International Committee for Crimea
ICC News Digest No. 5 (Spring 2006)
SUMMARIES OF SELECTED NEWS ABOUT CRIMEAN TATARS AND CRIMEA
Ukrainian Elections, 26 March 2006
Golos Kryma (Simferopol), 17 March 2006
The Crimean Tatar weekly published a lengthy interview with Refat Chubarov, first deputy head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis and a member of the Ukrainian Parliament. Chubarov urged Crimean Tatars to massively vote for Our Ukraine People's Union and the Rukh Party (People's Movement of Ukraine) at the upcoming elections. He noted that even though there are 160,000 Crimean Tatar voters in Crimea, only about 100,000 of them will actually go to the polls. If all Tatars vote unanimously, he said, the Crimean branch of Rukh will receive 12 seats in the 100-seat Crimean parliament. Chubarov added that each Crimean Tatar should put the nation's interests before one's own when voting. (Source: World News Connection).
Sobytiya (Sevastopol), 3 March 2006
President Yushchenko sent a working group to Crimea, the newspaper reported, because of his concern that Our Ukraine Bloc may not do well during the Crimean parliamentary election. The pro-Russian sentiment of the Crimean population and the perceived mistakes of the former Crimean Prime Minister Anatoliy Matviyenko and incumbent Prime Minister Anatoliy Burdyuhov, according to the paper, were given as reasons for the anticipated poor performance. The president's group will not be able to deal with Crimean problems, it was predicted, as criminal elements are likely to win the election. The Ukrainian President also issued a decree, ordering a series of steps to solve the Crimean Tatar resettlement problem, as he is courting the Crimean Tatar Mejlis. The Tatars constitute the bulk of Our Ukraine supporters in Crimea and the Mejlis ruled that Crimean Tatars should vote only for Rukh (People's Movement of Ukraine), which is a part of the Our Ukraine Bloc. (Source: World News Connection).
Typology of the Ukrainian Elections
The results of Ukraine's first "free and fair" elections on March 26 indicate that the divided pro-Western "Orange" camp still won a victory over the "Blue" pro-Russian Party of Regions. The Party of Regions, led by Viktor Yanukovych, won the majority of the seats with 32 percent of the vote. Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc came second, with 22 percent of the vote, and the pro-presidential Bloc, Our Ukraine, was the third, winning only 14 percent of the vote. The results show that Ukraine is headed towards becoming a two- or three-party democracy, with conservative, pro-Russian voters in eastern and southern regions of the country (including Crimea) and more liberal, pro-western electorate in the western and central regions of Ukraine.
The Land Disputes
Protests over land said spreading in Ukraine's Crimea
The Black Sea Television (ChTRK) was the first to report on March 28 that protest tent camps were being set up in different districts of Simferopol. The majority of protesters were Crimean Tatars but there were also ethnic Russians among them. All of the protests aim to divide unoccupied or deserted lands and to build houses on them. It was not clear who had organized these land-grabbing protests that began the day after the elections. One group occupied a land plot which used to be an artillery depot but the military advised the picketers to relocate to a civilian area. The protesters followed the advice and occupied a private land plot. The land protests appeared to be multi-ethnic and involve 5,000 supporters. (Source: World News Connection)
Pervaya Krymskaya (Simferopol), 31 March 2006
The paper reported that some 5,000 Crimean Tatars were involved in large-scale land grabbing in Simferopol. The leaders of the protesters explained that their actions as an outcry against what they describe as unfair land distribution by the Crimean authorities. Crimean Tatars say that they have grown "utterly desperate" since the authorities have been completely unable to solve Crimean Tatar resettlement problems in the past 15 years. A later report also indicated that non-Tatar commercial companies and even the Russian Black Sea Fleet were involved in these land grabbing activities. (Source: World News Connection).
Den (Kyiv), 17 May 2006
In an interview with the newspaper, Refat Chubarov admitted that Crimean Tatars are responsible for only about a third of the illegal land grabs in Crimea. He said that the recent conflict at the village of Partenit resulted from the village council's decision to block a road to prevent Crimean Tatars from entering the place. He asked why no Crimean Tatars have been able to resettle in Partenit despite the fact that it was a Tatar village before World War II. Chubarov noted that Kyiv failed to respond adequately to the anti-Ukrainian and anti-Tatar campaign that is being waged in the Crimean news media, which tends to intensify whenever Russian-Ukrainian relations get tense. Chubarov is a member of the Ukrainian Parliament and deputy head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis. (Source: World News Connection).
62nd Anniversary of the Deportation Observed
30,000 Crimean Tatars rally in Ukraine marking 62nd anniversary of deportation
Thousands of Crimean Tatars marched in the capital of Crimea on Thursday to mark the 62nd anniversary of their deportation from their homeland in 1944. "On this day, we remember those who died in foreign lands and those who struggled to return to their homeland," Mustafa Jemilev said. The anniversary was marked in solemn ceremonies in Kyiv and a big rally in Simferopol. Speakers at the rally included various party officials and representatives from the Crimean government. In a radio address, President Yushchenko pledged to restore Tatars' rights and earlier the Ukrainian Parliament approved a program that would provide for housing and return of cultural property. But Tatars complain that promises remain unfulfilled; they continue to face obstacles in finding jobs and getting back their land confiscated by Soviet authorities. Many live in grim conditions in villages that lack basic services such as water, natural gas and roads. Jemilev also complained that Tatars are still not officially recognized as a nation and lack schools where they can teach their children in their native language. Low-level violence occasionally erupts between Crimean Tatars and ethnic Russians over the land disputes. Tatars are not allowed to settle on the Crimean coast.
