To the issue of national autonomy of Crimean Tatars


The only way to provide basic safety and self-preservation of Crimea’s indigenous people.

For Crimean Tatars, who call themselves Qırımlı, the restoration of their own, native ethnic state is the greatest historical and political goal deeply rooted into national character and consciousness as an ultimate objective defining the fate and the life of this people. It had been formed into absolutely natural and pragmatic aim that doesn’t need any reasoning, explanation or precedent.

Such goal is completely clear, elementary and unambitious – for it allows Crimea’s indigenous people to claim their historical, political and moral right to self-determination and the establishment of national-territorial autonomy on the land of their ancestors.

Arguments set out below allow us to think and hope that this most urgent and important issue of Crimean Tatars will be accepted adequately and viewed as one that needs just and speedy solution, and goes in line with international norms about nations’ self-determination exactly in such form.

And one more rather emotional remark. It is quite unacceptable, while considering this issue, to use the old Latin maxim about the Jupiter and the bull (“gods may do what cattle may not”). When we have a lot of examples of such Jupiters – which are not very pleasant to the opponents of self-determination of Crimean Tatars – such as many ethnic republics in Russia, it becomes as clear as day that Crimea, in its current legal status, for some reason is not allowed to participate in this parade of planets.

Different approach is more appropriate here. A head of state and a leader of a nation, who considers himself a patriot and respects his own people, should not treat another people, which  had gone through great tragedy and suffering in the past and are disadvantaged and dependent today, as if it is a bull that came out of nowhere claiming to be Jupiter.

Here are some indisputable objective reasons on which most Crimean Tatars base and maintain their confidence and belief that they must have the right and be able to establish their own state:

1) since ancient times there were ethnic states in Crimea, which were created by the ancestors of modern Crimean Tatars or with their active participation;

2) self-governing Crimean Yurt was formed on the peninsula in the late Middle Ages, and the Crimean Khanate – in the first half of  the 15th century; this polity of Crimean Tatars had been existed and functioned, as we know, three and a half centuries and clearly showed that to that time Crimean people (or even nation) was formed and those people were quite able to institute governments among themselves;

3) national and socio-political development of Crimean Tatars was interrupted as a consequence of violation of Küçük Kaynarca Peace Treaty. It was signed by Russia and Ottoman Empire in 1774 marking the end of Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774. This agreement had been confirming and protecting Crimea’s independence until it was broken by the Russian Empire;

4) in 1917-1918 the leaders of the national liberation movement of Crimean Tatars organized the First National Congress – Kurultay, and adopted the Constitution of Crimean People’s Republic and, as Crimea’s indigenous people, tried to claim their right to self-determination, but this effort in times of permanent revolutionary unrest and terror was doomed to suppression by brute force;

5) in 1921 Crimean ASSR (Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic) was established, it had had the same legal and ethnopolitical status as other autonomies (and Soviet republics, which, a year later, have formed Soviet Union), i. e. the status of a nation state for there was no other interpretation of the autonomy in the Soviet Union at that time;

5) in 1945 – shortly after Crimean Tatars were subjected to total and brutal repression solely on the basis on their ethnicity and were deported and dispersed throughout Central Asia thousands of miles from homeland – national autonomy, last of the few in the line of Crimea’s indigenous people’s state formations that have been existed for the longer part of that historic period, was abolished;

6) subsequent, unprecedented in its scale, desperate and heroic struggle of Crimean Tatars for the right to return to their homeland was always, unequivocally and categorically, associated with a goal of establishing their own state (autonomy);

7) concerns raised about whether new re-established autonomy of Crimean Tatars should be, as it was in the past, a part of Russia or, in a new reality, a part of Ukraine, after some informal and heated debate within the national movement itself, were resolved in favour of the latter option;

8) the return of Crimean Tatars to their native land have taken place in the time of grave economic and social crises and general chaos, just on the eve of Soviet Union’s logical disintegration; self-repatriation was  happening at a time when Russian-speaking population of the peninsula, deceived by communist propaganda and frightened of Crimean Tatars’ resolve, hastily voted at the referendum organized by local soviet government for the non-existent and existentially flawed, both legally and structurally, territorial autonomy of repatriates and communities of diasporas;

9) the main argument for the opponents of the national autonomy of Crimean Tatars is the thesis that they make up only one-seventh or less of the population of the peninsula; but there are two crucial objections to this argument:

– firstly, it is the result of the long, consistent, brutal and, admittedly, effective imperial policy aimed to push Crimea’s indigenous people out of their homeland;

– secondly, in more than half of the republics (autonomies) of the Russian Federation indigenous people constitute a minority; for example, Bashkirs make up only about 30% of the population in Bashkortostan, Komi – only 24% in the Komi Republic, Khakass – only 12% in Khakassia, and Karelians – only 7.4% in Karelia, but this does not prevent these republics from establishing their governments on an ethnic basis;

10) national autonomy is not a form of collective egoism, not a way to get special social and political benefits for a group, not a pretentious wish to be “more equal than others”, but the most certain, if not the only way of providing basic safety, any kind of self-preservation and some opportunity for the development for small ethnic group which is currently under the threat of cultural assimilation and even extinction.

Bekir Baltagi

Photo: Elmaz Adamanova

Author: Avdet Qırım

Avdet newspaper