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CRIMEAN TATARS AND RUSSIA'S ANNEXATION OF CRIMEA

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Abstract

Throughout history, the Crimean Tatars have challenged Russian aggression by utilizing two main strategies: engaging and confronting. Since its annexation of Crimea in March 2014, Russia has left no room for engagement and has demanded the complete submission of the Crimean Tatar population. This article argues that the Crimean Tatars should not yield to Russian demands, but rather pursue an integrated policy aimed at rallying potential allies such as Turkey, Ukraine, and the EU around their cause, lobbying through their diaspora organizations, and advocating for their human rights through non-violent means. In addressing Turkey's conflicting allegiances to the EU and the Crimean Tatars on the one hand and a burgeoning strategic and economic partnership with Russia on the other, the author argues that Turkey has the capacity to address this challenge creatively, rather than reacting to involved actors.
81
Fall 2014
* Filiz Tutku Aydın is a Lecturer at the Department of Political Science at University of Toronto, Canada.
Filiz Tutku Aydın*
Throughout history, the Crimean Tatars have challenged Russian aggression by
utilizing two main strategies: engaging and confronting. Since its annexation of
Crimea in March 2014, Russia has left no room for engagement and has demanded
the complete submission of the Crimean Tatar population. This article argues
that the Crimean Tatars should not yield to Russian demands, but rather pursue
an integrated policy aimed at rallying potential allies such as Turkey, Ukraine,
and the EU around their cause, lobbying through their diaspora organizations,
and advocating for their human rights through non-violent means. In addressing
Turkey’s conicting allegiances to the EU and the Crimean Tatars on the one hand
and a burgeoning strategic and economic partnership with Russia on the other, the
author argues that Turkey has the capacity to address this challenge creatively,
rather than reacting to involved actors.
CRIMEAN TATARS
AND RUSSIA’S ANNEXATION
OF CRIMEA
VOLUME 13 NUMBER 3
82
FİLİZ TUTKU AYDIN
nstead of taking an approach that asks “what will happen to the poor
Crimean Tatars after Russia annexed Crimea?” this article will treat
the Crimean Tatars as agents, just like other players in the internation-
al arena. The Crimean Tatars are the indigenous people of Crimea,
and they have survived numerous invasions of Crimea throughout history. Surely,
therefore, they have the capacity to address the current problem. This article rst
provides historical background pertaining to the situation of the Crimean Tatars,
and then examines the effects of the Russian annexation on the Crimean Tatar pop-
ulation. The article then reviews the various ways in which Crimean Tatars may
approach this challenge in order to maintain their national identity.
The Crimean Tatars until the Russian Annexation of Crimea in 2014
The Crimean Tatars are a Turkic-Muslim people indigenous to the Crimean penin-
sula. The Crimean Khanate, ruling Crimea from the 14th to the 18th century, de-
scended from the Golden Horde Empire, which emerged after the Chingizid Empire
dissolved. The Crimean Khanate became an Ottoman vassal state, and ceased to
exist with the Russian annexation of Crimea in 1783. Following this, two-thirds of
Crimean Tatars immigrated to the territories of the Ottoman Empire. The remaining
Crimean Tatars declared their independence in 1917, but in 1920 the Bolsheviks
made Crimea a part of the Soviet Union.
During the Second World War, the male Crimean Tatar population was conscripted
by the Soviet army and fought against the army led by Germany’s Nazi government,
a segment of them becoming partisans ghting against the Nazi occupation in the
mountains of Crimea. Meanwhile, the Soviet government deported the remaining
Tatars – mostly women, elderly, and children – from Crimea on 18 May 1944 under
the pretext of collaborating with the Nazis. The mass deportation has been claimed
to be an act of genocide as nearly half of the deportees perished from hunger, dehy-
dration, and disease.1
Though the charges of Nazi collaboration against the Tatars were revoked in 1967,
they were not permitted to return to Crimea.2 This, however, did not prevent the
Tatars from launching the rst, longest, and the largest human rights movement (al-
most all of the population participated) in the USSR, demanding the right to return
to their homeland and to re-establish their autonomous republic. The Crimean Tatars
