International Committee for Crimea


ICC News Digest No. 4 (Winter 2006)


Crimean Tatar Kurultay Convenes in Simferopol

The 4th Kurultay: Decree about the Forthcoming National and Local Elections
Golos Kryma (Simferopol), no.52, 23 December 2005

The forthcoming Ukrainian elections were the main topic on the agenda of the Kurultay of the Crimean Tatar people that took place on 9-11 December in Akmescit (Simferopol). The general elections scheduled for March 26 will be conducted according to a radically different system, where all seats in the Ukrainian parliament, the Crimean parliament, and other regional and city councils will be allocated to the political parties and electoral blocs, whereas in the previous electoral system half of the parliamentarians in the Ukrainian parliament, and all elected officials in the less senior councils came from single-mandate districts. The single-mandate (not according to party lists) elections were retained only for the village councils. In the elections to the Ukrainian Parliament, the Crimean Tatars will cooperate with the National Union Our Ukraine - formerly the bloc of Viktor Yuschenko, who, as President, can not to participate in the Parliamentary elections. In the elections to the Crimean parliament as well as the less senior regional and city elections, cooperation with the long-term electoral ally - the National Rukh of Ukraine - was approved. In all-Ukrainian elections, Our Ukraine provided two seats on the party list for the Crimean Tatar candidates, while in the local elections approximately 20% of the places on the lists of Kurultay will be allocated to the members of the National Rukh of Ukraine. Kurultay members voted on the candidates to be included on the lists of Our Ukraine and Rukh, and asked local Mejlis administrations to decide on the participants in regional, city and village council elections. (English summary by Kemal Seitveliev)

Sobytiya (Simferopol), 16 December 2005

Discussions at the latest Crimean Tatar Kurultay (9-11 December) revealed that the nation is split over what political force to support in the upcoming Ukrainian parliamentary election. Leonid Ivanov reports in the new Crimean analytical weekly that even though the Kurultay voted to support the National Rukh of Ukraine, the issue still remains unclear. This happened because the Crimean branch of National Union Our Ukraine, of which Rukh is a member, has distanced itself from Crimean Tatars in order to attract ethnic Russian votes, as Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemilev said. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Muslim Party and the newly formed Crimean Tatar Bloc, both linked to the opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, are to form an alliance in Crimea in order to counterweight the pro-presidential bloc between Rukh and the Mejlis. (Source: World News Connection)

Recognize Deportation as an Act of Genocide

Golos Kryma (Simferopol), 23 December 2005

The Crimean Tatar weekly published the speech of the prominent Crimean Tatar activist and historian Timur Dagji at the recent session of the Kurultay held on 9-11 December. Dagji urged the international community to recognize that Soviet Russia carried out acts of genocide against the Crimean Tatar people in the 20th century. He said that Crimean Tatars lost a total of 37,928,958 dollars in land and property as a result of the deportation from the peninsula by Stalin's orders in 1944, and Russia as the successor of the Soviet Union should compensate them. He also said that Ukraine continues the policy of harassing Crimean Tatars by refusing to recognize their constitutional rights. He quoted NATO representatives who met with the Crimean Tatar leaders recently as saying that when Ukraine joins the EU and NATO, no-one will care about Crimean Tatars' resettlement problems. He urged the Mejlis to file complaints at the European Court of Human Rights, demanding that Crimean Tatars' constitutional rights should be restored before Ukraine joins the EU. (Source: World News Connection)

The Kurultay Denounces the 18 May 1944 Deportation as an Act of Genocide
Golos Kryma (Simferopol), 23 December 2005

At its last session the Crimean Tatar Kurultay, the delegates denounced the 1944 deportation as an act of genocide. The Kurultay decree noted that while Ukraine provided support for the returning Crimean Tatars, the discrimination and assimilation of the Crimean Tatars, who lost 46.2% of their total numbers during the deportation, still continue. The Kurultay called upon the Ukrainian President and the Parliament to issue a formal denunciation of the deportation as an act of genocide and help Crimean Tatars achieve international recognition of this fact. Kurultay also set up a special commission to study the genocide and overcome its consequences. (English summary by Kemal Seitveliev)

On the 15th Anniversary of the ARC

On the Frontline: A Review of the 15th Anniversary of the Founding of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC)
Mikita Kasyanenko, The Day, no. 6, 21 January 2006

