CRIMEA - KARAIM TATARS
The Crimea Peninsula is situated in the Black Sea the South of the Ukraine and is connected with the mainland by an isthmus of 8 km. The capital is Simferopol. Area: 29,590 km2.
The total population of Crimea is approximately 2,5 million of which 6% are Crimean Tatars, 68% Russian, 23% Ukrainian and 3% Belorussian, Armenian, Greek, German and Karaim. 90% of this population settled in Crimea after the entire Crimean Tatar population had been deported by Stalin in 1944.
There are three state languages - Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar (which belongs to the Turkish group of languages). Russian is the official language used by the Government.
The Crimean Tatars are represented by their movement, the Crimean Tatars Parliament Milli Mejlis in the UNPO.
Main resources are coal, iron, manganese, oil, gypsum and alabaster and the economy is based mainly on farming, fishing, metallurgical industries and coastal tourism.
- 9th-13th century Turkic tribes and Mongol Tatars entered the region. The Crimean Tatars first emerged as a self-conscious ethnic group in the 13th and 14th c. An independent Crimean Khanate was established at the end of the 14th c., and attracted substantial Tatar immigration.
- 14th-17th century The Crimean formed its own Khanate as a part of Ottoman empire.
1783 Russian Cossacks occupied the Crimea. An alliance between the Crimean Khanate and major Crimean Tatar clans provided the unity that was necessary to retain considerable independence also after the Ottomans seized Constantinople in 1453, and proclaimed sovereignty over the Crimea. The Crimean Khanate became a buffer state between the Ottomans in the south and Muscovy and Poland-Lithuania in the north, and enjoyed financial stability through support grants from the Ottomans (in return for military service) and tribute payments from Muscovy and Poland.
- With the gradual decline of the Ottoman empire from the 17th c. Russian expansion reached Crimea. Peter the Great captured Azov in 1680 and Russia thus gained access to the Black Sea. Russian invasions continued, and in 1783, under Catherine II, Russia conquered the Crimean Tatars and annexed the Crimea. A russification process followed, in which Tatars were copelled to emigrate to Turkey, and Russian Slavs were settled in the Crimea. Tatar architecture was destroyed, and heavy taxes were collected. Tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars left for Turkey, especially in the wake of the Crimean war in the 1850s and the Russian-Ottoman war of 1879. Late in the 19th c., a Crimean Tatar national awakening began to take place. An educated Tatar intelligentsia became the basis of Tatar nationalist groups, some of which demanded Crimean independence.
- During World War I, the Russians feared that ties to the Ottomans might make the Crimean Tatars a fifth column, and conflicts arose between the two groups. In 1917, the Tatar National Constituent Assembly, the Kurultay, convened and called for Crimean independence. The imposition of Communist rule after the Bolshevik revolution was seen as just another form of Slavic oppression, and guerrilla groups appeared, fighting Soviet authorities.
- 1917-1918 The Crimea briefly declared its independence. In the years that followed approximately 1,25 million people fled to Turkey, Rumania and the Caucasus.
- In 1921, an accomodation was made with the Tatar nationalists, and the Crimean ASSR was created, with some rather illusory autonomy.
- During the famine in the wake of the Civil War, Crimean foodstuffs were shipped to "more important" central regions of the Soviet union, and more than 100.000 Crimean Tatars starved to death. During the collectivisation campaigns of 1928-29, thousands were deporte or slaughtered. Many killed their herds rather than turn them over to the collectives, and this exacerbated the famine of 1931-33, which plagued much of Russia as a result of collectivisation. Later in the 1930s, Crimean Tatar leaders fell victim to the "Great Purges", and heavy restrictions were imposed on Tatar culture.
- 1941 German troops invaded the Crimea.
- 1944 Soviet troops reconquered the peninsula and deported the entire Crimean Tatars population. The Crimean ASSR was abolished in 1945. In 1954, Crimea became part of the Ukrainian SSR.
- 1967 The Parliament of the Soviet Union officially recognised the injustice of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars ordered by Stalin but still forbade Crimean Tatars to return to their homeland.
- 1988 Crimean Tatars were officially allowed to return to their homeland.
- 1991 The Crimean Tatar Parliament, Milli Mejlis was founded and national sovereignty declared. Gorbachov's Glasnost opened the debate dramatically. Tatar nationalists could speak more openly, more and more families managed to make it back to Crimea, and by the end of th 1980s, over 15000 Crimean Tatars had returned. The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 was a setback for Crimean Tatar repatriation. Ukraine became independent, and saw it as next to impossible to take care of the nearly 400.000 Crimean Tatars that wanted to return, when Crimea already had 250.000 families without permanent housing. Limited repatriation began, however, creating tensions between the Crimean Tatars and the Russians and Ukrainians that have settled on their former land. By 1993, 270,000 people had returned, according to official figures.
- 1996 A new Constitution of the Ukraine was adapted containing all the safeguards for a democratic, non-ethnic state and granting everyone the right to have a free choice of residence.
Crimean Tatars made progress in the struggle for recognition of their rights and for resettlement of repatriated Tatars. Tensions with the Russian-dominated government of the Crimea continue. A project sponsored by United Nations Development Program, is providing assistance in the area of housing and other facilities.
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs [NUPI] - Centre for Russian Studies
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