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The following paper by Ms. Oxana Chevel was delivered at panel U09 "Ethnic Politics in Crimea," at the Association for the Study of the Nationalities (ASN) Fifth Annual World Convention "Identity and the State: Nationalism And Sovereignty in a Changing World," Columbia University, New York, NY, April 13-15, 2000. It was printed in the Krimski Studii 1(7): 2001, pp. 109-129 (in English) and pp.10-32 (in Ukrainian).

We are pleased to make this important paper available to a wider audience on the Web. Ms. Shevel is a graduate student at Harvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, 1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail: oshevel@fas.harvard.edu and her personal Web site:
http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~oshevel 


Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian state: the challenge of politics, the use of law, and the meaning of rhetoric

Oxana Shevel

Today, in this hall, a great historical step was taken towards the strengthening of Ukraine as a state of law, towards the glory of Ukraine being strengthened and multiplied by the Crimean peninsula. We have done everything possible for inter-ethnic friendship and order to flourish in the country.

Leonid Hrach, speaker of the Crimean parliament and head of the Crimean
republican committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, speaking at the
23 December 1998 session of the Ukrainian parliament which approved
the Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. [1]

The Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea establishes a monopoly of one of Crimea's ethnic groups in the political, economic and cultural life of the peninsula. ... Ukraine's democratic development is inconceivable without an acknowledgment in its constitutional order of the natural rights and lawful interests of the Crimean Tatar people, who are returning to their historical homeland from deportation. It is the Constitution of the autonomous republic which must contain guarantees of Crimean Tatar political representation in the Crimean parliament and in local self-government organs, of the equal status of the Crimean Tatar language with the Ukrainian and Russian languages, and of the real participation of Crimean Tatars in the economic and cultural life of Crimea."

Resolution of the 21 December 1998 Crimean Tatar meeting protesting the
approval of the Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. [2]

1. Introduction

The recent approval of the Crimean Constitution by the Ukrainian Parliament in December 1998, after years of protracted struggle between Kyiv and Simferopol over the nature of Crimea's autonomy, has been presented by the Ukrainian government, and considered by some domestic and foreign observers, as having finally settled "the Crimean problem" — the problem of the Russian separatist movement in Crimea — by defining Crimea's status as a constituent part of Ukraine and specifying the range of its powers. While neither Kyiv nor Simferopol may be fully content with the final compromise, the constitution particularly disregards the interests of over 260,000 Crimean Tatar, who have returned to Crimea in the last 10 years after almost half a century in places of deportation, and now constitute around 12% in Crimea's 2.5 million population, which is majority Russian.[3]  Most of the political demands put forward by Crimean Tatars since early 1990s remain unresolved today, and Tatars' unrecognized demands for greater group rights continue to aggravate political situation in Crimea. 

This paper will analyze these political demands, and how and why the Ukrainian and Crimean authorities have responded to them.  It will argue that while the Crimean elites' response to the Tatar political demands has been overwhelmingly negative, official policy of Ukraine has lacked clarity and consistency, and has been an attempt to balance between a number of often conflicting objectives: determination to cement Crimea firmly within Ukraine, need to appease Crimea's Russians, concerns over encouraging group claims by Russian and other minorities, inability to withstand the pressure brought by mass Tatar protest actions, the need to work under the constraints of deficient and often ambiguous domestic legal framework. Under these circumstances, Ukrainian government's inability to formulate a consistent approach towards the Crimean Tatar political demands mirrors Ukraine's larger challenges: a task of a multi-ethnic democratizing state that has not yet developed a clear sense of national identity to combine individual and group rights, and to balancing conflicting political and ideological demands of groups in a divided society. The lack of clarity in the official policy, however — in the presence of often mutually exclusive political claims and uncompromising rhetoric of the Crimean Tatars and Crimea's Russians — have, paradoxically, contributed to the preservation of shaky but peaceful status quo in Crimea, as this paper will demonstrate. The central government has at different times favored one groups' demands over the other, and thus neither side could be confident in the center's support. But such a "policy of not having a policy" has worked by luck more than by design, and has not removed the political, legal and ethnic challenge posed by the unresolved Crimean Tatar political demands.  How these demands will be approached in the future will determine the prospects of ethnic peace and stability in Crimea. 

Section 2 of the paper will outline the main political and legal demands put forth by the Crimean Tatars, and the official response they have encountered. Section 3 will discuss the position of the Crimean authorities and of the leftist forces in Ukraine towards the Crimean Tatar political demands, while Section 4 will focus on the position of the Ukrainian nationalist forces and the political Right. Section 5 will analyze the official Ukrainian government policy that had to navigate conflicting interests of all groups involved, and will assess its achievements and limitations.

2. Main political and legal demands of the Crimean Tatars and brief history of government's response

The problems faced by the 260,000-stong Crimean Tatar community are complex and multi-faceted, including socio-economic, cultural, and political and legal issues. Economically, Crimean Tatars are in a destitute situation even in relations to Crimea's depressed economy. Upward of an estimated 60% Crimean Tatars are unemployed (at least double the rate for Crimea as a whole), and around 50% lack proper housing. Out of 291 Crimean Tatar settlements, around 25% do not have electricity, 70% are without water, 90% without tarmac roads, 96% are without gas, and none have sewers.[4]   Since 1991, Ukraine has spent some US$300 million on Crimean Tatar repatriation programs — a significant sum for economically-depressed state. Another US$10 million came from international governmental and non-governmental organizations.[5]  Since the USSR fell apart, Ukraine has been the only CIS country to bear the costs of Crimean Tatar resettlement, although the 1992 CIS agreement "On Questions of the Restoration of Rights of Deported Individuals, National Minorities, and Peoples," signed by the heads of 10 CIS states on 9 October 1992 in Bishkek, provided for the participant countries to share the cost of Crimean Tatar return to Crimea.[6]  As economic crisis deepened in Ukraine, funding for the Crimean Tatar programs had to be drastically reduced: if in 1992 $95.2 million were provided, in 1994 — $59.6 million, and in 1997 - only $6.9 million.[7]  In 1999, out of $4.8 million budgeted, some $3.2 million were actually disbursed,[8]  and it is estimated that as much as $2 billion are needed to finance Crimean Tatar resettlement and integration — the sum well above Ukraine's means.

But apart from socio-economic problems where the solution requires financial costs, there are a number of political and legal problems associated with the Crimean Tatar return to Ukraine where the solution is not a matter of money, but of law and politics. Resolution to these latter problems — many of which cut at the core of such issues central to Ukraine as relations with the Russian majority in Crimea and the challenge of accommodating over 100 ethnic minorities living in Ukraine while consolidating Ukrainian national identity — is hampered by the political and legal controversies around them.[9]  Among political and legal problems most often stressed by the Crimean Tatar leaders are: a need for a legal mechanism to guarantee Crimean Tatar representation in Crimean and Ukrainian organs of power; official recognition of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (33-member body elected by the Crimean Tatar Kurultai (national congress) as the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people; official recognition of Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people of Crimea and Ukraine rather than a national minority; Ukrainian citizenship rights to all returnees resettling in their homeland; and recognition of the Crimean Tatar language as one of the official languages in Crimea.[10]  Crimean Tatar aspiration for change of the status of the Crimean autonomy from the current territorial autonomy into a national-territorial autonomy of the Crimean Tatars will be discussed in sections 3 and 4, since in recent years it has been more a factor influencing the attitude of various political forces in Ukraine towards Crimean Tatar other political demands, rather than a concrete objective in itself, as the paper will further argue.

Crimean Tatar representation in the Crimean government organs

Under-representation of the Crimean Tatars at Crimean organs of power is the political problem most emphasized by the Crimean Tatar leaders. Constituting 12% of Crimea's population, after March 1998 elections the Crimean Tatars do not have a single representative in Crimea's parliament (the only Crimean Tatar in the 96-member parliament was elected on the Communist Party ticket and is not considered by the Crimean Tatars as their representative).  From 1994 to 1998, the Crimean Tatars had a quota of 14 seats in Crimea's 98-member legislature.[11]  It was a temporary provision for one electoral period only, and was abolished before March 1998 parliamentary elections to the Crimean parliament which were to take place under the majoritarian system of "one person, one vote." This effectively precluded Crimean Tatars, who are scattered throughout Crimea and do not form a majority in any electoral district,[12] to elect their representatives to Crimea's parliament. Crimean Tatars severe under-representation in the Crimean organs of power is illustrated by the fact that they constitute only 1% of employees in Crimea's government bodies, with only 0.1% in police and security forces in Crimea.[13]  In village and town councils in Crimea, Crimean Tatars on average account for 9% of all deputies elected, and only in the lowest level — in village councils — the Crimean Tatar representation is approximately proportionate to their share in the population (11.8%).[14]

Abolition of the quota provision without its replacement with any other mechanism that would have allowed Crimean Tatars to elect their representative to the Crimean parliament has been criticized by international observers, but to little avail. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights recommended that "the electoral system for the Parliament of Crimea should give better possibilities for the Tatars to be represented. This can be done by introducing proportional elements to the election system."[15] The OSCE High Commissioner on national minorities has emphasized for many years the importance of a continuation of the quota system or other mechanism to guarantee Tatar representation, such as "an electoral system which would give them [Crimean Tatars] a near certainty of having a representation broadly commensurate to their percentage of the total population of Crimea."[16] Domestic opposition to the quota arrangement and other institutional mechanism that allow Crimean Tatar guaranteed representation in the Crimean parliament is strong, in particular on the part of Crimean leadership and leftist groups in the Ukrainian Parliament, and non-Leftist political forces are also cautious of such proposals, as section 3 will discuss in more details.

