years.

In May 1944, the whole Crimean Tatar people was subjected to violent deportation from the historical Motherland. Soviet government used an unjust accusation of Crimean Tatar people in collaboration with German authorities during the Second World War as a formal occasion to justify its criminal actions. While the dozens thousands men - Crimean Tatars consisting of Soviet troops were fighting against fascists, their families, close and natives by the Stalin's order under an escort of NKVD forces were deported from Crimea. The eviction of the people was accompanied by illegal expropriation of a personal property, houses, and lands. In 1945, the Crimean autonomy was abolished and Crimea again has become a region. During several years, after the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people, they renamed all towns and villages, and demolished completely all Muslim cemeteries in Crimea.

In first years of a deportation, more than 46% Crimean Tatars were dead because of starvation, illnesses and mockeries, mainly in Uzbekistan and other regions of Central Asia, places of deportation. Up to 1956, military commandants and law acts regulated the living conditions of Crimean Tatars in places of special settlements. Some of the rules laid down in places of special settlements, were identical to fascist ones in Jewish ghetto. Thus, every Crimean Tatar was obliged to pass a personal registration in commandant's office monthly, for visiting other settlements, including the natives' funeral, the special sanction of military authorities was required as well. They punished for departing from the specified rules by 25 years of penal servitude works.

The struggle of the Crimean Tatar people for repatriation to Motherland and restoration of the rights continued up to collapse of USSR. Being one of the most mass national movements on territory of former USSR, the Crimean Tatar national movement was closely connected with general dissidents' movement for human rights in former USSR, actively acted against suppression of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet regime in 1968, a military aggression of USSR against Afghanistan. Simultaneously, the people of other nationalities - Ukrainians, Russians, Jews made a significant contribution to protection of the rights of Crimean Tatar people. The Soviet government pursued severely the activists of Crimean Tatar national movement – the hundreds of Crimean Tatars were thrown to the Soviet prisons, dozens were executed.

The mass repatriation of the Crimean Tatar people to the Motherland became possible at the end of the 1980-th, during liberalization of a political regime in USSR. However, despite of the declarations, the state bodies of former USSR in every possible way limited an opportunity of repatriation of the people and tried to come to nothing more than half-measures, including allocation of lands for housing construction at the repatriates’ expense. Simultaneously, they began to practice a wide allocation of lands for inhabitants in Crimea. Such behaviour of the authorities, on the one hand, only greatly increased a number of returnees (effect of the “closing doors"), and on the other hand - forced them to occupy without permission free lands for housing construction. The communist party machine existing in that period in Crimea intensively continued a purposeful anti-Tatar propagation among the inhabitants of Crimea. Just this reason, in 1989-1991 caused to a number of pogroms of new Crimean Tatars' settlements in Crimea, which were organized by the Crimean authorities with attraction of civilians. Only after strengthening of new authorities’ positions of independent Ukraine in Crimea (after 1994), the Crimean authorities made more rarely the open anti-Tatar statements.

At the same time, ruling communist political elite in Crimea, actively exploited a separative moods of ethnic Russians, constituting more than 60% of Crimea population, has achieved from Kiev giving to the Crimean oblast the status of autonomy. The Crimean authorities actively used and using new powers for restriction of opportunities for political, social, economic and cultural integration of Crimean Tatars coming back.

Situation on repatriation of Crimean Tatars

The question of national integrity of Crimean Tatar ethnos. According to different estimations of a number of Crimean Tatars, living on territory of former USSR and wishing to come back to the historical Motherland, constituting about 450-500 thousands persons. About 260,000 Crimean Tatars could return to Crimea.

The settlement’s issues. By 01.01.99, 128,638 of Crimean Tatars came back to Crimea have no dwelling.

Out of 136.623 men of able-bodied age - 71.379 Crimean Tatars are unemployed.

The most Crimean Tatar returnees settle about in 300 new settlements. The supplying of Crimean Tatar settlements with the electricity (electric systems) is 75%, and water supply (waterpipe) - 27%. Practically, there are no roads with a firm covering in these settlements, no schools and medical institutions. The lack of elementary conditions of life in Crimean Tatars’ settlements resulted to sharp growth of sickness rate and death rate among repatriates. At the same time for realization of works on a construction necessary electric systems and waterpipes in settlements of Crimean Tatars is required as a minimum 60 million gryvnas (about 12 million US dollars).

Financing of Crimean Tatars' settlement. The settlement of Crimean Tatars coming back from places of deportation is carried out at the expense of own repatriates' efforts and with assistance of government of Ukraine. All other states - members of CIS, from which territories come back Crimean Tatars, self-removed from participation in the process of repatriation of Crimean Tatars. The financing of Crimean Tatars' settlement from the state budget for 1996-1999 years is characterized by the following figures: 1996 - 8,1 million gryvnas, 1997 - 12,8 million gryvnas, 1998 - 8,29 million gryvnas, 1999 -13,5 million gryvnas.

The solidary help of the international intergovernmental and NGOs for ten years of returning constituted about 10 millions dollars.

Problems of a cultural revival. During 45 years, Crimean Tatars were deprived the right to teach children in the native language, to develop other institutes of national culture. Thus, a revival begins practically with deportation mark in many cases. In this connection, the opening of schools with Crimean Tatar language of teaching is simultaneously required a writing and edition of the textbooks in Crimean Tatar language (which were not published for 50 years!), training of the teachers of Crimean Tatar language. Currently, there are only 6 schools with Crimean Tatar language of teaching in Crimea. The degree of russification of Crimean Tatars gains the precarious scales.

Ten years ago, Crimean Tatars revived the music-drama national theatre in Simferopol. The material base of Crimean Tatar theatre continues to remain in extremely distress.

Only two newspapers in Crimean Tatar language are issued in Crimea, which are published weekly by the small circulations. Total volume of a broadcast television in Crimean Tatar language constitutes one hour 15 minutes weekly.

The legal issue of the process of repatriation and restoration of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people.

This issue is one of the most urgent and simultaneously unsolved aspects of Crimean Tatars problem. Unfortunately, up to now no one law was accepted yet, which would regulate legal issues connected with the process of repatriation and restoration of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people. The lack of legislative base reduces an efficiency of Ukrainian government's efforts in solution of the practical questions of settlement, and also creates the additional problems in economic, legal and political integration of Crimean Tatars to the Ukrainian society. The most urgent question is a Crimean Tatars' representation in representative and executive bodies of government in Autonomous Republic of Crimea. The importance of the solution of the specified problems for Crimean Tatars is obvious, because for period of forcible retaining in deportation places, the cardinal demographic and ethnic changes took place in Crimea. The majority of the non-Tatar population of Crimea has still anti-Crimean Tatar stereotypes. Thus, the elective bodies of local authority do not support the many actual questions of a development for Crimean Tatars. During forming of the representative bodies of the Crimean autonomy, the representatives of Crimean Tatars practically have no chances practically to be elected to these bodies by usual system of election, because the authorities intentionally settled Crimean Tatars coming back, that they could not have a numerical superiority in any region of Crimea in comparison with other part of population. So, in Supreme Council of autonomy elected by majority system among 100 deputies only one is ethnic Crimean Tatar. However his election become possible only because he claimed himself as "communist, who has no any national interests", and was supported by non-Tatar electorate.

The representatives of the ethnic majority boycott any proposals of Crimean Tatars, directed to a creation of the legal mechanisms ensuring the real representation of the Crimean Tatar people in bodies of government in Crimea. Thus, the well thought-out policy of non-admission of Crimean Tatars to bodies of government of autonomy equally with other ethnic communities of Crimea, contributes to self-isolation of Crimean Tatars, increasing a growth of estrangement between the peoples and their opposition. The complex of the acts directed as on restoration of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people, as a consistency of the rights and interests of all people living in Crimea approved by Ukraine, may and must become as the solution. Thus, the good political will and desires of the members of parliament of Ukraine are extremely important at this stage. Currently, the committees of Supreme Council of Ukraine consider the bill "On the status of the Crimean Tatar people in Ukraine", which should be considered by parliament till summer of 2000. However, already now one can predict the negative attitude of the left fractions to mentioned bill and, first of all, on the part of Communist fraction. At the same time, the failure of this bill can be a last drop in a thicket of patience of Crimean Tatars and radicalize significantly their actions.

The lack of the fundamental laws on restoration of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people creates the new problems, which could be avoided. These problems appear in citizenship, pursuing land reform, privatization of state property and other spheres. At the same time, they did not determine the legal forms, mechanisms and terms of compensation of the material damaging as to the whole Crimean Tatar people, as to everyone, who was subjected to deportation or heirs. One should to notice, that for a deportation from Crimea, more than 80 thousand houses of Crimean Tatars were illegally withdrawn. A lot of the houses was kept, but were given to other people by state. It is clear, that these people cannot and are not to be responsible for criminal actions of state bodies of former USSR, but should to accept these nuances during the preparation of the bills.

Difficulties of dialogue.

The relationship of the Crimean Tatar people with official bodies of the government is characterized ambiguously at different stages of a development of independent Ukraine. However, the main thing is the desire of the state to assist to repatriation and settlement of Crimean Tatars on the native lands and practical steps of the government in this direction. Other issue – is a discussion on legal status of the Crimean Tatar people in Ukraine. This question has very different approaches of Ukrainian political elite - from desire to assimilate totally coming back Crimean Tatars to a support of the idea of the national-territorial status of the Crimean autonomy in structure of Ukraine as the form of self-determination of the Crimean Tatar people.

From our point of view, the unwillingness of state bodies to recognize de jure the traditional elective national institutes of the Crimean Tatar people – Kurultay, which forming Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people as representative bodies of the indigenous people of Crimea in the relations with state bodies of Ukraine, prevented and prevents to reproach the positions in searches of a optimal decisions for all parties in very polyhedral problem of repatriation, settlement and restoration of the rights of the whole people. Until the state will not create such conditions and legal mechanisms of relationship with Crimean Tatar people, which will ensure preservation and development of its original culture, language, traditions and religion in structure of the Ukrainian state.

It is necessary to note especially, that the more fruitful and consecutive relations of state bodies of Ukraine with Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people relating to the President of Ukraine and structures of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. At the same time, the bodies of representative authority of the Crimean autonomy demonstrate especially negative perception of national institutes of the Crimean Tatar people as the partners for mutual work. In Supreme Council of Ukraine as the opponents of restoration of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people act openly the fractions of the left parties, especially the People’s deputies - members of Communist party of Ukraine.

The right and right-center fractions of the Supreme Council of Ukraine going to fruitful dialogue with Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people.


                Paper presented to the CREES workshop supported by the ESRC funded Project “Fuzzy Statehood” and European Integration in Central and Eastern Europe (ref. L213252001), the University of Birmingham, 10 March 2000.




The Constitutional Process in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in the Context of Interethnic Relations and Conflict Settlement

by Natalya Belitser, Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, Kyiv, Ukraine


On 21 October, 1998, the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC) adopted the Constitution  of the ARC which was then approved by the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine on 23 December, 1998. It was signed almost immediately by the President of Ukraine, and entered into force on 12 January, 1999. The version of the Constitution  eventually passed by the Verkhovna Rada was the fifth, this time successful attempt to adopt the Main Law of the ARC. This event seemingly terminated a drawn-out crisis that characterized relations between the Ukrainian central authorities and those of the ARC. But, as will be seen later on, this event neither resolved the power struggle between Kyiv and Simferopol nor did it promote more stability or interethnic accord in the peninsula. As Inci Bowman, the Executive Secretary  of the International Committee for Crimea stated in her 20 January, 2000, letter to the Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer, “the current political and social conditions in Crimea are not conducive to maintaining a pluralistic and democratic society where the cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of ethnic groups is respected.” But the main problem of interethnic relations in Crimea Bowman defines as follows: “The Autonomous Republic of Crimea remains a land where Crimean Tatars, who consider themselves indigenous people, are discriminated against not only by the Slavic population, most of whom settled there within the last 50 years, but by local authorities as well.” [i]

A Brief History of the Crimean Separatism

To have a deeper insight into the causes and circumstances of the current Crimean crisis, and the means employed in attempts to resolve it, it is necessary to briefly delve into the history of the post-W.W.II and post-soviet Crimea. In particular, it should be recalled that Crimea had been stripped of its autonomous status on 30 June, 1945, by the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, and that in June 1946, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic passed a law  giving the peninsula the status of an ordinary oblast of the RSFSR. Over the following years, this region, which had been degraded and devastated by the forceful deportation of its indigenous population during the W.W.II, turned into a dreadful economic failure that the newly arrived Russian settlers were unable to overcome. Despite the widespread view that in 1954, Crimea was just “presented” to Ukraine by Nikita Khrustchev to commemorate the three hundredth anniversary of Ukraine’s union with Russia[ii], this very failure was the main reason why Crimea was moved from Russian to Ukrainian jurisdiction. It was believed that the situation could be alleviated if the peninsula was administered by that entity with  which it had closer economic, geographical, and cultural links.

This decision was issued by  the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet and then approved unanimously by a law passed by the USSR SS on 26 April, 1954. It is important to stress that throughout the following period until late 80-s, when the Crimean peninsula still held a status of an oblast of the UkrSSR, this status had never proven contentious either within Crimea, Ukraine, or the USSR, or beyond.

During the turbulent perestroika period, Crimea  proved to be a stronghold of Communist party diehards for several reasons. These included the composition of its population which consisted mainly of the post-W.W.II settlers, principally ethnic Russians and so-called Russian-speaking people with generous share of party, military and KGB pensioners. Strong links between the local authorities and central (Moscow) government and nomenklatura, and the military ambitions of the Black Sea Fleet added to the potential separatist tensions. No organized pro-Ukrainian movement was then yet visible, and the only political and social force emerging as an anti-regime opposition were the Crimean Tatars who had just begun  large-scale repatriation from exile, mainly from Central Asia. This nation, subjected to genocidal deportation in 1944 under the allegations of collaboration with the Nazis, was the last of the repressed peoples and nationalities of the USSR allowed to return to their homeland, and only in the very late stages of perestroika.

Therefore, political and social unrest relating to the so-called constitutional process in Crimea in fact began with the first recognizable signs of Ukrainian quest for independence. From the very beginning, all claims, declared intentions  and actual events accompanying this process were characterized not so much by legal considerations as by some rather highly politicized manipulations and maneuvers by the actors involved. [iii]

The story of Crimean separatism in Ukraine could thus be perceived as beginning in September  1990, when the Soviet of People’s Deputies of Crimean oblast called for the rescinding of the decree and corresponding law on the abolition of the Crimean ASSR, and demanded the restoration of autonomy to the peninsula. This claim was supported by the referendum held in Crimea on 20 January, 1991, in which 93,3 percent of the participants voted for the restoration of the Crimean ASSR not only as  a subject of the USSR, but also  as “a party to the Union Treaty”, i.e., a sovereign subject of the “renewed” and ”reformed” USSR proposed by the first and only Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. After much heated debates and, perhaps, keeping in mind the possible bloody and violent consequences of rejecting demands similar to those made in other parts of the ailing Soviet Union, on 12 February, 1991, the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet adopted a law providing autonomous status for Crimea within the borders of Ukraine. That this autonomy would have nothing to do with restoring the pre-war situation, when the then Crimean ASSR could be considered  as a de-facto Crimean Tatars’ autonomy, had never been raised at the official level by anybody but the Crimean Tatars themselves.

Following the failed August 1991 coup which precipitated the collapse of the USSR, and resulted in Ukrainian independence, all of the issues relating to Crimea’s legal status, the mass repatriation of Crimean Tatars and other ethnic groups deported from Crimea, and the generally disquieting state of interethnic relations on the peninsula became not only a deep problem for the fledgling independent Ukrainian state, but to a large extent also a significant factor in Ukrainian-Russian interstate relations.

The principal issue fought over by different political forces has been the sovereignty of (or over) Crimea. Three main options were debated. The first one argued for the creation of an independent Crimean Republic. [iv]  The second option suggested a fully-fledged autonomy within Ukraine (e.g., according to the Constitution of the Crimean Republic of 6 May, 1992). The third and most radical scenario was propounded by pro-Russian forces who exerted pressure by threatening Crimean secession from Ukraine and annexation to Russia. [v] The separatist trends seemed rather successful during the first half of 90-s. An anti-Ukrainian mood spread among the majority of the Crimean population, while a hesitant and feeble policy meant that the central authorities lagged behind the events, and no comprehensive strategy for solving the whole complex of Crimean problems had been elaborated.

The initial responses to Crimean crisis on the part of the world community revealed its principal preoccupation to be the rights and interests of the Russian majority, because of the obvious fears of a “Balkanization” of the Crimea problem.

