To Weaken Crimean Tatars, Moscow Pushing New Multi-Ethnic Group in the Russian Occupied Peninsula

Paul Goble
The Interpreter | August 3, 2014

Staunton, August 1 – In order to weaken the Crimean Tatars by muddying the water about them, the Russian occupation authorities are backing a new group that would combine Azov Greeks, Don Armenians and Crimean Tatars into a single group representing what its organizers call the “older resident” communities on the peninsula.

These disparate groups, Azerbaijani commentator Amir Eyvaz says, are supposed to unite under the banner of what they are calling the Tauris Organization. The chief proponent of this idea, an ethnic Greek named Eduard Chernov says it will lead to “the consolidation and cooperation” of these groups.

According to Chernov, “out peoples have much in common – national costumes, music, dances, cuisine, mentality, genealogy, geography and history. Unity will allow us to know more about one another and about our ancestors and traditions.” To that end, the Tauris Organization plans to organize creative groups to familiarize society with “common Crimean culture.”

Such a “common” culture does not exist, Eyvaz says. The only things which tie these peoples together is their common experience in the Crimean khanate which ruled over all of them and of course “the recent Russian occupation.” Clearly, he says, this is an attempt by “pro-Russian forces” to promote acceptance by the residents of Crimea by that illegal act.

But of course there are three more important goals that the formation of such a group will help the Russian occupation authorities achieve. First, by creating a group that they can claim represents the Crimean Tatars, those authorities are setting the stage for further attacks on the Crimean Tatar mejlis (community).

Second, by combining Turkic and Armenian groups under the same umbrella organization, the Russian authorities are clearly counting on weakening both, given that the history of relations between those two communities at least in the larger world has been anything but good.

And third, the Russian authorities are counting on the Western media to help them. On the one hand, many Western journalists who confuse balance with objectivity will feel compelled to mention this group without knowing what it is about. And on the other, they will find it almost impossible not to boost this supposed example of inter-ethnic and even inter-religious cooperation, even though it is like many such Russian projects something else.


Refat Chubarov: FSB officers need to adapt – in Crimea people behave uninhibited than in Russia

Michael Gluhovskij | 15.07.2014

[Personal translation from Russian – RD]

On July 5, the head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars Refat Chubarov is not inbound to the Crimea. Following the leader of the national movement Mustafa Dzhemilev, the so-called Crimean prosecutor’s office banned him from entering the territory of Russia, consequently, in the occupied Russian Crimea, for 5 years. Commissioner for Human Rights in the self-proclaimed Republic of Crimea Lyudmila Lubin already made a statement and promised to look into the scandal. However, practice shows that such decisions are made in the Kremlin, at the local level they operate only obediently, not overturned.

Now Refat Chubarov moved to Kiev, the capital he manages Majlis holds meetings with foreign politicians. In an interview with "Commander in Chief" said the head of the Majlis of communicating with FSB remembered cooperation with Yanukovych and gave one piece of advice so-called Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya.

On his Facebook page you called Liovochkin ideologue and conductor Majlis defeat in the Crimea. Sergey himself has commented on this allegation, expressing sympathy for the Crimean Tatars, he admitted that you’re being misled about his person. Tell us what exactly Liovochkin hurt the Crimean Tatar people?

It seems, May 14, 2010 Mustafa Cemil and I first met with the newly elected then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The meeting was also attended by Mr. Liovochkin now and late Basil Dzharty, then chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea.

Conversation was difficult, though held at normal tones. Our position was that the Majlis of the Crimean Tatar people ready to interact with the newly elected president to restore rights issues krymsktatarskogo people and development of the Crimea, even though we are in opposition to it.

Viktor Yanukovych, almost bluntly, as a condition for interaction offered Mustafa Dzhemilev as a people’s deputy of Ukraine go to the faction of the Party of Regions of Ukraine. Mustafa Cemil refused. He argued refusal that for fruitful interaction elected president and Majlis of Crimean Tatar people and for the interests of the people do not need to force him to make that choice. This was the first crack in our relationship that eventually became a great abyss. It soon became apparent that in the depths of the AP problem was formulated on a split of the Crimean Tatar national movement, primarily through compromise Majlis and its leadership.

Refat Chubarov

In August 2010, President Yanukovych brought in Crimea big meeting with the participation of a number of governors and diplomats accredited in Ukraine. On the eve of an offer from the AP to be held in the framework of this meeting and the meeting of Viktor Yanukovych with representatives of the Crimean Tatar people. As you know, ever since the presidency of Leonid Kuchma acted Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar people, whose members are all 33 members of the Majlis. However, it turned out that the AP completely different vision of the forthcoming meeting, to which they also invited the most odious and marginalized opponents of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar, also known fact that the elections held then these people backed Yanukovich.

Before the meeting I held talks with Sergei Lyovochkin to convince him that we cannot reverse the role and place of Parliament, elected by the Crimean Tatars. These negotiations have not been successful then. Meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych "representatives" of the Crimean Tatars did take place, but without the participation of members of the Parliament. From that moment on, our relationship with the president of Ukraine and his entourage moved into a phase of full confrontation that, unfortunately, the authorities were immediately projected on the state’s attitude to the problems of the Crimean Tatar people. During all the years of the reign of Viktor Yanukovych funding for resettlement of Crimean Tatars was practically reduced to zero.

Incidentally, the outcasts, whom the AP in 2010, made a bet in combating Majlis, today at the forefront of new acolytes already Russian, Crimean government.

Why did not talk about Liovochkin, but only now remembered?

No more to forestall some of today’s politicians in Ukraine double approaches and standards in relation to the Crimean Tatars in the hardest time for all of us.

A few days ago you with Mustafa Dzhemilev returned from Turkey to Ukraine, where he met with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in this country. What was the purpose of this visit, and indeed all international visits after the occupation of the Crimea?

International aspects in the activities Mejlis we have always paid great attention. However, the events of recent months have uplifted them to a special place.

Changed and the main tasks set Majlis in its external activities. Six months ago, with the help of the international community, we are looking for this form of community involvement to assist Ukraine in the arrangement of the Crimean Tatar people and the restoration of his rights. Now we are relevant to human rights and security of people living in Russia annexed the Crimea.