began to return en masse to Crimea under the leadership of OKND (Organization of
1 Victor Ostapchuk, et al., “Statement of Concerned Scholars on the Current Predicament of the Crimean Tatars,” 30
May 2014, http://scholarsforqirim.com/in-english
2 Alan Fisher, The Crimean Tatars (Stanford: Hoover Press Publication, 1978).
I
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CRIMEAN TATARS AND RUSSIA’S ANNEXATION OF CRIMEA
the Crimean Tatar National Movement) and Mustafa Cemilev (Mustafa Abdülcemil
Kırımoğlu, as known in Turkey). With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the re-
patriated Tatars declared sovereignty in Crimea in 1991.3 This was soon eclipsed,
however, by a declaration of sovereignty by the Russian majority in the peninsula.
Shortly thereafter, Ukraine declared sovereignty and Crimea voted to stay a part of
Ukraine.4 Today, only half of the 500,000 Tatars have been able to return to Crimea
from their places of exile in the former Soviet Union.
Although the rest of Tatars also ex-
pressed their willingness to return, the
window of opportunity to do so soon
closed when Uzbekistan and Ukraine
consolidated their borders and began to
control population movements in and
out of their countries. Further, Ukraine
was reluctant to provide resources for
more Tatar repatriates, and also sought
to appease the Russian majority in the
Crimean peninsula5 who were openly
hostile to the return of more Tatars.6
Return was also slowed by the problems Tatars faced in the process of settlement
in the 1990s and 2000s. The Tatars constituted only 13 percent of the population of
Crimea, and suffered from the lack of formal mechanisms of representation in re-
gional (Crimean) and national (Ukrainian) representative and governmental bodies.
The Meclis of the Crimean Tatar People was partially recognized by Ukraine in 2001
as an advisory council to the president, but this mechanism ceased to function after
2006. The Ukrainian Parliament also did not pass legislation regarding the status of
indigenous people for the Crimean Tatars until after the Russian annexation. This
law would have provided the Tatars with the right to national self-determination,
3 Brian Williams, The Crimean Tatars: the Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation (Leiden: Brill, 2001).
4 Andrew Wilson, “Politics in and around Crimea: A difcult Homecoming,” in E. Allworth (ed.), Tatars of Crimea:
Return to Homeland (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1998), pp. 281-323.
5 After the proclamation of Ukrainian sovereignty, they sought separation from Ukraine and reunication with Russia.
Crimea was part of Russia until Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine in 1957 as a gift “to mark the 300th anniversary
of unication of Russia and Ukraine.” Belitser (2000) argues that the real reason was the devastation of Crimean
economy after the deportation of Tatars, existence of a possibility of the regeneration of the peninsula only if economic
resources were transferred from Ukraine. Natalya Belitser, “The Constitutional Process in the Autonomous Republic
of Crimea in the context of interethnic relations and conict settlement,” International Committee for Crimea, 20
February 2000, http://www.iccrimea.org/scholarly/nbelitser.html
6 Belitser (2000); Oxana Shevel, “Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian state: the challenge of politics, the use of law and
the meaning of rhetoric,” International Committee for Crimea, 13 April 2000,
http://www.iccrimea.org/scholarly/oshevel.html
“Today, only half of the
500,000 Tatars have been
able to return to Crimea from
their places of exile in the
former Soviet Union.”
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FİLİZ TUTKU AYDIN
hence national-territorial autonomy in Crimea. This would have ensured the solu-
tion of three major problems of the repatriated Crimean Tatars: (1) full rehabilitation
of deportees, (2) the right to have a share in the new privatized lands, and (3) the
maintenance of language and religious rights.7
Before the annexation, the rehabilita-
tion of deportees including the com-
pensation for their property, moral
compensation, as well as redress for the
historical injustices perpetrated by the
Soviet Union had not been carried out.
Ukraine paid for the re-settlement of the
returned Crimean Tatars, while all oth-
er members of the Commonwealth of
Independent States, which were inheritors of the Soviet Union, agreed to share the
cost for the re-settlement of the repatriated people.8 The total amount paid as com-
pensation to the deportees has been insufcient and has been decreasing every year.