As a result of the above mentioned trends, the first versions of the Crimean Constitution heavily exploited the notion of a “Crimean people” as being the subject of the right to self-determination, including the right to determine political future of the territory it occupied (and providing, in such a way, every advantage to the Russian and Russian-speaking majority of residents of the peninsula). The Russian language had to be made dominant, and any attempts - no matter how mild or irresolute - to introduce the state (Ukrainian) language as well as other measures perceived to be aiming at “Ukrainization” of Crimea, were readily resisted “from below”. At that time, even those provisions declared as complying with Kyiv’s requirement to bring Crimea’s Constitution and laws in line with those of Ukraine, still defined Crimea as “a law-governed, democratic and secular state... which builds its relations with Ukraine on mutually coordinated acts and agreements”. [vi]

Hostility to Ukraine reached its peak in 1993 at a time of a hyperinflation and deep economic crisis, that in Ukraine seemed much more severe than in Russia. Manipulating this situation, the Crimean parliament adopted a number of resolutions and laws strengthening its autonomy, including the creation of a Crimean presidency, and scheduled presidential elections for January 1994. At the same time, following acts of civil disobedience organized by the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people, and its prolonged and complex negotiations with Crimean deputies, the Crimean Supreme Council agreed to grant Crimean Tatars a quota of 14 seats in the republican legislature. This decision also brought advantages to other groups of returnees - the formerly deported Armenians, Bulgarians, Germans and Greeks - who practically without any efforts or struggle on their own behalf were also guaranteed representation in the peninsula’s legislature (one seat for each group). The main drawback of this compromise was that it was adopted for one term only,  as a provisional measure to support ethnic groups suffering from the consequences of deportation.

The presidential elections in Crimea did take place on 16 January, 1994. As a result of a broad dissatisfaction with Ukraine, the winner was Yuri Meshkov who had based his electoral  campaign on a platform of union with Russia. One of his first steps was a decree on a referendum on Crimean independence. Until the end of the year, there was a persistent turmoil between Kyiv and Simferopol. Both the Ukrainian parliament and President Leonid Kravchuk responded to Crimean laws and presidential decrees with counter-resolutions and statements denouncing those steps as contradicting the Ukrainian Constitution. Leonid Kuchma, President Kravchuk’s successor in July 1994, did not come up to expectations of his Crimean electorate, and continued to veto those Crimean laws that violated Ukrainian legislation.

This situation resembled a legal vicious circle. At the same time, the very indecisiveness of the national authorities and their unwillingness to take drastic measures or use military force to curb separatist passions in Crimea meant that violent clashes were avoided and the necessary time for finding more acceptable solutions was gained.  Thus, engagement in numerous negotiations between central and Crimean authorities over the status of Crimea and the separation of powers between Kyiv and Simferopol obviously helped both sides to refrain from open violence and to pacify their most aggressive elements who were demanding prompt and decisive measures to end the crisis.  Meanwhile, Meshkov’s popularity had been rapidly declining as a result of his inability either to improve the economic situation or to involve Russia decisively in support of the secessionist movement.  The power struggle between the executive and legislative branches in Crimea loosened Meshkov’s grip further still.  Moreover, with the start of the Russian military operation in Chechnia in December 1994, pro-Russian sentiments among the Crimean population clearly diminished. Ordinary people grew much more cautious and restrained in their rhetoric, perhaps because that time, they were able to appreciate possibly the greatest advantage of Ukrainian citizenship: not being sent to fight in someone else’s land, with a big chance to be killed or become a killer.

These changes in the Crimean political environment were felt in March 1995 when the Verhovna Rada suddenly took decisive steps to integrate the ARC into the legal space of Ukraine. The Law of Ukraine on the Status of Crimea, adopted on 17 March, 1995, abolished not only the Crimean Constitution of 1992 and all laws and decrees contradicting those of Ukraine, but also the very office of Crimean Presidency.  The much feared mass protests in Crimea failed to occur, and the reaction from Moscow was relatively mild. The steps taken by Kyiv to draw Crimea and the City of Sevastopol closer into the Ukrainian legal space rebounded negatively on the negotiation of the Russia-Ukraine basic treaty, since some factions of the Russian State Duma refused to sign it until more concessions, particularly over the status of Sevastopol - “a city of Russian glory” - were made. [vii]  But this obstacle was removed in 1997, when this treaty was ratified by both sides, together with the agreement on the division of the Black Sea fleet and its bases.

Though these events represented a rare example of a peaceful curbing of rebellious separatism in a post-Soviet state, the principal achievement of the Crimean Tatars and the other formerly deported ethnic groups - namely, their guaranteed representation in the republican legislature - was lost together with all of the other legal points that were not to be found in Ukrainian national legislation.

This loss occurred despite the fact that a growing proportion of Crimean Tatar returnees added a new element to the Ukrainian-Russian struggle over Crimea by actually supporting Ukrainian state integrity, and thereby becoming a factor that all the conflicting sides, as well as international bodies and organizations, were compelled to reckon with.

The claims of the Crimean Tatars in the documents adopted at the sessions of Kurultayi (National Assembly) or between the sessions, by the Mejlis (the main representative body of the Crimean Tatar people elected by the Kurultayi), underwent a certain transformation in the period following the first session of the Second Kurultayi in June 1991. [viii] Although the Declaration on the National Sovereignty of the Crimean Tatar People, adopted in June 1991, is still being used by some politicians as a tool of anti-Crimean Tatar propaganda, it is crucial to remember that all of this occurred when the Soviet Union still existed.  After its collapse, the Crimean Tatars’ political elite demonstrated a rare political wisdom and pragmatism by never supporting any claims threatening the integrity of Ukraine or the inviolability of its borders, and by looking for legal ways to establish their right for internal national self-determination within Ukraine. These circumstances also explain the strong Crimean Tatar drive to get an official status as an indigenous people rather than one of the national minorities of Ukraine. This claim has been based on international documents such as the ILO Convention N 169, and the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (which is still under consideration by the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations and has not yet been presented to the General Assembly).  The Crimean Tatars believe that gaining indigenous people status, together with Ukraine’s joining the ILO Convention N 169, would assist them in their quest to secure, for example, a guaranteed proportional representation, at least commensurate with their population, in legislative and executive bodies at all levels, the official recognition of the Mejlis as the main representative body of Crimean Tatar people, and the genuine protection of their cultural, educational, linguistic, and religious traditions. [ix]

Meanwhile, new versions of the Crimean Constitution had been prepared, but none of them regarded the need to re-establish the rights of the indigenous population of Crimea as an issue. The only concession, for instance, in the version adopted by the Crimean parliament on 21 September, 1995, recognized the co-existence on the territory of the Crimean Republic of three state languages: Ukrainian, Russian, and Crimean Tatar (though only Russian was identified as an “official” language to be used in offices). The same provisions were carried over into the next draft of 1 November, 1995. These versions of the Crimean Constitution were then widely discussed between the working groups of the VR of the ARC and the VR of Ukraine created to reconcile the positions of the two sides. By the end of 1997, agreement was reached over the vast majority of the articles (only 22 articles of the overall 136 remained disputed). However, some key questions were still unresolved; among them Crimean internal citizenship, as well as references to “Crimean people” and ”Crimean statehood” in several draft articles.

It should be noted that at this stage, when the worst of the Crimean secessionist crisis of early 1990s had passed, and the immediate danger of violent clashes had been avoided, some international organizations and experts became more actively involved in the Kyiv-Simferopol negotiations and legal disputes. For example, OSCE offices were opened both in Kyiv and Simferopol at the end of 1994, although the results of their efforts to settle the Crimean crisis were not always regarded as successful.  In fact, a speech on 31 May, 1995, to Crimean deputies by the Swiss diplomat, Andreas Kohlschutter  (the then head of the OSCE mission to Ukraine), provided full support for only one, i.e. the Crimean, side of the conflict and charged “powerful radical forces in the Ukrainian parliament” with vicious intentions to “punish and discipline the Crimea, and to destroy Crimean autonomy.” [x] This intervention evoked many protests within Ukraine and was given sharply negative appraisal by some prominent independent international experts. [xi]  More fruitful turned out to be the activities of the OSCE Office of High Commissioner on National Minorities established in 1993. Its head, Max van der Stoel, has focused much personal attention to Crimean issues, particularly to the problems of repatriation and resettlement of Crimean Tatars, citizenship, and, also, to some provisions of the draft Crimean Constitution.

Thus, for example, when the draft Constitution of 21 September, 1995, that proposed Crimean citizenship was considered, he correctly recommended that there is no need to stipulate it in addition to Ukrainian citizenship. [xii] High Commissioner also commented on the delineation of powers between the Ukrainian national authorities and those of the Republic of Crimea as laid down in the law of Ukraine of 30 June 1992, [xiii] the division of property in Crimea, and a special status for Sevastopol. Recommendations were also given that the resettlement of the Crimean Tatars should be decided in collaboration with their representatives appointed by Mejlis and, most important, “to continue the present quota system (for Crimean Tatars) as long as the present electoral law of Crimea remains in effect... A continuation of the quota system would not be justified if an electoral system will come into being which would give them a near certainty of having a representation broadly commensurate to their percentage of the total population of Crimea.” [xiv] Similar recommendations concerning, inter alia, Mejlis participation in the nomination of candidates for elected bodies and a proportional representation of Crimean Tatars in the ARC parliament, were also made in subsequent letters dated 19 March and 5 April 1996. [xv]

It should be noted that at that time Ukrainian governmental officials objected to any special measures singling out Crimean Tatars from among the other returnees, and intended to solve the whole complex of repatriation problems on the basis of the criterion that they all belonged to the category of formerly deported people rather than to a specific ethnic group. For example, Hennady Udovenko, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, in his letter to Max van der Stoel expressed his belief  that adopting such a course “may create an undesirable precedent in the aspect of development of the constitutional system in Ukraine.” [xvi]

Thus, Crimean Tatars who by that time had developed a strong sense of self-identification as a coherent people or nation, were equated with all other returnees to Crimea, belonging to ethnicities (namely, Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Germans) that already had their own firmly established kinstates. The same status - of them being just one of among many national minorities of Ukraine - was earlier stipulated for the Crimean Tatars by the Ukrainian law on  national minorities adopted on 25 July 1992. All claims, draft proposals for the Crimean Constitutions suggested by Mejlis and later, by the Kurultayi faction of the Crimean parliament, and statements and resolutions of the Mejlis and the Kurultayi were neglected. [xvii]

This awkward situation subsequently changed somewhat, especially after the new Constitution of Ukraine was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on 28 June, 1996. For the first time, the term “indigenous peoples” has been introduced  into Ukrainian legal terminology. Thus, Article 11 stipulates that “The State shall facilitate the consolidation and development of the... ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious attributes of all indigenous peoples and national minorities of Ukraine”. According to Article 92 p.3, the rights of indigenous peoples and national minorities are to be determined by Ukrainian  law, whereas Article 119 p.3 reads that programmes of national-cultural development of indigenous peoples and national minorities in areas of their compact residence must be supported by local state administrations. [xviii]

At the same time, the entire chapter of the Main Law of Ukraine dealing with the ARC bears no mention of indigenous peoples or any kind of specific provisions to protect their rights and/or ensure their sustainable development, referring only (among the prerogatives of the ARC) to “participating in the development and realisation of state programmes for the return of deported peoples”  (Article 138, p.9). Accommodating the concept of Crimean autonomy into the principles defining the state structure of Ukraine is also rather strange because Article 132  says that the territorial structure of Ukraine is based on the principles of the unity and integrity of the State’s territory, whereas Article 133 declares that “the administrative and territorial structure of Ukraine consists of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, provinces (oblasts), regions, cities, settlements, and villages”. The Ukrainian Constitution also states  that “The Autonomous Republic of Crimea is an inseparable constituent part of Ukraine and decides on the issues within its competence within the limits of authority determined by the Constitution of Ukraine” (Article 134). Article 135 in fact confirmed that the ARC has its own Constitution, adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC and approved by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine by no less than one-half of its constitutional composition.

Following the adoption of the Ukrainian Constitution and decrees of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, a joint working group was formed by the Ministry of Justice and the VR’s Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Rrelations, with the participation of the Law and Politics department of the Mejlis. Its aim was to draft legislation dealing with the indigenous peoples of Ukraine. In 1996-1997, a draft Concept of National Policy of Ukraine Relating to Indigenous Peoples, as well as a draft Law on the Status of Crimean Tatar People were developed  and subjected to international review. Some positive responses were received, and even Mr. Max van der Stoel who, quite understandably, would still prefer to solve the Crimean Tatars’ problems within the framework of the rights of national minorities, admitted that “When referring to international and Ukrainian legal instruments regarding national minorities which are applicable to indigenous peoples, I do not intend to suggest that no distinction can be made between national minorities and indigenous peoples. An important difference is, in my view, that in contrast to a national minority, an indigenous people does not have a kinstate”. [xix] This passage can be regarded as granting implicit support for Crimean Tatars’ claim concerning the uniqueness of their situation.  Unfortunately, neither draft prepared by the working group has yet been accepted by the VR of Ukraine for further consideration, and the high expectations raised by these developments seem to be gradually petering out.

And indeed, the worst predictions of the Crimean Tatars came true.  Despite all their protests, appeals  and statements, in February 1998 the heated debates over the electoral system in the Crimea and the functioning of its legislature concluded in two laws adopted by the Verkhovna Rada and signed by the President. One of them, “On the Elections to the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea”, stipulated that the Crimean Parliament, unlike the Parliament of Ukraine, [xx] would be elected under a purely majoritarian system. The second law, “On the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea”, stated that all the 100 deputies are elected on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage (without any mention of the national electoral districts, or quotas for either the Crimean Tatars, or other formerly deported groups, or national minorities).  Since the Crimean Tatars constituted a minority, though sometimes a substantial one, in all of the electoral districts, this decision practically stripped them of any chance to be represented in the Crimean legislature. Besides, their opportunities to vote, or run in the elections, were also sharply reduced because at that time (29 March, 1998), approximately 90000 Crimean Tatars had still to acquire Ukrainian citizenship. [xxi]

As has been anticipated, today approximately 270 000 Crimean Tatars, - an indigenous people of Crimea comprising approximately 12 percent of the the peninsula’s population - have not a single seat in the Crimean legislature.  The Communist, Lentul Bezaziyev, the only ethnic Crimean Tatar elected due to the overwhelming support of his party, can by no means be regarded as representing or acting on behalf of the Crimean Tatar community. [xxii]At the same time, the two leaders of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, - the Chairman, Mustafa Djemilev, and his First Deputy, Refat Chubarov - were elected to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Mustafa Djemilev - on the Rukh ticket, and Refat Chubarov in a single mandate district under the majoritarian system).  Although it was an important achievement that for the first time provided the Crimean Tatars with the possibility of continuing their struggle for the full restoration of their rights at the level of the national legislature, it was of little help in resolving the numerous accumulated problems at the local level.

The Adoption of the Crimean Constitution

Following the 1998 elections, the situation deteriorated even further,  especially  after Leonid Hrach, the leader of the Crimean Communists, became the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC. A skillful and experienced politician, Hrach  accomplished what his predecessors had failed to achieve. Under his personal guidance, the fifth version of the Crimean Constitution was prepared (without the participation of the Crimean Tatars) in such a way that after eight days after the failed attempt of 15 December, 1998, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine approved the Main Law of the ARC.  This occurred under the heavy prompting of the left-wing Speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko and other Left deputies who did not take into consideration the valid arguments of the deputies from the right-centre factions. The latter argued that though the most unacceptable notions like Crimean citizenship, Crimean statehood etc. had been eliminated, a number of articles still conflicted with the Ukrainian Constitution, also that the draft Constitution of the ARC did not take into account the specificity of the legal status of the Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people of the autonomy, in particular, did not provide them with guaranteed representation in the republican legislature. [xxiii] There is also considerable evidence that  parliamentary procedure was seriously violated.  For example, a “fatal” step was taken during the discussion by Rukh deputy Ivan Zayets, who proposed an amendment that in the case of a collision between the provisions of the Crimean and national Constitutions, the latter takes precedence.  The inclusion of this amendment (that Zayets later explained was more a question addressed to the chairman of the Crimean parliament) added some votes in favour even though the Ukrainian deputies had no right to introduce any changes into the text of the Constitution adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC, being able only to approve or disapprove it as a whole. [xxiv]

These legal and political uncertainties urged a number of Ukrainian deputies to apply to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine for a decision on whether the adopted Crimean Constitution complies with national legislation. The submission, signed by 50 M.P.s, had been accepted by the Court but its consideration was delayed initially by the forthcoming presidential elections and then under the pretext that more urgent issues were still unresolved. Today, it is still a pending case, and no date has been fixed for the review.

As regards the reaction of the Crimean ethnoses to the final version of the Crimean Constitution, only two of them, namely, the Russians and the Crimean Tatars, expressed a clear-cut position.  The former, represented by the Russian Community of the Crimea and the regional branch of the Slavic party, protested against it on the grounds that a “betrayal of Russians in Crimea” had occurred (referring in particular to Article 10, p.1 which stipulated that in parallel with the State (Ukrainian) language, the functioning, development, usage and protection of the Russian, Crimean Tatar, as well as the mother tongues of other nationalities, shall be protected in Crimea).  On 23 October, 1998, the Russian State Duma also issued an angry Statement “On the Affirmation by the Constitution of the ARC of the Ukrainian as the Only State Language on the Territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea”. Although in point 2 of the same Article 10 it was indicated that only Russian - as the language of the majority and that of the interethnic communication - can be used in all spheres of public life.  Therefore, it can be easily seen that by merely mentioning the State language to be recognized as such in Crimea a certain, if only declarative, concession had thus been made to Kyiv.  At the same time, nothing actually prevented Russian speakers from continuing to use their language, whereas the Crimean Tatar language was indeed relegated to the status of that of any other nationality in Crimea.   