We proceed from the fact that the last point in relation to the Crimea has not yet been set. Who and what would not want to see the status of Crimea, is obvious to us that the future of the peninsula can not be determined by the will and is linking with the rights of its indigenous people – the Crimean Tatars. States and international organizations that will participate in the signing of agreements for any way out of this ongoing crisis, must be aware that the future of the Crimea should not be seen only as the future of some particular area. It should be seen as the future of the territory, which will be implemented international guarantees the preservation and development of the Crimean Tatar people. That’s what we talked about during the last meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

How effective are these meetings, because the impression that Western policy is ineffective, and even not noticeable towards the Crimean Tatars?

We believe that the world order has collapsed as a result of the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation with regard to Ukraine, which led to the annexation of the Crimea. Today the whole world to find a way that would allow maintaining the principles of postwar Europe. However, the measures taken to resolve the crisis are not effective. Otherwise we would not have the dire consequences that we have now in the areas of Eastern Ukraine. However, if it was not, and these actions (pressure on Russia from Europe and the United States – "Commander in Chief"), we can only guess how far gone to the Russian leadership in their aggressive plans.

International pressure – this is the only mechanism that involves the Majlis, or is there any?

Of course, this is not an exclusive list. But I do not think it’s worth now talk about all the steps that we are taking on an international level, including with the involvement of the public in different countries in the resolution of our situation. I think part of the results of our actions will have benefits in the near future. Will speak about the effectiveness later.

Do you feel supported by the new leadership of Ukraine, or have forgotten about it Crimea and Crimean Tatars because of the war in the Donbass?

Now, when maximum consolidation of Ukrainian society, the consolidation of politicians, discussions on this topic in the form of recrimination will not contribute to solving the problem of de-occupation of the Crimea. Although I note that, having many of today’s data, which I had not at that time, namely the period of the end of February – mid-March, I can say that Ukraine could take other steps to effective protection of the Crimea.

While we all understand that Ukraine and the Ukrainian company came out with a very heavy losses after that did the country Yanukovych. We were very weak. Simply took advantage of this weakness is our neighbor. In my opinion, this was the only argument, which allowed him to attack at a time. The fact that the Ukrainian state, by and large, has been unable to defend themselves, I would not be considered exclusively as an accusation.

What kind of data is it?

Our international contacts allow me to think that the adoption by Ukraine of urgent measures to protect its sovereignty in the early deterioration of the situation in Crimea could be completed successfully. It is not a direct military actions have a wide range of proactive measures, which were not involved. Say, was not the immediate seizure under military guard strategic sites of the peninsula – airports, seaports, highways, were not occupied the main administrative building, were not arrested leaders of paramilitary organizations. However, the reasons for the omission should talk later.

This was not done because the new government was afraid to take responsibility?

I do not want to say so. At least I do not have all the data that they (state leaders – "Commander in Chief") and have had. I just know that we have in the Crimea had a few days in order to avoid all that happened. Military could take action on such objects, which on the one hand, were strategically important, but on the other hand – not in the center of the settlements.

However, the Black Sea Fleet based in Sevastopol itself …

It is because of the blocking. This does not mean that you had to do what they did (Russians and Crimean authorities – "Commander in Chief"), just to the gate output civil military units. There are in fact roads and other strategic locations. I know how much was captured Simferopol civilian airport. It was just mind is not understandable. He’s unguarded! I know that if there were one or two units of the Ukrainian army, no one would be there is not useful. I also know as "undertook" some military airfields in the Crimea. They have already captured a few days after landing widespread. But I really just want to talk less about the military side. We do not know what civilian casualties could be accompanied by armed clashes. I do not fully share the view of some Ukrainian politicians who believe that active defense in the Crimea would have led to large-scale attack, invade Russia over land borders in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk region.

But none of the international partners are not made it clear that Ukraine is ready to help the troops in the case of Russia’s aggression?

Hypothetically, do not want to speculate on what would happen if a major war broke out in the territory of Ukraine. But what the world would have behaved differently – no doubt about it. But how different, now it is difficult to say.

Today the Turkish vessels under flags of third countries docked at the port of Crimea. If Turkey – Ukraine’s partner and also condemns the annexation, as well as the entire civilized world, why not prevent such violations of international law?

There needs to be more systematic and consistent, above all, to our state. In all that concerns the airports and seaports, should from the very beginning of the events do not just declare them closed and use specific measures to prevent them entering the vehicles of third States. Agree before demand from other countries austerity measures themselves need to decide on the behavior of their own companies and businesses. This was not done. At the same time, I note only recently is the systematization of almost all airlines, aircraft and maritime transport, which violate international rules. I think in the near future the state will not only listen, but strictly follow international rules. This concerns, including Turkey, the government of this country will be no exception.

Since the annexation of the Crimea took 4 months, and you say that just now international partners will follow the rules …

Look, I’m about two weeks ago, one of his visits from the Crimea carried along the route Simferopol-Moscow-Kiev. I bought a ticket to a third country, because there (in Simferopol – "Commander in Chief"), it was impossible to buy a ticket to Kiev. From Simferopol to Moscow, I was flying "Aeroflot". From Moscow to Kiev UIA. In my journey I tied up two companies, one of which clearly violate international law, namely, "Aeroflot". When I was in Kiev with competent professionals talked about it, they said, they say, Refat, what do you want? Simply put, if we want to clearly fulfilled all the rules associated with the annexed territory, and we ourselves need to immediately break off all ties with the country that our territory annexed. And this, believe me, thousands of ties in various fields. For example, flying Ukrainian aircraft to third countries through the territory of Russia. If tomorrow mechanisms Ukraine will cease all operations of Russian companies, probably, and Russia will take appropriate action. But without it we will not change anything. While I understand that very often business interests and state interests do not coincide.

In early July, you, as before Mustafa Dzhemilev, forbidden to enter the territory of Russia, including the occupied Crimea, for 5 years. What other mechanisms Majlis pressure taken by the Russian side?

May 4, I received the first warning, and July 5 – second. In them it was not only me, but also that if I repeat the "offense" that they (the so-called Crimean prosecutor’s office – "Commander") are specified, then it will trigger an ad Majlis extremist organization. Probably in the near future they will try to formalize their plans.

But now Majlis still not an organization, but a movement. Maybe if you have registered it as a public organization, as in Russia want the pressure to stop?

Need to know the Russian legislation, which regulates the activities of non-governmental organizations. If we were checked in, had a lot more problems than it is now. One would have to voluntarily classify themselves as agents of foreign influence. But it is not even about that. We cannot create or under whose laws until we get a guarantee of preservation of our people and their future on their own land. And these guarantees can only give the international community, and that is to put the last point in relation to the Crimea. Once again, this point is not yet set.