After the annexation, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not recognize the status
of the Crimean Tatars as indigenous people, but promised “rehabilitation” in vague
terms. There has not been a legal draft or regulations that specify the steps that will
be taken in this direction or any statement of a budget of compensation to be paid.
Before the annexation, one of the main plights of the Crimean Tatars had been the
unavailability of land to settle, due to lack of compensation for their unjustly con-
scated property and the exclusion of the repatriated in the process of land distri-
bution (previously state-owned) to the Crimean population, once the communist
system ended. The argument was that because they had not lived in Crimea before
the Soviet Union collapsed, they did not deserve a share of the land of Crimea. This
forced the Tatars to squat on vacant government land; some of these squats were
later legalized by the Ukrainian state. In the post-annexation period, while the so-
called new Prime Minister of Crimea, Aksyonov, stated that this practice would no
longer be tolerated, no clear plan has been announced for the landless Tatars.9
Even before the annexation, the survival of the Crimean Tatar language was also far
from being ensured. There were only 18 Tatar schools in the whole of Crimea, and
only one in 10 Tatar children could get an education in his/her own language. In fact,
except for a short “golden age” period between 1920-28, Tatar culture and language
7 The Crimean Tatar language is an endangered language.
8 Shevel (2000).
9 “Her toprak zaptı eylemcisi toprak alamayacak” [Not all protesters will get their land back] Kırım Haber Ajansı, 28
October 2014, http://qha.com.ua/her-toprak-zapti-eylemcisi-toprak-alamayacak-134653tr.html
“The Crimean Tatars were
known for conducting
a non-violent struggle,
despite their plights.”
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CRIMEAN TATARS AND RUSSIA’S ANNEXATION OF CRIMEA
has continuously eroded under the hegemony of the Russian language throughout
the Soviet Union as well as in the post-return period. Today, Crimean Tatar is one
of the endangered languages of the world. It is ironic that Russians claim the endan-
germent of the Russian language as a reason for their separation from Ukraine. After
the annexation, despite promises for equal treatment of the Crimean Tatars and the
institution of the Crimean Tatar language as one of the ofcial languages of Crimea,
there have been no clear steps in this direction. Moreover, there are reports of people
being harassed for speaking Crimean Tatar on the streets.
Since their return to Crimea, because of
the Russian hegemony within the pen-
insular institutions, the Crimean Tatars
have been excluded in the bureaucracy,
courts, police and army, and other gov-
ernment institutions, despite the major-
ity of them being highly educated. The
unemployment rate among the Tatars
is high, and they suffer discrimination
in most spheres of life. Even before the
Russian annexation, the percentage of
imprisonment among Crimean Tatars
was larger than other groups in the pen-
insula. They have been frequent victims of racist attacks and human right abuses
by public and private security forces, as well as by racist groups and individuals.
In the post-return era, social, political, and economic deprivation, compounded by
a lack of compensation for past injustices fuelled enormous resentment among the
Crimean Tatar population. Still, the Crimean Tatars were known for conducting a
non-violent struggle, despite their plights.
The Crimean Tatars had many problems as an indigenous minority in Ukraine, how-
ever they largely remained as loyal Ukrainian citizens. Ukraine’s partly-free polit-
ical system and its prospects for democracy and membership in the EU gave the
Tatars hope and strength to ght. Therefore, Tatars strongly supported the Orange
and Euromaidan Revolutions in Ukraine. Now the second Russian annexation of
Crimea has provided them with an even bigger challenge.
The Effects on the Crimean Tatar People of Russia’s Annexation of Crimea in 2014
Shortly after the Euromaidan Revolution and former Ukrainian President Viktor
Yanukovich’s ousting from power, Moscow organized a coup in Crimea on 27
“The actual annexation
of Crimea by Russia after
the referendum violated
international law because
it represented an abuse
of the right of territorial
self-determination.”