No wonder, then, that there was a sharp, almost immediate reaction to this and other provisions (neither of which contained any special measures for restoring and securing the rights of the indigenous people of Crimea) of the draft Constitution adopted by the Crimean  VR on 21 October, 1998.  This issue was a major topic of the regional conference of the delegates to the Third Kurultayi, convened on 21 November, 1998.  The delegates appealed to the Ukrainian Parliament and President not to consider the Draft Constitution of the ARC until special laws and regulations on Crimean Tatar issues were adopted. [xxv] In his report to the conference, the Chairman Mustafa Djemilev emphasized that the Constitution provided Leonid Hrach with almost unrestricted powers, and aimed at turning the Crimean Tatars’ historic homeland into a Russian stronghold on the territory of Ukraine.  According to the Crimean Tatars’ leadership, the adoption of this version of the Constitution would not promote interethnic tolerance and mutual understanding among the peninsula’s population.  Similar concerns were repeatedly expressed by Refat Chubarov, Nadir Bekirov and other leaders of the Crimean Tatars. Moreover, recalling the last round of negotiations between Hrach and Ukrainian deputies preceding the final vote, Refat Chubarov stressed that “Hrach was ready to meet many demands and give his consent for changing a number of articles - except those proposals concerning the Crimean Tatars.” [xxvi]

Post-Adoption Events and Developments

The negative impact of the adopted Crimean Constitution for the Crimean Tatar community, as well as the general deterioration of the interethnic situation in the peninsula, soon became evident. As Bruce Pannier commented, “The adoption of the new Constitution seems to have sparked a new round of violence against Tatars”. [xxvii] During the night of January 15, 1999, the building of the Mejlis was attacked, and the office of its Chairman burned and completely destroyed. Prior to the attack, water and telephone services to the building had been cut, thus providing some evidence that the crime was premeditated.  Throughout 1999, several mosques were burned.  Also, graveyards, and a monument in Simferopol dedicated to the deportation were vandalized. Anti-Crimean Tatar (and more generally, anti-Muslim) propaganda has been resumed in the Crimean print and electronic media, being especially fanned by the events in Kosovo and, later, by the second Chechen war. These negative trends still seem to persist and the events of 11 January, 2000, may serve as evidence.

That day, three plain-clothes militia officers entered the Mejlis office and tried to confiscate the documents of the “Krym” Foundation located in the same building, the latter being accused of misappropriating public funds allocated for housing construction. 17 officers of the “Berkut” special militia unit then surrounded the building, and they left only after the intervention of Mustafa Djemilev.  The whole incident lasted only 15 minutes.  The next day, Gennadiy Moskal, the Chief of the Crimean militia forces, came to the Mejlis with apologies, admitted that his officers acted illegally and promised to conduct an investigation.  Nevertheless, this event certainly added to the rising confrontation and while being vigorously discussed on the Internet, was once even referred to as a “Stalinist type” action. [xxviii]

As regards the recent interethnic situation in Crimea and its coverage by the national and international media, it should be noted that there is a significant difference, not always recognized from the outside, in the attitude to the problems of the Crimean Tatars by Russians and Ukrainians, and in Crimea particularly.  The latter, in general, express much more sympathy with the plight of this long-suffering people and share something of a sense of “common fate”; that both the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar peoples have been victimized by the Russian and then the Soviet Empire.

Ukrainian NGOs and the local branches of national-democratic parties support the demands of the Crimean Tatar.  Close links have been established between some Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian NGOs for furthering effective collaboration. [xxix] As a result of the growing attention paid by the Ukrainian community of Crimea to Crimean Tatar problems, in 1998, an Ukrainian language Quarterly Bulletin “Crimean Tatar Issues” was established by the Crimean Independent Centre of Political Researchers and Journalists. It covers all of the most important events concerning the Crimean Tatars, publishes research studies, and translates into Ukrainian the documents issued by the Mejlis and Kurultayi. Regrettably, most of the pro-Ukrainian “shoots” of civil society in Crimea are still too weak to influence the political decision making process, or to influence events more favourably for the Crimean Tatars.  It should be admitted that Crimean Tatar NGOs are actually more advanced than their local Ukrainian counterparts, and often play a leading role in many joint initiatives.

In the context of Ukrainian-Crimean Tatar relations, it is especially interesting to note the mutual support of the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar communities on such a sensitive issue as linguistic rights and their implementation in the Crimea. Ukrainian public figures living in Crimea express, inter alia, their belief that the Crimean Tatar language should to be learned not only by Crimean Tatar pupils, but also by Ukrainian children. [xxx] Among the Russian majority of Crimea such understanding is  rare, although there are  striking exceptions such as Vladimir Polyakov, the principal of a secondary school who introduced, on his own initiative, courses in both Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar  in his Russian-language school. [xxxi] On the other hand, Crimean Tatars for whom studying Ukrainian is much more difficult  than it is for the Crimean Russians, generally express more positive attitude towards using Ukrainian. Moreover, one of the few local Ukrainian newspapers “Dumka” was initiated in 1999 in Bakhchesaray by the “Ukrainian House” NGO with a huge support from, and in close collaboration with the Bakhchesaray Regional Mejlis.

It would therefore be a mistake to generalize a notion of hostile behaviour on the part of the entire “Slavic population” of the peninsula as has been done, for example, by the CoE Rapporteur Lord Ponsonby, who stated that: “The local Slavic population displays a regrettable degree of xenophobia vis-a-vis returnees and at best, is disinterested in their plight”. [xxxii]

But it is important to be aware that despite the rather high level of  understanding and support achieved by the Crimean Tatar political elite and NGOs in their relations with national democratic forces, all the developments  following the adoption of the Crimean Constitution upset the precarious interethnic accord in the peninsula and resulted in the further disillusionment of the Crimean Tatars and their growing dissatisfaction with the positions and actions of not only the local, but also the national authorities. [xxxiii] Accordingly, the scale of their protests has been increasing.  This was clearly revealed by the protest march preceding the meeting of 18 May, 1999, commemorating the 55th anniversary of the deportation.  In an attempt to improve the situation, on May 18, 1999, the President of Ukraine signed the Decree “On the Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar People”, which, in compliance with Article 106, p. 28 of the Ukrainian Constitution, de facto legalized the Mejlis as a consultative-advisory body under the President. [xxxiv] But even this delayed compromise has failed to be fully implemented: the Council is still not functioning because of  the incompatibilities between the two sides over, in particular, a number of draft regulations determining the mechanisms of the Council’s interaction with the Office of the President and other authorities.

Apart from the disquieting events relating to the interethnic situation in Crimea, the consequences of the adopted Constitution have by no means had a positive impact on the general stability in the peninsula.  The enormous powers gained by Chairman Hrach,  particularly control over the appointment of local officials, soon led to a crisis in relations between the peninsula’s legislature and government.  The latter, headed by the pragmatic Sergiyi Kunitsyn, managed, for the first time in the history of the ARC, to achieve some positive economic changes. [xxxv] On 16 December, 1999, Mr. Kunitsyn appeared to have gained an upper hand by persuading the majority of Crimean deputies to vote for the dismissal of the VR’s Presidium that consisted wholly of Hrach’s stalwarts. [xxxvi] This has not yet occurred.  And the power struggle, so typical for the ARC, continues in an even more acute form than before. Both sides are trying to get support from their respective lobbying groups in Kyiv and appeal to the President who, in turn, prefers not to take any decisive steps, trying to demonstrate instead his impartiality.  The high degree of economic independence gained by the ARC at the expense of disavowing any overt pretensions over political independence, resulted also in increasing disputes between the central and Crimean authorities over, for example, such issues as the fate of all taxes collected on the territory of Crimea, and of the value-added tax in particular.

The turbulent national events of 1999-2000, and especially the continuing confrontation between the executive and legislative branches, and between the pro-presidential majority and the left minority within the parliament itself at the beginning of this year, further delayed the long-awaited parliamentary hearings on the “Legal Solutions to the Problems of the Crimean Tatar People”. Preparations for these hearings actually began in mid-1999. [xxxvii] The hearings were initially scheduled for September 1999.  They  were then rescheduled for December and again for the beginning of 2000. Until recently, taking into account the ongoing situation, neither parliament’s Committees nor other interested parties seemed to be ready to organize the hearings for at least a few more months. But on 2 March, the right-centrist parliamentary majority did vote for the hearings to take place on 5 April, 2000, and by the adopted resolution, the Mejlis was indicated as one of the bodies responsible for the preparation of the hearings. [xxxviii]

Therefore, today a great opportunity to implement a relatively “mild” solution to the problems of the Crimean Tatars through passage of a law granting them the special status of an indigenous people, seems re-appearing.  Meanwhile, as a result of the missed opportunity to do it timely, i.e., soon after the adoption of the Constitution of Ukraine in 1996, the demands of the Crimean Tatars have changed to the more radical claim of converting the ARC into a national Crimean Tatar autonomy within Ukraine.  This demand, until recently propounded only by more radical members of the Crimean Tatar community, is now shared by the vast majority of its political elite, as was confirmed by the last session of the Kurultayi held between 31 October - 2 November, 1999.  At the same time this claim is today perceived as not excessively extreme by at least some Ukrainian deputies and public figures. Several M.P.s of the Rukh and the Reforms-Centre factions, having visited the Kurultayi as invited guests, expressed their unconditional support for such a solution, and even some former presidential candidates indicated publicly that they would like the see a future Crimea as a Crimean Tatar Autonomy.  This issue is surfacing with an increasing frequency at roundtables and NGOs’ meetings examining interethnic relations in Ukraine, and the discussion occurs quite calmly without eliciting any “shock” or openly adverse reaction. These very facts may reflect a growing - albeit slow and painful - acceptance by Ukrainian society of such a prospect.  Only a few years ago, this would have been looked upon as a kind of “heresy”, a subject not even worthy of serious discussion.



Proceeding from the above account, it is possible to reach the conclusion that from the very beginning, the principal aim of the entire constitutional process in Crimea was not so much to find a proper legal solution that would take into consideration all of the historic, ethnic, and cultural specifics of this region and integrate them into the general texture of Ukrainian political and economic life, but rather to appease the pro-Russian majority there, to pacify its pronounced secessionist trends, and by doing so, to avoid more violent scenarios.  As a result, the Crimean peninsula has been  turned into something akin to a Russian national autonomy within Ukraine - a fact never officially recognized by the state authorities, but gradually becoming a matter of public debate.

The main problem of interethnic relations in Crimea and, actually, in Ukraine as a whole, remains that of the Crimean Tatars.   The Crimean Tatar community represents the most organized, easily mobilized political force in the ARC, and a further delay in the adoption of legislative and normative acts for securing the full restoration of their rights is fraught with the danger of a more radicalized movement.  This would result almost inevitably in a serious  ethno-political conflict which might develop into a crisis more severe than ever before.  In this respect, the eventual adoption of the Constitution of the ARC in December 1998 aggravated the situation instead of promoting its amelioration.

Having come through so many ordeals in their recent history, the Crimean Tatars have developed a strong sense of self-identification as a coherent nation with distinct ethno-cultural and religious traditions to be restored, secured and bequeathed to the next generations. Their claim to self-determination should properly be understood and acknowledged as stemming mainly from an acute (and to a certain extent quite justifiable) fear of losing this identity, if simply through a gradual and apparently “natural” assimilation into the Slavic majority of the peninsula. To relieve the resulting tensions, the self-identity of the Crimean Tatars must be fully recognized, fully respected and meet with a favourable response from both the national authorities and society as a whole.

It seems impossible to find successful solutions to the problems of the Crimean Tatars by continuing to regard them as just one of the national minorities of Ukraine, or on the basis of the observance of individual human rights alone. The collective rights of the Crimean Tatar people should be protected by means of a full development of those articles of the Ukrainian Constitution recognizing the existence of indigenous peoples on its territory, and in the spirit of international law dealing with this category of peoples. Otherwise, even more serious measures will be required, such as the adoption of particular models designed for small nations having no nation state of their own (such as, the autonomous territorial units of Basques and Catalans in Spain).

In contrast to the Crimean Tatars, the Russian diaspora in Crimea, especially – and this must be stressed - when not provoked from the outside, has a much lower potential for mass mobilization and large-scale protests, and, in reality, has no justified grounds for doing so.  The problems of national minorities in Crimea, including those belonging to the formerly deported groups lack, as a rule, a political dimension as an obligatory component for expressing their demands and therefore could be settled in parallel with an improvement in the general socio-economic situation in Ukraine.

It appears that the international community, and especially the bureaucracies of some of the international intergovernmental organizations, is often far from understanding the plight of the Crimean Tatars beyond their socio-economic conditions (even though these are indeed terrible). The political demands of the Crimean Tatars are therefore perceived sometimes as a manifestation of political extremism.  It is highly desirable that a deeper insight into the problem is achieved and that concerted actions aimed at preventing one more ethno-political conflict in Europe, are undertaken.  As a concrete step towards such a strategy, the Ukrainian government - the only post-Soviet government with an active state programme for repatriating and integrating the Crimean Tatars and other returnees to Crimea - should be encouraged and supported and not only through badly needed financial and economic assistance.  It seems equally important to urge national decision makers to develop a legal system that would be able to provide reliable and genuine protection for minority rights with perhaps a special emphasis on the political rights of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people.




[i] See also RFL/RL Watchlist, v. 2, N 2, 13 January 2000; v. 2, N 4, 27 January 2000.

[ii] See, for example, “Minority Rights in the Former Soviet Union” by Tim Potier, in: Law Journal, Special Issue, September 1999, p. 63.

[iii] Some aspects of the Crimean crisis, and chronology of events till April 1995  are covered by: “Crimea: Dynamics, Challenges, and Prospects”, edited by Maria Drohobycky, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1995, 250 pp. For an analysis of the Crimean Tatars’ movements and positions during the events of early and middle 90-s, see “Politics in and around Crimea: A Difficult Homecoming” by Andrew Wilson, in: “The Tatars of Crimea: Return to the Homeland”, Edward A. Allworth, ed., Duke University Press, 1998, pp. 281-322. The most updated information on the issue can be found in: “The Repatriation of the Crimean Tatars: A Chronicle of Events” by Julia Tystchenko & Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, published (in Ukrainian) by the UICPS, Kyiv, 1999, 343 pp..

[iv] The name Crimean ASSR was changed to Crimean Republic by the Crimean Supreme Council in February 1992, whereas on 5 May, 1992, its independence was declared subject to an all-Crimean referendum to be held that August.

[v] They referenced the arguments made repeatedly by the Russian Parliament and Ministry for Foreign Affairs that the act of the 1954 transfer had been “illegal”.

[vi] See, for example, the version of Crimean Constitution adopted by the Crimean Supreme Council on 24 September, 1992.

[vii] For more details, see “Crimea and Sevastopol” in: “Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry” by Anatol Lieven, United States Institute of Peace Press, 1999, pp. 105-133.

[viii] This first meeting of elected delegates was named the Second Kurultayi to emphasize the continuity of the democratic tradition of the Crimean Tatar system of self-government. In XX-th century, the first and only Kurultayi, which proclaimed the restoration of Crimean Tatar statehood, was held in November 1917. This attempt was brutally suppressed by the Soviets who used the Red Army against the Crimean Tatars.

[ix] The texts of the most important documents issued by the sessions and conferences of the Kurultayi can be found in a Russian language publication by the Mejlis of October 1999: “The Documents of the Kurultayi of the Crimean Tatar People, 1991-1998.”

[x] See “Conflicting Loyalties in the Crimea” by Natalia Belitser & Oleg Bodruk, in: Conflicting Loyalties and the State in Post-Soviet Russia and Eurasia, M.Waller, B.Coppieters, A.MaLashenko, eds., 1998, p.65.

[xi] See, for example, “An OSCE Diplomat Bungles Diplomacy in Crimea” by Adrian Karatnytsky, Wall Street Journal Europe, 7 June 1995.

[xii] OSCE REF.HC/10/95, 15 November 1995.

[xiii] This law granted Crimea greater autonomy, but it would come into effect only after Crimea’s Constitution and laws were brought into harmony with those of Ukraine, and the independence referendum was cancelled.

[xiv] OSCE REF.HC/10/95, 15 November 1995.

[xv] See Ref.HC/7/96, Ref.500/R/L.

[xvi] See OSCE REF.HC/10/95.

[xvii] For more details, see: “Politics in and around Crimea: A Difficult Homecoming by Andrew Wilson, in: “The Tatars of Crimea: Return to the Homeland”, Edward A. Allworth, ed., Duke University Press, 1998, pp. 289-291, and “The Repatriation of the Crimean Tatars: A Chronicle of Events” by Julia Tystchenko & Vyacheslav Pikhovshek,  Kyiv, 1999, pp. 57-145.