If you can not prevent the Majlis, it should be split. Tried to implement this scheme under Yanukovych. Do such attempts by Russia?

Such attempts are manifested in many ways, including the fact that I, as chairman of the Mejlis, 5 years denied entry to the territory of Crimea. I cannot see his mother, I cannot come to the family.

By the way, I must say one more thing, but only in order to show the absurdity of the decision de facto authorities. As you know, I was the deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, elected in October 2010. According to the current in the Crimea "laws" I formally retain powers of a deputy of a representative body of the Crimea. Absurd as is the fact that in this case they could not take me to the measures that have applied. Had no right to read the warning had no right to deny entry to the territory of Crimea without prior removal of parliamentary immunity.

Same set of other actions taken by them to split the Crimean Tatar national movement, practically does not differ from those commonly taken during Yanukovych. Carried out a massive information attack, the authorities are implemented specifically people, known for their rejection of the Majlis. Such people are not so much, but they are. Obviously, the task to push the margins of the Majlis of the political process. To start. And then, depending on the behavior of our movement, it is possible to prohibit Majlis declaring his activities "extremist." They may also try to put at the head of the Mejlis of the people who, from their point of view would be consistent with the objectives and tasks of the Russian Federation.

It all happens with the help of the so-called local authorities?

Same Vladimir Konstantinov, other managers, which previously relied Kiev, quite successfully impressed on him that the Crimean Tatars are a threat to Ukraine. Now Konstantinov and Aksenov, become traitors, with exactly the same zeal and success use Crimean factor before the new authorities, but Moscow. It is clear that they, the people weak and cowardly spirit in the soul, you must continually demonstrate their loyalty to the new government.

There is pressure on the Majlis FSB?

Today in the Crimea there is no sphere, which would not aktivnichali FSB. Any publication, any news, even if it is being cautious and not openly condemns the occupation of the Crimea, on the pencil at special services. You must understand that every employee met the media security officers, and more than once. With NGOs same. Naturally, there were attempts to soul-saving conversations with the Majlis. I want to say that such meetings, these conversations have not yet are aggressive in nature, but they (FSB – "Commander in Chief") accumulate material. Any more or less conspicuous active person in the Crimea should be aware that the intelligence accurately "lifted" information about the last 15 years of his life. In particular, they show such an interest to the person if he, in their view, is dangerous.

With you how many times they met?

I had only one such meeting. It happened at the beginning of the annexation. In addition, we had a meeting with Mrs. Poklonskaya (Natalia Poklonskaya – "Attorney" Crimea – "Commander in Chief") two weeks after the referendum. She wanted to meet. We are with her ​​in her office talking about an hour. For us, this was enough time to understand what we do with her ​​not to talk about. This is a man who was trying to explain to me a very pathetic, what a blessing it is for the Crimea. Say, finally we went from the Nazis, and they came to the state, which will provide all its might in the Crimea normal life.

Do you think she is sincere?

I’m no doctor, but if she would ask me for advice, I would advise her to see a psychologist. Honestly.

Which one of you met FSB, under any circumstances, from what you wanted?

As for the FSB, the FSB deputy chief called me and asked for a meeting. I invited him to the Majlis. He came. We talked with his colleagues with him for about an hour. This man’s name Sergey Voronin, he hails from the Russian hinterland … introduced us SBUshnik former, which has now become FSBshnikom Vladimir Shevchenko. They came together. You know, I’m not a man dies, but I did have a full sense of deja vu after this meeting. She has already taken place after Mustafa Dzhemilev denied entry to the Crimea. So, when I asked Mr. Voronin about why you did it, forbade him to enter, he tried to distance itself from this decision. Like, it’s not they accepted. However, I asked him to be a serious conversation, because everyone understands that the FSB – an organization that stands over all processes, while others have only execute decrees. So then he told me honestly tried to explain that they could not agree with the activities of Cemil, which has supposedly anti-Russian. After all, he travels the world, meets with representatives of different countries, including Americans, who hate Russia. Now I’m almost literally quoted this fsbshnika. I still asked him whether he seriously thinks that way? The FSB said that yes, they say, the Americans – our enemies. Like, God forbid, they are our enemies in the worst sense of the word. I said to him, well, you’re sitting on the couch in the Majlis, on which sat prime ministers, chairmen of the parliaments of different countries. In this building were all accredited ambassadors in Ukraine, including guests from the United States. They wanted to understand the Crimean life, to understand the problems of the Crimean Tatars. And now you come and say that all this is not only wrong, but also dangerous, you cannot do. Can assume, and pass it to his superiors, that we have been and will be. After that I have such meetings was no more.

Whenever Majlis representatives in contact with local authorities, and we have many members of Majlis deputies are at different levels, often at the meetings is the representative of the FSB. We were different in tone conversations with them. You know, they caught up to the Crimea representatives of special services from different regions of Russia. And these representatives just cannot imagine that people can behave with power slightly uninhibited than in Russia. And for them itself uninhibited behavior interlocutor when a contact for freedom of speech, shares his own view of the situation, is a shock. I think they will need some time to adapt themselves to us.

They say that now almost in every mosque has the FSB. Is this true?

Yes, it’s true. I cannot say that right in every mosque, but in all major mosques for prayers come their representatives.

And how to identify security personnel?

While it is possible to determine a visible thereon. But eventually, I think, will look for a number of assistants who formally is a Muslim.

Statement of Concerned Scholars on the Current Predicament of the Crimean Tatars

A statement by scholars of Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East urging all states, agencies, organizations, and individuals to support the national and human rights of the Crimean Tatars and hold the Russian authorities in illegal occupation of Crimea accountable for the violation of these rights.

As of 12 June 2014, 238 scholars whose work relates to Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East have signed this statement. These scholars span five continents and 23 countries.

Statement of Concerned Scholars Regarding the Current Predicament of the Crimean Tatars

The Crimean Tatars are a nation with a long and rich history going back many centuries. Because of their origins and the significance of their early modern state—the Crimean Khanate, established in the early fifteenth century—their history and culture has many connections with the histories and cultures of Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East. We, the undersigned, are scholars whose work relates to these regions. We would like to express our concern at the situation of the Crimean Tatars since the Russian Federation’s intervention into and illegal annexation of Crimea.