Ukrainian citizenship problem and voting rights of the Crimean Tatars

Lack of Ukrainian citizenship has been another major problem for the Crimean Tatar returnees. Out of approximately 260,000 Crimean Tatar who returned to Ukraine in the past 10 years, 108,000 who returned after the Ukrainian citizenship law entered into force on 13 November 1991 did not receive Ukrainian citizenship automatically, and had to go through an affiliation procedure. Of the latter group, some 25,000 were de jure stateless, and their access to Ukrainian citizenship was facilitated by April 1997 amendments to the Ukrainian citizenship law. The remaining 83,000 were not able to acquire Ukrainian citizenship due to insurmountable financial and legal obstacles they faced in relinquishing citizenship of the CIS states where they used to reside before returning to Crimea,[17]  which for the majority (62,000) was Uzbekistan.[18] This problem was mainly resolved following August 1998 Ukrainian-Uzbek agreement on simplified procedure for the renunciation of the Uzbek and acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship by the formerly deported people.[19]

However, by the time of March 1998 parliamentary elections, some 80,000 Crimean Tatars — more than half of the voting age population — lacked Ukrainian citizenship and were not allowed to take part in elections.[20]  This was a change in comparison with the 1994 presidential and parliamentary elections and the 1991 Ukrainian independence referendum, when returnees without Ukrainian citizenship could vote on the basis of proof of residency, in accordance with the Article 1 of the 1992 Bishkek agreement of heads of CIS states that gave deported people the same political rights as citizens of signatory states.[21]  In protest of this decision, in February and March 1998 mass protest demonstrations by the Crimean Tatars took place around Crimea, some of which have turned violent. The authorities remained resolute, however — for reasons the next section will discuss — despite pressure from the Crimean Tatars and recommendations by the OSCE and the Council of Europe to allow Crimean Tatars with permanent residency in Crimea to vote in Crimean elections, taking into account difficulties in acquiring Ukrainian citizenship that the Tatars have faced for many years.[22]  The fact that over half of the voting age Crimean Tatar population was prevented from taking part in Crimean parliamentary elections undoubtedly affected voting results to the Crimean parliament.  Even a few extra votes could have been decisive, as in one of the Crimean electoral districts a Crimean Tatar candidate reportedly was just 14 votes short of being elected to Crimea's parliament.[23]

The Ukrainian government has been praised by the international community for resolving the citizenship problem for over 100,000 the Crimean Tatars.[24] But the solution of the citizenship problem at the same time marked the beginning of a new stage of dispute between the Crimean Tatar leaders and the Ukrainian authorities with regard to other political and legal problems of the Crimean Tatars that their leaders emphasize.  Many Ukrainian officials now argue that since the Crimean Tatars have acquired Ukrainian citizenship, they lost any ground to claim preferential group treatment since they are now in equal legal position with the rest of the Ukrainian citizens to enjoy the full spectrum of rights under the Ukrainian law.[25]  The Crimean Tatar leaders disagree, citing their inability to elect representatives to the Crimean parliament under the majoritarian system as the most telling example of why separate legal measures such as quotas are needed to ensure their equal status with other groups in the area where they are in a minority in every administrative and electoral district. 

According to Mustafa Jemilev, even if just one Crimean Tatar representative was on the ballot in each electoral district during 1998 elections to the Crimean parliament,[26] "we had a theoretical chance to elect just three deputies [in the 62nd, 64, and 69th electoral districts]...  In the remaining 97 electoral districts of Crimea not a single Crimean Tatar could have been elected even if all Crimean Tatars in that district voted for that one candidate.[27]  The reasons for this are well known. First, the existing chauvinistic prejudice against the Crimean Tatars at all levels, as a result of which Crimean Tatar candidates can count only on the votes of their compatriots. Secondly, disperse settlement of the Tatars around Crimea, and third, the fact that, in violations of the Bishkek agreement, almost half of the Crimean Tatars were not allowed to vote because they did not have Ukrainian citizenship."[28]

Legal status of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis

  Legal status of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis and Kurultai has been a problem since the 2nd Crimean Tatar Kurultai[29] convened for the fist time in Simferopol in June 1991 and elected 33-member Mejlis to act as "the sole legitimate representative body of the Crimean Tatar people between the sessions of Kurultai."[30] While the Crimean Tatars have demanded that the authorities recognize Kurultai and Mejlis as representative organs of the Crimean Tatar people, the official position has been that these organizations are rival bodies to the official Crimean organs of power and are thus illegitimate — immediately after 2nd Kurultai, the Crimean Supreme Soviet has denounced Kurultai and Mejlis for their "unconstitutional" attempts to create "parallel structures of power."[31] 

Official proposals that to legalize its status Mejlis registers as a social organization or a political party have not been acceptable to the Crimean Tatar leaders, on the other hand. The Tatar leaders maintain that, unlike political party or a social organization representing interests of a limited group of people, Mejlis and Kurultai, being democratically elected by all Crimean Tatars,[32] represent the interests of the Crimean Tatar people and should be recognized as such. As Mustafa Jemilev argued in a recent interview, "Mejlis is not an organization. Mejlis is an elected representative organ of the Crimean Tatars people. National parliament, if you would like. It is not yet recognized in the law. The authorities propose that we register as a social organization or a party, on par with the Society of Beer Lovers. We will not do this."[33]  Crimean Tatar leaders are also concerned that if Mejlis were to register as a party or a social group, it would allow the government to treat it as just one in over 50 Crimean Tatar civic organizations, thus playing upon difference in the position among various groups — a tactic to downplaying the representatives of Mejlis in order to avoid addressing the issues it raises.[34] 

While considering Mejlis and Kurultai as representative bodies of the Crimean Tatar people, Crimean Tatar leaders commonly deny that Mejlis and Kurultai are parallel structures to the official power organs in Crimea. Deputy Chairman of Mejlis Refat Chubarov argues, for example, that Mejlis wants to be a consultative body with which the government would consult on a limited range of policy issues of direct relevance to the Crimean Tatars.[35]  Controversy around the status of Mejlis, and especially hostile attitude towards it on the part of Crimean authorities, is not only of a legal, but primarily of a political nature, given stark political and ideological differences between the Mejlis and Crimea's dominant elites.  Furthermore, fear that recognition of Mejlis can set precedence for similar claims by the organizations of other ethnic groups in Ukraine further complicates the situation, as section 3 will discuss in more details.

The situation with Mejlis' official status remained deadlocked for years, but on 18 May 1999, as some 30,000 Crimean Tatars held a rally in Simferopol to commemorate 55th anniversary of the 1944 deportation, the Ukrainian President signed a decree creating a presidential Crimean Tatar advisory council composed of all 33 Mejlis members and headed by the Mejlis chairman, Mustafa Jemilev.[36]  The decree, although short of full recognition of Mejlis, has been commonly regarded as a de-facto recognition of Mejlis and its capacity as the main interlocutor on behalf of the Crimean Tatars.  The full recognition in the law is still to come, however, as well as legal mechanisms to enable the Council's functioning, which so far has not started working.

National minority or indigenous people?

All of the above political and legal problems are linked to a more fundamental and legally and politically controversial issue — the "indigenous people" notion in the Ukrainian legislation, and recognition of the Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people which they have called for.  In practice, Ukraine's official nationality policy to date has been to treat all non-Ukrainians in Ukraine as national minorities, and Crimean Tatars as a national minority and individuals belonging to the category of formerly deported people. The government thus sought to emphasize individual rights of persons belonging to national minorities while de-emphasizing calls for group rights, in particular ethnic-based group rights. With regards to formerly deported, the government has sought to treat them as one category, instead of differentiating between different ethnic groups within it.[37]  This official position is illustrated in November 1995 letter of Ukraine's Foreign Minister to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, in which then-Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko stated: "In our conviction, the solution of these issues [reintegration of deported peoples in Crimea] should be based namely on the criterion of belonging of relevant persons to the category of deportees rather than to one or another ethnic group. The latter, in our opinion, may create an undesirable precedent in the aspect of development of the constitutional system of Ukraine."[38]