In January the ARC "celebrated" the 15th year of the Autonomy. Mikyta Kasyanenko from the influential Day newspaper, after some lip service to the official statements enumerating the benefits of the Autonomy to Crimea, dwells lengthily on numerous failures of this political body to resolve the majority of the well known local problems such as the failures in the nationalities policy, the growing confrontation between the peninsula's main ethnic groups, lack of progress in teaching the national languages, and numerous failures in the development of the economy and tourism. Importantly, neither Crimean Tatars seeking more rights for themselves nor the Russians, for whom the current autonomy is not sufficiently pro-Russian, seem to be happy with the current setup. Lastly, Kasyanenko notes that against the backdrop of various national and political conflicts that could endanger not only the stability in Crimea, but also in Ukraine, there is a curious multiplicity of various political organizations that use a war-like rhetoric and call themselves "fronts" - such as the "Russian Front" or "Left Front of Crimea". The statements of the leaders of such groups indicate that they are "not building the fronts for peace." (English summary by Kemal Seitveliev)

Anti-Tatar Rhetoric in the Crimean Press

The Strategy of the Mejlis in the Political Context of the ARC
Viktor Pirozhenko, Council of National Security and Defense of Ukraine
Krymskoye Vremia (Simferopol), no.1, 5 January 2006

Published in the Crimean Time newspaper (known for its hostile attitude toward the returning Crimean Tatars), this article by Victor Pirozhenko from the National Institute for the International Problems, Council of National Security, describes the perceived "course of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis for building a Crimean Tatar national-ethnic autonomy" as the "main factor in the political destabilization on the peninsula." The article is noteworthy for presenting the view of the "other side" on the Crimean Tatar issues and self-organization. According to the author, the Crimean Tatar Mejlis aims for the "full political domination" in Crimea. He notes that "the Mejlis does everything to strengthen the Crimean Tatar cultural norms, and expand their political, ideological and religious influence." Accordingly, the Mejlis "preaches ethnic uniqueness, opposes the expansion of the cultural-religious norms different from Islamic and Crimean Tatar, steers toward voluntary ethnic segregation, and seeks the creation of bodies of governance such as the central Mejlis and its local branches that parallel the constitutional ARC and the Ukrainian state bodies. (English summary by Kemal Seitveliev)

Golos Kryma (Simferopol), 10 February

According to the Crimean Tatar weekly, the local media in the Crimean Bilohirsk District is inciting interethnic tension between Crimean Tatars and Russians. Adil Seitbekirov quotes the local paper Belaya Gora as saying that those ethnic Russians who voted for the Crimean Tatar candidates at the previous parliamentary election are "infected with the plague of internationalism" and they "support Tatar extremists." Bilohirsk District has the largest population of Crimean Tatars, about 25 per cent. (Source: World News Connection)

Disputes over the Land

Members of the "protest camp" threaten to sacrifice themselves
Oleksandr Maschenko, Krymskoie Vremia (Simferopol), no. 9, 28 January 2006

Mejlis blackmails the government and threatens with terror acts
Krymskaya Pravda (Simferopol), no.17, 28 January 2006

Crimean Tatars continue to receive negative publicity in the pro-Russian press, even when they threatened to "sacrifice themselves" if the land issues were not resolved. After a recent "land protest" event in Chistenkoye near Simferopol, where Nadir Bekirov went on record saying that "the protesters decided to name their village Kurban — a sacrifice." "People are determined…to sacrifice themselves," he continued, "so that the Crimean Tatars would start receiving land." Many Russian-language publications jumped on the opportunity to elaborate on what the word "sacrifice," uttered by one of the Mejlis members, could or should mean in the Crimean context. The news then quickly reached the mainstream Russian-language media far beyond Crimea. The Crimean Tatar view on the events can be found in an article, "Lack of answers Breeds Desperation" by Ibraim Abdullaiev, Golos Kryma, #5, 27 January 2006. (English summary by Kemal Seitveliev)

Krymskaya Gazeta (Yalta), 1 February

The Crimean directorate of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry issued a formal warning against a group of Crimean Tatars who grabbed a land plot near Chistenkoye. The warning published in the Crimean government daily said that the Crimean Tatars' actions could be regarded as an "act of terrorism" and criminal charges should be brought against them. According to the Crimean Police, the group of Tatars who grabbed the plot threatened to block roads and use Molotov cocktails. (Source: World News Connection)