[xviii] The English translation of the term “indigenous peoples” instead of “people” or “populations” fully complies here with its intended meaning in Ukrainian. The appearance of this term within the text of the Constitution reflected a compromise between different political views, following efforts to  explicitly designate the Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people of Ukraine failed because of the stubborn resistance of the parliamentary left-wing deputies. The latter strongly opposed the introducing the very notion of “indigenous peoples” in addition to “titular ethnos” and “national minorities”.

[xix] OSCE Ref.HC/4/97.

[xx] At the national level the electoral system is mixed; half of the deputies are to be elected under a majority system, the remainder under a proportional system.

[xxi] The new law on Ukrainian citizenship, which entered into force on 20 May, 1997, provided a simplified procedure for gaining Ukrainian citizenship by affiliation for those persons and their first- and second-degree descendants, who were forcibly displaced from Ukraine by the Soviets.  But there was simply not enough time for tens of thousand of Crimean Tatars to make use of this opportunity.  Besides, a serious obstacle remained in the shape of the requirement that any other citizenship should be relinquished.  That was practically impossible in the case, for example, of the Crimean Tatar returnees from Uzbekistan. The  process of gaining Ukrainian citizenship received an impetus only following an intergovernmental agreement for simplifying the procedure for the renunciation of Uzbek citizenship by the formerly deported people of Crimea, concluded at the initiative of the Ukrainian government after prolonged and complex negotiations. The outstanding role played by the UNHCR Offices in Kyiv and Simferopol in bringing these negotiations to a success conclusion, and in promoting amendments to the previous Law on Ukrainian citizenship, as well as in implementing the legal provisions and  regulations to benefit both the de facto stateless returnees and those who were wishing to exchange Uzbek citizenship for Ukrainian, has been greatly appreciated.

[xxii] For more details characterizing the turbulent events surrounding the 1998 Crimean parliamentary elections, see “The Repatriation of the Crimean Tatars: A Chronicle of Events” by Julia Tystchenko & Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, Kyiv, 1999, pp. 204-215.

[xxiii] See, for example, the Conclusion on the draft Constitution of the ARC issued by the Rukh faction of the VR on 15 December, 1998, and Rukh’s statement dated 24 December, 1998. A detailed analysis of the fourth and fifth versions of the Constitution of Crimea was prepared by the Institute of Politics, see “The Political Calendar”, Supplement 1, Kyiv, December 1998, pp. 3-121.

[xxiv] A detailed description of this dramatic stage of the constitutional process is given in: “The Repatriation of the Crimean Tatars: A Chronicle of Events” by Julia Tystchenko & Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, Kyiv, 1999, pp. 238-247.

[xxv] See “The Documents of the Kurultayi of the Crimean Tatar People, 1991-1998”, pp. 117-125.

[xxvi] For responses to the adoption of the Constitution of the ARC see “Avdet”, N 21, 24 November 1998, N 22, 8 December 1998, N 1, 20 January 1999; “Today”, 24 November 1998; “Voice of Ukraine”, 11 December 1998; “Ukraine and the World”, 15-21 January 1999, and many other publications by the national and Crimean newspapers and magazines. See also “The Repatriation of the Crimean Tatars: A Chronicle of Events” by Julia Tystchenko & Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, Kyiv, 1999, pp. 254-267.

[xxvii] “Ukraine: Crimean Tatars Begin Protest March” by Bruce Pannier, RFE/RL, 6 May 1999.

[xxviii] See, for example, the contributions to the, and, and also the information distributed by the MINELRES and the CRIMEA-L: A Discussion List on Crimea and Crimean Tatars. It should be added, however, that the incorrect information presented by the RFE/RL Watchlist of 13 January 2000 - that about 200 militia officers surrounded the Mejlis instead of the 20 that actually participated according to the data submitted by the Mejlis - may to some extent have influenced public opinion.

[xxix] Some examples of such a successful collaboration can be found in: “Ulterior Integration” by Natalya Belitser, NGO News, Freedom House, N 13, Summer 1999, p. 8.

[xxx] See, for example, “Ukrainian-Russian-Crimean Tatar Relations in Crimea” by Sergiy Lyastchenko, March 1997, author’s archive.

[xxxi] Vladimir Polyakov is also a writer who published many articles in the local media, and a book: “Crimea: The Fates of Peoples and the People”. Simferopol, 1998, 270 pp..

[xxxii] Preliminary Draft Report to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on: “Repatriation and Integration of the Tatars of Crimea”, 8 October 1999, AS/Mig(1999)30.

[xxxiii] See, for example, the Parallel Report Prepared by the Foundation for Research and Support of the Indigenous Peoples of Crimea “About the Situation in Crimea (Ukraine).” This document, intended to supplement the official report of the Ukrainian government to the Council of Europe on the observation of the provisions of the CoE Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities, accused the Ukrainian state  of not only the ongoing discrimination against the Crimean Tatars, but also, surprisingly, with such “sins” of the past as, for example,  preventing the Crimean Tatars from returnining to their homeland during the Soviet period.

[xxxiv] The composition of the Council is exactly the same as the list of the members of the Mejlis;  Mustafa Djemilev is its Chairman, and Refat Chubarov is his first Deputy.

[xxxv] See: “The Comparative Analysis of the Economic Situation in Crimea for a Period 1998-1999”, Roundtable on Crimean Issues, Kyiv, 2 January, 2000, author’s archive.

[xxxvi] See, for example, RFE/RL Newsline, v.3, N 245, December 1999.

[xxxvii] A formal request to hold the hearings had been submitted by Roman Bezsmertny, the  Permanent Representative of the President in the Parliament of Ukraine, to the parliament’s chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko. Every  point addressed in his letter of 27 June, 1999, was articulated in such a way that revealed a more than adequate understanding of the specificity of the Crimean Tatar problematique. This specificity was described as arising from their actual position as a people rather than a national minority - in fact, an indigenous people whose situation has been seriously  aggravated by deportation and the hardships of  repatriation,  and whose rights and interests are not secured either in Ukrainian law or by the Crimean Constitution.

[xxxviii] For more details, see “Is the constructive solution of some “destructive” problems still possible?” (in Ukrainian) by Oleksandr Moskaletz & Mykhailo Honchar, Versiji-Politics, March 2000, pp. 18-20.


* * *



Repatriation and integration of the Tatars of Crimea

Doc. 8655

18 February 2000


Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography

Rapporteur: Lord Ponsonby, United Kingdom, Socialist Group


The Crimean Tatars are a Turkic people who inhabited the Crimean peninsula, now part of Ukraine, for very many centuries. In the 1440s they established their own Khanate and remained an important power in Eastern Europe until 1783, when Crimea was annexed to Russia. The massive exodus and Russification that followed resulted in a rapid decline of the Crimean Tatar population. In 1944, accused of collaboration with the Nazi invaders, the entire Crimean Tatar population (by then some 200,000) was deported, mostly to Central Asia. A 1967 Soviet decree cleared the Crimean Tatar people of all charges. However, nothing was done to facilitate their return or to compensate the Crimean Tatars for the loss of life and property. Today, up to 260,000 of them have returned to their historic homeland. For them the problems are not yet over; they continue their struggle for political, economic and cultural rights.

The Assembly wishes to draw the attention of all member states to the humanitarian plight of this long-suffering people. It recommends that the Committee of Ministers, in concert with other international organizations as appropriate, take steps to intensify or launch assistance projects in Ukraine with a view to ensuring that Council of Europe standards are upheld in the resettlement and integration process. With this aim in view it asks the Committee of Ministers to share with the government of Ukraine the expertise available to the Council of Europe in the legal field relating to the integration of returnees, such as access to citizenship, residence permits, etc. It calls on the member states to contribute, not least financially, to assistance programmes in place and those to be activated. It further recommends that the Council of Europe Development Bank explore possible areas of action to facilitate returnee Crimean Tatar integration. The Assembly calls upon Ukraine to join the Development Bank.

I. Draft recommendation

1. The entire Crimean Tatar population (some 200,000) was deported from their historic homeland in 1944 for alleged collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War. In the wake of this forced displacement, primarily to Uzbekistan and other Central Asian republics, up to 46 per cent of them perished within two years, succumbing to malnutrition and disease. A 1967 Soviet decree cleared the Crimean Tatars of all charges but did nothing to facilitate their return, let alone compensate them for damages incurred. Until almost the very last days of the USSR the Crimean Tatars were not allowed to return to Crimea.

2. The Assembly recalls the general principles and recommendations set out in its Recommendation 1334 (1997) on refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and regrets the fact that most of the proposals therein are yet to be implemented.

3. Over the last ten years, some 260,000 of the estimated 400,000 to 550,000-strong Crimean Tatar Community have returned to Crimea. However, the problems confronting returnees remain complex and multi-faceted. They include citizenship, employment, housing, social protection, and cultural revival. Until these problems are solved, the full national identity of returnee Crimean Tatars cannot be restored. Integration calls for the eradication of all vestiges of xenophobia and discrimination faced at times by returnees.

4. The Assembly is concerned that the integration assistance programmes run by the Ukrainian government have had to be scaled down significantly and are underfunded as a result of the severe economic crisis in the country. It welcomes the readiness of the Government in Ukraine to facilitate reintegration, in particular, the steps taken to smooth the acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship. The Assembly commends efforts by the European Union (EU) and international organisations, notably the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), to speed up and facilitate the integration process and calls on member states to give their full support to these on-going programmes.

5. The Assembly stresses that returnee Crimean Tatars will not be able to lead a normal life until they are properly housed and the requisite infrastructure is in place. Aid in this area should be a priority, and the Council of Europe Development Bank should explore the possibility of making a contribution in this area. By the same token, the Assembly believes that Ukraine's joining the Development Bank would facilitate such a contribution.

6. To avoid the social erosion of the returnee Crimean Tatar community, education and job creation schemes need to be launched or intensified. For these purposes international aid and assistance programmes are particularly needed. The member states and international community at large should contribute to the broader economic revival of Crimea.

7. The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i). intensify dialogue with European Union institutions and international organisations active in assisting the Crimean Tatars, in particular the UNHCR and the OSCE, in order to make arrangements for increased involvement by the Council of Europe in projects that fall within its area of competence, notably, legal issues relating to the integration of returnees, such as citizenship, residence permits, etc., and to involve the Crimean Tatars in this discussion as far as possible;

ii). invite Ukraine to join the Council of Europe Development Bank;

iii). invite the Development Bank to explore what it can do to assist returnee Crimean Tatars, in particular in the housing and infrastructure sectors;

iv). invite the European Union to increase its involvement in assistance projects targeting returnee Crimean Tatars;

v). invite the UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the OSCE to convene a second conference on refugees, displaced persons and other forms of involuntary displacement and repatriation in the Commonwealth of Independent States that would focus, inter alia, on the situation of returnee Crimean Tatars;

vi). urge the member states to contribute generously, at bilateral and multilateral levels, to assistance projects targeting returnee Crimean Tatars, in particular housing and infrastructure construction schemes, education and job-creation projects, paying special attention to the most vulnerable groups;

vii). invite the states concerned (notably Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) to enter into bilateral negotiations with Ukraine with a view to agreeing on a simplified procedure for the acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship, accessible to Crimean Tatars residing in those states;

viii). invite the Government of Ukraine and the regional authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to study the experience of other member states of the Council of Europe (e.g. Denmark and Germany) concerning the representation of small minorities in regional parliaments, with a view to providing for and supporting the representation of the Crimean Tatars in Crimean institutions.


II. Draft order

1. The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Recommendation… (2000) on the repatriation and integration of Crimean Tatars.

2. Given the magnitude of the problem, which calls for a comprehensive approach, it instructs its Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography to continue to follow the humanitarian situation of returnee Crimean Tatars and report back, as appropriate.


III. Explanatory memorandum by Lord Ponsonby

1. Introduction

1. The entire Crimean Tatar population (some 200,000) was deported from their historic homeland in 1944 for alleged collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War. In the wake of this forced displacement up to 46 per cent of them perished within a two-year period, succumbing to malnutrition and disease. Until almost the very last days of the USSR the Crimean Tatars, banished primarily to Uzbekistan, but also elsewhere in the then Soviet Union, were not allowed to return to Crimea. A 1967 Soviet decree cleared Crimean Tatars of all charges but did nothing to facilitate their return, let alone compensate them for damages incurred.

2. Prior to 1989 some Crimean Tatars had made peaceful attempts to Crimea and some Crimean Tatar human rights activists were imprisoned for their efforts, notably Mustapha Jemilov. It was not until 1989 that a Government-sponsored resettlement programme was launched, allowing for the return of up to 50,000 per year. Since gaining its independence in 1991, Ukraine has been funding this programme, largely unassisted by the international community, including member States of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Shortage of funds did not allow the programme to yield expected results. Overall, since 1991, the Ukrainian Government has spent 300 million dollars to solve the problem.

3. To date, roughly 260,000 of the estimated 400,000-550,000 Crimean Tatar population have returned. Of late, though, the repatriation process has slowed down due to the unfavourable economic situation in Ukraine, as well as legal tangles that still persist in certain post-Soviet states. Sizeable Crimean Tatar communities can be found in Uzbekistan (roughly 30,000), with most of the remaining deported Tatar community in Kazakhstan and Russia. The estimated two to four million Crimean Tatars residing in Turkey, predominantly the descendants of 19th century immigrants, are now well-integrated and fall beyond the scope of this report.

4. The Crimean Tatars are returning to Crimea after forty years of exile driven by a desire to return to their historic homeland, rather than in a quest for a better economic environment. Unlike other ethnic groups deported from Crimea a few years before their tragic eviction (in August 1941, 61,000 other residents of Crimea, mostly ethnic Germans, but also Jews, Armenians, Greeks and Bulgarians, were also sent into internal exile) they lay claim to the status of indigenous people. Although this Rapporteur could not get an answer as to what that status implies in legal terms he was led to believe that this is a euphemism for titular nation. As such, it could be viewed by Crimean Tatar extremists as a first step to national autonomy. Many Crimean Tatars, while making a decision to return to Crimea, were guided by unrealistic expectations fostered by some of their political leaders.

5. Returnees and their descendants now form about 12 per cent of the population of this still Slav-dominated autonomous republic. Most of the returnees are younger people belonging to the post-World War II generation. With a birth rate of 4.5 per thousand, more than double that of their Slavic compatriots, Crimean Tatars are emerging as an increasingly important ethnic group in the peninsula.

6. The objective of this report is to examine, in particular, the humanitarian situation and living conditions of returnees and to alert the Assembly to the gravity of the problem. It is also the intention of the Rapporteur to highlight associated legal and social problems that add to the complexity of the repatriation and integration of returnees. The report seeks to offer the Assembly proposals for the Committee of Ministers aimed at alleviating the plight of those concerned.

7. This report is also a follow-up to the CIS Migration Conference (Geneva, May 1996) that was dedicated to the examination of the situation of refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced persons in the Commonwealth of Independent States. It is intended to amplify the general principles set out in the report on refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) (Doc. 7829 of 15 May 1997) by focusing on a specific range of associated problems. It further seeks to call the attention of member states to the fact that a significant proportion of the recommendations (cf. Recommendation 1334 (1997)) adopted on the basis of the above report are yet to be implemented.

8. With a view to preparing the report, the Rapporteur conducted a fact-finding visit to Ukraine. In Ukraine, in addition to having discussions in the capital city of Kyiv, the Rapporteur also made field visits to the settlements of returnee Tatars in Crimea. Throughout the mission extremely fruitful discussions were held with parliamentarians, government and local officials, representatives of Crimean Tatar NGOs and international organisations, notably the UNHCR and the OSCE, as well as of the EU.

9. The Rapporteur wishes to express his heartfelt gratitude to all his interlocutors in Ukraine as well as to the Ukrainian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for their hospitality and assistance. His very special thanks go to the staff of the UNHCR for their excellent co-operation, not least in solving the rather complicated logistical problems.


2. Situation Analysis

10. To say that the situation of Crimean Tatar returnees is far from idyllic would be a great understatement. The representatives of the returnees claim that their communities are being made into ghettos. Most returnees live in compact settlements on the periphery of the cities, which adds to their isolation.

11. A major political issue is that of under-representation at local and regional levels. This, in part, can be attributed to the boycott of local elections declared by the Crimean Tatar Mejlis in 1995. By contrast, Crimean Tatars have two members in the Ukrainian Parliament, one elected under the majority system, the other one elected under the proportional system (at the national level the system is mixed fifty-fifty). Until last year, Crimean Tatars had a quota of 14 seats in the 96-seat Crimean Parliament. This situation changed in 1998 with the adoption of a new constitution for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Unlike the Ukrainian Parliament, the parliament in Crimea is elected under a majority system. As a result, the Crimean Tatars, constituting everywhere a minority, albeit a significant one, and dispersed throughout the peninsula, could not get a single candidate to the parliament. The only Crimean Tatar member of the Crimean Parliament was elected on the Communist Party list and is not considered by his ethnic kinsfolk as their representative. The more radical Crimean Tatars advocate a quota system, and even a return to all the rights and privileges they used to have before the deportation (30 per cent quota, with the Crimean Tatar language having the status of a national language in the Crimea). This preferential treatment can hardly be justifiable in a multi-ethnic state. On the other hand, a proportional electoral system in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC) could remedy the situation.