1) Unlike Russians and Ukrainians, the Crimean Tatars have no homeland other than Crimea. Ever since the Crimean Khanate was invaded and abolished by Russia in 1783, in violation of the Treaty of Kuchuk Kajnardja of 1774 in which Russia pledged to respect the khanate’s independence, the Crimean Tatars have been the object of systematic and wholesale oppression. They suffered successive waves of ethnic cleansing and subsequent forced migration to the Ottoman Empire at the hands of imperial Russia throughout the nineteenth century. On 18 May 1944 the entire Crimean Tatar nation was deported to Central Asia, the Urals, and Siberia. The mass deportation constituted an act of genocide as during and after it about half of the deportees perished from hunger, dehydration, and disease. It was only after the breakup of the USSR and attainment of Ukrainian independence in 1991 that the majority of the surviving Crimean Tatars and their descendants were able, with great effort and hardship, to return to their homeland. Today their population there is about 300,000. Because of their catastrophic history under the rule of St. Petersburg and Moscow, which has resulted in massive national trauma, the vast majority of Crimean Tatars are loyal to Ukraine and remain adamant in their opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea.

2) The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 was achieved through a covert military operation under cover of which a coup occurred on 27 February, installing a new local government in Simferopol and declaring a referendum that was at first concerned with increased autonomy, and a few days later, secession of Crimea from Ukraine and accession to Russia. This was done contrary to the Constitution of Ukraine and that of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and without even a clear option to vote for the status quo, as one option was to join Russia and the other virtual independence from Ukraine. The referendum was held contrary to all norms for referenda of this importance—such as the possibility for free public discussion of the ramifications of a vote to secede. Moreover, instead of monitoring certified by internationally recognized agencies, it was carried out under the watchful eyes of masked Russian troops and armed local “self-defense” vigilantes. The result, an official 83% turnout and 97% vote to join Russia, was clearly falsified, as virtually the entire Tatar population and much of the Ukrainian and Russian population boycotted the vote. There is considerable evidence that the turnout was no more than 30-50% and that only half of those who actually turned out voted for secession. A survey made by two respected polling companies just prior to the Russian intervention indicated that at most 41% of the Crimean population would opt for joining Russia. In any event, since the vote was carried out without strict adherence to accepted norms, it is impossible to determine what the true turnout and result was. The actual annexation of Crimea by Russia a few days after the illegal referendum of 16 March was in violation of numerous treaties and agreements, and of international law.

3) The Crimean Tatar national assembly, the Qurultay, and its representative-executive body, the Mejlis, have reaffirmed the will of their people to remain in Ukraine and categorically condemn the Russian takeover. The Crimean Tatar population is currently under huge pressure to accept Russian citizenship—refusal can mean loss of work, pension, access to schooling, and other social benefits. In addition to their fundamental distrust of Russia, which is today widely recognized to be an authoritarian state, the Crimean Tatars are at risk of a decline in basic freedoms and increased violations of their human rights. They are fearful that should they continue to reject the new regime they could face mass repression and even the violence and trauma of another mass deportation. These concerns have been expressed in a recent resolution from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). In the first days of May the human rights situation of the Crimean Tatars deteriorated drastically. The Russian authorities banned their leader, Mustafa Jemilev, from entering Crimea for five years and declared protests against this ban to be extremist acts while heavily fining participants. The chief prosecutor in Crimea officially warned the head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov, that it will be “liquidated and banned” should it continue to organize “extremist” activities. The Russian authorities prohibited the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatar nation on 18 May 2014. For the past 22 years 30-35 thousand Crimean Tatars and others would gather on this date in the central square of the Crimean capital of Simferopol to mourn the deported and the dead. This time tens of thousands of paramilitary police were brought into Simferopol to prevent this traditional gathering in the center of the city. Attack helicopters hovered overhead to drown out and intimidate gatherings that were held on the outskirts of Simferopol and in Bakhchysarai. Searches were carried out in the homes of prominent Crimean Tatar activists and Mejlis head Chubarov was threatened with criminal prosecution.

4) The international community has condemned the seizure of Crimea and does not recognize the legality of its annexation (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262, 27 March 2014 and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1988, 9 April 2014).

5) The Qurultay, the elected assembly of the Crimean Tatars, and its representative-executive body, the Mejlis,

  • condemn the illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea and refuse recognition of Crimea as part of the Russian Federation;
  • demand recognition of the indigenous status of the Crimean Tatars;
  • demand the establishment of Crimean Tatar national and territorial autonomy, and self-government in Ukrainian Crimea;
  • demand the full rehabilitation and restoration of the rights of the Crimean Tatars and provision of aid for the return of those who still remain in exile in former Soviet territories, including restitution of their property and compensation for their national trauma.

We, the undersigned, urge all states, agencies, organizations, and individuals to join us in our support for the national and human rights of the Crimean Tatars—including their cultural, social, political, and economic rights—and to hold the Russian authorities in illegal occupation of Crimea accountable for the violation of these rights.

Russia resurrects Soviet ways in treatment of the Crimean Tatars

Halya Coynash | 07.07.14

In yet another ominous echo from Russia’s Soviet past, Refat Chubarov, Head of the Crimean Tatar representative body, the Mejlis, has been prevented from returning to his native Crimea.  In Soviet times dissident and champion of Crimean Tatar rights Petro Grigorenko, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and many others were stripped of their citizenship while abroad, thus dooming them to exile.  In the Crimea under Russian occupation, the circumstances are different, however the mentality remains depressingly familiar.

Chubarov and others had left the Crimea on July 4 to attend a meeting of the Mejlis in Henychesk, Kherson oblast.  The meeting was held outside the Crimea for the first time since Ukraine’s independence to enable veteran Crimean Tatar leader and former head of the Mejlis, Mustafa Jemliev to attend.  The latter was prohibited from entering the Crimea in late April and despite pretence from the Russian authorities that no ban had been imposed, has been physically stopped at the border.

Returning on Saturday, Chubarov was met by the self-proclaimed ‘prosecutor’, Natalya Poklonskaya, as well as large numbers of Russian OMON riot police and military.  Poklonskaya read out a document informing him of a five-year-ban, without providing any explanation. She also ignored Chubarov’s demand, in full compliance even with the new ‘constitution’ of the Crimea, that he be informed in the Crimean Tatar language. 