Golos Kryma (Simferopol), 10 February

About 150 Crimean Tatars picketed the Simferopol court where the hearing over a land grab case was held on 3 February, Leyla Alyadinova reports in the Crimean Tatar weekly. Owners of a deserted field located at the Chistenkoye village near Simferopol sued 13 Crimean Tatars who settled there without permission on 11 January. The demonstrators protested at what they described as "the unjust trial of the Crimean Tatar nation." They marched to the court all the way from Chistenkoye, holding signs "Ukraine, give back Crimean Tatars their rights," "We demand a UN representative" and "Stop lawlessness at courts." The dispute was resolved the same day after the landowners recalled their suit. (Source: World News Connection)

Controversy over the Islamic Cartoons

Ukrayina Moloda (Kyiv), 12 February

Segodnya, a newspaper close to Rinat Akhmetov, reprinted scandalous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The Internet outlet Maydan-Inform evaluated the article in this newspaper as "a conscious provocation, directed at spoiling Ukraine's image in the Islamic world". Segodnya explains the appearance of the cartoons to simply to inform Ukrainians of the course of the scandalous events.

Mr. Refat Chubarov, a Ukrainian MP and member of the parliamentary committee on human rights, national minorities and inter-ethnic relations and a Muslim, distributed an open and fairly "diplomatic" letter to Ukrainian media in which he noted: "In a civilized society, there cannot be a place for acts which humiliate the deep feelings of people. It is regrettable that professional journalists whose acts have become the reason for the indignation of millions of believing Muslims in various countries are playing the role of provocateurs.

The head of the Crimean Tatar ethnic assembly, Mustafa Jemilev told the Ukrayina Moloda: "I would like to point out that under the years of a totalitarian regime, when the communists tossed Christians, Jews and Muslims into jail for their religious belief, it was not the Muslim press, but the same Western media, including the Danish press, which defended them. And the fact that the Danish leadership offered an apology, including on Muslim television, gives grounds to say that the incident surrounding the cartoons should be over. As for the reprinting of these cartoons in Ukrainian media on the tail of the hysteria, in my opinion, is prolonging the provocation, which was begun by a few shortsighted journalists from Denmark. And that is a great pity." (Summarized by Cemil Otar)

Upcoming Elections (26 March 2006)

Golos Kryma (Simferopol), 23 December

The Ukrainian Muslim Party was disbanded, following the decision adopted by the party's leaders at the congress of the Confederation of Islamic organizations, held in Donetsk on 17 December, Leyla Alyatdinova reports. The head of the party's Crimean branch, Salim Berberov, said that the party members were recommended to join en masse the Ukrainian Party of Regions. He added that this happened after Ukrainian oligarch, Renat Akhmetov, who financed the Ukrainian Muslim Party, became number seven on the Ukrainian Party of Regions' list. Crimean members of the Ukrainian Muslim Party plan to cooperate with anti-Mejlis Crimean Tatar bloc, headed by Edip Hafarov. The paper further notes that prominent members of the Crimean branch of the Party of Regions are ethnic Russian radical nationalists who conducted several anti-Tatar and anti-Muslim campaigns on the peninsula in the past. (Source: World News Connection)

Krymskaya Pravda (Simferopol), 8 February

Mykola Azarov, the head of the political council of the Party of Regions, expressed his hope that Crimean Tatars will vote for his party at the election. In return, Azarov promised government aid for Crimean Tatars when his party comes to power. He says that the current Ukrainian government is using the Crimean Tatars as a tool to stir up anti-Russian sentiments among the Ukrainians. In the long run, this policy will lead to the segregation of the Crimean Tatars, Azarov added. (Source: World News Connection)

Sobytiya (Simferopol), 10 February

The upcoming parliamentary elections in the Autonomous Republic are giving rise to a pronounced struggle for the votes of ethnic Russians, who constitute a majority in Crimea, and the Crimean Tatars, who are the most politically active group on the peninsula. Leonid Ivanov reports that several political forces are simultaneously trying to capitalize on the idea of closer ties with Russia to attract ethnic Russian voters. At the same time, the head of the Mejlis Mustafa Jemilev has assured that Rukh (which he represents) will get as many Crimean Tatar votes as possible. However, the opposition Party of Regions plans to win over 30 per cent of Crimean Tatar votes, improving the party's overall performance by 4 per cent. The plan could work since 4,000 Crimean Tatars are members of the party, Ivanov says. (Source: World News Connection)

A Political Portrait of Crimea before the Elections
Valentina Samaar, Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, no.6, 18-24 February 2006

During a recent visit to Crimea, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yurii Yekhanurov referred to the political situation on the peninsula as "critical," with many political forces being "financed from abroad" [read: "Moscow"] and "working very actively". According to Yekhanurov, the situation has worsened considerably, compared to two years ago.