12. Crimean Tatars are all but absent from management posts in various administrative bodies. This complicates matters when it comes to lobbying for specific projects that could benefit this stratum of the Crimean population. As a result, municipalities that include compact settlements of Crimean Tatars in most cases have no integrated municipal plans, relegating returnees, as it were, to reservation-like living conditions and makeshift housing. Only 1 per cent of Crimean Tatars are represented in Crimea's Government bodies; 0.1 per cent of them serve in the police force and security service. At the same time, by decree, all deputies to heads of Government bodies in Crimea are Crimean Tatars.

13. Ukraine has inherited from the erstwhile USSR the so-called propiska system, whereby all citizens and their places of residence have to be duly registered with the Ministry of the Interior; any absence from the place of residence beyond a specified length of time has to be reported to local police stations. The system creates a "Catch-22" situation: without a propiska there can be no employment, without employment it is extremely difficult for a returnee to get a propiska. Not having permanent residency or official employment, a sizeable portion of Crimean Tatar returnees lived for years and continue to live without a propiska. This could expose them to police harassment. A sizeable albeit falling proportion of the registered Crimean Tatar refugees to this day do not have Ukrainian citizenship. This is not only due to the legal tangles (see below), but can also be attributed to the difficulties involved in proving the place of birth or ancestry, given that birth certificates were kept in mosques destroyed by Soviet troops in the wake of the deportation.

14. Upwards of an estimated 60 per cent of the returnee Crimean Tatars are unemployed, while others are primarily employed in menial jobs that do not correspond to the level of their training or professional experience. The Crimean Tatars had been a relatively prosperous community in Uzbekistan; most have lost their life-long savings in the economic debacle and hyperinflation that followed the break-up of the USSR.

15. Crimean Tatars claim they are still being routinely discriminated against. Old misperceptions are still widespread with returnees being stigmatised as Nazi collaborators. The local Slavic population displays a regrettable degree of xenophobia vis-à-vis returnees and, at best, is unsinterested in their plight. The de facto segregation further increases the communication gap between the two major ethnic communities. In fact, this segregation is self-imposed by the Crimean Tatars who prefer to live in compact settlements and send their children to Crimean Tatar, rather than mixed or Russian schools. The wide-scale squatting by Crimean Tatars, unauthorised occupation by them of abandoned or unoccupied property and agricultural land, only further compounds their problems with the Slavic population. From the Slav perspective the returning Tatars threaten to dilute their access to political power and economic resources and make Crimea less "Russian"; it therefore gives Kyiv more scope for political manoeuvre, which has been used.

16. Decades of subjugation and exile have eroded the language and culture of the Crimean Tatars. While Tatar remains the medium of communication within the community, knowledge of it is largely superficial and confined to unsophisticated conversational dialect. The spoken language is out of date and, notably, lacks the vocabulary to cater for scientific and technological advances.


3. Citizenship and efforts to assist returnees

17. Upon gaining independence, Ukraine granted citizenship to all persons residing in Ukraine on 13 November 1991 who were not citizens of other states. Thousands of Crimean Tatars who arrived after that date were faced with the requirement to pass the Ukrainian language test, produce proof of lawful employment, proof of having relinquished any other citizenship and pass an AIDS test.

18. The demand of Crimean Tatar leaders that all returnees should be automatically granted Ukrainian citizenship remained unheeded by the authorities. Furthermore, the latter felt and continue to feel very strongly against allowing dual citizenship on the grounds that a newly independent state could not afford this and needed to consolidate its national identity. As a result, until very recently, a sizeable proportion of the returnee population not only did not have Ukrainian citizenship, but was, de facto, stateless. This could largely be attributed to the fact that the Citizenship Law of Uzbekistan, the country from which the bulk of returnees originated, was not adopted before 28 July 1992. Thus, ex-Uzbekistan Crimean Tatars who entered Crimea before that date (roughly 25,000), and never applied for Uzbekistan citizenship in an Uzbeki consulate in Ukraine, were left in a legal limbo.

19. By way of corrective action, amendments to the Ukrainian Citizenship Law were adopted, entering into force on 20 May 1997. The law, as amended, provides for a simplified procedure for granting Ukrainian citizenship by affiliation to persons, and their first and second-degree descendants, who during Soviet times were forcibly transferred from Ukraine, on condition that they do not hold the citizenship of another state. The deadline for acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship by affiliation is 31 December 1999. Upon the expiration of the said period Crimean Tatars will still be in a privileged situation as obtaining citizenship through naturalisation will only be subject to a) availability of legal sources of subsistence, b) recognition of and compliance with Ukrainian legislation and c) absence of any foreign citizenship.

20. While this new legislation was a major step in the right direction and effectively reduced the risk of statelessness for returnees already in Ukraine, it did not guard against interim statelessness for new arrivals. In addition, the requirement to relinquish any other citizenship as a conditio sine qua non remains in force.

21. Statelessness has severe implications. Stateless persons cannot be employed in the civil service, higher education is more expensive with certain faculties closed to the stateless (e.g. law school), they cannot participate in the privatisation of household plots and enterprises, travel abroad (Russia included) is restricted to those with post-Soviet passports, and, finally, such persons cannot participate in national or regional elections.

22. Until recently, the rate of applications for Ukrainian citizenship was very low. Over a five-year period (1991-1995) only 97 persons were restored to Ukrainian citizenship and two persons received it. There existed obstacles to both applying for and obtaining Ukrainian citizenship. As far as the former is concerned, there is still a widespread lack of understanding of the importance of citizenship as distinguished from ethnicity. Up-to-date and accurate information on citizenship-related issues is still, despite concerted efforts by the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior and awareness-raising campaigning by Crimean Tatar NGOs, a rare commodity, with heavy reliance by returnee communities on rumours. By contrast, what is really ubiquitous is the misperception that a simplification of the amended citizenship law could grant automatic citizenship to Crimean Tatars. Quite a few potential applicants are deterred from applying in anticipation of heavy costs as well as other difficulties associated with applying. Obtaining citizenship is associated with certain expenditures, until recently, in particular, for those having to relinquish their Uzbeki citizenship (see para. 23 below). The process remains highly confusing given that many administrators still have inaccurate or dated information that only adds to the confusion. Many are confronted with difficulties locating documents that might have been lost or destroyed in exile or by Soviet troops. Finally, the poorest had difficulty raising cash needed to obtain documents and cover removal costs.

23. In a welcome development, in September 1998 the Governments of Ukraine and Uzbekistan concluded an agreement to simplify the process of renunciation of Uzbeki citizenship by formerly deported people of Crimea. The new accord even provided for the waiver of the relinquishment fee of about $ 100 previously charged by Uzbekistan for executing the procedure. That single act represented an important breakthrough in the reintegration process and was made possible thanks to concerted efforts by the two governments concerned and a host of international organisations involved, notably, the UNHCR, IOM and the OSCE. The Ukrainian Government should get special credit for taking the initiative to engage Uzbekistan in negotiations that finally bore fruit. As a result, by mid-June 1999 some 25,000 stateless Crimean Tatars received Ukrainian passports. The next group consists of some 40,000 Uzbekistan citizens with 26,000 renunciation files already sent to Tashkent. By the time of writing, 60 per cent of Crimean Tatars not holding Ukrainian citizenship had applied for it. It is expected that by the end of 1999 that number should reach 90 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent are primarily Crimean Tatars holding Uzbekistan passports who, given their property interests, do not wish to obtain Ukrainian citizenship for the time being. It may be said that the problem of statelessness is almost fully resolved. This is a major success story with all the credit going to Ukraine and Uzbekistan, with the UNHCR providing unfailing support. It is regrettable that other CIS countries with sizeable Crimean Tatar communities display little interest in entering into similar simplified procedure arrangements with Ukraine.

24. In the wake of the signature of the agreement the UNHCR launched a comprehensive information campaign in Crimea on the new procedure. UNHCR allocated 2.3 million dollars in aid during 1999 to assist in promoting the simplified procedures and to carry out programmes to create jobs and housing for returnee Crimean Tatars. More than 37 projects to repair or build dwellings have already been completed offering shelter to some thousand formerly homeless families. A major part in this awareness raising campaign is played by Crimean Tatar NGOs, notably Assistance and Initsium, sponsored and assisted by the UNHCR.

4. Socio-economic needs

25. The resettlement in Crimea has taken a severe toll on the Crimean Tatars. The stressful conditions of their new life, with poor employment opportunities, lack of housing and infrastructure, including social infrastructure, have led to the creation of a dislocated community with few opportunities for socialising and little cohesion. The divorce rate is rising, traditional family values are on the wane, and crime is on the increase. Before repatriation, 71 per cent of Crimean Tatars lived in towns or cities. Today, 70 per cent of them live in rural areas, in 300 settlements.

26. Basic infrastructure is still a rare commodity in the Crimean Tatars’ compact settlements. Lack of water, roads and electricity makes life particularly harsh and is not conducive to speedy return and reintegration. The overwhelming majority of those living in such compact settlements are affected by the problem. The virtually non-existent infrastructure compounds the problem of housing construction. As a result, construction is lengthy and a sizeable proportion of houses remains uncompleted. The later the settlements were commissioned the poorer the infrastructure they tend to have. Conditions are particularly appalling in those settlements that were not commissioned formally. Of all the compact settlements and residential neighbourhoods, 70 per cent have electricity, 27 per cent have water, 10 per cent have tarmac roads and only 4 per cent have gas. None have sewers. Between 1989 and 1996 capital investments in compact settlements were financed by the Government of Ukraine. This funding was literally brought to a halt in 1996. According to official Ukrainian estimates capital investment requirements to complete infrastructure projects in compact settlements stand at $ 148 million, while Crimean Tatar sources put that figure at a hefty one to two billion dollars. In 1999, Ukraine budgeted 20 million grivnas (about $ 5 million) to fund resettlement programmes, although actual disbursement only amounted to 5 million grivnas.

27. The returnees arrived in a country already in the grips of a housing crisis made even more acute by the economic collapse that followed the disintegration of the USSR. In 1995 one Ukrainian family in seven had no separate or permanent housing, sharing a roof with relatives or living temporarily in rented apartments or hostels. A declining rate of new housing construction further compounded the problem. Even in 1995 new housing construction dropped to just 20 per cent of the not particularly high 1990 levels. In the framework of the Government's programme of resettlement of Crimean Tatars, 196.8 thousand square metres of private housing were commissioned in 1991-1995. This, according to existing Government norms in Ukraine (13.56 sq. metres per person) would, in theory, meet the requirements of 14,513 persons. In addition, the Ukrainian Government provides subsidies for housing construction/purchase by the most vulnerable groups of returnees (households with many children, the disabled, elderly, etc.). Delays in actual disbursements and inflation have significantly reduced the efficiency of this assistance tool. The annual house/apartment purchase rate is about 200. In the wake of the currency reform and under current conditions of high inflation, new housing construction has nearly ground to a halt. Construction itself is extremely lengthy, dragging on for years, given the absence of adequate funding and the fact that the personal lifetime savings of those concerned have been eaten up by inflation.

28. Unemployment and lack of reliable legitimate income generation remain a serious challenge for returnee Crimean Tatars. Jobs are not only scarce, but they seldom correspond to the professional experience and training of the successful candidates. Low employment rates among Crimean Tatars can be attributed to a number of factors, not least uncertain legal status (primarily, lack of propiska or citizenship), widespread nepotism, etc. Even those having a job or entitled to a pension increasingly suffer financial insecurity, given that salaries, as a rule, are low, unreliable (pay delays, short-term contracts), or, at times not paid at all, with remuneration being made in kind. Under such circumstances, Crimean Tatar households are increasingly shifting their financial reliance from salaries or pensions to self-employment and small businesses. Low investment levels, seasonal fluctuations and a high degree of informality characterise activities in this sector.

29. Although never regarded as a high priority area against the backdrop of other problems, social services remain a field where significant improvements could be made. Given the low incomes characteristic of the returnee Crimean Tatar community on the whole, costs of social services are all but prohibitive. Access to social services is impeded by formal costs (medicines, supplies, transportation) and informal costs (bribes and other baksheesh to doctors to ensure good attention and treatment). The latter component is said to have increased significantly, not least since the medical profession are ill paid or not paid at all.

30. To Crimean Tatars, the revival of their language and culture, all but destroyed over decades of persecution, is a very sensitive issue. Their widely spread belief is that language is at the core of ethnicity, which makes current difficulties easier to weather. At the same time, language knowledge is mostly confined to the spoken dialect heavily corrupted by imports from other languages. Furthermore, the returnee community is split on how to tackle the problem of the revival of the language. While most returnees advocate the opening of schools with Crimean Tatar as the medium of instruction, others fear that this could give rise to linguistic isolationism and put students of such schools at a disadvantage as they pursue higher education and seek better paid jobs. Others still would favour mixed schools, considering them as cultural melting pots that promote inter-ethnic understanding and coexistence. As far as culture and education are concerned, the Ukrainian authorities have invested significant funds and effort to meet the requirements of the returnee community. In today's Crimea, there are eight Crimean Tatar schools (it may be mentioned here that in this predominantly Russian-speaking peninsula there is only one Ukrainian school), there is a Crimean Tatar library, a Crimean Tatar theatre, etc. Crimean Tatars attend the Crimean Pedagogical Institute, there is a Crimean Tatar faculty at the Simferopol National University, mixed schools as well as higher education institutions elsewhere in Ukraine and abroad. In addition, there is a specialised school for Crimean Tatar teachers, while six newspapers and magazines in Crimean Tatar language cater to the cultural and international needs of the returnees.


5. Conclusions

31. The magnitude of problems confronting returnee Crimean Tatars is enormous. Their precarious humanitarian situation is compounded by legal tangles and associated uncertainty in the social field. If the international community were to be helpful in alleviating the plight of this long-suffered people it would have to apply a comprehensive approach, in accordance with the principles outlined in the draft recommendation and order accompanying this report. The Rapporteur hopes that the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and the member States will pay heed to the recommendations therein.





International Renaissance Foundation - Contribution into Building Democratic, Tolerant Society in Crimea

Yuriy Buznytsky,

Co-head of Program "Integration…" Supervisory Board

There is no doubt that one of the most successful programs of the International Renaissance Foundation in the area of building open, multiethnic, conflict-free society is the Program “Integration of the Formerly Deported Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks, Germans into Ukrainian Community.” This is caused with many reasons, but, in my opinion, only some of them can be mentioned. Perhaps, at the beginning one should say that the Program initiation was proceeded with the rather durable preparatory work in the circumstances of the social-cultural and geopolitical situation which existed at that time in Ukraine and in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

A historical reference:

During many centuries Crimea has been considered one of the most multiethnic regions in Europe, inhabited by representatives of 89 various ethnic groups from among those 132 who live in Ukraine on the whole. Accordingly, they are carriers of the historically formed cultural traditions and religious beliefs. Crimea is the single historical motherland for Crimean Tatars, where they formed into a people. In May 1944, Stalin regime, dominant in the USSR at that time, carried out the deportation of about 200,000 Crimean Tatars from Crimea to Uzbekistan and some regions of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Russia. In the summer of 1944, 38,000 Crimean Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks were deported. Heretofore, in 1941 more than 450,000 Germans and persons of other nationalities, who were members of the German families, had been deported from Ukraine, including about 10,000 persons - from Crimea. The process of the political rehabilitation and return of the deportees back to Crimea began in 1989 and became most intensive in early 90-s when Ukraine obtained its independence. Taking into account that nearly 280,000 formerly deported Crimean Tatars alone have returned to Crimea by this moment and that the process of the deportees' return was developing practically simultaneously with the evolution of the young sovereign Ukrainian state, certain difficulties of political-legal and social-economic character were generated. The deportees' integration into Ukrainian community is a multifaceted process, which, apart from taking political and juridical decisions, demands significant capital investments, particularly, into social-cultural area. The impossibility to solve issues or finance the decisions, concerning the deportees' needs, lead to appearance of certain social tensions in the society of Crimea and Ukraine on the whole. The formation of the political situation and state governance system in Crimea was developing rather complicatedly, with many destabilizing elements against the background of the common public agitation and the danger of rise of social and interethnic conflicts. It has become evident that all progressive forces in Ukrainian society and in the whole world must apply their possible efforts to stabilize the situation and form a democratic, multiethnic, multicultural, tolerant, and open society in Crimea.