 The Crimean Tatars, however, regard themselves as an indigenous people of Crimea rather than a national minority, and differentiate themselves from other formerly deported groups for several reasons:  Because the Crimean Tatars have historically developed as a national group on the territory of Crimea and, unlike other minorities in Ukraine and in Crimea, do not have a homeland or a kin state outside of Crimea — a crucial difference.[39]  Official attempts to treat Crimean Tatars, especially in the official rhetoric, as no different from representative of other groups deported from Crimea (a strategy that is also often used by the Crimean Tatar opponents who rebut their demands for group rights on the grounds that other groups would have to be accorded the same treatment — see below), have been disputed by the Crimean Tatar leaders. Crimean Tatars argue that while in the communities of the representatives of deported groups (Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Germans) in Crimean the vast majority are not the descendents of deportees but individuals of these ethnicities who came from other parts of the Soviet Union, the Crimean Tatars have been deported en mass as a nation, and therefore the rights of deported individuals of other nationalities and the rights of the Crimean Tatar people as a nation (narod, natsia) are qualitatively different issues.[40]

In legal terms, Ukraine's official position on the "indigenous people" notion generally, and in relations to the Crimean Tatars in particular, has been ambiguous. While Article 11 of the Constitution of Ukraine recognizes the existence of indigenous peoples in Ukraine, along with the titular nation and national minorities, Article 92 of the Constitution leaves it to the laws of Ukraine to specify the rights of indigenous peoples. To date, however, there are no such laws in Ukraine, and in the international law the concept is also under development.[41]  Draft laws "On the status of the Crimean Tatar people in Ukraine," as well as draft "Conception of State Policy of Ukraine Towards Indigenous Peoples and National Minorities" have been under discussion in various government institutions for years, but have not yet been finalized.[42]  On 2 March 2000, however, the Ukrainian parliament finally resolved to hold on 5 April 2000 parliamentary hearing "On the legislative regulation and the realization of state policy on ensuring the rights of the Crimean Tatar people and national minorities which have been deported and are now voluntarily returning to Ukraine."[43] The hearing, agreed upon by the Mejlis leaders and President Kuchma during their May 1999 meeting where the Crimean Tatar Advisory Council to the President was created to include all Mejlis members, initially were supposed to take place in September, but were twice postponed, and finally scheduled and took place only after the formation of the rightist majority in the Ukrainian parliament in January 2000.[44]  Following the hearing, the MPs recommended to the President to finalize the draft Conception of state policy, and to discuss both the Conception and the Law on Crimean Tatar people in the parliament soon.[45] These recommendations were formally voted on and approved as a parliamentary resolution on 20 April.

Although the legal aspects of the problem around indigenous people concept and Tatars claim to it is undoubtedly complex, the fact that discussion of this problem in the parliament came to be scheduled — after years of delay — shortly after the rightist majority was formed in the parliament for the first time since Ukraine's independence, lends credence to the view that, as with other political and legal demands of the Crimean Tatars, political and ideological preferences, and not just the spirit of the law, have been a driving force of the government's policy on the subject.

Development of the constitutional system of Ukraine, as reflected in the adoption of the Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,[46] did nothing to address the Crimean Tatar political demands.  In the opinion of the Crimean Tatar leaders, as well as a number of non-Tatar observers of Crimean politics, in political-legal terms, the situation of the Crimean Tatar community in Crimea has deteriorated as a result of the Constitution.[47]  The Crimean Constitution does not have any provisions for guaranteed Crimean Tatar representation in Crimean organs of power, provisions on the Crimean Tatar language fall far short of what the Crimean Tatars would like to be reflected there,[48] and, unlike the Ukrainian Constitution, the Crimean one makes no mention of indigenous people in Crimea. It specifies only the following categories of people: citizens, foreigners, and stateless persons; nationalities; and "citizens deported from Crimea"[49] — the latter category signifies that formerly deported people are considered as a collection of individuals, not as a group or even a number of groups.

3. Crimean Tatars and the leadership of the Crimea's autonomy — a history of confrontation

The Crimean Tatar political demands for greater group rights have met with virtually a deaf ear in Crimea. Officially, these demands are commonly rebutted with the rhetoric of "equal rights for all residents of multiethnic Crimea,"[50] but negative attitude of Crimea's dominant elites to the Crimean Tatar political demands stem from sharp political and ideological differences between the two groups, and is further intensified by centuries-old Slavic/Muslim stereotypes and mutual mistrust between the Crimean Tatars and the Crimea's Russian and Russified Ukrainian majority. Anti-Tatar prejudice is still widespread among both the population and elites, and some members of the Crimean parliament openly voice their opinion that "Tatars are good for nothing other than trading at the market."[51]  A Communist MP in the Ukrainian parliament recently questioned whether the 1944 en mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars — "the collaborators with the invaders" is something to be condemned.[52]  Hostile rhetoric and refusal to satisfy their political demands prompts Crimean Tatars to spare no harsh language towards their political opponents either. Crimean Tatar leaders have called Crimea's Russians "colonists,"[53] and Crimea's leadership "a branch of Moscow Politburo attempting to "restore a criminal Communist regime on the peninsula and completely wipe the Crimean Tatar people from the face of the Earth."[54] 

Antagonistic relationship between the Crimean Tatars and Crimean Communist leadership dates back to late Soviet period when Crimean Tatars began to return to Crimea en mass, and little reconciliation took place since — Mustafa Jemilev recently described the Crimean administration as "the most serious threat" the Crimean Tatars face.[55]  The political and ideological differences between these two groups are hard to overestimate: the pro-Russian and pro-Communist orientation of the majority of the Crimean population and Crimea's parliament is in stark contrast to the anti-Communist and a pro-Ukrainian stance of the Mejlis and the majority of the Crimean Tatars, and they also differ on such defining issues as NATO, Kosovo, and the Chechen war. The idea of a Slavic union of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, or some other form of the unified state with Russia, is supported by most of the Crimean Slavic residents and the autonomy's leadership, while the attitude of the majority of the Crimean Tatars is highly negative. Out of fifty-four leaders representing different orientations of the Crimean Tatar movement whose views are presented in a collected volume of their biographies,[56] nearly all have condemned the USSR and any plans for its recreation, negatively characterized the CIS and its future prospects,[57] and all but two[58] saw Crimea's future only within Ukraine and never within Russia. 

Crimean Tatars and Crimea's "Russian-speakers" also hold virtually opposite views on the justification for the creation, and the future of, the autonomy in Crimea. The 1991 Crimean referendum that re-established Crimea's autonomy — initiated by leadership of the Crimean Communist party in the wake of massive Tatar return and growing Ukrainian independence movement — was boycotted by the Crimean Tatars, who wanted Crimea to be a national-territorial autonomy of the Crimean Tatars (more about this demand below). Consequently, they regarded the referendum, organized by local Communist administration and conducted among Crimea's "migrant" population while most of the Crimean Tatars were still in places of deportation,  as seeking "to establish on the national territory of the Crimean Tatars a de facto Russian autonomy with wide-ranging powers, which could, depending on the circumstances, join Russia — the kin state of the majority of its post-war migrants — or remain an independent republic for some time."[59]  As a result, most of the Crimean Tatar political leaders (including those not representing Mejlis) share the view that despite its official status as a territorial autonomy, Crimea's autonomy is basically a Russian autonomy with no grounds for existence: "Why does the autonomy in Crimea exists? Why Crimea cannot be just an oblast? This autonomy was created for the Russians, since majority Russian population is the only specific feature that sets Crimea apart from other regions of Ukraine," argued Lenur Arifov, former Mejlis member and chairman of Millet party which has its disagreements with Mejlis leadership.[60]  Given such views about the real purpose of Crimea's autonomy, and political and ideological disagreements with Crimea's leadership, Crimean Tatars dismiss the official rhetoric of "equal rights of all Crimeans" and "multinational Crimean people" as a mockery used to cover up de-facto discrimination of the Tatar by the Russian majority.  As Nadir Bekirov, head of the political-legal department of Mejlis argued: "Russian and pro-Russian Crimean politicians declare that some mythical "Crimean nation" exists ... which is supposedly a subject for self-determination in Crimea. ... And Crimean Tatars are allocated the role of extras against the background of 1.5 million Russian speakers, who now constitute an absolute majority in Crimea and therefore do not have to pay any regard to anyone when voting on any issue. ... In Crimea political questions cannot be solved by simple majority vote — it inevitably results in ethnic discrimination."[61] 

Unwillingness of the Crimean authorities to recognize any Crimean Tatar political demands for group rights is commonly couched in the language of equal rights. Crimean elites present their position as a "policy of the dialogue of national cultures and groups in Crimea ... to preserve variety of ethnic components in Crimea,"[62] while characterizing political demands of the Crimean Tatars as voiced by the Mejlis - "illegal organization of so-called indigenous people" as nationalistic and extremist, "flagrantly violating the constitutions and laws of Ukraine and Crimea, human rights, and principles of citizens' equality."[63]  Rhetoric of equality and rights notwithstanding, it appears that it is not the substance of the Crimean Tatar political demands and these demands' "extremism," but rather the ideological and political differences between the Mejlis and the Crimean elites that are at the root of the Crimean authorities' denial of the legitimacy of Mejlis as a partner in negotiations, as well as Mejlis' demands, as the policy of Crimean leaders towards other Crimean Tatar groups illustrated.