The elections themselves: 46 parties and blocs will compete for seats in the Crimean Parliament. Most of them are unknown to the local electorate and have not even a hypothetical chance of passing the 3% barrier. Why to bother registering them? One of the visible outcomes is that the coveted places on the local electoral committees were distributed by random among all the registered parties and some of the leading blocs, such as Communists or the Yulia Timoshenko's bloc did not get any.

An analysis of the party lists reveals a curious attractiveness of the Crimean Parliament, once a political backwater for a variety of heavy-weight candidates, whose questionable reputation did not allow them to participate in the elections to the Ukrainian parliament. Desperate to secure their political future, they conduct very lively electoral campaigns. Samar notes that the future parliament, dominated by the Party of the Regions, the Union, and the Communists, will be very pro-Russian and difficult for Kiev to deal with. Kiev's last trump card in this forthcoming hate relationship is the Crimean Prime Minister, who cannot be appointed without Kiev's approval. Hence lies the main intrigue of both the elections and their immediate aftermath.

An important difference from any previous elections is that the so called "criminal element" seems to have decided that this is as good time as any to try and get the "people's deputies" mandates. According to Lusenko, the Ukrainian minister of internal affairs, there are 45 candidates for the Crimean parliament that have had problems with the law in the past, some of them acknowledged leaders of the criminal groups. Probably there are as many or more candidates, who did not appear on the radar screens of the authorities, but whose past is just as murky.

Who can Kiev count on in the Crimean Parliament? Samar recognizes that again, "as it was ten years ago," there are only Crimean Tatars, who storm the parliament under the political banner of the National Rukh of Ukraine. The National Union Our Ukraine, torn apart by internal feuds, and generally having a weak following on the peninsula, also has a chance to overcome the 3%-barrier. (English summary by Kemal Seitveliev)

There are always Crimean Tatars to rely on
Leonid Ivanov, 6 March 2006

Three weeks before the general elections, Kiev suddenly appears to be anxious to implement some measures first discussed by the National Security and Defense Council on 8 February 2006. Such a move would undoubtedly attract the attention of the Crimean Tatar electorate and help the pro-Yushchenko National Union Our Ukraine win more Tatar votes. President Yushchenko's decree orders the state bodies to address and resolve many of the Crimean Tatar concerns that Mejlis tried to bring to the state's attention for years: to lay the foundations for the ethno-nationalities policy; to provide ministerial support for passing bills to improve the legal status of Crimean Tatars; to start working on a plan that would give back the Tatar names to the cities and villages in Crimea; to increase the share of programs in Crimean Tatar on the state TV; to improve the Crimean Tatar situation in land redistribution; and to increase the employment of the number of the formerly deported people in the state institutions. Finally, the President wants the Government to control better the use of money allocated for the needs of the deported. By all counts, this is the boldest move aiming squarely at improving the stated needs of the deported in the post-Soviet Ukrainian history.

The reaction of the analysts and the Crimean Tatar leadership was cautious. They applauded the political changes that Mejlis kept seeking for a long time, more intensively during the last year after Yushchenko came to power. However, they indicated that the appeal of the decree could be undermined by coming very late and having the appearance of electoral motive. (English summary by Kemal Seitveliev)

News Digest Special Report

The State of the Crimean Tatar Education in Crimea

Among the multiple problems facing the Crimean Tatars, none is more pressing than the national education of the Crimean Tatars. The shortage of national schools, where Crimean Tatar children could obtain their education in their native language, remains as a major obstacle in Crimean Tatars' struggle in rebuilding the Crimean Tatar Nation in their ancestral homeland. What will be the future of Crimean Tatars if they do not know their native tongue, the Crimean Tatar?

This issue is widely discussed among Crimean Tatars and covered by the Crimean Tatar press. The following three articles on the Crimean Tatar education shed significant light on this crucial subject.