At the end of 1996, following the initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation's leadership, the working group was established which included experts in the field of interethnic, migration, social policies, and repatriates' problems. This group consisted of well-known scientists and practical actors who jointly investigated into the problem of the deportees' return to Crimea and offered the concept of a special program which could be supported by the Open Society Institute (USA) - funded by the well-known philanthropist, George Soros, and, relevantly, by the International Renaissance Foundation. A characteristic feature in the concept of the future program was consideration of the opinions of both the deportees themselves, and of state and non-governmental institutions in Crimea and throughout Ukraine, involved in the process of integration of the deportees, returning to Crimea. Thus, at the beginning of 1997 the vision of the problem and the main ways to solve it were shaped. Simultaneously, in accordance with the experts' recommendations, the IRF specialists prepared the Program itself with the title “Integration of the Formerly Deported Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks, Germans into Ukrainian Community" which was adopted by the IRF Executive Committee on 4 March 1997, with the funding USD 450,000 in 1997. The Program included four main directions; to support and develop them should promote the process of the deportees' successful integration into Ukrainian community:



·      Preparation and publication (reprinting) of text-books and learning manuals for secondary school and higher educational institutions which apply Crimean Tatar, Bulgarian, Armenian, Greek languages in the studying process;

·      organization of special educational institutions for the deportees' children;

·      promotion to the activities of the educational institutions where the deportees' children study;

·      informational provision of the contemporary approaches in educational process;

·      support of research in educational area, aimed at introducing a progressive education system for the deportees and national minorities in Crimea;

·      promotion to development of teaching-methodical research institutions which carry out their activities in the field of education for national minorities.


Support to mass media

·      Support to local mass media of the ethnic-cultural communities, the mass media which cover the process of the deportees' integration into Ukrainian community, protection of the deportees' rights;

·      conduction of seminars, journalists meetings to discuss coverage in mass media of the topics, regarding the process of the deportees'  return and integration;

·      carrying out a competition for the internship grant for journalists who specialize in covering the deportees' problems;


Support to infrastructure development of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

·      Holding training seminars for civic organizations on the issues of management of non-governmental organizations;


Popularization of the ethnic cultures of Crimea

·      Holding seminars and scientific-practical conferences on the issues of development of cultures of deported ethnic groups;

·      support to publications by prominent scientists, philosophers, writers of the past and present who contribute to building multiethnic society in Crimea;

·      carrying out the competition for the best coverage by all-Ukrainian and Crimean TV agencies of the history and cultures of the peoples in Crimea and Ukraine on the whole;

·      support to libraries of the ethnic-cultural communities.

It is evident that all these directions do not completely cover the whole complex of the problems arising in the process of the deportees' integration into Ukrainian community. But due to a number of the objective causes, actually it was not the Program's goal because the main task of the International Renaissance Foundation is to encourage civic initiatives in the chosen direction and to assist their development at the initial stage.

The Program started its practical activities in March 1997. Following the guidelines of the public broad involvement in implementation of the IRF programs, a highly democratic system of Program management and grant-providing within the Program budget has been chosen. The upper managing body of the Program is the Program Supervisory Board, which consists of the well-known scientists and practical actors from both Crimea and Kyiv. The Program Supervisory Board determines the strategy, main directions of activity, competition terms, terms of grant-providing in the frameworks of the Program, and takes the decision to finance the projects which won the competition within the Program. Thus, the general public is directly involved in taking and executing practically all decisions in the Program frameworks. The annual rotation of the Supervisory Board members allows to make maximum open the process of taking and fulfilling decisions, and to involve broader circles of the public representatives in this process.

Thereby, in the spring of 1997, the main directions of activities, volumes of funding, management system and system of efficiency monitoring of the projects within the Program were already developed. In May 1997, the terms of the first Program competition were published in Crimean mass media. In regard to this competition, 63 projects totaling to USD 400,000 were supported. Simultaneously, the work was started to establish cooperation with other international organizations, state and non-state institutions, non-governmental organizations of Ukraine. Among the organizations, the Program cooperated or is cooperating with, could be mentioned the Program for Crimea Integration and Development, the United Nations High Commissar for Refugees, the Netherlands Royal Embassy, Canada Embassy, Charles Mott's Foundation, King Boduen's Foundation, the Education Ministry of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and others. The work results of the first year allowed to critically evaluate the achieved results and put certain amendments in the Program development in 1998. In particular, the project consideration requirements were revised in regard of creation and publication of text-books in national languages of the deportees for secondary schools; special attention focused on encouraging creation of the text-books for schools with Crimean Tatar language of instruction. In 1998 the Program priorities were supplemented with support to initiatives, directed at development of medical care for pupils; the support has been started to those projects which aim at protecting deportees' rights, at developing the progressive legislation in Ukraine, which will ensure democratic, equal right process of the deportees' integration. Taking into consideration the Program particularity, in the same year the system of submitting projects was applied, which included competition twice a year - in spring (May) and in autumn (September-October). Such competition-based approach to project consideration allowed to increase the number of the competition participants and enabled the applicants to more thoroughly work on their projects, taking into account the requirements of the International Renaissance Foundation and the Program. The policy of openness and active involvement of the public to participation in the IRF programs was fulfilled within the Program "Integration…" as well. Already during 1997 - at the beginning of 1998, non-governmental organizations formed in Crimea (their activities were also promoted by the Program), which obtained certain experience in project implementation, in management, fund-raising for their projects, etc. Therefore, already at the beginning of 1998 the Program administration began to actively involve such NGOs into implementation of the projects in all directions of activity, especially, in the area of the "third sector development" in Crimea. Thus, in the course of the Program activities a broad and multifaceted mechanism of the general public's participation in the process of the deportees' adaptation and integration in Ukrainian community began to form.

Notwithstanding the efforts of the state and international organizations, in the education area remains pressing the problem of rebirth of education in native languages under the new historical conditions, in the state with a new political system, in a different linguistic-cultural situation, on a different scientific base. The demand for rebirth of the education system in national languages is obvious, since such education system in Crimea, particularly for Crimean Tatars, had existed also before their deportation. An impossibility to meet the demand for education in a national language causes disapproval and a feeling of certain discrimination in comparison with other ethnic groups living in Crimea (Russians, Ukrainians, and other) although Crimean Tatars are an indigenous population of Crimea.

Since the majority of the Program projects are implemented in educational area, there is the necessity to take into account the peculiarities of the educational organization in Crimea. In particular, it is necessary to establish fruitful cooperation with the bodies of state governance that are responsible for organizing the education process in Ukraine. The requirements of the state bodies in regard of creation and dissemination of the manuals for secondary schools required an accorded approach to adoption of a number of the projects by the Program administration and by the Ministry of Education of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. As a result of the negotiations, the agreements were concluded to finance creation and publication of textbooks by the Program, on the condition that such text-books are subject to certification and receipt of the necessary permissions from the Commission at the Education Ministry of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Such coordinated way of action helped to avoid misunderstandings in the process of textbooks creation, and to accord to some extent the Program activity in educational area with the state policy and with the education development program for the deportees in Crimea. It can be stated that the constructive dialogue has brought obvious results.

On the whole, by the end of 1999, the funding was provided for creation and publication of 40 textbooks, among which have been already issued. Taking into account that within the Program funding frameworks creation and publication of text-books pilot issues are supported (about 1000 copies each), the Education Ministry of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea supported publication of the text-books, created within the Program, with more circulation (up to 5000 copies). Realizing the necessity for introducing up-to-date teaching methodic approaches in the schools where the deportees' children study, the Program supported the projects which provide technical equipment of schools, creation of the material base, gathering of special libraries, connecting schools to the Internet. There were also other measures implemented which allow to organize the educational process in schools on a rather high level. In many cases, the support, given to the schools by the Program, was accompanied with understanding and, accordingly, assistance to these schools from the local state administrations.

The Program has also actively supported the arrangements in education area, directed at activating the search for contemporary ways in organization of educational process, experience exchange; and seminars, conferences, round-table discussions were held for the teachers from schools with national languages of instruction. The Crimean Industrial-Pedagogic Institute, in the Program project framework, has worked out and published a number of informative-methodical materials and educational programs for schools with Crimean Tatar language of instruction.

During the whole period of the Program's activities, 111 projects totaling to more than USD 600.000 were supported in the area of educational initiatives development. As it has been mentioned, the Program paid the significant attention to development of Crimean non-governmental organizations which carry out their activities in the area of interethnic relations, assistance to the deportees' integration, advocacy of the deportees' rights, building of the open democratic society, and which represent the interests of the ethnic groups in Crimea. Taking into account that, in accordance with the Program competition terms, all Program directions exclude submission of projects by individuals and religious organizations, most of the projects were submitted by non-governmental organizations of Crimea. And then the same organizations implemented them. Thus, the initiatives of more than 100 non-governmental organizations were supported in a mediate way; among them - 29 projects, directly aimed at supporting infrastructure building of the NGOs themselves, totaling more than USD 136.000.

Today, after three years of activities it can be stated that during this period, due to the Program support in particular, the network of NGOs has formed and actively operates in Crimea. These NGOs are not only able to independently support progressive initiatives, but also to find appropriate funds for their implementation, and to efficiently introduce them in life.

Realizing that mass media play an important role in formation of a tolerant multiethnic society, 11 projects with the total value of more than USD 78.000 were supported in the Program funding frameworks. These projects mostly aimed at providing representatives of the various ethnic groups among the deportees with the equal access to mass media in Ukraine and Crimea, and at disseminating reliable information on the process of the deportees' return and on the issues which arise in this connection. Among the successful projects in this area can be mentioned the publication of the bulletin "Crimean Tatar Issue" by the Crimean Center for Independent Political Researchers and Journalists. The bulletin covers the main events, connected with the deportees' return process, and it enjoys the significant popularity both in Crimea and outside the peninsula. And it is successfully published after the expiration of the project within the International Renaissance Foundation.

A significant element of building of the conflict-free multiethnic society is undoubtedly the knowledge of and mutual enrichment with the cultural achievements of the societies in Crimea and Ukraine. The lack of the information about the culture and historical development of either of the ethnic groups entails an inadequate attitude from representatives of other nationalities to such ethnic group, forms distorted and sometimes straightly negative cliches in regard of its role in the society. As a characteristic example can be the negative myth, created in the period of the Soviet Union existence, on a special role of Crimean Tatar people during the Great Patriotic War. At the same time, the society of Ukraine remains unaware of the real situation, as well as of the historical interrelations and the mutual contribution in formation of the cultures of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar peoples. The initiatives, supported within the Program, are directed at mutual learning and enrichment of the cultures, and developing interethnic peace and mutual understanding on this base. Among the successful can be called the publication of Taras Shevchenko's works in Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian, the series of the issuesIn Crimean Home”, the publication of the works by prominent Crimean Tatar cultural actors, creation of the documentary "Crimean Tatars" by the stage director V.Sperkach, and others. The project "Renovation of the Crimean Tatar Library", joint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, has become the most successful and remarkable. In the frameworks of the project, the renovation of the building and the equipment of Crimean Tatar Republican library named after Gasprynsky were accomplished. On the whole, 43 projects to the total amount of more than USD194.000 were supported in this direction.

The project of renovation and equipment of Crimean Tatar library named after I. Gasprynsky, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, may be mentioned separately. The project was started in 1998, with the total funding of about USD 380.000. At present, the renovation of the library building has been completed, the library processes have been automated, the work has been accomplished to additionally fill the library stocks, make copies of historical editions, and publish books by well-known actors of Crimean Tatar culture. This project was highly evaluated and supported by the general public of Crimea and by international organizations.

            Taking into account the experience of the Program's activities and those progressive changes that are passing in the general strategy of the International Renaissance Foundation, accordingly, the directions of the civic activities have been amended, which will be supported by the Program in 2000. The terms of the competition within the Program were published in the mass media of Crimea in March 2000. According to them, besides the current directions, the support is strengthening in regard of educational initiatives and initiatives, directed at protecting civic rights and social interests with the efforts of civic organizations.

I am convinced that further on the Program, basing upon the support from Crimea's society will continue its possible contribution in helping the deported Crimean Tatars, in building a conflict-free, multiethnic society in Crimea and Ukraine on the whole.






Petr Garchev , Doctor of historical sciences Professor of Simferopol State University (SSU).


The Ukrainian socialist parties, the Central Council, and its chairman -the prominent scientist and politician, Mikhaylo Grushevskii, at the beginning of July 1917, obtained from the Provisional Government the revival of Ukrainian statehood in the form of political autonomy within the composition of democratic Russia.

The Ukrainian leaders developed propaganda for the transformation of multinational Russia into a federation of peoples having equal rights with full internal independence and participation in the supreme bodies of authority of this federation.

They established links (connections) with the leaders of the national liberation movements of the Baltic States, Moldova, Transcaucasia, and other regions and pushed (??) them to revive their statehood in resistance to the all-Russian parties and Provisional Governments.

In 1917 the Central Council and its branches in Simferopol, Sevastopol, and other Crimean cities promoted the development of the Crimean Tatar National Movement in every possible way.

Following the example of Ukrainian organizations, which were forming Ukrainian units in Simferopol, Sevastopol, Feodosiya, and Kerch, the Moslem Executive Committee in Crimea, began to create Crimean Tatar battalions (1).

The decision of the Ukrainian National Congress in April 1917 to convoke in Kiev the "Congress of Peoples" was an important event for the development of the national liberation movement in Russia, including the Crimean Tatar movement.

They developed a plan for the conversion of the Russian centralized state into a federation of independent, democratic republics and areas.

The Central Council and its chairman, M. S. Grushevskii, could begin to carry out this decision only at the end of summer, 1917.

The managing bodies and leaders of the national movements received an invitation to the "Congress of Peoples" in Kiev.

On 20 August the Moslem Executive Committee in Simferopol received a telegram from the Central Council about the convocation of the "Congress of Peoples" in Kiev on 10 September.

The Moslem Executive Committee was offered the opportunity to put forward a demand for autonomy of the Crimean Tatars and to send their own delegation of 10 persons to Kiev (3).

Up to this time the Moslem Executive Committee and leaders of the Crimean Tatar Movement were afraid to put forward demands about autonomy for their own people.

The reduction of prestige (loss of prestige) of the Provisional Government, and its weakness in power, after the rebellion of General Kornilov, enabled the Moslem Committee to send a delegation of 10 persons headed by D. Seydamet and A. Ozenbashli to the "Congress of Peoples" in Kiev. (4).

The "Congress of Peoples" was held in Kyiv on September 8-15 with participation by delegations from Ukraine, Latvia, Crimean Tatars, Jews (by 10 persons), Lithuania (9 persons), Poland, Byelorussia, Moldavia (6 persons), Estonia (4 persons), Georgia (2 persons), Cossack regions (11 persons), members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party (3 persons), and one representative of the Provisional Government, (M.  A. Slavinskii).

The Chairman of the Central Council, Professor M. S. Grushevskii, was unanimously elected honorary chairman of the congress.

The protocols of this congress, including 12 resolutions it adopted, and the news of this unique forum published in the contemporary Mass Media related to the statements of Mikhaylo Grushevskii and other delegates, all of which are kept in the archives in Kyiv, testify to the beginning of the trenchant struggle of the peoples for the reorganization of Russia into a federation of independent, national states and districts. (6).

Amet Ozenbashly spoke in the congress about the Crimean Tatar Movement. The two women in the Crimean delegation, Emine Shabarova and Ayshe Iskhakova, also took the floor.

The congress supported the Crimean Tatar National Movement, declared for the territorial autonomy of Crimea, and that Crimea belonged to the Crimeans.  (7).

During the congress, Amet Ozenbashli and Dzhafer Seydamet met with the leaders of the Central Council and its chairman, S. Grushevskii, and they promised them all support of national self-determination for the Crimean Tatar People.

The congress decided to create a plenipotentiary body, "Council of Peoples", in Kyiv to develop a plan for a nationally and regionally independent, federative system and "for organization of a Council of Peoples" of Russia.

It was created on the basis of equal footing for every people (nationality) OR - It was created with equality for every people (nationality) including the Crimean Tatar People, who had four representatives (8).

A. Ozenbashki and D. Seydamet presented their reports at a session of the Moslem Executive Committee after the Crimean Tatar delegation returned from Kyiv.

As its newspaper, "The Voice of Tatars", informed on September 23, 1917, the Moslem Executive Committee expressed solidarity with the struggle of the Ukrainian people for self- determination and delegated (appointed)  its representatives to the Central Council.

Inspired by the support of the Central Council and its successful opposition to the Provisional Government, the leaders of the Moslem Executive Committee prepared and conducted a Congress of Crimean Tatars in Simferopol on October 1-2, 1917. Its organizers and leaders were N. Chelebi-Dzhikhan, D.Seydamet, A.Ozenbashli etc.

In their reports to the congress they proved the necessity for transformation of Russia into a federation of republics and regions, for autonomy of Crimea, and for the creation of a Crimean Tatar Parliament - Kurultay.

N Chelebi-Dzhikhan and A. Ozenbashki formulated the basic tasks of the Kurultay; publishing laws for Crimean Tatars, and participation in the creation of territorial autonomy for Crimea.

The congress approved this program and selected a commission for calling a Kurultay, to be headed by N. Chelebi-Dzhikhan, A. Ozenbashki and D. Seydamet.

