International Committee for Crimea


ICC News Digest No. 3 (Fall 2005)


New Government in Crimea

Will New Prime Minister Make Crimea Any Better?
Eurasia Daily Monitor

Anatoly Matviyenko, Prime Minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea since April 2005, resigned on September 20, as preparations for a no-confidence vote were underway in the Crimean Parliament. On September 23, the Crimean Parliament approved overwhelmingly Anatoly Burdyuhov as the new Prime Minister. He is reportedly a friend of President Yushchenko's and the local representative of the National Bank of Ukraine. Burdyuhov's coalition cabinet includes four Tatar representatives, two deputy prime ministers and two ministers. He also promised to look into ways of legalizing the Mejlis, an elected body of Crimean Tatar representatives.

The former Prime Minister Matviyenko is closely allied with Yulia Tymoshenko, who was dismissed as Prime Minister of Ukraine early in September. He failed to secure the support of local politicians and to resolve the serious conflicts arising from the land distribution, an issue very important to Crimean Tatars. He also alienated other Crimeans by suggesting schemes to end economic stagnation: turning Crimea into a Ukrainian Las Vegas by moving casinos and building an oil refinery near the coastal resorts. (Oleg Varfolomeyev, 3 October 2005)

Ukrainian Mirror Weekly

The results of the government reshuffling in Crimea seem to be quite favorable to Crimean Tatars, according to at least one outside observer. Valentina Samar writing for the well-respected Ukrainian Mirror Weekly notes that the Mejlis and its chairman Mustafa Jemilev seem to have emerged better than expected from the political upheaval in Crimea that resulted in the replacement of Matviyenko with Burdyuhov. There will be now six Crimean Tatar posts in the new government: two vice-prime minister posts, two ministers and two heads of committees.*

The composition of the new government, with the relatively high Crimean Tatar participation, upset the leader of the Crimean Russian nationalists Sergei Tsekov (who was left outside the government) to such an extent that he in rage invited the deputies of the Crimean Parliament to leave their seats: "let in another structure which for 15 years has been already illegally operating in Crimea... it is not you who are the parliament, but Mejlis." It is, of course, too early to say what positives or negatives the Mejlis could reap from the latest government shuffling, but the skillful politics in Crimea paid off handsomely. New appointments point to the crucial role that the Crimean Tatars played in the strong showing of Yushchenko in Crimea during the last elections. (1-7 October 2005, No. 38)

*Translated into English by Kemal Seitveliyev.
List of Crimean Tatars in the Crimean Government (Translator's note):

1. Aziz Abdullayev - Deputy Prime Minister, Government of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC). Former positions: Minister of Industrial Policy, Transport and Communications of the ARC; Deputy Chief of the State Property Fund of the ARC; People's Deputy in the Parliament of the ARC.
2. Shevket Asanov - Deputy Prime Minister, Government of the ARC. Former positions: n/a.
3. Albert Kangiyev - Minister of Industrial Policy, Transport and Communications of the ARC. Former positions: Deputy Head of Belogorsk (Karasu Pazar) District State Administration.
4. Zarema Ramazanova - Minister for Family, Youth and Gender Policies. Former positions: Minister in the same position in the previous government.
5. Server Saliyev - Committee for Nationalities and Migration. Former positions: n/a.
6. Shevket Memetov - Committee for Information (Press?). Former positions: n/a

Eco-Tourism and Crimean Tatars

Sand, Sun and Manty
Transitions Online

Most of the Crimean Tatars, who have managed to return to their homeland, live in the center and the northern areas of the peninsula. On the southern coast, which was their stronghold prior to 1944, they make up only three to five percent of the population. When Crimean Tatars try to make their way back to the south, they face a big resistance; several clashes have happened between them and the hard-liners, such as local communist party or Cossack paramilitary associations. They are facing exclusion and discrimination, although they feel that they are the true owners of the land. While their representative body, the Mejlis, takes a staunchly anti-communist, pro-Western attitude, this stance places them at odds with much of the non-Tatar population.