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FİLİZ TUTKU AYDIN
February 2014, installing a new local
government in Simferopol and declar-
ing a referendum on Crimea’s political
future. The 16 March referendum was
illegal and illegitimate as it was con-
trary to norms of referenda: it lacked
the possibility of and time for free pub-
lic discussion of the ramications of the
vote, recognized international monitor-
ing, a clear option to vote for the status
quo, or even the right to vote without
being intimidated and harassed by the 40,000 masked Russian troops and armed
local Russian paramilitary. As Ostapchuk et al. stated in their open letter, signed by
293 scholars from all around the world, the referendum result indicating 97 percent
approval for unication with Russia was falsied. The Russian Presidential Council
on Civil Society and Human Rights published on their website that the turnout was
not more than 30-50 percent and that only half of those who actually turned out vot-
ed for secession.”10 It was of course taken down from the website quickly.11 Surveys
before the referendum showed that at most 41 percent of the Crimean population
would have opted for joining Russia.12 The actual annexation of Crimea by Russia
after the referendum violated international law as it represented an abuse of the right
of territorial self-determination. The Crimean Tatar national assembly, the Qurultay,
and its representative-executive body, the Meclis, categorically condemned the
Russian annexation and boycotted the referendum.
Despite their initial promises that “measures will be taken to solve all the social and
legal problems of Crimean Tatars that went unsolved by the Ukrainian authorities
for many years,” the Russians banned the Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Cemilev
and Refat Chubarov (Meclis Head), as well as İsmet Yüksel, a diasporic Crimean
Tatar from Turkey and a consultant to the Meclis, from entering Crimea for ve
years.13 The Russian authorities also prohibited the commemoration of the 70th
10 Victor Ostapchuk, et al., “Statement of Concerned Scholars on the Current Predicament of the Crimean Tatars,” 30
May 2014, http://scholarsforqirim.com/in-english ; “The Russian Presidential council questioned the results of the Crimean
referendum,” 3 May 2014, http://www.stopfake.org/en/the-russian-presidential-council-questioned-the-results-of-the-
crimean-referendum/ ; Paul R. Gregory,“Putin’s human rights council accidentally posts real Crimean election results, only
15 percent voted for annexation,” Forbes, 5 May 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2014/05/05/putins-
human-rights-council-accidentally-posts-real-crimean-election-results-only-15-voted-for-annexation/
11 “Post-Crimea Relations with the West,” The New York Times, 18 March 2014,
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/opinion/post-crimea-relations-with-the-west.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=0
12 Oxana Shevel, “How to defeat Russia,” Al Jazeera, 23 March 2014,
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/how-defeat-russia-201432113203787697.html
13 Steve Gutterman, “Crimean Tatar leader tells Putin secession would break post-Soviet pact,” Reuters, 12 March
2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/12/us-ukraine-crisis-putin-crimean-idUSBREA2B1CM20140312)
“The lives of the Crimean
Tatars changed overnight,
from living in a democratic
state one day to living in an
authoritarian state the next.”
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CRIMEAN TATARS AND RUSSIA’S ANNEXATION OF CRIMEA
anniversary of the deportation on 18 May 2014. Every year on May 18th, 30-35
thousand Crimean Tatars and others would come together to mourn for the dead
during the deportation in the central square of the Crimean capital of Simferopol. On
the anniversary in 2014, paramilitary police and hovering attack helicopters were on
duty to intimidate groups from gathering. Still, 15,000 Crimean Tatars decided not
to succumb to intimidation and met in front of the Kebir Mosque in Simferopol.14
Russian President Vladimir Putin prom-
ised rehabilitation for the Crimean
Tatars; however, they currently face risks
to their security. Almost 20 Tatar men
have been abducted or found dead since
Crimea’s annexation; Reshat Ametov
was kidnapped and killed by two gun-
men after holding a solitary protest
against annexation. The Prosecutor
General of Crimea said that “anyone who does not recognize the annexation will be
deported. (…) anyone who incites ethnic strife will also be deported.”15
The Crimean Tatars boycotted the post-annexation local elections that Russians
thought were a legitimization of the annexation. The turnout was quite low (around
50 percent). Immediately after the election results were released, and it became clear
that the Crimean Tatars had boycotted the election, the Federal Security Service
of Russia (FSB) along with police and armed military ofcials raided the Meclis
and conscated documents and laptops. They seized the building and belongings
of the Meclis (computers, documents, money) and ordered the Kırım Fund Charity,
which owned the Meclis building, to evict the Meclis, ning it for not following
the order in 24 hours.16 The Kırım Fund is banned from leasing or selling its prop-
erties, and the authorities are currently trying to expel Cemilev from its Board of
Founders through court order. Possibly, the Russian government of Crimea will take
over the fund to employ it for its own purposes. Crimean authorities shut down the
Meclis as of October 22th, denying its role in representing the Crimean Tatars.17