The decision on this question was postponed until the calling of the All-Russian Constitutional Assembly. The Congress ran D. Seydamet, A.Ozenbashli, A. Ayvazov, A. Badaninskii, S. Khattatov as candidates for the deputies of this Assembly (9).

The Central Council (in Kyiv?) proclaimed the creation of the Ukrainian People's Republic and established its power over Ukraine, including the northern districts of Tavride Province, after the Bolshevik upheaval in Petrograd and overthrow of the Provisional Government.

It supported the creation of regional autonomy in Crimea, since the peninsula had lost its economic and political links with Russia and its municipal dumas and councils did not recognize the power of Lenin or the Bolshevik Council of People's Commissars.

In provincial and municipal revolutionary committees in Crimea the representatives of Ukrainian organizations including the Central Council acted in complete solidarity with the delegates of the Moslem Executive Committee.

At the beginning of November, due to the support of the Ukrainian leaders, the Moslem Executive Committee achieved the transfer of the Khan's palace in Bakhchisarai, where they planned to call a Kurultay.

The Head of the Ukrainian Province Council, Andrievskii, promised all support by the Ukrainian organizations for restoration of the Crimean Tatar People's rights to hold celebrations and meetings in Bakhshisarai.

He stated that the creation of an independent government of Crimea, in many respects, depended on the firm actions of the Crimean Tatars.

The Moslem Executive Committee did not keep itself waiting a long time, and on 15 November spoke "On power in Crimea".

On its own initiative it spoke on the creation of independent power in the peninsula "without supremacy of any people over another" under the slogan "Crimea for Crimeans".

The leaders of the Executive Committee denied the charges about a separation of Crimea from Russia. D. Seydamet stated to the press: "We, Tatars of Crimea, are the federalists and our fond dream is the creation of the Russian Federative Republic".  (10)

He said that the decision of the question on Crimean autonomy was within the competency of the Crimean Constitutional Assembly and Kurultay of the Crimean Tatar People (11).

"Anti-Bolshevik government of Tavricheskii province - is the Council of the National Representatives, which at the congress of the delegates of municipal dumas, local committees with participation of national organizations, including Ukrainian ones and Moslem Executive Committee, was created in Simferopol, on November 20-22, 1917.

The congress did not recognize the Lenin government and expressed its desire for cooperation with the Central Council, including on the decision of the vexed question of the northern districts of Tavride Province.

Representatives of all the national organizations in the province, including the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar ones, were elected to the presidium of the "Regional government".

P. Bianki, A. Ozenbashli, and V. Polivanov joined the managing executive board of this government, including its "Commissariat" (12).

This was the situation in November 1917 when the Moslem Executive Committee and its urban and district committees conducted elections to the Kurultay of the Crimean Tatar People.

The sessions of the Kurultay in the Khan's Palace in Bakhchisarai began on 28 November and continued into December.

The Moslem Executive Committee passed its full powers to the Kurultay, - the Parliament of the Crimean Tatar People - whose leaders were Ch.  Chelbi-Dzhikan, D. Seydamet, A. Ozenbashli, A. Ayvazov and others. The Kyiv Central Council welcomed the creation of the Kurultay by telegram  (14).

The Kurultay declared for the calling of an All-Crimean Constitutional Assembly and the creation of a democratic republic within the peninsula. It did not pretend to control of other ethnic groups in Crimea. D. Seydamet explained: "The Kurultay gives up entirely decisions about land, political, military, and financial questions to the compentency of the All-Crimean Constitutional Assembly" (15). On 14 December the Kurultay published "Crimean Tatar basis laws", in fact the first Crimean Tatar Constitution.

It stipulated the equality of all ethnic groups in the Crimean People's Republic, which should be created, and the election of a Crimean parliament - the All-Crimean Constitutional Assembly.  This body should decide the general political, land, and financial questions for the whole population (16).

At the same time, the "Crimean Tatar basic laws" defined the path (route) to democratization and further political, socio-economic, and cultural development of the Crimean Tatar People.  On 18 December, the Kurultay formed its Board of Directors - a Crimean Tatar government consisting of 5 "directors": N. Chelebi-Dzhikan (chairman), D. Seydamet (external and military affairs), A. Ozenbashki (education), S. Khattatov (finance), and A. Shukri (religion) to put into practice (implement ??) the "basic laws".

The Board of Directors undertook the management of all affairs of the Crimean Tatar People and gave its full support to the regional government - the Council of National Representatives.  They condemned the war being waged by Lenin's Council of People's Commissars against the socialist Central Council, with the use of Anarcho-Bolshevik detachments of sailors from Sevastopol.

On 19 December the Board of Directors and the Council of National Representatives formed a joint Crimean Headquarters headed by D. Seydamet and Colonel A. G. Makukhin for the struggle with Bolshevism on the peninsula.  The Central Council gave its support and recognized it as the Supreme Military Body on the Crimean Peninsula.

On December 10-14 the well-armed Anarcho-Bolshevik detachments that had been fighting against the Kalidin forces in Rostov and the Gaidamaks of the Central Council and Crimean Tatar Squadron in Aleksandrovsk (now Zaporozhye), returned to Sevastopol.  During the night of 16 December, they dissolved the Sevastopol Council of Working and Military Deputies.  The Headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet arrested and shot  many of their leaders. The Bolshevik Military-Revolutionary Committee was created in Sevastopol.  On instructions from the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party and Council of People's Commissars of Russia, it sent warships, and detachments of sailors, who launched a war against the Kurultay and the Council of National Representatives, at Kerch, Feodosiya, Yalta, Evpatoria and other cities, From 1 to 15 January 1918, stubborn battles were fought throughout Crimea (18).

Two mounted and one infantry Crimean Tatar regiments, and detachments of Russian and Ukrainian officers (less than a thousand persons), having no artillery or machine gun units, ended their resistance after stubborn battles.

Since at that time the army of the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR occupied most of Ukraine, the Central Council in Kyiv could not give military assistance to the Kurultay and Council of National Representatives in Crimea.  From January of 1918 the Anarcho-Bolshevik "revolutionary committees' of Crimea solidified their power in the peninsula by means of terror against their political opponents.  The Sevastopol Military-Revolutionary Committee announced in its own 'Declaration" that "The Council of National Representatives in Simferopol and the Tartar Parliament or Kurultay are dissolved" (19).

Thus history is repeated: at the end of the XVIII century the Tsarist Government of Russia liquidated Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar statehood, in 1917-18 the Bolshevik Government of Russia did not even grant self-determination for Ukrainians or Crimean Tatars.  Currently there are significant forces acting to create a reunified Union and thorough Russification of the peoples living in Russia, Byelorussia, Ukraine and Crimea.  The failure of their plans, in many respects, depends on the unity of actions of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars.



1. Garchev P.I. National movement of Crimean Tatars in March - October 1917. // The issues of history of National - liberation Movement for period of feudalism and capitalism in Ukraine. Documents of republican scientific-theoretical conference on 8-10 January 1991. - Kyiv - Zaporozhye, 1991. - pp.13-14.

2. Koval I.V., Kulchinskii S.V., Kurnosov Yu.I. History of Ukraine - Kyiv, 1992.-pp.44.

3. // The Voice of Tatars 1917, 23 September. - 1 9.

4. // The Voice of Tatars 1917, 14 October. - 1 12.

5. Central state archive of supreme bodies of management and state power of Ukraine, f. 1115, op. 1, d.7, l. 1.

6. Ibidem l. 2-6.

7. // The Voice of Tatars on 14 October 1917, - 1 12.

8. Central state archive of supreme bodies of management and state power of Ukraine, f.1115, op.1, d.7, l.2-5.

9. // The Voice of Tatars 1917, 14 October. - 1 12. Yu./Tavricheskii Golos 1917, 17 November.

11. // Tavricheskii Golos 1917, 18 November.

12. // Tavricheskii Golos 1917, 23 November; // Free South, 7 November 1917.

13. Korolev V.I. Tavricheskii province in revolutions of 1917-Sevastopol, 1994.-p.38.

14. Garchev P.I., Kononenko L.L., Maksimenko M.I. Republic of Tavrida. - Kyiv., 1990.-p.27.

15 Korolev V.I. Tavricheskii province in revolutions of 1917-Sevastopol, 1994.-p.42.

16 Ibidem 17 G.

17 L.I., Kononenko L.P., Maksimenko I.I. Republic of Tavrida. - Eyiv., 1990.-pp. 27-28.

18 Ibidem- pp. 28-34.

19. // Tavricheskaya Pravda 1918, 24 January. - 1 1.




Serhii Latshenko, «Independence», ¹ 388 (15208), December 29, 1999



Some ten years ago, for an average Ukrainian the word "Crimea" associated with the sea, sun, beaches, picturesque nature, orchards and vineyards.  That is to say, it produced unambiguously positive associations.  Time has changed this perception. Currently, at the threshold of the third millennium, the Crimea is perceived differently, without euphoria.  The most beautiful peninsula ("Medal on bosom of the planet,"  as the Crimean Tatars like to say) has become a source of anxieties: too many problems have arisen at once after Ukraine acquired independence.

Firstly, the problem of separatism due to Crimea being unlike the rest of Ukraine. The related problem of Ukrainiophobia, and a well-worn Black Sea fleet problem.  Not to mention the present inaccessibility of Crimea for vacationers: with our salaries, the seagulls and cypress trees somehow are not of concern ...

And finally Islam — a completely new problem since “the Islamic factor” has not troubled Ukraine for nearly three hundred years.  We have lost our familiarity with it.


Crimea — the motherland of the Crimean Tatars. They have no another one.

What is the main distinguishing feature of the Crimea? The fact that it belonged to Russia for a long time?  Hardly so. In this case it could have been considered as a logic continuation of the whole Black Sea region, which is also a considerably Russified part of Ukraine. No, the main particularity of Crimea is the fact that it is the motherland of the Crimean Tatars...

Ports that do not freeze, convenient harbors, the nature of fairy tale beauty, and the ruins of ancient temples — all this deserves attention, but it is the presence of the indigenous people (who claim the right to the Crimean land and to no another!) that will define, in many respects, the future of the peninsula.

Certainly, for Ukrainians as well Crimea is not a foreign land. “The Ukrainian presence” on a peninsula since the times of the Tmutarakan principality is a known fact.  Moreover, at the end of the XVII centuries, according to the Turkish chronicler and traveler Evliya Chelebi, Ukrainians constituted no less than 80 percents of the peninsula’ population.

However, this fact can be interpreted in various ways: one can refer to in order to claim that Crimea is “eternally ours,” or one can be more constructive and talk about the “Tatar phenomenon.”  Especially since all Crimean Ukrainians, in due course, became Crimean Tatars.... And when the majority assimilates into the minority, it signifies the greater vitality of the minority. It turns out, that God himself has taken care to ensure that Tatars sit strongly on this land, preserving their own character. The value system of such people is worthy of a thorough study.


A few words about Islam

As is well known, Crimean Tatars are Moslems. And Islam certainly has its strong aspects. The ambiguity of postulates in the Koran enables everyone to trust in his/her “own,” while nevertheless remaining in the bosom of one religion. Perhaps this is the reason why during the first two centuries of his triumph Mohammed got more supporters than Jesus did during the whole time of the existence of Christianity?

There is one more aspect. Orthodoxy rooted in the Byzantium tradition, with its irrationality and fatalism, leads to a significantly greater number of “externals” in our society (“external” is a person who thinks that his/her life wholly depends on the external circumstances.  Such a person would rather adapt to the circumstances than attempt to change them).  Modern sociologists think that 60 percents of the Ukrainian citizens belong to this category.  By contrast, in Western countries 60 to 70 percents of the population are “interials,” people inclined to take responsibility for their actions and who believe that everything in life depends on them. As far as I know, no such researches among the Crimean Tatars has been carried out.  But I think that over half of them are “interials.”  Crimean Tatars do not exhibit Ukrainian passivity and humility towards their own fate, which is transferred from generation to generation of Ukrainians with a spell “It will be all right somehow ...”

Is a small motherland loved more?

Crimean Tatars differ from us not only by their religion and darker skin, but also by the fact that they love their motherland differently: humbly, devotedly, infinitely.

Crimea  – you are my religion,

You are my great pain…

In these moving verses of young poetess Lilia Budzhurova is the key to understanding the Crimean Tatar problem. Ukrainians and Russians, even the most decent and most courageous ones, love their motherland differently. Compare:

My hateful Motherland!

There are no more shameful nights than yours

You have been lucky

With the outcasts,

With the surfs and the executioners

Iryna Ratushinska wrote these verses when she was not yet 23 years old ... One cannot say that she does not love her motherland.  For these and her other verses she was imprisoned, spent her jail term, but did not repent.  But she just loves her motherland differently, more critically, perhaps ...

How to explain this phenomenon? My assumption is that the smaller the motherland, the more acute is the feeling of the owner and the sense of responsibility, the more sentimental the love towards it, and the higher percentage of the patriots. A Canadian cannot love his motherland as deeply as a Slovak, an Ingush or an Estonian does. His love is calmer, he can relax on the open spaces: if you are to deport him a hundred times from Prince-Rupert to Prince-George, or from Peace River to Berents River, there will be no great tragedy:  both places are Canada, with its woods, lakes and first-class highways!

The Crimean Tatars, however, are so rooted in their motherland, in their native corner, that even after half a century of exile this feeling has not weakened. A Tatar from the sun-burned steppes of Dzhankoy will not be packing bags for beautiful Yalta.  He is the happiest where the grave of his great-grandfather is.

For the majority of the Crimean Tatars, the Crimea is simultaneously their large and small motherland. A lot of time will pass before they will begin to feel themselves a part of Ukraine …


Crimean Tatars are no less European than we are. And perhaps even more.

Steppe, cavalry, slaves, and mosques – our historical memory connects all this with the word “Tatars,” as well as with such concepts as “wildness” and “the Orient.” But these out-of-date stereotypes we shall have to replace soon, as they do not correspond to the reality.  Certainly, it will not happen immediately.  As the population of Eastern Ukraine did not immediately come to believe that Stepan Bandera followers were freedom fighters and not “slaughterers.” But eventually it happened ... Therefore, the Crimean Tatars have to be regarded as who they are.

The Ukrainians are rightfully proud of their democratic traditions, thinking that this is what differentiates them from the Russians (for whom the idea of the centralized power turned out to be most acceptable).  But the democratic traditions are also very strong among the Crimean Tatars.  It was these traditions that have helped them to select the optimum forms of struggle, have allowed to mobilize everyone for the main goal – the return to Crimea.

The form of the movement’s leadership was indeed quite original. By the way, human rights advocate  general Petro Hryhorenko highly appreciated it and described in details.  When it was decided to begin petition campaign, the Crimean Tatars acted in the following way: every settlement elected its representative, who was given a written authorization to represent his or her electorate.  The representatives were grouped by regions, and took turns being on duty in Moscow. After some time, the groups changed.  If an important action was planned, several groups went to Moscow. Each representative was funded by those who signed his authorization.  At any moment, the authorization could be taken away and transfer to someone else.

Therefore, there was no leadership in the conventional sense of the word. The representatives of settlements were ordinary people. Besides they frequently changed. Therefore, the KGB (Committee of State Security), with all its ingenuity, could not label anyone the leader or organizer.  It was practically impossible to decapitate the movement, especially since the Crimean Tatars did not have such a leader as Ocalan (the leader of Kurdish separatists).  And neither had they a need for one.

The secret lies in the fact that even in exile these people have preserved themselves as a nation.  Having almost lost their native language, they did not forget how to agree with each other. And this is a characteristic feature of civilized Europeans!

Here is an example on which to study democracy. There is no need to go abroad, most valuable experience is very close by, in the Crimea which used to be just a spa. But henceforth it can become something considerably larger: a treasure chest of ideas, a reservoir of the richest experience of national preservation and the strengthening of statehood.  It is just necessary to take a closer look at our southern neighbor (which is now one of two indigenous peoples of Ukraine), and to try to understand it as a brother.


Do the Crimean Tatars always understand Ukrainians?

Unfortunately, not always. And there are objective reasons behind it. The Crimean Tatars cannot really understand how the titular nation – which constitutes 3/4 of the population of the country, which has never been “uprooted” or deported – can have any problems with the native language or unity.  This is why they have a large temptation (and the island realities are conducive to this) to consider Ukrainians as a sub-type of Russians, something like those from Siberia or from the Urals. Journalist Tamara Solovey writes about it with bitterness in the newspaper “Krymska Svitlytsya” after talking to Ayshe Seitmuratova, a human rights activist from the Crimean Tatar movement: “I have realized with surprise and resentment that she does not distinguish the Ukrainian journalists from ‘the Russian-speaking population.’  Asking us to imagine ourselves in the place of the Crimean Tatars, the human rights activist forgets that we, Ukrainians, are not only no better off, but are even envious, in a friendly way, of her people: they have, after all, managed to achieve quite a lot in the sphere of the revival of their language and culture ...”