The Crimean Human Rights Centre ‘Action’ has condemned the ban on a representative of the indigenous people of the Crimea as unacceptable.  It calls on those presently in power in the Crimea to lift the ban on Chubarov and Jemiliev and to “not stir up inter-ethnic enmity and not exacerbate the already difficult situation in the Crimea”.

The Centre believes that the occupation regime is deliberately violating the rights of Crimean Tatars, forcing them to leave the Crimea to which they returned after Ukraine’s independence.  There have been numerous violations of Crimean Tatars’ rights over the months since Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.  As well as the torture and murder of Reshat Ametov, these have included searches and even an official warning issued to the chief editor of the Mejlis newspaper for supposed ‘extremism’; the ban on traditional mass gatherings to remember the victims of the Deportation in May and to mark Crimean Tatar Flag Day.   After the latter ban, Chubarov warned that the regime was trying to segregate the Crimean Tatars.  It has now delivered a profound insult to Chubarov himself, and in view of his position, to the entire Crimean Tatar people.

The ban comes just 2 days after Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of the need to ‘consolidate civic solidarity and inter-ethnic harmony”.  During the same address to the Council of Inter-ethnic Relations, Putin countered the situation in the Russian Federation to that of other countries where, he claims, “neo-Nazi organizations are reviving and gaining political weight, and ethnic and religious intolerance, calls to violence are becoming a slogan for forces seeking power.”

Such claims with respect to Ukraine from the Russian leader, as well as those of his adviser, Sergey Glazyev, have long bemused observers.  They seem particularly grotesque when it is under Russian occupation that the Crimean Tatars have found their rights so gravely infringed.  Instead of proving that distrust of Russian rule was unfounded, the new regime is effectively treating all those with dissenting views as the enemy and applying repressive measures against them.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has issued a statement condemning the move.

The Kremlin’s absurd decision is the result of hatred and the chauvinistic policy which the Russian Federation, following Stalin’s tradition, has been carrying out with respect to the Crimean Tatar people since the beginning of the armed occupation and annexation of the Crimea.”

It asserts that the Crimea remains Ukrainian territory and any documents passed by bodies and individuals have no force. Moreover those who infringed Ukrainian legislation by banning Ukrainian national Refat Chubarov entry to the Crimea will be held answerable in law.

The statement calls on the international community and all world human rights organizations to condemn the actions of the Russian Federation and to show full solidarity in this case.

Enforced exile is always a personal tragedy.  In this case, however, a ban has been imposed on the head of the Crimean Tatars’ representative body and this is an affront to all Crimean Tatars.  It is also a test and challenge to western countries who proclaim commitment to rule of law and human rights.  Judging by the statement from France’s ambassador to Russia, Jean-Maurice Ripert that top-level dialogue between Russia and the EU may resume in the near future, it is a test which Europe is in danger of failing, with disastrous consequences for us all.

Russia bans second Tatar leader from Crimea

Channel NewsAsia | 06 Jul 2014

Russia has barred a leading member of Crimea’s pro-Kiev Tatar community from entering his home region for five years after annexing the region from Ukraine in March.

SIMFEROPOL: Russia has barred a leading member of Crimea’s pro-Kiev Tatar community from entering his home region for five years after annexing the region from Ukraine in March.

Refat Chubarov, the chairman of the Tatar assembly, or Mejlis, told AFP on Sunday he had been blocked from crossing into the Black Sea peninsula and handed an official document banning him from Russian territory until 2019.

The decision to bar Chubarov follows an earlier ban to stop Ukranian lawmaker Mustafa Dzhemilev, the respected head of the Tatar minority, from entering the region.

"It feels like an entire state has declared war on me," Chubarov told AFP, after being stopped from crossing the border on Saturday.

"This is a small piece of the huge injustice that is now taking place in Crimea."

Moscow in March annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula following a disputed referendum in which pro-Kremlin authorities said nearly 97 per cent of voters chose to split from Ukraine and join Russia.

Crimea’s 300,000 Muslim Tatars, who make up around 12 per cent of the peninsula’s population, largely boycotted the vote and have faced increasing difficulties since the switch to Russian rule.

The UN says it has documented "serious problems" of harassment and intimidation facing the Tatar community in Crimea amid growing fears of religious persecution among practising Muslims in Crimea.

More than 7,200 people from Crimea — mostly Tatars — have become internally displaced in Ukraine, the UN said in the May report.

The Tatar community has previously said it would push for greater autonomy, while the new Russian authorities have threatened to prosecute community leaders for "extremism".

The authorities banned a key event in May to commemorate 70 years since the Tatars were deported by Stalin, but some 20,000 people defied the edict to hold a peaceful rally.

Chubarov’s deputy pledged that the Tatar assembly will carry on its work and said it would meet Monday to chose a new acting head.

"The Russian authorities are acting in such a way against the Crimean Tatars and their leaders that we have more and more work every day," deputy chairman Akhtem Chijgoz told AFP.

A Turkish-speaking Muslim group, the Tatars were accused of collaborating with Nazi Germany during World War II and deported to Central Asia under former dictator Joseph Stalin.

Nearly half of them died of starvation and disease.

They began returning to Crimea under the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and became Ukrainian citizens after the country’s independence in 1991.

Leader of Crimean Tatars Labeled ‘Extremist,’ Banned From Home

By Allison Quinn
The Moscow Times | Jul. 06 2014

Refat Chubarov, leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis

The leader of Crimea’s Tatar community was banned from returning home for a period of five years by the peninsula’s prosecutor on Saturday due to "signs of extremism" allegedly present in a speech he gave a day earlier.

Prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya confirmed the news on Twitter on Sunday, saying simply "[Refat] Chubarov has been banned from entering the Russian Federation for five years."

Chubarov, the current leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, was informed of the ban upon attempting to return home from a business trip to the Kherson region of Ukraine, where the ethnic group’s council held a meeting on Saturday with Mustafa Dzhemilev, the former head of the group.

The meeting had to be held outside of Crimea because Dzhemilev himself was previously barred from entering the territory, a move which prompted many human rights activists to warn of a policy of discrimination against the Tatars back in April.

In the aftermath of his own ban, Dzhemilev said he "did not exclude the possibility" that Chubarov would be the next to be ejected from the peninsula.

Chubarov is widely seen as more moderate than Dzhemilev and more willing to cooperate with Russia. Still, "signs of extremism" seen in his speech Saturday were deemed sufficient to impose the ban, according to Rossiskaya Gazeta.