Aksyonov argued that legally it does not exist because it was not registered as
an NGO. The Meclis had refused to register itself as an NGO or a political party
14 Victor Ostapchuk et al. (2014).
15 “Kremlin prosecutor Poklonskaya targets Crimean Tatars, ” Kyiv Post, 24 September 2014, http://www.kyivpost.
com/multimedia/video-2/ukraine-today-kremlin-prosecutor-poklonskaya-targets-crimean-tatars-video-365778.html
16 “Crimean authorities order purge of banned literature,” Euromaidanpress, 15 October 2014,
http://euromaidanpress.com/2014/10/15/crimean-authorities-order-purge-of-banned-literature/
17 Idil Izmirli, “The Tale of the First Local Elections in Occupied Crimea and the End of the Meclis Era,”
Eurasia Daily Monitor, 23 September 2014, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_
news%5D=42860&cHash=c0ee9669eded556618fdc921608286a2#.VFvjNPmUf1Y
“To manipulate the Crimean
Tatars into submission,
Russia clearly follows a
divide-and-rule policy.”
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FİLİZ TUTKU AYDIN
because it is a Parliament, politically representing all of the Crimean Tatar peo-
ple, not just one faction. A democratically-elected organization demanding minority
rights apparently conicts with the authoritarian political structure of Russia, where
there are arguably no democratic elections at any level.18 It is likely that the Crimean
authorities will utilize the pro-annexation Milli Fırqa organization, or splinter mem-
bers of the Meclis (such as Remzi İlyasov, who participated in the recent election),
to manipulate and subjugate the Crimean Tatars.
Today in Crimea, “any suggestion that Russian authorities are harassing the Crimean
Tatars or infringing their rights,” using the words “annexation” and “occupation” in
relation to the Russian regime in Crimea, and calling for boycotts, are all termed
extremism.19 Shevket Khaybullayev, the chief editor of Avdet newspaper was sum-
moned to police headquarters and accused of mobilizing the Crimean Tatars for
opposing the regime because the newspaper informed the readers that the Meclis
had decided to boycott the Crimean elections. Prominent Tatar leaders and Tatar
media outlets (Avdet and Kırım newpapers, and ATR television) have been accused
of “extremism” and received warnings from the prosecutor’s ofce. The authorities
ned 39 Meclis members after they met with Cemilev and Chubarov in Kiev, and
the state media labeled them “extremists.”20 Russian security forces wearing masks
and carrying machine guns raided mosques, Crimean Tatar schools, the homes of
30-40 prominent activists as well as ordinary people, and libraries, claiming they
were searching for extremist literature. The list of extremist literature includes 2000
books related to Islam, the Meclis, and Cemilev, all of which Ukraine had previ-
ously allowed.21 The Russian government also shut down the Crimean Tatar library.
The Crimean Tatar population – most of whom have kept their Ukrainian passports
– face coercion to take Russian citizenship. As of 1 January 2015, those Crimeans
who do not have Russian passports will either be deported or will not be given res-
idency permits that allow them to stay, work, and receive education. The Russian
government announced that only about 5000 new residency permits will be issued
for Crimea.22
The lives of the Crimean Tatars changed overnight, from living in a democratic
state one day to living in an authoritarian state the next. Russian law punishes acts
18 Gönül Şamilkızı, “Kırım Tatarları yeni sürgünün eşiğinde,” TRT Avaz, 26 September 2014,
http://www.trtavaz.com.tr/haber/kirim-tatarlari-yeni-surgunun-esiginde/3/54250ec28a58c916183fe7f4
19 “Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR accused of ‘extremism’,” Human Rights in Ukraine, 25 September 2014,
http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1411646632
20 Kathrin Hill, “History repeats itself as Moscow cracks down on Crimean Tatars,” 4 November 2014,
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0fb85596-636c-11e4-8a63-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3IW5HDMuG
21 Hill (2014).
22 Şamilkızı (2014).