Beie Ilyasova, the head of the Audit Committee of the Crimean Tatar Education Association, in her article "Xalkimiznin Tayanisi, Milli Mektepler" [Our people's Hope, The National Schools], Yani Dunya (August 27, 2005, p.5), states: "During our national struggle to return to our ancestral homeland, one of our goals was to resettle in our ancestral homeland and have the indigenous people's right to educate our children in our native language reinstated." She provides some interesting information about the Crimean Tatar educational institutions in pre-Surgun (mass deportation) Crimea. "Prior to the Surgun, there were 371 Crimean Tatar National Schools, 55 Bilingual (Crimean Tatar and Russian) schools....We had Akmescit (Simferopol) Pedogogical Institute, Yalta Tatar Pedogogical Technicum, Totaykoi Tatar Pedogogical Technicum, and Bahcesaray Tatar Teacher's School for educating and training teachers to teach at these schools...."

Sixteen years after the Crimean Tatar mass return (partial return) to Crimea:

  • Not a single Crimean Tatar Kindergarten is in operation. There are only 22 Crimean Tatar Groups in all Kindergartens in Crimea.
  • There are only 14 Crimean Tatar National Schools where the instruction is in Crimean Tatar.
  • Only five Russian schools have basic Crimean Tatar language courses, and these schools are now classified as bilingual schools.
  • Seventy Russian schools are offering to open some Crimean Tatar classes, but they are not permitted to be classified as bilingual schools.
  • The Tavrida National University and the Crimean Engineering and Pedogogical University educate and train (in the Crimean Tatar language) specialists, but they are not permitted to train and educate teachers who could teach the science and other courses in Crimean Tatar.

Seyran Suleyman in his article "Ana Tiline Sevgi Balaliktan Aslana" [Love for Mother Tongue Begins in Childhood] in the same issue of Yani Dunya (August 27, 2005, p.5) provides the following disturbing information:

  • There are 640 Kindergartens in Crimea where 37,000 children attend.
  • In 1990 there were 3 Crimean Tatar groups within the (640) Kindergartens.
  • In 1991 there were 12 Crimean Tatar groups.
  • In 1993 there were 40 Crimean Tatar groups.
  • In 2005 there were only 22 Crimean Tatar groups.

The article goes on to state that most of the Crimean Tatar students of kindergarten age (about 8,000) attend Russian kindergartens. Unfortunately, the school authorities (non- Crimean Tatar) do not help to resolve this situation. They especially discourage Crimean Tatar parents by stating: "If your child attends Crimean Tatar Kindergarten, where is he going to be able to study later?" Thus "not a single Crimean Tatar kindergarten opened since the 1990s, when the Crimean Tatars began to return to Crimea in large numbers.

Professor Aidar Memetov, Chairman of the Crimean Tatar and Eastern Philology Department at Tavrida National University, in his interview with Seyran Suleyman ("Milli Mektepler akikaten de Milli olsa ediler Mutexassislarimiz issiz yurmez ediler" [If Our National Schools were truly National, our specialists would not be unemployed], Yani Dunya, July 30, 2005, pp. 4-5) strongly criticizes the Crimean Tatar National schools for not properly teaching the Crimean Tatar language at these schools. He states: "…if the Crimean Tatar Schools were national, our specialists would not be unemployed!" He points out that the specialists of the Crimean Tatar language are forced to work in other fields because there is no opportunity for them. "…we were graduating 60-70 specialists in our Crimean Tatar Philology Department, but very few of them were able to find jobs in their fields! One year, out of 70 specialists only 4 found employment (as Crimean Tatar Language specialist). There is talk about having 15 Crimean Tatar National Schools. How can we call them Crimean Tatar National Schools if the subjects (in science, math etc) are not taught in Crimean Tatar?…We do not have 'National' schools in the true meaning of the word...."

Professor Memetov further points out that there are no Crimean Tatar language textbooks (beyond the 4th grade). He states that he has prepared Crimean Tatar Language textbooks for the 5th through 11th grades as well as four textbooks for the University level courses. For the University level courses he has prepared "Practical Crimean Tatar Language," "Lexicology," "Crimean Tatar Morphology," and a 400-page "Modern Crimean Tatar Language." All these textbooks are waiting to be printed and put in good use at the Crimean Tatar schools as soon as possible.

As we can conclude from the aforementioned three brief articles, the Crimean Tatar education must be taken more seriously, and the available sources must be utilized to give the Crimean Tatar children a better future.

Mubeyyin Batu Altan

The following individuals assisted with the preparation of this issue of News Digest: Kemal Seitveliev (Bakhchisaray), Cemil Otar (Toronto) and Mubeyyin B. Altan (N. Bethesda, Maryland). Edited by Inci Bowman (Washington, DC).

Posted: 11 March 2006

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