Note: For an account of the rally in Simferopol, see the report by Idil P. Izmirli at:
Declared Support for Crimean Tatars
Ukraine to spend $130 million in five years to accommodate returning Tatars
The Ukrainian Cabinet has approved a program that would help settle the returning Crimean Tatars and members of other ethnic groups and provide assistance for integrating them into Ukrainian society. According to the resolution passed on May 11, the program is intended to end in 2010 and will cost 651.3 million hryvni. It provides for building or purchasing 131,000 square meters of housing and creating a register of returning Tatars and members of their families. The resolution also allows measures for facilitating the return of cultural property of Crimean Tatars taken out of Ukraine after the deportation and for developing media broadcasting in the ethnic languages. As for return of the deported, the resolution states that the repatriation will continue for another decade and the number of returning people annually may be between 1,500 and 3,000. (Source: World News Connection).
Yushchenko pledges to help forcibly displaced Tatars
In an address to the nation on the 62nd anniversary of the Tatar deportation, President Victor Yushchenko stated that he would spare no effort to help the Crimean Tatars and expressed his hope that the new Verkhovna Rada would effectively settle all their painful problems. "Ukraine has to cope with the after effects of one of the world's worst national tragedies alone, but we try to resolve the problems of the deported. We have already launched economic, social and humanitarian projects," he said. Noting that the Ukrainians also survived famines, repressions and totalitarian violence, he said the Crimean Tatars always remember the names of Petro Hrygorenko [Grigorenko] and Vyacheslav Chornovol, the two prominent sons of the Ukrainian nation. In the name of the citizens of Ukraine, President Yushchenko honored the memory of thousands of innocent victims of the Soviet deportations.
Krymskaya Gazeta (Yalta), 18 May 2006
The official newspaper of the Crimean government, Krymskaya Gazeta, included a report on the measures for improving the repatriation of the Crimean Tatars, returning from exile. Accordingly, the government bought flats for 34,500 Crimean Tatars, and 130,000 Crimean Tatars bought houses with their own money. The governments of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates bought houses for several hundred Crimean Tatar families. There are 258,000 Tatars in Crimea, and 100,000 deportees still live in exile in Central Asia. The paper published the full text of the Ukrainian government's program to resettle Crimean Tatars for 2006-2010, adopted on 11 May. (Source: World News Connection).
Ukraine's Crimea: Crisis appears unavoidable
In light of the recent conflicts, such as the one in Partenit, prominent Crimean politicians do not rule out the possibility that the standoff between Crimean Tatars and Slavic residents will aggravate. Leonid Hrach, the pro-Russian Crimean Communist leader and a former Crimean parliament speaker, blames the authorities in Kyiv and also the Crimean Tatar Mejlis. Hrach believes that the current administration in Ukraine will use the worsening conflict as a pretext to control the autonomy and meddle in its affairs. Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Mustafa Jemilev believes that tension can increase dramatically in the near future. But he sees a different reason: "If they go on erecting crosses at approaches to local towns, like the one there currently is outside Feodosia, we will have to take them down." He also dislikes the actions by local Cossacks, who are aided by brothers-in-arms who came to Crimea from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. He sees them as a threat. The Security Service of Ukraine has so far not commented on what is going on in Crimea - either on state or local level. But in the meantime, interior troops' units are acting as a deterrent and are in the reserve. (Source: Action Ukraine Report, No. 698).
Slavic groups vow to patrol Ukraine's Crimea ahead of Tatar rallies
Interethnic tensions appeared to be on the rise in Crimea just prior to the 18 May Crimean Tatar rallies to commemorate their forced deportation in 1944. Crimea's ethnic Slavs formed patrol groups and invited 5,000 pro-Russian paramilitary Cossack troops to protect themselves from what they perceive as a threat, the Crimean Tatars. Russian Cossacks and members of the Social-Patriotic Assembly of Slavs, a newly formed party, vowed to maintain law and order in Feodosia, where Muslim Crimean Tatars and Orthodox Christian Slavs clashed over a statue of St Andrew. The Crimean Tatars who live in Feodosia believe that the state law-enforcement agencies should maintain law and order in the region and not the Cossacks or private patrol groups. Some 5,000 Cossacks from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, who arrived in Crimea for a gathering, would be involved in patrolling. According to the TV report, the Cossacks from Russia had been involved in subduing interethnic and religious conflicts in Russia's North Caucasus. The party leader Eduard Kovalenko said that if Crimean Tatars take to the streets, his army of tens of thousands of well-trained Slavic youths will counteract them. (Source: World News Connection).