Speaker of the Crimean Parliament Leonid Hrach, who has described himself as "a principal opponent of quotas for the Crimean Tatars" or any other special constitutional arrangements, which would simply "allow all sorts of radicals to speculate on the situation,"[64] at the same time in April 1999 set up "Council of the Crimean Tatar Elders" (Sovet Aksakalov) as an advisory body to the speaker. Aksakaly — who seem to all come from just one of the Crimean Tatar civil organizations and thus their claim to be a truly representative body can be called into question[65] — openly acknowledge that they share many if not most of Mejlis' objectives, despite their negative attitude towards the Mejlis.[66]   These objectives — such as mechanisms to ensure greater Tatar representation in the Crimean government organs, indigenous people status, greater language rights, and even national-territorial autonomy status for Crimea — are the very same that, according to the Crimean leadership, makes Mejlis "extremist" and disqualifies it as a partner for a dialogue. 

Crimean leadership's more favorable attitude and encouragement of anti-Mejlis Crimean Tatar groups such as the Aksakaly, despite their similar stated objectives, is clearly politically and ideologically-driven. Unlike the Mejlis, Aksakaly acknowledge their more favorable attitude towards the Communists in Crimea and Crimea's leadership, and a negative one towards the pro-Ukrainian forces supported by the Mejlis and Kyiv, as well as towards Crimea's transfer to Ukraine from Russia.[67]  Creation of the "Council of Elders" may have also been an (unsuccessful) attempt by the speaker of the Crimean parliament to pre-empt the formation by the Ukrainian President Kuchma of the Crimean Tatar advisory council composed of all 33 members of Mejlis one month later — the decree that de facto legalized Mejlis and recognized it as the body representing Crimean Tatar interests in the dialogue with Ukrainian authorities.

4.  Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian political Right — strategic alliance, tampered by suspicions

Given political stand-off and mutually exclusive demands in Crimea, where, to quote one analyst, even the "minimal demands of the Tatars exceed the maximum concessions that the Slavs are prepared to make,"[68]  the Crimean Tatars have turned to Kyiv and various pro-Ukrainian political forces for support. To appeal to Kyiv, the Crimean Tatars positioned themselves as the main pro-Ukrainian force in Crimea, thus allying with Kyiv against Crimea's separatism that Kyiv has sought to curb.  Policy response of the official Kyiv to their demands has been less categorical that that of the Crimean authorities, but there has been no consistent approach — either over time or on a given issue -  and clearly nothing like a consistent support.  To entangle a complex web of sometimes overlapping, but sometimes conflicting interests of the Crimean Tatars and various Ukrainian political forces that has led to such official policy response,  this section will discuss the relations between the Crimean Tatars and their main supporters in the Ukrainian political Right, while the subsequent section will discuss the official government policy into which all these dimensions had to factor.

Crimean Tatars' cooperation with pro-Ukrainian political forces dates back to the Soviet period, and is a product not only of a strategic alliance given current political realities in Crimea, but also has an emotional element behind it.  Seeing each other's nations as both being victimized by the Soviet state, key figures of the two national movements share long-standing personal ties. Almost 30-years long friendship between the leaders of the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian national movements — Mustafa Jemilev and late Viacheslav Chornovil, the leader of Rukh and a "father" of Ukraine's independence — dates back to the time when both of them were political prisoners in Soviet GULAGs. Crimean Tatars honor as one of the most esteemed defenders of their rights another Ukrainian, Petro Hryhorneko, once a Soviet general who became one of the most vocal defenders of the Crimean Tatar rights in the 1970s. Crimean Tatars have named streets in their new Crimean settlements after Hryhorenko, and last year, despite much local resentment, unveiled a monument to Hryhorenko near Simferopol's main square.

Since early 1990s, when pro-Russian Crimean separatism and local Communist elites came to be regarded as their common threat, the Crimean Tatars and pro-Ukrainian groups have been strategic allies against Communist and pro-Russian separatist forces in Crimea. With the politically-active Ukrainian community in Crimea being very small, the Crimean Tatars have positioned themselves as the main pro-Ukrainian force in Crimea, and like to quote a local saying that "the only Ukrainian in Crimea are the Crimean Tatars."[69]  The Crimean Tatars indeed have been staunch supporters of Ukraine's independence and preservation of its territorial integrity, taking the side of Kyiv in its conflict with the Crimean leadership over the extent of Crimea's autonomy. Tatars have voted for Ukraine's independence in December 1991 referendum, perhaps accounting for the critical 2.4% that made the vote in Crimea just over half, 52.4%, in favor of independence. In January 1994 Crimean presidential elections, they supported Mykola Bahrov, the only candidate who did not call for Crimea's independence from Ukraine, and in December 1996 Crimean Tatar Mejlis in its resolution condemned the Russian parliament's decision to call into question Ukraine's legal jurisdiction over Sevastopol.[70]  Tatars also supported the incumbent president Leonid Kravchuk in June and July 1994 Ukrainian presidential elections against Leonid Kuchma who campaigned with a message of closer ties to Russia, and who won in Crimea by a landslide.[71] 

Ukrainian nationalist parties have been voicing their support of the Crimean Tatar political demands since late Soviet period in their statements and documents.[72]  The Crimean Tatar-Ukrainian alliance has moved beyond verbal cooperation before March 1998 parliamentary elections when Rukh, main Ukrainian nationalist party, included members of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Mustafa Jemilev and Nadir Bekirov, in its party list as numbers 9 and 49 respectively.  Jemilev's position on the list guaranteed his elections, and he was duly elected and became one of the two Crimean Tatar deputies in the Ukrainian legislature. Refat Chubarov, deputy Chairman of Mejlis, was elected to the Ukrainian parliament from Crimea in a single-member district. Support of some 65,000 Crimean Tatar voters who had Ukrainian citizenship and could take part in March 1998 elections allowed Rukh to come third on the party list vote in Crimea winning 6.77% of votes — an unprecedented success for a Ukrainian nationalistic party that traditionally does not do well in Russophone South and East of Ukraine.[73]  In the three districts with high Tatar share in the population, Rukh got at much as 10.4%, 10.5% and 11.8% of the vote.[74]

However, apart from getting a deputy to the Ukrainian parliament — although an important achievement — the alliance of the Crimean Tatars with forces on the right of the Ukrainian political spectrum so far has brought the Crimean Tatars little tangible dividends, for several reasons: first, the limited influence at the central level (in Ukrainian Parliament and government) of the rightist Ukrainian political parties and groups supportive of the Tatars; second, suspicions many Ukrainian nationalist politicians harbor about some of the Crimean Tatar political demands and the Tatar "real" intentions; and third, lack of in-depth understanding and consistent attention to the Crimean Tatar interests on behalf of the Ukrainian political Right, which often resulted in the Crimean Tatars interests being (even if inadvertently) disregarded by their Ukrainian supporters when larger issues are at stake. 

Although Rukh has been the largest party in the Ukrainian parliament after Communists, since 1990 the Ukrainian Right and Right-Center parties that have supported Crimean Tatars have accounted for no more than about 15% of the Ukrainian parliament. Until January 2000 parliamentary crisis (prompted by President's decree to hold referendum on no confidence in the parliament) which has led to the formation, even if artificially, of right-center majority, the parliament had been plagued by bitter divisions and had no overall majority. The leftist factions, generally hostile to the Crimean Tatar political demands, have been numerous enough to kill unwanted bills. The draft law "On the status of the Crimean Tatar people" and other relevant draft laws and amendments, such as "On the rehabilitation and guaranteeing of rights of national minorities deported from Ukraine," have been circulating in the parliamentary committees for many years, since as early as 1992, but never reaching the floor. Members of the committees representing different parties could not reach any agreement on these drafts, with the leftist deputies having been opposed to any special political group rights to the Crimean Tatars on the ground that then Russian and other minorities in Ukraine should be given the same group rights, — the position not acceptable to the rightist groups. Arguments made by the laws' supporters to the effect that the Crimean Tatars and their situation sets them apart from other national minorities in Ukraine and deserve such a recognition in the law is not well received by the Left.[75]

Furthermore, although Ukrainian nationalist parties have been strategically cooperating with the Crimean Tatars in an effort to increase central control and Ukraine's influence in Crimea, many nationalist Ukrainian politicians are suspicious about the long-term intentions of the Crimean Tatars. The Declaration of National Sovereignty of the Crimean Tatar People adopted in June 1991 by the 2nd Kurultai, as well as Crimean Tatar aspirations for a national-territorial autonomy in Crimea, are the key source of Ukrainian nationalists' suspicions about the Crimean Tatars "true" intentions, thus making full support problematic. The Declaration of National Sovereignty stated that "Crimea is the national territorial autonomy of the Crimean Tatar people, on which they alone posses the right to self-determination," and that "the rebirth of the Crimean Tatar people is possible only in their own sovereign national state."[76] This de-facto claim to national statehood on the part of the Crimean Tatars is hardly more welcomed by the Ukrainian nationalist forces than similar claims by Crimean's Russians. Crimean Tatar leaders have been persistently emphasizing that their self-determination can be fully realized within the Ukrainian state if political rights and national revival of the Tatars can be assured by legal mechanisms, and that asserting their right to self-determination they do not seek full succession and establishment of independent statehood in Crimea[77] - assurances that had an effect on the Ukrainian political forces, but suspicions have not been fully eradicated.

