International Committee for Crimea
ICC News Digest No. 7 (Fall 2006)
SUMMARIES OF SELECTED NEWS ABOUT CRIMEAN TATARS AND CRIMEA
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Visits Ukraine
Ukraine's President discussed deported nations issue with OSCE High Commissioner
Crimean Tatars: OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities arrives
President Victor Yushchenko met with Rolf Ekeus, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, to discuss further cooperation with the OSCE in integrating national minorities into the Ukrainian society. "The government spares no effort to fulfill all the obligations it has assumed as an OSCE member, especially in the area of the protection of national minority rights," he said. Mr. Ekeus commended the Ukrainian government for protecting minority rights and promised that the OSCE will extend protection to Ukrainian communities abroad.
Mr. Ekeus also visited Crimea and met with Anatoliy Gritsenko, Chairman of the Crimean Parliament. According to Gritsenko's office, Crimean Tatars on the peninsula amounts to 12 percent (some 250,000 persons) of the population, while in 1989 this figure stood at 1.2 percent mark. About 100,000 Crimean Tatars live outside Crimea, 20,000 of them in Ukrainian territory and the rest in Uzbekistan. Annually, 2,000 - 4,000 Crimean Tatars return to Crimea. It is expected that the repatriation process will take 10 to 12 years. To date, some 300 townships of compact residence of deported citizens are situated in Crimea, six of these are Bulgarian, Greek, Armenian and German settlements, and the rest occupied by Crimean Tatars.
Escalating Religious Tensions
Krymskaya Pravda (Simferopol), 20 September 2006
The pro-Russian newspaper published an account of a news conference given by a visiting Russian Christian cleric, Andrey Kurayev, who also holds an academic position at the Moscow Spiritual Academy. Kurayev said that Islam and Christianity are in a state of cold war in Crimea, and accused Crimean Muslims of behaving "like impudent boys who deserved a good thrashing." He also noted that only the fear of retribution from Russian Christians kept Crimean Tatar Muslims at bay and described the Crimean major Islamic body, the Muftiate, as "a bunch of fools speaking on behalf of Crimean Muslims." Kurayev called on Russian Orthodox Christians to unite and form organized resistance to militant Crimean Muslims. He also added that the Ukrainian nation does not exist. (Source: World News Connection)
Dialogue (Simferopol), 29 September 2006
In an interview with the Crimean Tatar newspaper, Mufti Haji Emirali Ablayev, the spiritual leader of the Crimean Tatars said that the government harasses Crimean Muslims by refusing to return old mosques or allocate land for the construction of new ones. Not a single mosque on Crimea's southern coast has been returned to Muslims, he noted. In Simferopol there is only one small mosque, which is not suitable for accommodating all those wanting to pray. Instead, the government gives land belonging to Muslim communities to Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian government supports the Crimean government's policy on this issue, Ablayev said. (Source: World News Connection)
Dialogue (Simferopol), 27 October 2006
The Crimean Tatar weekly published a report which asserts that a war between mosques and churches is currently under way in Crimea. It expands on the continuing dispute involving the village of Fotisala near Bakhchisaray, where the construction of an Orthodox Christian church is planned over Crimean Tatar graves. According to the account, the Crimean Tatars who lived in the village were descendants of Genoese who settled in Crimea during the Middle Ages and adopted Islam in the 18th century. The construction of the Russian church over the Genoese graves is seen as an attempt by pro-Russian forces to deprive Crimean Tatars of their pre-Islamic past and to claim Crimea as a Russian territory. (Source: World News Connection)
President Putin's Remarks on Crimea
Putin Q/A: On Crimea, Black Sea Fleet, and Media Eavesdropping
Russia is ready to protect Ukraine from external interference
In a question-and-answer session, broadcast live in Crimea from the Kremlin on Oct. 25, President Putin was asked whether Russia could help with the "Crimean Tatar problem" in Ukraine. Admitting the sensitive nature of the issue, he said that they cannot interfere with the affairs of another country. "Russia is a multi-ethnic state with its own thousand-year-old culture of solving interethnic and inter-religious problems," he continued. "And, we have huge positive experience." Putin added that they are not indifferent to the problem and, if asked, they will render assistance without having Russia immersed in these problems. He further stressed that Russia will protect Ukraine if any external power attempts to interfere with Ukraine's internal affairs.
To the question of whether the Black Sea Fleet agreement between Russia and Ukraine will be extended, Putin responded that the agreement is in effect until 2017, and Russia is ready to conduct negotiations to extend it further. The president stated that the agreement is beneficial for both nations as the Russian fleet is a significant source of income for Ukraine, providing rental fees and creating employment for ship maintenance. Putin also emphasized that, in connection with the political problems in Crimea, the presence of the fleet is a safeguard against external influences on Ukraine's internal affairs.
Russian Interference in Crimea
Russian Subversion in Crimea
President Viktor Yushchenko ordered the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to review its operational activities in Crimea. He asked that the Security Service conduct investigations "to identify, prevent and halt intelligence, subversive and other illegal activities in Crimea by foreign secret services and NGOs." The SBU was also asked to develop a plan of action to "neutralize" activities that are detrimental to "Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity" and conducive to "ethnic, racial and religious tensions." Russia's tactics in supporting separatist activities among ethnic Russians in Crimea have been of great concern to the Kyiv government but its inability to deal with this serious political interference was shown by the well organized anti-NATO demonstrations last June. It is believed that Russia provided intelligence information on the planned military exercises, and many of the leading organizers were spouses of the Black Sea Fleet officers.