89 www.turkishpolicy.com
CRIMEAN TATARS AND RUSSIA’S ANNEXATION OF CRIMEA
against Russian state interests with 10
years in prison. Such acts may easily
include demands for national-territorial
sovereignty, the convening of the
Qurultay and Meclis, or signing a pe-
tition against the Russian annexation.
The decline of freedom, as well as the
intimidation and harassment faced by
those who conduct “acts” such as speak-
ing Crimean Tatar or Ukrainian is re-
markable. The so-called “self-defense”
forces have still not been abolished.
In March 2014, several Crimean Tatar
homes were marked with an X at night,
and the Tatar population of Sevastopol was counted for no apparent reason.23 Both
acts generated fears among the Crimean Tatars about possible preparations for de-
portation.24 A woman was summoned to FSB for having some Ukrainian hryvnia
inside her books. Hate speech against the Tatars, which was rampant in Crimea
even before the annexation, has increased even more.25
In the meantime, 10,000 Crimean Tatars have left Crimea.26 It is clear that the
Russians are enforcing “sustained pressure to toe the line or be expelled.”27
Policy Suggestions
The annexation of Crimea is a major setback for the goal of Crimean Tatar national-
territorial autonomy, as the struggle for rights within Ukraine now seems to have
been in vain. However, it is still important that Kiev recognized the status of indig-
enous people even if it was after the annexation. If the Crimean Tatar issue is taken
more seriously in Ukraine, related legislation can quickly follow.
The Crimean Tatar diaspora will be strengthened in mainland Ukraine by the increase
in the number of refugees, as well as political gures who are extradited from Crimea.
23 Nataila Antelava, “Who will protect the Crimean Tatars?”, The New Yorker, 6 March 2014,
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/who-will-protect-the-crimean-tatars
24 Izmirli (2014).
25 Astrid Thors and Janez Lenarčič, “Human Rights and Minority Rights Situation”, OSCE Human Rights Assessment
mission in Ukraine, 12 May 2014, http://www.osce.org/odihr/118476?download=true
26 Olga Rudenko,“Five months after Russian takeover Crimean Tatars unhappy with the new rulers,” Kyiv Post, 7
August 2014, http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/ve-months-after-russian-takeover-crimean-tatars-unhappy-
with-new-rulers-359774.html
27 Judy Dempsey, “Russia is (again) persecuting Crimean Tatars,” Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe, 25 September
2014, http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=56754
“Since the Russians
are not allowing engagement
and compromise, the only
possible strategy left
for the Crimean Tatars
is confronting with
the regime.”
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FİLİZ TUTKU AYDIN
The diaspora in Ukraine must organize and activate the diaspora in Turkey and
elsewhere through the mechanism of the World Congress of the Crimean Tatars.
Diaspora and social movements increasingly have become actors in internation-
al relations, and can establish effective political lobbies. The World Congress can
function from Kiev and Ankara, while the Meclis can survive informally in Crimea.
As the Crimean Tatar movement has the experience to organize without a formal
structure, the Crimean Tatars need to tap this experience, especially that of the vet-
eran activists who fought against the Soviet Union. In order to protect lives and
maintain moral superiority, it is important that the Crimean Tatar movement remain
non-violent unless there is a physical attack on their people.
Apart from emigration, throughout history, the Crimean Tatars have employed two
strategies for survival. One strategy was to engage with the repressive Russian au-
thorities and creatively utilizing the available venues for expressing identity. The
alternative strategy was to confront the repressive regime and trying to break free
from Russian hegemony. This time, however, Russia closed the door for the possi-
bility of engagement. Even those Crimean Tatars who willingly accepted posts in
the Crimean government in April had to resign, as they understood that the regime
does not allow engagement but requires complete submission. To manipulate the
Crimean Tatars into submission, Russia clearly follows a divide-and-rule policy.