Despite some rather radical stated goals and public rhetoric, Crimean Tatar Mejlis has been quite centrist in its actual political practice, including on issues such as national statehood and the right to self-determination, which has been noted by independent observers.[78]  Although keeping the goals of national-territorial autonomy and self-determination in their program, in practice in recent years Mejlis leaders have put a lot more emphasis on comparative less controversial, and more realistic, political objectives, such as legal mechanisms to guarantee representation in the Crimean parliament and government organs (instead of denying the legitimacy of these institutions, which has been their more common position in early-mid 1990s).[79]  At the latest Crimean Tatar Kurultai in October 1999, after heated debate, the majority of delegates agreed that the question of self-determination and re-creation of Crimean Tatar statehood are primary of a theoretical nature, and should be discussed at academic conferences and round-tables rather than at political forums.[80] 

Nevertheless, given the stated objectives of the Crimean Tatars, many of the Ukrainian nationalist who prefer Ukraine to be a unitary state and fear its "federalization" — a federal system in Ukraine is something that many Crimean Tatar leaders look upon favorably[81] — have remained suspicious and therefore have been cautious in their support of the Crimean Tatars demands. The fact that there is no consensus on the Crimean and Crimean Tatar problem within Rukh, for example, are evident in a collection of 60 biographies of Rukh leaders.  Although all but one consider current arrangements in Crimea as a "mistake," their preferences are almost equally split between those who would like to see Crimea as an ordinary oblast in Ukraine, and those who would like to see it as a national-territorial autonomy of the Crimean Tatars.  Furthermore, many those in favor of the Crimean Tatar autonomy in Crimea wish it to be limited to a cultural one, and some openly express their fear that in the future Crimean Tatars may pose as many problems as Crimean Russians do today.[82]

 Finally, Crimean Tatars interests have often been sacrificed by the Ukrainian Right, even if unconsciously, in larger political battles they have been fighting with the Left on Crimea and related issues. Elections laws are among the best examples of how Crimean Tatar interests are overlooked when larger political concerns predominate. In March 1995, when the Ukrainian parliament and President in a decisive move to curb separatism in Crimea abolished a number of Crimean laws (such as the 1992 Constitution that provided for succession and the institution of Crimea's presidency), among the laws abolished were a series of amendments to the law on local elections in Crimea that the then-existing Crimean Tatar faction in the Crimean parliament has lobbied through with much effort. The Crimean laws were abolished by the Ukrainian parliament as a package, without any regard for these laws' impact on the Crimean Tatars. The replacement law on local election in Crimea adopted by the Ukrainian parliament a month later — under pressure from the Tatars — restricted participation to citizens only and contained such a cumbersome procedure and a short time limit for the establishment of special electoral districts for deported people — that the Crimean Tatars boycotted the elections in protest.[83]

In a similar development, law on March 1998 elections to the Crimean parliament initially adopted by the Ukrainian parliament on 26 December 1997, stipulated that elections to the Crimean Parliament should be held under a mixed system (50 deputies elected in single-seat constituencies, and 50 from the party lists of candidates — the system for elections to the Ukrainian parliament).  But this and other provisions of the law were vetoed by the President, and the final version as adopted by the parliament on 12 February 1998 established a majority electoral system for Crimea.[84] Proportionate electoral system would have served the interests of the Crimean Tatars better than the majority one, under which they failed to elect a single representative. However, Rukh was among the opponents of the mixed system, and Communists were in favor of it — likely because the strength of the Communist party in Crimea would have allowed it to win more seats under the proportionate system, whereas the majority system is better suited to ensure elections of the "party of power" or pro-Presidential candidates.[85]  The effect of the law on the Crimean Tatars was of little concern under the circumstances. Given that 5 April 2000 parliamentary hearings on the Crimean Tatar problem in the Ukrainian parliament was attended by just 100 deputies from 450[86] illustrates that few of the Ukrainian lawmakers are concerned with the particulars of the Crimean Tatar problem and possible solutions to it, and even fewer understand its specifics and are able to move beyond reference frames such as "Tatars-Islam-Turkey-NATO-Russia-Slavic Union etc."[87]  in their approach to the problem and consider draft laws on the merit of their specific proposals and not just ideologically-inspired associations.

5. Crimean Tatars and the official Kyiv — politics, law, and rhetoric

If one word can characterize the official policy of the Ukrainian government towards the Crimean Tatar political demands that existed to date, this word is "inconsistent." Given the web of political, ideological and legal controversies around the Crimean Tatar problem discussed in the preceding sections, the absence of clear and consistent official policy response towards the Crimean Tatar political demands is perhaps of little surprise, although it can hardly be regarded as an optimal policy. At different times, different motivations and political calculations have determined the official Kyiv's responses to the Crimean Tatar political demands. Political and ideological divisions in the Ukrainian society are mirrored in its elite, hampering elite concession on what the policy should be with regards to the Crimean Tatars in particular, and on nationality issues in general. Legal difficulties, such as vague and often contradictory provisions of current legislation and insufficient legal framework within which the Crimean Tatar problem is to be regulated causes additional difficulties. Different government agencies disagree not only on practical policy steps to be taken with regard to specific issues Crimean Tatars raise, but even on the overall legal framework within which these issues are to be regulated.  Some believe that the current legal framework (i.e. national minorities legislation) is sufficient, others disagree and argue that a separate law regulating the Crimean Tatar status is needed, plus there are disagreements on whether this should be a law on the Crimean Tatars in particular, or deported people in general, or on the indigenous peoples, or some combination of the above.[88]

Like the Ukrainian political Right, the official Kyiv has relied on the Crimean Tatar support against pro-Russian separatism in Crimea, but the concern of keeping Crimea firmly under Ukraine's jurisdiction has been a lot more important than the satisfaction of the Crimean Tatar interests.  Crimean Tatars' nearly unconditional support of the central government in its conflict with Crimea's separatism — in itself a reality with no similar precedence in the CIS — has allowed Kyiv to support for the Tatars when Crimean separatism had to be counterbalanced, [89] but to easily "sacrifice" Crimean Tatar interests under other circumstances, so as not to anger Crimea's large Russian electorate.

Given the (objectively determined) unconditionality of Crimean Tatars' support for Kyiv in the geopolitical conflict, perhaps the only "trump" the Crimean Tatars could play with Kyiv has been their impressive organizational capacity and mobilization. This allowed the Tatars to organize massive protest actions — the tactic which often resulted in policy concessions from authorities.[90]  Fortunately for all involved, the Crimean Tatars have always adhered to the non-violence principle that has been a foundation of their movement since the Soviet time, but instances of violence and clashes with police have nevertheless occurred.[91]  The dynamics "Tatar mass protest actions — authorities' concessions to the Tatars" aggravates the already tense and confrontational situation on the ground in Crimea, and increases the danger of the radicalization of the Crimean Tatar movement. The danger is recognized even by the Crimean Tatar leaders with a reputation of being on the more radical side, who express their dissatisfaction and concern about such a dynamic, and regret that official policy de facto encourages mass protest actions as the most certain means to achieve anything.[92] 

Like Crimean officials, many in the Ukrainian government try to present the Crimean Tatar problem as being primarily a socio-economic one, thus de-emphasizing the Crimean Tatar political claims both at home and abroad, while seeking to secure financial assistance from the international community for the Crimean Tatar resettlement in Crimea.[93]  The Ukrainian officials have also tried to emphasize individual rights over ethnically-based group ones, and to publicly justify political decisions in legal terms[94] — an approach with both positive and negative implications.  Publicly "de-ethnicizing" and "de-politicizing" ethnic politics has permitted to prevent escalation of policy debates on some sensitive issues into an explosive and uncompromising standoffs.  During debate of the 1997 citizenship law in the Ukrainian parliament — although the problem at stake was to a very large extent a Crimean Tatar one — the words "Crimean Tatars" were mentioned only once(!) during the three readings of the law.[95] The provisions of the law facilitating access to Ukrainian citizenship for the Crimean Tatars were worded in politically and ethnically-neutral terms: "persons who were born or permanently resided on the territory of Ukraine and their descendants (children, grandchildren)."[96]  This wording covered the Crimean Tatars without mentioning them explicitly, thus allowing to solve a potentially touchy ethno-political issue without emphasizing it as such.

