Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Crimean Tatars

Here's an interstice article about some of the problems the Tatars face in the Crimea--RFE/RL: Three challenges for the Crimean Tatars.

I don't know much about them other than that they are descendents of the Golden Horde, the Mongols who ruled in that region for a period of time.

The Crimean peninsula has a certain amount of autonomy from Kiev. It was granted as a sort of compromise when Ukraine declared independence from Moscow. That was done to allay some of the ethnic problems that would have erupted had they not granted that autonomy.

Here's an excerpt:

The Crimean Tatars overwhelmingly backed the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, but in the wake of that victory, they face three challenges to their national aspirations: first, the probability of increased Russian meddling on the peninsula, second, the likelihood of growing Islamic fundamentalism there, and third, the possibility of declining support by Western governments that now have a government in Kyiv they like.

The Crimean Tatars face increased Russian meddling in Crimea, some of it by the local Russian community but much of it clearly orchestrated by Moscow. Ethnic Russians -- who constitute the majority of the peninsula's population -- voted overwhelmingly against Viktor Yushchenko.

Some of the more extreme ethnic Russian opponents of the Orange Revolution there organized themselves as Cossack detachments to defend against what they said were Crimean Tatar threats, according to, and others urged a vote to put Crimea under Russian control, reported.

Even though the Ukrainian presidential election is now over and tempers may have cooled somewhat, Moscow's interests in maintaining its naval base there and in continuing to use Crimea as a counterweight to Kyiv make it likely that Russia will attempt to exacerbate problems there, a development that is likely to hurt rather than help the Crimean Tatars.

The Russian base is in Sevastopol in the southeastern end of the peninsula. (Near the site of the famous charge of the Light Brigade, Balaclava.) It is the only warm water military port Russia has so it is a significant strategic asset. There is some talk about relocating it to Russian territory in the Azov Sea but they would have to build a base and harbor from scratch in that area. That is something that makes it unlikely.

Most of the Tatars were shipped off to Tajikistan by the Soviets. There is a movement afoot to come back. My wife and I visited the area and we met a man on a train who was from Tajikistan and a Tatar relocated to the Crimea. He was in charge of an office that worked with Tatars coming back to the Crimea.

It was interesting to talk to him. He was a Tatar and loyal to his group, but he still had a certain amount of loyalty to the Soviet Union. This was odd to me because of the forced move of the Tatars by the Soviet Union out of the Crimea. He was one that had come back from Tajikistan to his homeland in the Crimea. When we spoke to him, he kept making the point that all were equal in the Soviet system. That is one you hear from a lot of older people who lived during the Soviet period. All were equal no matter the nationality in the Soviet Union.

When I suggest to them that most of the party positions were held by ethnic Russians, they see the point but continue to make the same claim nonetheless. (And pointing to Stalin, a Georgian, and Kruschev, a Ukrainian, always serves to make teh counter case.) But my point is still true.

In any event, this article describes what might turn out to be a problem for Ukraine and Yuschenko.


Anonymous said...

The Meskhetian Turks, who will probably never get to go back to Georgia and many of whom are coming to the United States, say the same things about the Soviet Union. They're pretty bitter about the raw deal that they are getting in Krasnodar Krai.

Also, the Kruschev bio I'm reading right now says that he's Russian, but from Ukraine.

Nathan @ The Argus

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Kimmeria said...

The Crimean Tatars were deported mostly to Uzbekistan and not to Tadjikistan where individual Tatars from the Crimea may live. Their problems are overpoliticized and are being used in anti-Russian propaganda. The Meskhetian Turks were also deported to the Central Asia on orders of Stalin. But little is known about them in the West. The Meskhetians are still not allowed to return to their native Georgia. The pro-Western Georgian leadership is viciously opposed to it. To help Goergia out the US agreed to admit some of them. But the majority still live in Russia in limbo, without proper papers. The Meskhetian Turks fled Uzbekistan, the country of their exile where they are unwanted now. All the hoopla around ethnic groups in Russia and the former USSR has a lot of aspects, nuances and grey areas.