The Crimean government stamps out efforts to advocate for minority rights by heav-
ily repressing or banning the true representatives of the community and by elevating
and working with the puppet Crimean Tatars they installed. The Russian regime
founded an alternative muftiate, called Islamic Muftiate of Tavriia, while there was
already a legitimate Crimean Muftiate. The Russians also try to decrease trust in the
Meclis and prefer to work with an alternative, fringe Crimean Tatar organization,
Milli Fırqa. The Head of the Milli Fırqa, Vasvi İbrahimov, received a state medal
from Putin. Since the Russians are not allowing engagement and compromise, the
only possible strategy left for the Crimean Tatars is confronting with the regime.
The Crimean crisis of 2014 created a foreign policy dilemma for Turkey, as Turkey
grappled with balancing its NATO allegiance and loyalty to Crimean Tatar kin with
its growing economic relations and strategic partnership with Russia. Thus, Turkey’s
reaction to the Russian annexation of Crimea and support of the Crimean Tatars was
subdued.28 Today, human rights violations against Crimean Tatars are a severe prob-
lem, and the Crimean Tatars diaspora together with Turkish nationalists protest that
Turkey pays less attention to the Crimean Tatars than to other human rights crises,
such as those experienced by Palestinians and Syrians.
28 “Turkey will continue to protect Crimean Tatars’ rights, says Davutoğlu,” Today’s Zaman, 7 March 2014, http://
www.todayszaman.com/diplomacy_turkey-will-continue-to-protect-crimean-tatars-rights-says-davutoglu_341491.html
91 www.turkishpolicy.com
CRIMEAN TATARS AND RUSSIA’S ANNEXATION OF CRIMEA
The Crimean Tatar diaspora demands
that Turkey join the bandwagon of
states that apply economic sanctions to
Russia.29 However, Turkey continues
to engage with an increasingly isolated
Russia, and uses this leverage to de-
mand improvements on the situation of
the Crimean Tatars. Russia is Turkey’s
second-largest trading partner, and a
large percent of Turkish energy needs
are supplied by Russia. Russia is also a
nuclear power.
Because of interdependence between the two countries, Moscow is courting Ankara
by making promises such as the “rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars,” which seem
inconsistent with other acts of the regime that are clearly detrimental to the Tatars’
well-being.30 Moreover, Russia would benet from Turkish economic investments in
Crimea. However, the Turkish-Russian rapprochement has limits. After all, although
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tried, he could not prevent Cemilev’s ban
from Crimea. Sooner than we think, because of historical legacies and the geopoliti-
cal situation, Turkey might need to downgrade its relations with Russia and conform
to the EU policy of containing Russia. 31
In an interview after the annexation, Dr. Hakan Kırımlı asked: “What does it mean
that Crimea is a strategically important base for Russia? A base for attacking
where?” Turkish security interests are seriously under risk after Russia annexed
Crimea. Crimea is as strategically important as Cyprus is for Turkey’s security. It
is important for the Crimean Tatar Meclis and diaspora to promote shared positions
with Turkey. Turkey must overcome the fears of awakening its ethnic groups, and
embrace the fact that it is a state of diasporas. Diasporas can be important strategic
assets in conducting its foreign policy.
What is missing in Turkish foreign policy is the Eastern European dimension. As
Crimean Tatar émigrés in Turkey argued a long time ago, Turkey must develop close
relations and cooperation with the Eastern European countries, which are also wary
of possible Russian aggression.
29 “Kırım Derneği Genel Merkezi’nden Aziz Türk Milleti ve Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devleti’ne Açık Çağrı,” [An open
letter to the Turkish nation and the Republic of Turkey from the Crimea Foundation Headquarters], 17 September
2014, http://kirimdernegi.org.tr/sdetay.asp?did=474,0,a
30 Semih İdiz, “Turkey faces ‘geography’s revenge’ in Crimea,” Al Monitor, 21 March 2014, http://www.al-monitor.
com/pulse/ru/originals/2014/03/turkey-crimea-policy-russia-strategy-tatars-geography-rights.html#
31 İdiz (2014).