However, the rhetoric of the primacy of individual rights, de-emphasis of group claims, and calls for patience, restrain, and a step by step approach to the problems — if not accompanied by the willingness to actually address the problems at hand — is nothing more than a demagogy that cannot be an adequate approach to the outstanding political problems. With regard to political demands of the Crimean Tatars, the former has unfortunately been the case more often than the latter. This prompts even Crimean Tatar leaders reputed for their moderation to voice frustration with what they see as a de-facto official policy of ignoring Crimean Tatar political problems, covering it up with calls for patience and appeals to limits in the legal framework. As Refat Chubarov stated recently, "The Crimean Tatars have always patiently waited that many questions arising with their return to Ukraine will be decided by standard legal means.  But when they understood that this is not happening, they decided to look for alternative legal avenues and alternative possibilities to solve outstanding political and legal problems. ... Tell me please, how can we integrate into conditions that are created without our participation? ... Recently the Crimean Constitution was adopted. Who paid attention to the Crimean Tatar opinion? Where were your [Kyiv authorities'] lawyers and the executive branch who believe that everything can be resolved in the framework of the existing legislation? ... We consider ourselves an indigenous people of Crimea, and for us such a self-identification would have been sufficient if there were other mechanisms to solve the problems that we have."[97]

6. Conclusion

Most of the political demands the Crimean Tatars have been putting forward since early 1990s remain outstanding today, and on some issues, most notably the representation in the Crimean parliament, the situation has notably deteriorated in comparison with previous years. Solution to these problems in Ukraine is not easy, as this paper sought to demonstrate, as they cut at the heart of a number of sensitive geopolitical, political, and ideological issues in Ukraine, and are further complicated by deficiencies of the legislative base and the presence of deeply entrenched categorical stereotypes. But, if one looks in retrospect, progress cannot be denied, even looking from a Crimean Tatar perspective. Just over a decade ago, the Crimean Tatars were a nation in exile with no rights, prohibited from returning to their homeland, and their very existence as a national group was unrecognized. A little less than a decade ago, in February 1991, when the Ukrainian parliament was discussing the restoration of the Crimean autonomy, Crimean Tatar representatives invited to the meeting were not even given a floor in the discussion of "the issue concerned their homeland's status."[98] Eight years ago, in March 1992, current speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament Ivan Pliusch (then serving his first term as a speaker), told Refat Chubarov — now a fellow MP, then a Crimean Tatar allowed to address the Parliament on behalf of "the Crimean Tatar group" which staged a protest demonstration outside the Parliament and were forcibly dispersed by police— "Please introduce yourself, because I do not know your titles (vashykh tytuliv)."[99]  Today, Pliusch and Chubarov are colleagues, the Crimean Tatars have two representatives in the Ukrainian parliament, their plight has received attention from the world community, their leaders much better known in Geneva and Brussels than the leadership of the Crimean autonomy. The issues that several years ago were considered a political "heresy" outside of the purely academic and legalistic debates — such as recognition of Crimean Tatars as 'indigenous people' and Kurultai and Mejlis as their representative organs — have been finally raised in the parliament and may become part of Ukraine's legislation in the foreseeable future, although this is not likely to happen easily.

Crimean Tatars are a crucial piece in the "puzzles" of ethnic peace in Crimea — peace that endured despite wide-spread predictions to the contrary in the early and mid-1990s. The importance of larger political and ideological considerations and divides that have been, and will continue, to influence Ukrainian policy on the Crimean Tatar problem, and keeping it a challenge, cannot be discounted. However, it also has to be said that successful policy-making involves the ability to see beyond political and ideological divides in order to compromise on concrete issues, and to see objective implications of policy moves, instead of just placing them on a categorical ideological spectrum. The solution of the Crimean Tatar problem in Ukraine will ultimately depend on whether all the sides involved will be able to move beyond the confrontational political and ideological frame of reference in their approach to each of the many problems outstanding. 

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Verkhovna Rada Ukrainy. 2000. "Postanova Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy pro provedennia parlamentskykh slukhan z porblem zakonodavchoho vreguliuvannia ta realizatsii derzhavnoi polityky schodo zabezpechennia prav krymskotatarskoho narodu i natsionalnykh menshyn, jaki buly deportovani i dobrovilno povertaiutsia v Ukrainy." Document No. 1532-III (2 March 2000).

Verkhovnaia Rada Avtonomnoi Respubliki Krym. 1999. "Stenogramma vstrechi predsedatelia Verkhovnoi Rady Avtonomnoi Respubliki Krym  Gracha Leonida Ivanovicha s chlenami Soveta aksakalov krymskikh tatar pri Predsedatele Verkhovnoi Rady Avtonomnoi Respubliki Krym."

Verkhovny Sovet Krymskoi ASSR. 1992. "Postanovlenie Verkhovnogo Soveta Krymskoi ASSR 'O siezde (Kurultaie) predstavitelei krymskikh tatar.'  No. 83-1 (29 iulia 1991)." In Sbornik normativnykh aktov Verkhovnogo Soveta i Soveta Ministrov Kryma po voprosam vozvrashchenia deportirovannykh narodov. g. Simferopol, avgust 1992. pp. 79-81. Edited by Sovet Ministrov Kryma.

Wilson, Andrew. 1994. The Crimean Tatars. A Situation Report on the Crimean Tatars for International Alert. London: International Alert.

Wilson, Andrew. 1995. "Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine: the Issue of Crimea." In Crimea: Dynamics, Challenges and Prospects. pp. 107-131. Edited by M. Drohobycky. Published by Rowman & Littlefield: American Association for the Advancement of Science: Lanham, MD.

Wilson, Andrew. 1998. "Politics In And Around Crimea: a Difficult Homecoming." In The Tatars of the Crimea: Return to the Homeland. Studies and Documents. pp. 281-322. Edited by E. Allworth. Published by Duke University Press: Durham, N.C.



Footnotes

[1] Verbatim report from the session of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine (mimeo).

[2] Rezolutsia mitinga protesta krymskikh tatar protiv utverzhdenia Kostitutsii Avtonomnoi Respubliki Krym, zakrepliauschei bespravnoie polozhenie korennogo naroda Kryma. Avdet, 24 December 1998.

[3] According to the 1989 Soviet Census, 2,458,600 people representing 37 ethnic groups lived in Crimea. 2,622,542 Russians were the largest group constituting 67% of the population. 625,919 Ukrainians composed 25.7% of the population, and 38,365 Crimean Tatars - 1.58%. (1989 Soviet census data as reproduced in Gabrielian, Iefimov, Zarubin et al. 1998, 228). According to more current estimates, 12% of Crimea's population are the Crimean Tatars, 64% Russians, and 23% Ukrainians.

[4] Ukrainian government statistics as given in Iliasov 1999, 51, also  Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly 2000.

[5] Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research Update, Vol. 6, No. 168 (10 April 2000).

[6] Bishkek Agreement was singed by 10 CIS states (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan,, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajukistan, Turkmenistan, Ukrane, and Uzbekistan). By 1997, it has been ratified by 4 of the 10 signatory states (Armenia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan), as reported in Grazhdanin, No. 3, December 1996 (publication of a Crimean NGO "Fond po naturalizatsii i pravam cheloveka 'Sodeistvie'").

[7] Source: Official Ukrainian government statistics, in Gabrielian , Iefimov et al. 1998, 151.

[8] Officials statistics, as sited in Krymskaia gazeta, 4 February 2000, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Ukrainian Service, 4 February 2000. In comparison with the previous year, 1999 financing was an improvement, since, in comparison with 1998, a greater share of budgeted funds (68%) was actually disbursed.

[9] Given the focus of this paper socio-economic aspects of the Crimean Tatar return to Crimea will have to be left outside of the paper's scope. For a recent detailed discussion of socio-economic problems the Crimean Tatars face, see UNTsPD 1999b.

[10] Main Crimean Tatar political, as well as their economic and cultural, demands are detailed in the Appeal of the Crimean Tatars addressed to the President of Ukraine, Peoples Deputies of Ukraine, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the OSCE. (Avdet, 13 January 1997).  The appeal has been signed by over 100,000 Crimean Tatars over 18 years of age, according to Mustafa Jemilev, Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis. (Avdet, 24 November 1998).  Among other demands stated in this Appeal are more native language education at all levels, restoration of traditional geographical place names in Crimea, return to the Latin script for the Crimean Tatar language, land privatization policy in Crimea that would take into account Crimean Tatar interests, and a compensation mechanism for property confiscated during deportation.

[11] This quota provision was introduced by the Crimean parliament in October 1993 (after being initially rejected) in the wake of mass protests and railway lines blockade by the Crimean Tatars.  For more on the October 1993 elections quota controversy, see Wilson 1994, 16-17; Wilson 1998, 299-302. The quota arrangement gave 14 seats to the Crimean Tatars, and one seat each to the other four "deported people" (Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Germans). 

[12] In 7 of Crimea's 26 administrative districts, Crimean Tatars by now constitute over 20% of the population with the highest share of the Tatars (29,3%) is in the Sovetskyi region. (Official government statistics in Iliasov 1999, 47). Administrative districts do not correspond to electoral districts, of which 100 were created in Crimea before March 1998 elections. 

[13] Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly 2000. Detailed breakdown of Crimean Tatar employees in various government institutions in Crimea is given in the Parallel report to the Council of Europe's, prepared by the Foundation for Research and Support of the Indigenous People of Crimea and circulated at the Crimea-L electronic mailing list on 23 December 1999. Available from the archive of the Crimea-L at http://www.egroups.com/group/crimea-l--teklan.com.tr/ 

[14] Official government statistics supplied by the office of Ukrainian President representative in Crimea, June 1999. According to this statistics, out of 6,447 deputies elected to the Crimean local soviets, 581 (9.01%) are the Crimean Tatars. The data is close to the one cited by Mustafa Jemilev in Avdet, 24 November 1998 (Out of 6,529 total, 586 (8.99%) are Crimean Tatars).  In Avdet, further breakdown of the total number is given: 5.1% Crimean Tatars in regional councils (raionnyie sovety), 1.6% in city soviets of republican status (gorodskie sovety respublikanskogo znachenia), 8.7% in city soviets of regional status (gorodskie sovety selskogo znachenia), 3.9% in village-type soviets (poselkovyie sovety), 11.8% in village soviets (selskie sovety), and 4.9% in Simferopol city soviets (raionnyie sovety g. Simferopolia). 