Chechen leader Shamil Basayev denies any bases in Crimea
In an interview with UA Daily, asking about the Ukrainian worries of a "Chechen scenario," Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Basayev (Abdullah Shamil Abu-Idris) stressed that Chechens do not have any bases or camps in Crimea. He also remarked that the main destabilizing factors in Crimea are Russians and Russia. In regard to Crimean Tatars, Basayev noted that Ukrainian authorities should resolve the problem in a fair way. "Keeping the issue frozen without restoring the right of the people to their historic homeland will sooner or later lead to serious problems," he added. (Source: World News Connection)
Golos Kryma (Simferopol), 26 May 2006
Ayder Bulatov, the deputy head of the Crimean committee for religious affairs, objects to what he describes as a campaign in the Ukrainian media to distort Islam and to link it to terrorism and extremism. A report on the Ukrainian Inter TV on 18 April, for example, alleged that Uzbek members of the Hizb al-Tahrir radical Islamic party recruited followers at Crimean mosques and trained them for "militant activities." Bulatov said that media reports like this encourage anti-Tatar and anti-Muslim sentiments among Crimea's ethnic Christians. He denied the TV report's allegations that the Crimean branch of the Islamic youth social organization Al-Ra'id (the Pioneer) supported several Hizb al-Tahrir camps in the Crimean mountains. On the contrary, Bulatov said, the Al-Ra'id works jointly with the Crimean Muslim Council, rebuilding mosques and Islamic schools and even constructing basic facilities in the Crimean Tatar settlements. (Source: World News Connection).
Move on the Transfer of Crimea
Ukraine Bloc slams Russian Duma's move on Crimea
Our Ukraine bloc condemned the move by several members of the Russian State Duma who initiated an inquiry to the Russian government about the possibility of annexing Crimea to Russia. A statement posted on the Our Ukraine website said: "Acts of political provocation carried out by certain Russian politicians regarding the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea ever since Ukraine gained independence culminated on 26 May 2006. On that day, the Russian Duma decided to send an inquiry to the Russian government about the possibility of annexing Crimea (under the Kuchuk- Kainarji [Kucuk Kaynarca] treaty of 1774)."
Duma member made mistake in Crimea transfer review: MP
According to a news item posted on June 1 on the Web site of the TV 5 Kanal in Kyiv, the member of the Russian Duma who initiated a review of the transfer of Crimea to Russia withdrew his request to the Russian government and admitted that he made a mistake. Fellow Duma member Konstantin Zatulin, who was in Crimea to review the situation, said that the border agreements between Ukraine and Russia will expire in 2009 and not in 2007, as it was previously thought.
News Digest Special Report
Omeljan Pritsak (1919-2006)
With great sadness I must inform you that Prof. Dr. Omeljan Pritsak passed away on May 29, 2006. The 87 year old internationally known scholar died of heart failure at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The renown scholar of Ukrainian studies, Omeljan Pritsak was professor of Turkology and linguistics at Harvard University from 1964 to 1989. He was the co-founder of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard, and was well known for raising millions of dollars from Ukrainian communities in North America to establish three chairs at Harvard University for Ukrainian studies. His motto, according to Dr. Lubomyr Hajda, associate director of the Ukrainian Institute, was "if it is impossible, let's do it!"
Professor Pritsak was always proud of being the last student of the well-known Ukrainian orientalist and historian A. Krimsky, the founder of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Kiev. After his retirement from Harvard University, Prof. Pritsak returned to Kiev and revived the Institute of Oriental Studies, which was closed during Stalin's reign, and became its first director.
He was one of the humblest academicians one can ever meet. He loved to converse in Turkish, and when he was honored by the Turkish Government for his contributions to Turkish studies, he delivered his acceptance speech in Turkish. Despite his busy schedule, Prof. Pritsak always found time to discuss the plight of Crimean Tatars,and always wanted to know how their struggle for repatriation was going. When Prof Pritsak reestablished the Institute of Oriental Studies in Kiev in 1990, he made sure that a branch of the institute opened in Crimea to give Crimean Tatar students an opportunity to study there. Prof. Pritsak accepted to be my mentor and encouraged me to enroll in the Institute of Oriental Studies. He always introduced me as Talebem Mubeyyin [my student Mubeyyin], an honor I will cherish forever.
Omeljan Pritsak is survived by his second wife Larysa Pritsak, his daughter Irene Pritsak and his grandchildren Mishka and Lylina.
Prof. Pritsak's passing is indeed a great loss. It is a loss of a great friend, teacher and mentor, a loss of an extraordinary scholar and a loss of a great native son of Ukraine. I extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and the Ukrainian people.
May he rest in peace forever!
Mubeyyin Batu Altan
Note: The Ukrainian Institute of Harvard will have a special memorial service in October 2006 at Harvard University to celebrate the life of this great scholar.
The following individuals assisted with the preparation of this issue of News Digest: Cemil Otar (Toronto), Kaan Öztürk (Istanbul), Idil P. Izmirli (Simferopol), and Mubeyyin B. Altan (N. Bethesda, Maryland). Edited by Inci Bowman (Washington, DC).
Issued: 12 June 2006
For other issues of the News Digest, see: ICC News Digest Series