Russia is also involved in the escalation of interethnic strife between Tatars and Russian-speaking Slavs in Crimea. The Kyiv government is aware of the possible Russian intent to employ similar tactics used in Georgia's two regions of conflict, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and of the financial support given to nationalist Russian NGOs in Crimea. Increased political volatility in Crimea would be a way to pressure Kyiv to seek assistance, experts believe, leading to increased Russian influence over Ukraine. In late October, President Putin offered to provide assistance to Ukraine and said Russia is not indifferent to what happens in Ukraine and Crimea.
Crimean Tatars, a Restraining Factor
Henadiy Moskal: "There are no Authorities in Crimea"
In an interview with a Zerkalo Nedeli reporter, Henadiy Moskal, President Viktor Yushchenko's representative in Crimea, stated that Crimea is not in danger of becoming another Kosovo, but the Kyiv government must keep an eye on the Autonomous Republic. The authorities in Crimea are weak and influenced by criminal interests, he said. "To be honest, there is no power here. There is merely a sham and appearance of power." Decisions taken by the central government in Kyiv to deal with such issues as the allocation of land are being sabotaged because Crimean leaders are not interested in solving problems. Moskal further predicted that the recent decisions of the National Security and Defense Council are likely to be ignored by the Crimean government, as before, because this is not in their interest. While admitting the influence of factors from outside of Ukraine, Moskal said that Crimea will not become like the Moldovan breakaway region Dniester or Kosova because there are no strong leaders here. "And besides, there are Crimean Tatars," he said. "No matter what anyone says, that is the main restraining factor here today in Crimea against any anti-Ukrainian scenarios.... Yes, they have a lot of complaints against the authorities and in most cases justified ones. But it is exactly they who are the restraining factor, the ones who do not allow Crimea to become a Dniester or South Ossetia."
Crimean Tatar National Soccer Team Wins Silver Medal
Milli takımımız ilk şampiyonasından gümüş madalya ile dönüyor
KIRIM Haber, Message #3286, 28 November 2006
The Crimean Tatar National Team was invited to participate in a new international soccer tournament that took place on 19-25 November 2006 in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. As the organizers of the new ELF Cup explained, "the eight-team event involved predominantly non-FIFA registered teams who currently lacked opportunities to play competitive international football." The teams playing in this tournament were North Cyprus, Greenland, Tajikistan, Tibet, Zanzibar, Gagauzia, Kyrgyzstan and Crimea. The Crimean Tatar National team, after losing to the host North Cyprus National team, defeated Tibet and Kyrgyzstan to advance to the finals. The powerful North Cyprus Team, however, defeated the Crimean Tatar National Team for the second time and won the gold medal. Still winning the silver medal in its first international tournament was a great success for the Crimean Tatars. The event was historic for the first National Team, who wore the golden "Tarak Tamga" on their uniform. For a nation that still remains divided, winning or losing was not as important as participating in an international tournament.
News Digest Special Report
50th Anniversary of the First Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization
Aydin Semizade, one of the founding members of the first Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the organization by sending us an account of a lesser known historic milestone.* A brief summary of Mr. Semizade's message is offered below:
On 17 November 1956, the following students met in a small room at the Tashkent Textile Institute to discuss and then accept a program and by-laws of the first Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization. Founding members of this historic organization were: Sevket Kadyrov, Zakir Mustafaev, Seit-Amet Muratov, Cemile Yusufova, and Rustem Nagayev, (Taskent Textile Institute); Aliye Velilullaeva (Pedagogical Institute); Sarif Bahtisayev (Irrigation Institute); and Aydin Semizade (Tashkent State University).
The By-laws of this newly established organization required to have working groups in each and every school. By the beginning of 1957, the news about the organization spread like a wild fire among Crimean Tatars in every factory and kolkhoz. The main objectives of this organization were to:
In a very short period of time, Crimean Tatars in Uzbekistan learned about this historic organization and were, in general, very supportive of it. It did not, however, take long for the KGB to discover this organization and start following the founding members. Persecution of the founding members and others followed suit. It is important for us to remember this courageous giant step taken fifty years ago by the young men mentioned above. Their initiative later developed into a much more organized, larger Crimean Tatar National Movement.
We salute all the founding members of the first ever Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization and honor the memory of those who have since passed away. May Allah's blessings be upon them! Thanks to the initial efforts of these courageous students who risked their lives, the Crimean Tatar National Movement is still alive today and the national struggle for restoration of their rights remains on the agenda.
* Aydin Semizade, Sürgündeki Ilk Milli Kuruluş Teşkil Edilmesinin 50. Yıldönümü
English translation and remarks by Mubeyyin B. Altan
News Digest No. 7 continues .... PART II
The following individuals assisted with the preparation of this issue of the News Digest: Kaan Öztürk (Istanbul), Mubeyyin B. Altan (N. Bethesda, MD), Kemal Seitveliev (Bakhchisaray), and Inci Bowman (Washington, DC).
Issued: 15 December 2006; Revised: 20 December 2006
For other issues of the News Digest, see: ICC News Digest Series