[15] OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights 1998b.

[16] OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities 1995. Also CSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities 1994; OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities 1996; OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities 1997.

[17] Documented renunciation of foreign citizenship is one of the conditions for the acquisition of the Ukrainian citizenship (Article 17 paragraph 1 of the 1997 Ukrainian citizenship law), since Ukraine adheres to the single citizenship principle.

[18] Statistical data according to the UNHCR Simferopol, based on the official government statistics (UNHCR 1999). The main obstacle for the Crimean Tatars wishing to renounce Uzbek citizenship was $100 fee Uzbekistan charged for this procedure, and the need to apply in person, thus costs of travelling to the Uzbek embassy in Kyiv.

[19] Some citizenship problems remain, however. The simplified procedures for the acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship in the 1997 law and the 1998 Ukrainian-Uzbek agreement applies only to the FDPs and their descendants, but not to spouses in the cases of mixed marriages. Furthermore, 21,000 Crimean Tatars who are citizens of other CIS states (10,000 citizens of Russia, others of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan) cannot benefit from the Ukrainian-Uzbek agreement.  Ukrainian government is currently trying to negotiate similar agreements with other CIS counties.

[20] Apart from voting rights, those without Ukrainian citizenship also cannot participate in privatization, benefit from free post-secondary education, and be employed in the government service.

[21] CIS 1992.

[22] Before March 1998 parliamentary elections in Ukraine, the OSCE has recommended to the Ukrainian government that Crimean Tatars with permanent residency in Crimea be allowed to vote (Izvestia, 12 March 1998, Yurt, 24 March 1998). The OSCE and the Council of Europe expressed "regrets [that] the failure of initiatives for granting returnees with permanent residence, regardless of citizenship, the right to vote" (OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights 1998a). Council of Europe also noted that "it has to be regretted that, unlike for the 1994 parliamentary elections, returnees with permanent residence, regardless of citizenship, were not allowed to vote in 1998," and, like OSCE, recommended that "the Crimean Tatars with permanent residence in Crimea should be granted the right to vote before the next elections in October 1999." Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly 1998.

[23] Avdet, 24 November 1998.

[24] For an example of the most recent international praise on the subject, see Lord Ponsonby's speech at the 5 April 1999 session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. (Verbatim report from the session at http://stars.coe.fr/verbatim/20002/E/0002051500E.htm ).

[25] For example, Viacheslav Oleschenko, deputy head of the Directorate of State and Legal Affairs of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration, recently argued that "Once Crimean Tatars will have citizenship, they will have representation in organs of state power, in civil service. ... Constitution of Ukraine, as well as the law on civil service, state that rights of a citizen cannot be limited based on age, race, ethnicity, etc. ... Respecting the Constitution, we have to discuss not quotas, but how to help Crimean Tatars to increase their education level and professionalism, how to integrate into Ukrainian society. This is how their chance for greater representation in organs of sate power can be improved." UNTsPD 1999d, 49-50.

[26] Opponents of the quote provision for the Crimean Tatars commonly claim that the Crimean Tatars themselves are to blame for not having elected their representatives to the Crimean parliament during 1998 elections, since in several districts more than one Crimean Tatar candidate was on the ballot.

[27] Furthermore, Jemilev noted, "why, for example, Russians can put more than one candidate in each district and still have someone elected, while we must propose no more than one?" Avdet, 24 November 1998.

[28] Jemilev's report to the Conference of the delegates of the 3rd Kurultai, in Avdet, 24 November 1998.

[29] The 1991 Kurultai was explicitly called the 2nd Kurultai, to signify the continuity with the first Kurultai established in December 1917.

[30] "Polozhenie o Mejlise Krymskotatarskogo naroda," Avdet, 11 July 1991.

[31] Verkhovny Sovet Krymskoi ASSR 1992.

[32] Elections procedure of Kurultai delegates by the Crimean Tatars, and Mejlis members by the Kurultai delegates, are described in Wilson 1998, 286-289. Rules of procedure (reglament) of the Kurultai and the status (polizhenie) of Mejlis, are published in Avdet, 16 December 1997.

[33] Jemilev's interview in Komsomolskaia Pravda v Ukraine, 17 March 2000, as reprinted in Krymskie Novosti # 49, at http://www.crimeanews.com/rnews49.htm 

[34] Chubarov 1999.

[35] Refat Chubarov, deputy chairman of Mejlis and member of the Ukrainian parliament. (Chubarov 1999).

[36] Prezydent Ukrainy 1999.

[37] In 1941-1944 several ethnic groups, in whole or in part, were deported from Crimea: in 1941 - over 50,000 Germans, and in 1944 -11,000 Armenians, 12,000 Bulgarians, 14,000 Greeks, and 1,500 total of Austrians, Romanians Hungarians and Italians. (Ovod 1997).

[38] OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities 1995.

[39] There are two other groups — Karaims and Krymchaks (together numbering less than 2,000 people, according to the 1989 Soviet Census) — who do not have a homeland outside Crimea. Crimean Tatars consider them as indigenous people of Crimea as well (see, for example, Bekirov 1995, 61-62), although these two groups, unlike the Crimean Tatars, have not laid claims to be officially recognized as such. For elaboration of the Crimean Tatar claim to the indigenous people status, see Bekirov 1995, as well as Bekirov in UNTsPD 1999c, 6-15.

[40] For this argument, see Nadir Bekirov, head of the political-legal department of Mejlis, in Bekirov 1995, 61. Current (1997) official statistics for the representatives of other formerly deported groups in Crimea is as follows: 5,062 Armenians, 1,302 Bulgarians, 4,002 Greeks , 2,309 Germans (Finogeev and Matveev 1999, 15).

[41] Draft UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has not been accepted yet, and the main international legal instruments are the two Conventions (No. 107 and 169) of the International Labor Organization that Ukraine has not joined, and which have been ratified only by 27 states.  For a comprehensive debate on the "indigenous people" versus "national minority" status of the Crimean Tatars, including the international legal framework, see proceedings of the February 1999 round-table on the subject (UNTsPD 1999c).

[42] Draft law "On the Status of the Crimean Tatar people in Ukraine" has been reportedly circulating among parliamentary committees since July 1992.  Avdet, 8 July 1996.

[43] Verkhovna Rada Ukrainy 2000.

[44] Research Update of the Independent Center for Political Research, Vol. 6, No. 168, 10 April, 2000; Belitser 2000.

[45] UA Today, 5 April 2000; UNIAN, 5 April 2000.

[46] The Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea came into force on 12 January 1999, after being adopted by the Crimean parliament on 21 October 1998 and approved by the Ukrainian parliament on 23 December 1998.

[47] Mustafa Jemilev, the chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, has argued in a recent interview that after the adoption of the Crimean Constitution "the problem remains and has gotten worse, because yet again the rights of the Crimean Tatars were ignored." (Den, 1 April 1999). Failure of the Crimean Constitution to address the Crimean Tatar political problems has also been noted by Sedochenko 1999 and elaborated by Belitser 2000.

[48] Article 10 (paragraphs 1 and 2) of the 1998 Crimean constitution provides for the "functioning, development, usage and protection" of the Crimean Tatar and languages of other minorities, and the right to native language education "as provided by the law of Ukraine and normative-legal acts of the Supreme Soviet of Crimean." (Prezydent Ukrainy 1998). The Crimean Tatars were calling for equal status of the Crimean Tatar language in Crimea together with the state language (Ukrainian) and the Russian language.

[49] In Ukrainian: deportovani z Krymu hromadiany.   Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Article 18, paragraph 21 (Prezydent Ukrainy 1998).

[50] For a recent example of the argument along these lined see 5 April 2000 speech of the Chairman of the Crimean Parliament Leonid Hrach delivered to the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography of PACE (available from http://www.part.org.ua as "Vystuplenie Predsedatelia Verkhovnoi Rady Avtonomnoi Respubliki Krym Gracha L.I., 11.04.2000). 

[51] Verkhovnaia Rada Avtonomnoi Respubliki Krym 1999, 13.

[52] Pavlo Baulin, MP from the Communist party speaking during 5 April 2000 parliamentary hearing, quoted in Research Update of the Independent Center for Political Research, Vol. 6, No. 168.

[53] 1992 interview with Mustafa Jemilev, reprinted in Turkistan-N electronic newsletter (9 October 1998).

[54] Resolution of a protest meeting. "Rezoluitsia mitinga protesta krymskikh tatar I demokraticheskikh organizatsii Kryma "Net kolonializmu I kommunisticheskoi tiranii v Krymu I na Ukraine!" Simferopol, 8 April 1999.