“What Russia
must acknowledge is that
Turkey, China, the EU, and
NATO also have legitimate
roles to play in the
post-Soviet arena.”
VOLUME 13 NUMBER 3
92
FİLİZ TUTKU AYDIN
Turkey could be more proactive toward the Crimean Tatar population, rather than
reactive to Russian moves. It is also probable that, as economic problems are exacer-
bated in Crimea because of non-recognition and distance from mainland Russia, the
Crimean Tatars may become scapegoats and the subject of an increasing witch-hunt.
Therefore, it is important for international organizations and the diaspora to follow
the human rights situation in Crimea. The Crimean Tatars should not be left isolated.
The best interests of the Russian people can only be served when Russia ceases to
be an “empire.” Russia uses Russian nationalism embroidered with Soviet mythol-
ogy to attract the post-Soviet states and bring them into its own orbit. While Russia
acts very concerned about Russian citizens abroad, it does not provide real minority
rights for the Muslim or other minorities and indigenous peoples within its own bor-
ders. The Russian attitude is orientalist towards its “near abroad” as Russia denies
the neighboring people agency, portraying demands for democracy as manipulated
from abroad. However, what Russia must acknowledge is that Turkey, China, the
EU, and NATO also have legitimate roles to play in the post-Soviet arena.32 The EU,
instead of pushing Turkey into the arms of the Eurasian Union and Shangai Five,
must increase foreign policy coordination with Turkey especially in a crisis like the
Crimean one. Coordinating Turkey-EU policy can only truly be facilitated by mean-
ingful progress in Turkey’s process of accession to the EU.
While many realists bash the US and EU for promoting democracy and enlarging
NATO and the EU into the “sphere of inuence” of Russia, the truth is that both the
US and EU neglected Ukraine and did not provide adequate nancial and political
resources for its transition to democracy. The US and the EU have the responsibility
to ensure the well-being of Ukraine and the Crimean Tatars. They cannot afford to
forget Crimea.
32 Andrey Makarychev, “Russia, Ukraine and the Eastern Partnership: From Common Neighborhood to Spheres of
Inuence?,” Insight Turkey, Vol. 16, No. 3 (2014), pp. 181-199, http://le.insightturkey.com/Files/Pdf/russia-ukraine.pdf ;
Also see: Jeffrey Mankoff, “Russia’s Latest Land Grab,” Foreign Affairs,
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141210/jeffrey-mankoff/russias-latest-land-grab
... As suggested above, the public opinion toward the Euromaidan was conflicting. Although the majority of Russians and Ukrainians in Crimea generally demonstrated apathy or even antipathy toward the movement, the Tatars were strongly in favor of closer ties with the EU and thereby the Euromaidan (Aydın, 2014). Furthermore, the relations within the Tatars were not as simple as they might appear. ...
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This paper provides an analysis of the most recent changes in Russian foreign policy that became a matter of global concern in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis. The author advocates for a discourse-based approach to comprehend the new shifts in Russia’s international posture. First, Russia has launched its own normative policies that incorporate a set of conceptual arguments, such as portraying Ukraine and Russia as allegedly bound by civilizational ties. Second, Russia is not only unilaterally imposing its power; it is also exploiting the opportunities for raising its role, which are embedded in the structure of its relations with post-Soviet states. Third, Russia’s policies are largely inconclusive and inconsistent, which is conducive to the dispersal of hegemonic discourse and its potential fragmentation.
Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR accused of 'extremism
Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR accused of 'extremism'," Human Rights in Ukraine, 25 September 2014, http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1411646632
History repeats itself as Moscow cracks down on Crimean Tatars
  • Kathrin Hill
Kathrin Hill, "History repeats itself as Moscow cracks down on Crimean Tatars," 4 November 2014, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0fb85596-636c-11e4-8a63-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3IW5HDMuG
Kırım Tatarları yeni sürgünün eşiğinde
  • Gönül Şamilkızı
Gönül Şamilkızı, "Kırım Tatarları yeni sürgünün eşiğinde," TRT Avaz, 26 September 2014, http://www.trtavaz.com.tr/haber/kirim-tatarlari-yeni-surgunun-esiginde/3/54250ec28a58c916183fe7f4