Rossiiskaya Gazeta cited Crimea’s Information and Mass Media Ministry as saying a discussion with the title, "Realizing the Right of the Crimean Tatars to Self-Determination on Their Historic Land — in Crimea" was to blame.

After being informed that he could not return home, Chubarov reportedly demanded that Poklonskaya issue the relevant decree in the language of the Crimean Tatars, something provided for by the peninsula’s new Constitution.

Poklonskaya declined, local news outlet Crimea.Reality reported. Chubarov now has three days to appeal the ban, which he told the regional news website QNA he intends to do.

Human rights activists and observers alike have repeatedly warned of possible unrest among the Crimean Tatar community if they feel that they are being squeezed out or discriminated against.

Russian authorities appear to be acutely aware of such a possibility, having sent riot police to stand by while Chubarov was informed of his ban on Saturday, according to Crimea.Reality.

The news portal reported that six police buses and five police vans had accompanied Poklonskaya when she informed Chubarov of the decision to ban him at the border checkpoint.

The heavy security may have stemmed from disorder that erupted in early May when Dzhemilev’s supporters met him on the border to protest his ban. At that time, there were clashes between police and Crimean Tatars, and Poklonskaya warned that the Crimean Tatar Council would be liquidated if such protests continued.

Most of the outrage over Chubarov’s ban came from Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday, which compared the Tatar leader’s exile to the policies of Josef Stalin during World War II, when he deported the entire Tatar community to Central Asia.

A statement issued by the Ukraine Foreign Ministry said the "absurd" decision to bar Chubarov from his homeland was a result of "the chauvinistic policies that Russia has been implementing against the Crimean Tatars, continuing the tradition of Stalin, from the beginning of the armed occupation of the peninsula to the annexation of Crimea."

President Vladimir Putin issued a decree to rehabilitate the ethnic group in April. At that time, Putin spoke out in favor of doing everything possible to avoid any discrimination against the Tatars.

2 Articles on Crimean Tatars

How the Crimean Tatars have survived
As the Ukranian president Petro Poroshenko vows not to give up Crimea, it’s the Crimean Tatars who fear yet another wave of Russian oppression. Donald Rayfield looks back at their history of dispossession
The Guardian, Friday 20 June 2014

Crimean Tatars protest against pro-Russia demonstrators’ occupation of the Crimean Assembly building on February 26, 2014 in Simferopol. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Image

Vladimir Putin’s subversion of eastern Ukraine was probably prepared last year, when he created special forces to "defend the interests of ethnic Russians in the near-abroad". That "defence" is being played with skill, though it may be a self-defeating strategy, recalling the remark by the Russian man who gouges out his own eye: "I want my mother-in-law to have a one-eyed son-in-law."

Eastern Ukraine may, with luck, be brought back into the Ukrainian fold. The Crimea is another matter. President Poroshenko has declared that the Crimea remains Ukrainian: probably even he doesn’t believe it can be retrieved from Russia’s clutches. But it is the Crimean Tatars, rather than the Ukrainians, who are most distressed by Russian annexation. Now a minority in their country, they fear yet another wave of Russian oppression. Since the peninsula was conquered by Russia in 1786, about a million Crimean Tatars, whose tolerant Khanate ruled the peninsula for 400 years, have been deported in waves of expulsions, making their survival something of a miracle. Today, "Cool Natasha" Poklonskaya, the new Crimean prosecutor, brands the Tatars as "extremists": on 18 May they were forbidden to mark the 70th anniversary of their 1944 deportation by Stalin to central Asia. Only a few dozen Tatars could cross the border into Ukraine and vote in the presidential elections.

Seizing the Crimea with impunity, Russia has won the first round of political poker. Ukraine can only make the Crimea expensive to maintain. For road and rail communications, gas, electricity and water, the Crimea depends on its land bridge with the Ukraine. It is linked to Russia only by sea and air. When, in February 1954, Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimea from Russia to Ukraine, he did so, despite Russian claims, for good reasons. In 1954, the Crimea was still wrecked by German invasion, by Stalin’s counter-attacks and deportation of the Crimea Tatar people, as well as the farmers and labourers. It made sense to let Kiev, not Moscow, reconstruct the peninsula. Ever since the aqueducts built by the Tatar khans had been wrecked, the Crimea has suffered from drought. In 1961 the Ukrainians built a huge canal to take the waters of the River Dnepr down the dry eastern Crimean coast. Now, the Ukrainian government has shut the canal. The new Crimean government recognises that agricultural production will be halved: it will take years to dig boreholes or pipe water from the Russian mainland. Water and electricity are switched off for hours every day in Crimean cities. Russia and the Ukraine are unlikely to agree on the price for turning the water back on.

The chaos – inflation, traffic jams at the border, empty supermarkets and cash machines, queues for new passports and to change currency, postal services paralysed, police not knowing what laws to enforce, drug addicts finding their methadone is now illegal – would be endurable if the transfer of power really were a public response to Russian promises to "double your pension and halve your gas bill". But the "referendum" and its organisers – on the principle "vote early, vote often, vote yes" – inspire no confidence. Boycotted by the 40% of Crimeans who are not ethnic Russians, it was managed by activists with links to organised crime.

Sergei Aksyonov the Crimean "prime minister", purportedly known to his associates as the Goblin, has been accused of getting rich by collaborating with corrupt traffic police, prosecutors (selling exemption from prosecution) and officials (getting leases on restaurants, bars and factories) and of profiting from gangsterism. He has denied such claims. His own laconic speeches are ominous: he revives Stalin’s accusation that the core population, the Crimean Tatars, should be tried for treason or deported for undermining Russian rule in the Crimea.

The only Crimean politicians of stature come from the Tatar community. Their leader is Mustafa Dzhemilev (Cemilev Qırımoˇglu) former head of the Mejlis (the presidium of the Tatars’ parliament). One of the few infants to survive the deportation to central Asia without food or clean water, he spent 45 years in exile, 15 of them in Soviet prisons for human-rights activism. In 1991 he revived the age-old Tatar parliament, the Qurultay. In spring this year, he talked to Putin, western politicians, the UN and to Turkey’s Recep Erdoˇgan in an attempt to stop the persecution of the Tatar community. Turkey is home to 4 million descendants of Crimean Tatar refugees and deportees. Once suzerain over the Crimean Khanate, it is, however, as dependent as Europe on Russia for its energy supplies. At present, Dzhemilev is again banished from his homeland. The Tatar Mejlis is the last building in the Crimea still flying the Ukrainian and Tatar flags; Tatar TV still broadcasts, but a new repression looms.