However, tourism itself is becoming a source of stability in Crimea. Many Tatar entrepreneurs try to develop their niche in the tourism. Eco-tourism, agro-tourism, "heritage" tours and adventure holidays are some of these niche tourism sectors dominated by Tatar entrepreneurs. Some opened bed-and-breakfast type accommodations and small hotels. Some moved into catering, offering national dishes. These activities also gave an incentive to revive Tatar traditional arts and crafts, such as leather making, ceramics, jewelry and carpet weaving. The end result is that traditions become value-added commodity and can create a new appreciation of their history, not only by themselves but also by tourists. (Kurtmolla Abdulganiyev, 17 October 2005)

Land Issues

Crimean Tatars Demand Their Religious Buildings
The Crimean Aspects Website

Mustafa Jemilev, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, met with Aleksandr Chabanov, acting Mayor of Yalta, to discuss the allocation of land plots for Crimean Tatars in the Greater Yalta region. According to the Mejlis Press Service, they also discussed the subject of returning religious buildings located in the Yalta area to the Crimean Tatar community. Jemilev presented a list of such buildings, including the Grand Mosque built in 1864, where ten families are living presently and a medrese building also dating from 1864, which is now being used as a hotel. In addition, the Mejlis leader said that there is a private house on the location of the former Dereköy Mosque, and the building of Alupka Grand Mosque is now used as a club for sailors. (20 September 2005)

Poluostrov (Simferopol)

The Crimean prosecutor's office issued an official protest against the administration heads of the Crimea's Saky District who distributed among themselves for free 256 hectares of luxury coastal land in the vicinity of the Lake Donuzlav. The former Crimean Prime Minister Anatoliy Matviyenko said that a total of 12,000 hectares of land, each worth one million dollars, was distributed among local government officials on the peninsula. The Ukrainian MP Refat Chubarov commented that if lawlessness involving land distribution continues on the peninsula it would be difficult for some Crimean Tatars to constrain themselves. More than 50 per cent of Crimean Tatars who returned to Crimea from forced exile do not have any land yet. (Lemar Adzhiyev, 21 October 2005).

Poluostrov (Simferopol)

Ilmi Umerov, a prominent member of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis and head of the Bakhchisaray district administration, applauded the Crimean court's verdict that gave back to Crimean Tatars a medieval Tatar holy site and cemetery, Azizler, located in the centre of Bakhchisaray. He said that a museum of the Crimean Tatar culture and religion, which will be built on the site, should become the true spiritual centre of the nation. Umerov also urged the ethnic Russian population of the city to remain tolerant. He described the court's decision as an act of restoring historical justice. In July 2004, Crimean Tatars and ethnic Russians had clashed over the site. (11 November 2005). Source: World News Connection.

Religious Tensions in Crimea

Poluostrov (Simferopol)

A conflict is brewing between the Muslim and Orthodox Christian communities in Feodosia (Kefe). The local mayor, Volodymyr Shayderov, plans to erect a three-meter-high statue of St. Andrew and a four-meter-high Christian cross and a chapel on the site of a medieval mosque in the center of the city. Leaders of the Feodosia district Muslim community and the city's imam issued a joint statement, dismissing the mayor's plans as "an act of provocation against the Muslims." They fear that the move could seriously damage inter-religious and interethnic relations and lead to a burst of inter-religious tension in the region." Accordingly, the Christian monument and edifice will be erected at the request of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and will be completed in March 2006. The mayor's office denied the Muslim leaders' allegations about stirring up interethnic tensions. (Yuriy Lemeshko, 4 November 2005).

Ayder Bulatov, the deputy head of the Crimean committee for religious affairs, blamed the Ukrainian and Crimean authorities that promote the interests of the Orthodox Christian church in Crimea. Such policies provoke Muslims on the peninsula, which in turn lead to religious conflicts. Islam is the second largest religion in Crimea, with over 350 registered Muslim communities and 200 mosques, and Crimean Muslims constitute 80 per cent of Ukraine's Muslim community, the deputy said. Yet, the local authorities in Crimea continue to harass Crimean Tatar Muslims. They refuse to return to them their holy religious sites and mosques, introduce lessons in Christianity in Crimean schools, build Christian churches and erect crosses in Crimean Tatar settlements. (18 November 2005). Source: World News Connection.