There are also Crimean Tatars who believe that the motherland of Ukrainians begins after Perekop, and in Crimea they have same rights, as Estonians, Belorussians, or Armenians ... A few years ago Eldar Isliamov in the article “Forever with Ukraine?” has expressed an opinion, that in 10-20 years the question of Crimea’s secession from Ukraine will arise, while for the time being (I quote): “we can hope to enlist its economic potential and resources for the solution of the repatriation problem of the Crimean Tatar people.”  And although such articles are very exceptional, one can understand those Ukrainian politicians who are not very enthusiastic about the return of the indigenous people to Crimea. What if Ukraine is creating a problem for itself?  Will yielding and tolerant Ukrainians assimilate again, just as three hundred years ago?  Will Andriy become Ayder, Ostap — Îsman, and Ìykola — Ìustafa?

From time to time cautious politicians express such fears behind the scenes.  Although, in my opinion, it is just ridiculous to regard the Crimean Tatars as the main threat to the Ukrainians! Especially taking into account that the Crimean Ukrainians are already almost assimilated.  Those who originated from Sumy region and have surname ending with “ko” are practically indistinguishable from migrants from Tambov with a surname ending with “ov.”  So, let us not be offended by Ayshe Seitmuratova, she did not sin against the truth: we still have to bring up our “Àndriy”s and “Îstap”s  ...

By the way, many Ukrainian National-democrats pin their hopes for better future of the Crimea on the return of the Crimean Tatars.


The rapprochement gives us a chance

Overall, the relationship between the Ukrainians and the Crimean Tatars could have been rather problematic. Each of the parties could have had its reasons to accuse the neighbor of something. Historical resentments are a very serious business! And by now we could have been “disentangling” the next European Karabakh. Only this time on the territory of Ukraine.  It is a credit to our mentalities that this has not happen yet. Tatars and us have proved to be equally patient and tolerant. Besides, His Majesty Chance has played not the last role. For it so happened that one of the most outstanding and most respected figures of the Crimean Tatar national movement was … a Ukrainian, Petro Hryhorenko.

An ex-general, honest and adamant man, he could not remain indifferent to the fate of the deported people.  Having learned the truth about the Crimean Tatar tragedy, Hryhorenko actively joined their struggle and walked the same road as the majority of the Tatar activists.  He steadfastly withstood all ordeals fate had in store for him. Fighting for the Tatars’ right to returning to Crimea, he himself was forced to spend his last days abroad, in exile. He was homesick for Ukraine, and his last words uttered in an American hospital were in Ukrainian …

… He came back to Ukraine as a monument which now is proudly rising at the center of Simferopol.  Streets and boulevards were named after him. The general returned to become a symbol of decency and nobility, and also a symbol of friendship between the Ukrainians and the Crimean Tatars.

Almost thirty-years long friendship between two human rights activists, Viacheslav Chornovil and Mustafa Dzhemilev, has also played a positive role. They were imprisoned practically alongside, and corresponded actively.  By their position they have in many ways defined the future of the Ukrainian–Crimean Tatar relationship.

It is necessary to note that practically all seeds sown earlier also gave good shoots. Even before the war poet Pavlo Tychyna was friends with a Crimean Tatar writer Shamil Alldin (moreover, he could communicate with him in a refined Crimean Tatar language!).  And later, in late 1980s, a pupil and a friend of the poet, Stanislav Telniuk, did a lot so that Ukrainians of Kyiv saw in the Crimean Tatars their friends and allies.  He consistently sough to demonstrate the need for the organization “Ukrainians for protection of the Crimean Tatars,” and only a senseless and tragic death prevented him from finishing the task he started.  But this impulse did not vanish.  Just like his early historic novellas in which Telniuk created many positive images of the Crimean Tatars, his active position in years of perestroika has in an important way contributed to the fact that today the majority of Ukrainian national-democrats sympathize with the indigenous people of Crimea, and consider their demand to restoration a national-territorial autonomy a just one.

Stanislav Òelniuk knew his people, their best traits, and so he was sure that among them the defenders of the Crimean Tatars are to be found.  And so it happened.  Even Crimean Ukrainians – despite their relatively low numbers, dissociation, a suffocating chauvinistic atmosphere of the peninsula – did a lot to establish good relations with the Tatars who returned from the deportation. A poet from Chornomorske, Îrest Êîrsovetskii, has devoted several poems to his new friends.  The poems turned out kind, humane, frank, just like the author himself – a former partisan, front-line soldier (and later a teacher in one of schools on Chukotka where he stood for the right of Chukotka children to study their native language).  Moving to Crimea after an illness, Îrest Êîrsovetskii was overtaken by the same deep sympathy for the Crimean Tatars. The ability to feel compassion is the main feature of this remarkable man’s character.

And Îrest Korsovetskii is not the only spontaneous defender of the Crimean Tatars.  A former sailor and presently a known bandura player from Yalta, Îstap Kindrachuk, has written a series of articles about these long-suffering people under the title “Eshil Ada” (“Green island”), noting all the best that has existed between us. By doing so, he tried to prepare his compatriots for the mass returning of the deportees, sincerely wishing to save them from the tatarophobia which was artificially inflated by the local authorities.  By the way, for some time he took Crimean Tatar language lessons from Seyran Memetovich Useinov, and now he has not only Ukrainian, but also Crimean Tatar folk songs, in his repertory! As to the indigenous Crimeans, they have one good feature – the ability to reciprocate the good turn.  On more than one occasion they have proved themselves as true Ukrainian patriots, at times being greater patriots than the Ukrainians themselves.

Such a situation is unique and inspires optimism: we will not have events similar the Yugoslav scenario.


Crimea can become Ukrainian Switzerland

That fact that the Ukrainians and the Crimean Tatars try to, and find, a common language is good. But, unfortunately, peace and accord on the peninsula depend not only on them. The Russian-speaking population – though  understands that Ukraine is serious and it there to stay for a long time, and the Tatars even more so – nevertheless mostly thinks conservatively.  Not all Russians are ready to share their (i.e. the Russian-language) information field, many of them don’t want new Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar schools to open, and the necessity to study these languages in the future simply frightens them.

The generation of “prewar Russians” who knew the Crimean Tatar language well is gradually disappearing from the stage, and more recent settlers from Russia are more often predisposed aggressively than benevolently.  This is an imperial disease, and it is especially visible in the Crimea. Observations of a polyglot Willy Melnikov (who knows 93 languages!) about his native city of Moscow are interesting in this regard.  Among friends of the polyglot only 15-20 percent have approved of his passion for learning languages. While 80-85 percent have condemned this indulgence of a young man, regarding it as a harmful “freakishness”:  a Russian person only needs to know one language – Russian.

In the Crimea pro-Russian sentiments are still very strong, and the majority of the population wishes to study languages approximately as much as the Moscovites do. I write about it with great sorrow, since the Crimeans do not really have a choice. The Crimea will become either Ukrainian Switzerland, or it is doomed to “evolve” in the direction of “Ukrainian Kosovo.”

The language policy in the autonomy should be special, because the Crimean Tatars are the indigenous people with a well-developed self-preservation instinct, not some other national minority. Ignoring its problems is a delayed-action mine. However, so is their unskillful solution.

Now, while there is still time, it is necessary to quietly start studying the experience of Switzerland, Canada, Finland and other multinational states, and try to apply it to the Crimea. By the way, ethnic composition of the population of Switzerland almost corresponds to the Crimean realities. Let's compare:



Russian             63 percents

Ukrainians                    25

Crimean Tatars 10


Germans                64 percents

French                  19

Italians                    8



The truth is, however, that peaceful coexistence of languages in Switzerland is not complicated by memories of past injuries, oppression or deportation of any of the ethnic groups. In Crimea the situation is not the same. However, one can take the Swiss experience as a model, it is better than the post-war Crimean one. Also note: the majority of Swiss know three languages, and some even four.

By the way, in Slovenia, a country which was created after the collapse of Yugoslavia, the representatives of the titular nation are obliged to study language of ethnic minorities which live nearby. Therefore, Slovenes frequently learn not at all related Hungarian or Italian, though there are only 10,000 Hungarians in the country, and even less Italians. There are more than 250,000 Crimean Tatars already in the Crimea, therefore, the population ought to be already taught at least the basics of the Crimean Tatar language. 

At the same time, it is necessary to put an end to such an infamous Crimean phenomenon as Ukrainophobia.  For each step forward on a way to the “Swiss” harmony, Ukrainians pay with their lives.  Two years ago, “Prosvita” activist Vitalii Mohylnyi perished tragically, last year died the editor of Saki regional newspaper “Vidrodzhennia” Oleksii Yefimenko. Chauvinists promised to break the head, but instead threw him out of the fifth floor window.

It is terrible, but our indifference is a lot more terrible. The newspaper “Vidrodzhennia” was the only Ukrainian-language regional newspaper on the peninsula.  Currently, it is no more ... But due to the brotherly assistance of the Crimean Tatars, the Bakhchsarai regional newspaper “Dumka” was started.  Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars produce it together, in Ukrainian.

It looks like these two peoples are destined to start building a Temple of Accord on the Crimean land. It is a difficult, but an honorable mission.  The Christians and Moslems of the whole world look at us.





Yuri Polkanov, Member of the Academy  Technical sciences of Ukraine

The silent witnesses of the past of the Crimean Karaites (Karai) are monuments of their material culture, above all temples named kenasa.  For example, near the Golden Gate in Kiev one can see a remarkable dome building created by architect Gorodetsky (today, it is called the Actors’ House). There are well-preserved kenasas in Sevastopol, Kharkiv, Berdyansk, Yevpatoria and Bakhchesaray, as well as in the ancient Karai metropolis, the city-fortress Dzhuft Kale (Twin Fortress).  In the past, there were such temples in Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Yalta, Feodosia and elsewhere.  Until recently one could find them in Lutsk and Galich.

Most of the Crimean Karaites, about 1200 people, reside in Ukraine.  Eight hundred of them live in their historical homeland Crimea (in 1914, their number was 8 000, while the total population in the Russian Empire was 14 000).  Altogether in the world, a little more than 2000 Karaites have remained. Beside Ukraine and Lithuania, they live also in Russia, Poland and France.

In 1246, invited by Galician prince Danila, some Karaites moved from Crimea to Galicia. This resettlement is referred to in the poem The Monologue of a Lutsk Karaite by Petro Gots.

Today, in the old town of Galich there are only seven families who can speak the ancient Galician-Lutsk dialect of Turkic Karaites.

Karai communities used to keep ties with each other.  Caravans with Crimean salt and fish were brought by the Chumaks (from the word chomacha meaning “collar”, “yoke”) to Galicia and further to Lithuania. The large Lithuanian community of Crimean Karaites and Crimean Tatars has survived until now; it descends from people invited in 1396 by Great Prince Vytautas to serve in his army.  Crimean soldiers are well-known and remembered in Lithuania.  On the commemorative coin issued to the 600-year anniversary of their resettlement from Crimea, a Karaite and a Crimean Tatar are depicted, carrying their traditional weapons.

The sharp reduction in population since 1914 was largely due to wars (most of the seven hundred of Karai, mainly regular officers, perished in World War I), to the Soviet “wise” ethnic policy, famines and repressions.  The Soviet regime destroyed the traditional ethnic and confessional structure of communal self-government and the organisation of education, and scattered the people.  Karaites were deprived of their relics and communal property, they lost their traditional professions and crafts.  In the past, Crimean Karaites had a seminary, a number of colleges and vocational schools, the public library “Karay Bitikligi”, a museum, a sanatorium for children and a home for the aged.  With their language almost exterminated and on the verge of disappearance as a nation, Karaites, however, still retain their identity.  This gives a hope that, if appropriate actions are taken, ethnic and cultural identity may survive.

In 1917, the Crimean Karaites were among the ethnic minorities who were first to formally declare themselves as distinct entities.  This declaration, confirmed without alteration by the recent All-Ukrainian Conference of Crimean Karaites, reads: “[The Karaites are] the indigenous people of Crimea united by common descent, language and traditions, who consider themselves as ethnically individual, related to other Turkic peoples, having an original culture and an independent religion. They feel attached to Crimea as their historical homeland, they sympathise with other nations and confessions and respect their self-identification”.

The place where Crimean Karaites emerged as an ethnic entity was Crimea; their predecessors were ancient Karaites of Hun and Khazar tribal unions who had assimilated Sarmat-Alans and, partially, Goths. They are close to Crimean Tatars in origin, language and culture. Their most frequent professions in the past were military service, cattle-breeding, gardening and handicrafts. Their first names and surnames contain titles of ancient clans, tribes and trades. Particularly famous about the Karaites has always been their kitchen, especially Karai patties.

The religion of Karaites is based on the doctrine of prophet Anan and the ancient Turkic tradition, admitting both Christ and Muhammad as great prophets. One of its important principle is that one must personally comprehend the wisdom of the Holy Writ, not relying on others’ opinions. It postulates the immortality of soul and that a person’s destiny is determined by that person’s deeds. It also includes some elements of Tengrian teaching; for example, God is called by the name of an ancient Turkic deity Tengri.

Hierarchs of Orthodoxy emphasised the resemblance of the Karaite religion with earlier Christianity. Metropolitan Yevlogy wrote: “The religion of Karaites recognises the Old Testament along with the Ten Commandments that are contained in other monotheistic religions (for example, in Islam) as well, and views Jesus Christ and Muhammad as great prophets. Therefore Karaites have enjoyed all the rights of indigenous peoples for example, they might hold officer ranks, were allowed to elite educational institutions, and so on.”

For the Karaites, customs of their ancestors play an important role. A popular wisdom says that observing the tradition makes half of the faith.

Crimean Karaites were offered the right to self-government, privileges and protection by Christians as well as Moslems: in the Crimean Khanate, in the Galicia-Volyn and Lithuanian principalities, in the Polish Kingdom and in the Russian Empire. Before the Russian revolution, Crimean Karaites had a note in their passports: “Karaite confession”.

For Crimean Karaites, this confession is their national religion. Although it is professed as well by Arabs, Greeks and small groups of Slavs, e.g. Cossacks (in Ukraine and Russia), it is a distinctive feature of the Karaites’ Weltanschauung that the Turkic tradition is mixed with an element of the Tengrian religion.  This feature distinguishes them from others who may formally be their coreligionists.

The main relics of Crimean Karaites and the places of worship and pilgrimage are the city-fortress of Dzhuft Kale, the cemetery-sanctuary of Balta Tiymaz (“An axe shall never touch”) where under the sacred oaks believers pray the god Tengri, and the complex of kenasa temples in Yevpatoria.  In 1999, the Small Kenasa in Yevpatoria was restored for donations of the believers and now public worships are regularly conducted.

Crimean Karaites are the heirs of the ancient Khazar culture and tradition.  Their habits of life are close to those of Crimean Tatars.  Some of their rites, customs and dishes go back to the Khazar period of history, thus illustrating the connection of epochs and laying a bridge from the past to the present.

In the Crimean Khanate, Karaites reached high positions; successful defenders of a fortress were promoted to military aristocracy.  In Lithuania, they served as Prince’s guardsmen and enjoyed privileges.  In the pre-revolutionary Russia, they achieved high civil and military ranks and were under personal patronage of monarchs.

In the Crimean Karaite communities, charity and assistance between neighbours were encouraged without ethnic or religious distinction.  In Yevpatoria, the local library, the theatre, the sanatorium for children and the town’s park that are still functioning have been always open to the townsfolk.  Pre-revolutionary Yevpatoria and Feodosia in their architectural shape were considerably influenced by the Crimean Karaites.

There are some notable figures among the Crimean Karaites who deserve to be mentioned.  These are Ilyash Karaimovich, a Cossack Hetman; S. Krim, scientist in agriculture, founder of the Tauride University and head of the regional government of Crimea (1918, 1919); Prof. Han Shapshal, specialist in Turkic philology; geologist Prof. I. Tanatar; ophthalmologist Prof. S. Kalfa; film producer S. Yutkevich; composer S. Maykapar; painter S. Dudnik (Mitchri); General Ya. Kefeli, maritime physician and a hero of the battle at Port - Artur (1904).

The Karaite communities of Crimea, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Galich and other regions of the country have established the All-Ukrainian Association of Crimean Karaites “Krimkaraylar”. This umbrella organisation is chaired by Y. Kogen, deputy of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of the 13th convocation. The objectives set by the Association are saving the Karai people and its relics, assisting in its religious and cultural revival, and helping it to retain its ethnic and cultural identity. In view of the present catastrophic situation, there is an urgent need for a state program to be established for protecting the people and its culture from disappearance; this small people must be officially assigned a proper status; the state should return it its relics and communal buildings; it must be represented in governmental bodies. Following the example of other countries (e.g., as for Saamis in Sweden), the status of a small-endangered indigenous people ought to be established.

There is an acute question whether this ancient people will survive in Ukraine and, more widely, in the ethnic and cultural mosaic of our planet. Kismet bolsa (“if the fortune is well-disposed”), as the Karaites say, the people will not disappear; this, however, depends on the goodwill of everyone who can do something for it.


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