[55] Kyiv Post, 23 October 1998.

[56] UNTsPD 1999a.

[57] With the exception of two persons representing NDKT — the National Movement of the Crimean Tatars (NDKT, abbreviated from its full name in Russian — Natsionalnoie Dvizhenie Krymskikh Tatar — is an organization opposed to Mejlis. Its position will be discussed below in greater details), and one Crimean Tatar member of the Communist Party who have reflected favorably on the USSR. Two more, while being negative about the USSR, saw a future for the CIS.

[58] Both from the NDKT.

[59] Jemilev 1995, 19.

[60] Arifov 1999. See also opinions of the Crimean Tatar leaders collected in UNTsPD 1999a.   A notable exception to this view — and to the position of Mejlis in general — is the NDKT, a Crimean Tatar organization whose leaders were also at the roots of the Crimean Tatar movement in 1960s, but they and those now are in Mejlis/Kurultai have parted ways in late 1980s. The NDKT is supported by about 5% of the Crimean Tatars (according to the 1994 election result to the Crimean parliament on the Crimean Tatar list).  Its stated political orientation is very different from that of Mejlis — the NDKT regrets the disappearance of the Soviet Union and supports the creation of a "Slavo-Turkic" Union.  It has called Ukraine's rule over Crimea "occupational", is highly negative of the Mejlis cooperation with the pro-Ukrainian forces, and stresses the importance of working with the existing Crimean authorities. For more on the split in the Crimean Tatar movement in the late Soviet period and current differences between Mejlis/Kurultai and the NDKT see, for example, Wilson 1998, 283-286; Guboglo and Chervonnaia 1992, especially v. 1, pp. 171-200, v. 4, pp. 89-116.

[61] Bekirov 1995, 65-66, 75.

[62] Appeal of four factions of the Crimean Parliament issued after July 1996 Kurultai, cited in Avdet, 29 June 1996.

[63] Russian Community of Crimea's appeal in Krymskoie vremia, 14 December 1999.

[64] Hrach as quoted in Wilson 1994, 31. See also Hrach's April 2000 speech at PACE ("Vystuplenie Predsedatelia Verkhovnoi Rady Avtonomnoi Respubliki Krym Gracha L.I., 11.04.2000," at http://www.part.org.ua ).

[65] Officially, Aksakaly were elected by July 1998 "Conference of veterans and activists of the Crimean Tatar people." However, during their meeting with Crimean Parliament speaker Leonid Hrach — as reflected in the meeting's verbatim report — one of the "elders," Sejkh-Ametov, voiced his concern that since Hrach called the meeting where Sovet Aksakalov was created before holding consultations with other Crimean Tatar organizations, Sovet Aksakalov "was established on the basis of one organization only."  (Verkhovnaia Rada Avtonomnoi Respubliki Krym 1999, 28-31).

[66] Interview with aksakaly Refat Jemilev and Eskander Umerov, (22 June 1999, Simferopol).

[67] Ibid.

[68] Sedochenko 1999, 15.

[69] For example, Jemilev 2000.

[70] Mejlis Krymskotatarskogo naroda 1996.

[71] Kuchma won 98.7% of the total vote in Crimea. Election results in Wilson 1995. In no small measure, Crimean Tatar support for Kravchuk was prompted, as Mustafa Jemilev said at the 3rd Kurultai, by Kravchuk's statement in May 1994 where he acknowledged the Crimean Tatar right to self-determination. Avdet, 8 July 1996. Kravchuk said "Crimean Tatar nation (narod), like all other nations in the world, have the right to its country (zemliu), its state. I believe that the time will come when everyone will comprehend this high right, and will do everything so that it is realized." "Vystup Prezidenta Ukrainy L.M. Kravchuka na vechori-rekviemi, prysviachenomu 50-ricchiu deportatsii krymskykh tatar z Krymu." In Bazhan and Danyliuk 1995, 314.

[72] For example, "Zvernennia Rady Nationalnostei Narodnoho Rukhy Ukrainy do Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy pro stavlennia do Mejlisu krymskotatarskoho narodu" (serpen-veresen 1991); "Postanova Tsentralnoho provodu Narodnoho Rukhy Ukrainy pro vidnovlennia natsionalnykh prav Krymskotatarskoho narody" (9 veresnia 1991), both in Bazhan and Danyliuk 1995, 309.

[73] In the 1998 elections in other southern and eastern regions of Ukraine Rukh received less than 5% of votes, while in 1994 parliamentary elections in Crimea an estimated of only 0.01% voters supported Rukh

[74] Source: Central Electoral Commission of Ukraine, at http://195.230.157.53:8082/index.htm Also Zerkalo Nedeli, 4 April 1998.

[75] For a summary of conflicting views of Ukrainian MPs along these line see Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research Update, Vol. 6, No. 168 (10 April 2000).

[76] "Deklaratsia o natsionalnom suverenitete krymskotatarskogo naroda" (28 June 1991). Reprinted in Guboglo and Chervonnaia 1992, v. 2, pp. 109-112.

[77] Mustafa Jemilev, for example, have consistently argued that Crimean Tatars "are not talking about building a completely independent state in Crimea. We seek to acquire national-territorial autonomy within Ukraine, or to establish a sovereign democratic republic that would be a part of Ukraine." 1992 interview with Mustafa Jemilev reprinted in Turkistan Newsletter (9 October 1998). For more recent statements by Jemilev, see Den 1 April 1999; Komsomolskaia Pravda v Ukraine, 17 March 2000.

[78] For example, Wilson 1994, 27.

[79] Wilson 1998 analyses the evolution of the Crimean Tatar position on these issues and debates in Mejlis and Kurultai between more moderate and more radical views until mid-1996.

[80] Report on discussions that took place during the 1st day of the 3 days of Kurultai. "V Krymu prokhodit Kurultai krymskotatarskogo naroda." At http://www.crimeanews.com/kurultayr.1.html 

[81] See collection of Crimean Tatar leaders' biographies where many evaluated federalism in Ukraine favorably UNTsPD 1999a.

[82] UNTsPD 1996.

[83] Verkhovna Rada Ukrainy 1995, ITAR-TASS, 20 April 1995, Avdet, 8 July 1996.

[84] Verkhovna Rada Ukrainy 1998.

[85] Krymskie Izvestia, 30 December 1997, UNIAN 12 February 1998.

[86] As reported on Crimea-L on 10 April 200, citing Ilmi Umerov, member of Mejlis who was present at the hearing.

[87] Refat Chubarov has recently expressed regret that MPs and political parties tend to form their attitude to the Crimean Tatar problems in this way, rather than on the merit of the concrete issues at stake and solutions proposed. (UNTsPD 1999d, 61).

[88] For such divergent official views, see, for example, presentations by the Ukrainian government officials at the February 1999 round table "Crimean Tatars: 'national minority' or 'indigenous people'?", especially by Leonid Shklar of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration who was upholding the position that current legal basis is sufficient, and Serhii Rudyk of the State Committee of Ukraine on Nationalities and Migration who explained how it was not. (UNTsPD 1999c).

[89] Voting rights for Crimean Tatars without Ukrainian citizenship prior to 1995 but not since is an illustration, as plausible legal justifications can be presented in favor and against the change in policy.  See Shevel 2000.

[90] Among the more telling examples are the October 1993 introduction of the quota provisions by the Crimean parliament, the August 1995 Cabinet of Ministers resolution addressing many of the outstanding political problems (see Shevel 2000 for more details), and May 1999 Presidential decree on the creation of Advisory Council composed of all 33 Mejlis members.

[91] To take a recent example, during February and March 1998 Crimean Tatar protests against the elections law a number of violent clashes have occurred.

[92] Author's conversations with Ilmi Umerov, member of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis and chairman of the Bakhchisarai regional Mejlis in June 1999 in Crimea. Mykola Shulha, Deputy Director of the Ukrainian institute of Sociology and former Minister for Nationalities and Migration, has recently argued that the official policy is to react to pressure from the Tatars. "The authorities adopted several dozen documents on the Crimean Tatar problem. But this fact demonstrates not so much the implementation of the official position, but the reaction to the pressure the Crimean Tatars brought to bear on the authorities." UNTsPD 1999d, 55.

[93] See, for example, statements by the Ukrainian delegated at the 5 April 2000 PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) session during the discussion of the report "Repatriation and Integration of the Tatars of Crimea." (Verbatim report at http://stars.coe.fr/verbatim/20002/E/0002051500E.htm ).

[94] 1998 elections law controversy is among recent illustrative examples.

[95] Verbatim report (electronic version) of the three hearings of the citizenship law (30 October 1996, 27 February 1997, and 16 April 1997).

[96] Article 2 paragraph 3 of the citizenship law passed by the Parliament in April 1997. Verkhovna Rada Ukrainy 1997.

[97] UNTsPD 1999c, 69-71.

[98] Cemiloglu 1995, 105.

[99] Verbatim report of 25 March 1992 session of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada Ukrainy, piata sesia Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy XII sklykannia. Bulleten No. 38, p. 11).


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