Krymskaya Pravda (Simferopol)

Tensions are on the rise between Crimean Tatars and ethnic Russians in Crimea's Bakhchisaray District. In the village of Holubinka, the Muslim community has objected to the decision of a local Orthodox church of the Moscow Patriarchate to restore a medieval Christian temple, which they claim the site had belonged to the Constantinople Patriarchate. The Crimean Tatars are led by Ilmi Umerov, the head of the Bakhchisaray district administration, who organized anti-Christian protests by the peninsula's Muslims in the past. (10 November 2005). Source: World News Connection.

Political Alliances

Crimean Tatars May Form Bloc in Ukrainian Parliament Elections
Interfax (Simferopol)

The 4th session of the 4th Crimean Tatar Kurultay (Congress) will take place in Simferopol on December 9-11 to discuss the participation of Crimean Tatars in Ukrainian Parliament and local government elections. The Kurultay will consider a proposal by the Crimean branch of the Ukrainian People's Rukh to prepare a joint ballot of candidates for the Crimean parliamentary and municipal positions. The Mejlis administration will recommend that deputies support this proposal. The Mejlis and the Rukh party have been political allies for a long time and have pooled efforts in elections before. The Kurultay may also discuss the rights and freedoms of Crimean Tatars in the Crimea, including the assignment of land plots to repatriates and numerous violations of Crimean Tatars' rights. (14 November 2005).

Poluostrov (Simferopol)

The Crimean branch of the Ukrainian People's Movement (Rukh) decided to form a coalition with the Crimean Tatar Mejlis. The decision was made at the branch conference held in Simferopol on 12 November and caused an uproar among Ukrainian and pro-Russian circles in Crimea. The Ukrainian Communist Party demanded that the Rukh leader, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, resign over "supporting an alliance with the illegal nationalist organization (Mejlis)" and claimed that this move encourages the creation of an independent ethnic state in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. The Communists appealed to the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office to open a criminal case against Tarasyuk, saying that "the minister's actions violated Ukraine's territorial integrity and the rights of Ukrainian citizens". Aleksandr Chabanov, the head of the Crimean branch of the Our Ukraine People's Union, which is in alliance with Rukh, dismissed the Rukh-Mejlis bloc as "just another election trick." He also called on the Mejlis to reject the idea of creating a Crimean Tatar autonomy on the peninsula, saying that President Viktor Yushchenko would never support it. (Yuriy Lemeshko,18 November 2005). Source: World News Connection.

Maidan - One Year Later

Crimean Tatar Mejlis Web Site

Events marking the first anniversary of the Orange Revolution (November 22) began in the center of Simferopol on Sunday, November 20, despite bad weather. The meeting was organized by the Our Ukraine People's Union and attended by about 6,000 people. Among the officials present were Anatoly Burdyuhov, Primer Minister of the ARC, Mustafa Jemilev, Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, and Leonid Pilunsky, head of the Crimean branch of the Rukh party. Mustafa Jemilev noted that the Orange Revolution was beautiful because it took place without any violence and became a source of inspiration for many. "Exactly one year ago, one hundred thousand people, indignant at scandalous lawlessness, violation of their rights and above all the right to elect representative bodies, went out to the streets," he said, "demanding respect for their rights and reversal of the false results of presidential elections." Admitting that the hopes of many people's were not fulfilled yet, Jemilev stressed the importance of supporting "the voices of democratic forces, instead of those forces that dream of revenge, of returning to the totalitarian regime, and those parties that have urged people to take axes and pitchforks in order to maintain their authority." He continued: "I urge you, dear fellow citizens, to unite, irrespective of your nationality and religious creed. I am confident that together we shall win!" Participants called for "further struggle against corruption and the punishment of people responsible for 2004 election fraud." The rally ended with a program of Crimean and Ukrainian music and dances. (Avdet, 20 November 2005).

The following individuals participated in the preparation of this issue of News Digest: Alim Memetov (Bakhchisaray), Cemil Otar (Toronto) and Kemal Seitveliev (Bakhchisaray). Edited by Inci Bowman (Washington, DC).

Posted: 7 December 2005

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