The Tatars, who make up 13% of the Crimean population, formed 80% before the Russian invasions of 1736 to 1786. Several nations have a self-image formed by tragedy: Jews by the shoah, Palestinians by the nakba, Armenians by the medz yeghern ("great crime" of 1915), the Crimean Tatars by the sürgün ("banishment"). Most generations of Crimean Tatars since 1780 have been dispossessed. Catherine the Great started by deporting the Christian Crimean Tatars to die in the frozen steppes. In 1812, for fear of Napoleon (who thought of recruiting Crimean cavalry and renaming the Crimea Napoléonide), and in 1855, after the Crimean war, thousands of Tatars, branded as enemy agents, were sent to Turkey, while Russians built coastal villas and imported Bulgarians, Greeks and Germans as labourers. The Russians forgave the French for burning Moscow in 1812, but not the Tatars for burning it in 1571. Genocide began in 1860, when Tsar Alexander II Russified the north and east Black Sea coast: the entire Ubykh nation, most of the Circassians and half the Abkhaz were packed into hulks, 200,000 dying of typhus, dysentery or drowning. The Crimean Tatars suffered similarly. More deportations came in 1880 and in 1918, when a Tatar republic was suppressed by Bolshevik terror. But Stalin’s sürgün of May 1944 outdid previous efforts: 40,000 Tatars serving in the Red Army joined their families in an exile that killed half, while the British and Americans handed over to Red Army counter-intelligence Crimean Tatars from German PoW camps. A few Tatars, herding sheep in mountains inaccessible to the NKVD’s trucks, were shot; the inhabitants of Arabat, a fishing village, were herded on to a barge that was scuttled at sea.

Other nations, mostly Caucasian, suffered deportation. Most of those "rehabilitated" by Khrushchev were allowed back home. But the Crimean Tatars even under Gorbachev were banned from the Crimea: their property was occupied by Russians, retired officers and officials. Some Tatars drifted back covertly, to be beaten and deported. (Soviet human-rights activists, notably the former Red Army general Petro G Grigorenko, supported them.) To erase the memory of Crimea’s Tatars, a Simferopol newspaper had to devise Russian names for their deserted villages: the newspaper office had two books, on fruit-growing and on military history. So Crimea has villages called "Quince", "Apricot", "Tanks", "Guards". Even after the USSR dissolved, Ukrainian authorities would not, unbribed, accommodate returning Tatars; they let Russian settlers bulldoze their shacks.

What made the Russian empire, tolerant to many Muslim minorities, so hostile to the Crimean Tatars? At first, before 1510, Moscow and the Crimea were allies. Only when Russia conquered the Volga Tatars and began to absorb the Ukraine and compete with Poland for the steppes were the Crimean Tatars targeted. In the late 1500s, Crimean Tatar cavalry raided Moscow many times. With Ottoman support, Tatars destroyed Russian settlements in the steppes, selling the population into slavery. By the 1660s, a Croat adviser to the Tsar recommended exterminating the Khanate, men, women and children. The Ottoman empire was now too weak to support the Crimeans, but Russia still insisted: "Destroy the Crimeans and you’ll cut off both wings and a shoulder of the Ottoman empire."

After the Crimean war dispossessed the Tatars, the peninsula became a paradise for Russia’s magnates. Towns such as Yalta became sanatoria, where doctors (including Anton Chekhov) would come to treat their own or others’ tuberculosis; or, like Koktebel, they became hedonistic centres, where poets such as Pasternak would escape Russia’s grim realities. The railway reached Simferopol, but not the coast. (Today’s travellers take a two-hour trolley-bus ride across the mountains to the sea.)

When Spaniards expelled the Moors, they spared Alhambra and the Moors’ and Jews’ scholarship. Russia did worse. But Crimean Tatars ultimately benefited, like other Russian subjects, from access to European universities. A renaissance was inspired at the end of the 19th century by the charismatic Ismail Gaspralı. A National Party (Milli Firka) and Gaspralı’s newspaper rallied the population. It took the first world war to shatter hopes: Tatars were conscripted, as Russia’s generals believed they would be a fifth column if left in the Crimea. Tatar songs, recorded in Austrian PoW camps, record soldiers’ distress and longing:

Rows and rows of cauldrons,
Clerks who don’t read.
They shall not see paradise
Who conscript us as soldiers.
Rows and rows of branches and trunks,
Branches and trunks need water.

Ironically, Crimean Tatar conscripts in the Ottoman armies sang almost the same songs at Gallipoli as their compatriots in the Russian army.

The Bolshevik revolution brought the Crimean Tatars apparent deliverance. From 26 November to 13 December 1917, a qurultay (constituent assembly) in the old capital Bahçisaray devised a Tatar republic, a modernised Khanate: they created the first parliamentary Muslim People’s Republic, with equal rights for women, minorities and all religions.

To resist the Bolsheviks’ Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol, the Crimean Tatars had an army barely 7,000 strong. Bolshevik sailors began a Red terror in 1918. The next three years saw German and Ukrainian intervention, White Russian rule, French intervention, "Green" and Red terror, with brief intervals when the Milli Firka revived. Many Tatar leaders perished, including the poet Noman Çelebicihan, whose body Bolshevik sailors threw into the sea: Çelebihan’s poem "I have sworn to bind my people’s wounds" is now the Tatar national anthem.

By the 1922, the Crimea, although starving, had peace. At first, Bolsheviks patronised minorities: the Crimean Tatars received a Latin alphabet, and their intellectuals professorial chairs. But Stalin (who forced a Cyrillic alphabet on them) aborted this "bourgeois-nationalist" flowering. The Great Terror of 1937-8 targeted 300 for shooting and 1200 for the gulag – the target was exceeded by 400%. Prominent Crimean Tatars were shot, usually as Turkish spies, including Bekir Çobanzade ("shepherd’s son"), a poet who described himself as "Iron hands, oaken head, soul on fire".

Given Stalin’s terror, surprisingly few Crimean Tatars welcomed the Germans: just 2000 men joined "defence teams" rather than endure labour in Germany. Most – peasants, teachers, doctors, mullahs – lived their lives unharassed. Nazis sometimes observed decencies: at the request of Olga Tschechova (Chekhov’s niece and Goebbels’ favourite actress), an officer was billeted in Chekhov’s Yalta house to guard it and protect Chekhov’s sister. Censorship was light: Tatars pondered independence, encouraged by a Turkish mission to Hitler requesting the Crimean Khanate be restored. (But Hitler toyed with renaming the Crimea "Gothenland" and Sevastopol "Theodorichshafen".)

Hardened by ethnic cleansing and dispossession, today’s Crimean Tatars try to defend themselves. But Vladimir Putin and his puppet, de facto prime minister Aksyonov have plans for what should be a world heritage site, with the Tatars as curators. The south-west, ancient Gothia, is zoned as a Russian Las Vegas, to encourage oligarchs to launder their money at home. With international flights cancelled and a visa regime imposed, a world of ancient theatres, castles, monasteries and palaces is closed.

At least the Crimea can still be written about. Last year, Valeri Vozgrin, a St Petersburg professor of history, born in Simferopol, published four exhaustively researched volumes on the history of the Crimean Tatars. He was denounced for "Russophobia": no Russian bookshop stocks the work (except in Simferopol online at To survive new waves of oppression, Crimean Tatars need their history to be accessible in other languages, too. If any extinct state is a candidate for resurrection, the Crimean Khanate qualifies.



Russian Security Services Begin to Terrorize Crimean Tatar Islamic Schools
Mairbek Vatchagaev
Eurasia Daily Monitor
Volume: 11 Issue: 117 – June 27, 2014

Since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, it has been clear that a conflict between Moscow and the Crimean Tatars was only a matter of time. Arguably, the Crimean Tatars, with an estimated population of only 250,000 (Ukrainian Census, 2001), cannot play an important role in the decision-making processes in Crimea. The prevalence of ethnic Russians, outnumbering Crimean Tatars by a factor of four or five, renders the Tatars a powerless minority on the peninsula.

From the minute Moscow took over Crimea, it has been clear that the Crimean Tatars will have to make concessions. However, few Crimean Tatars realized that the changes would impact them so soon. After barring the leader of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Cemilev, from entering Russia (, May 2), other bans against wider circles of Crimean Tatars followed. Several thousand followers of the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, which is banned in Russia, hastily left Crimea (, April 28). The party is not banned in Ukraine, but in Russia it was designated as an extremist organization and officially outlawed by a court decision (, November 13, 2008). Entire families of the movement’s members left Crimea, constituting a not insignificant portion of the general population of Crimean Tatars. It is also unlikely that any of the students from Crimea who are studying in the Middle East and Turkey will be able to return home (, February 13).

The new situation will also have an impact on members of the Crimean Tatars’ jamaat in Syria, which has become one of the most combat-ready units of the Syrian insurgent group Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar and is also well known in Crimea, thanks to its emir, Abdul-Karim Krymsky (YouTube, May 13). The leadership and members of the Crimean Tatars’ representative body, the Majlis, which opposes the Russian occupation, have stayed outside of Crimea. Also, under pressure from Moscow, Crimean Tatars were coerced to not hold mass public events dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the deportation of their ethnic group to Central Asia in 1944 (, May 17).

Moscow artificially divided the Majlis, which is the unofficial political organization of the Crimean Tatars (BBC News, June 17). Among the Crimean Tatars, a group supportive of Vladimir Putin has emerged and is prepared to push through ideas unpopular among the Majlis members (, June 3). The Russian authorities intend to stop making any further concessions to the Crimean Tatars and accustom them to the idea that they make up only a small fraction of the peninsula’s population. Another signal of the looming confrontation came when police took over a Crimean Tatar children’s school for the study of the Quran in the village of Kolchugino, situated in the western part of Simferopol district, 19 kilometers away from the city of Simferopol, where one of the largest Russian naval bases is located. The proximity of this Muslim center to the naval base may have been the reason for the police operation against the center. Reportedly, masked gunmen stormed and took over the building on the morning of June 24, when 13 children and two teachers were in the school. Muslims from nearby villages hurried to the school, but were kept from entering. The spokesman for the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea, Aider Ajimambetov, stated that the armed individuals were members of the Russian special forces’ Berkut unit, and that the Russian Center for Combatting Extremism was carrying out a search in the Muslim school (, June 24).

According to the school’s principal, the unknown individuals who stormed the premises without explanation or documentation were members of the Federal Security Service (FSB). Two buses full of servicemen drove onto the school’s backyard. Servicemen from one of the buses and from armored trucks stormed the building, while those in the other bus remained inside the vehicle (, June 24).

The mufti of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea, Said Ismagilov, wrote on his Facebook page that several days prior to the raid on the school, the government launched a campaign against the Tatars and their leaders. “Various figures from Russia and local non-canonical Muslim organizations accused [Ukrainian] People’s Deputy Mustafa Cemilev, Crimea’s mufti Emirali Ablaev and the most authoritative religious and national organizations of Crimea of extremism” (, June 24). The people who stormed into the school in Bulganak (Crimean Tatar name for the village of Kolchugino) took away its senior teacher, Aider Usmanov, and several computers. According to the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea, the arrested teacher was interrogated by the FSB in Simferopol (, June 24).

Thus, for the first time since Crimea’s “voluntary” accession into Russia in the spring of 2014, the Russian authorities have begun terrorizing the Islamic schools that functioned in this part of Ukraine on a lawful basis. According to Russian law, all these schools are illegal because they are not registered with the Russian Ministry of Justice. The Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea notes that out of all 286 Islamic buildings in Crimea, 84 are newly built mosques, 48 are old mosques that survived and were returned to the Muslim community, and 146 are prayer houses that were bought by individuals or Muslim communities. Apart from that, two new mosques are being built on the peninsula and 6 madrasahs are functioning (, July 29, 2008).

The future of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea is also unclear. Several Muslim centers exist in Russia, but it is unclear which one of them Crimean Tatars will choose to align themselves with. It is highly probable that they will prefer to stay independent from other centers.

Indeed, on the peninsula itself, there is also a multitude of other parties and organizations that sometimes oppose each other, such as the Spiritual Center of Muslims of Crimea, which is in opposition to the official Spiritual Board of Muslims of Crimea and is based on the principles of Sufism (, May 2012). This allows Russia to play these organizations against each other and prevent the Crimean Tatars from making unified statements against Moscow. Over time this could be used to great effectiveness to neutralize Crimean Tatar nationalism and their support for being part of Ukraine.