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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“Crimea cannot exist outside Ukraine”

Refat CHUBAROV: “70 years on, the tragedy of the Crimean Tatar people continues”
18 May, 2017 - 10:54

On May 18, 73 years ago, an entire people was deported from Crimea in just a few days. The Kremlin, which had historically feared and hated the Crimean Tatars, probably could breathe a sigh of relief. “You should not have roamed in the Crimean territory without learning the lay of the land first, Vasiushka,” Ivan the Terrible wrote to Vasily Gryaznov, who found himself in Crimean captivity. “The Crimeans do not sleep as deeply as you people, and they easily catch such sissy-boys as you; they never say ‘It is time to go home!’ on entering a foreign land. Were the Crimeans as effeminate as you are, they would have never even crossed the river, much less reached Moscow.”

After the deportations, rebellious peoples including the Chechens, Ingush, and Crimean Tatars, which could not be destroyed physically, were to dissolve in a “fraternal” family of nations, assimilate and forget their roots and finally reconcile with their condition. After all, “the only remaining ethnicity will be the Soviet one,” according to a Soviet poet. Therefore, when after almost half a century, the Chechens began to fight back and declared their independence, while the Crimean Tatars began to return from distant, foreign lands to their homeland, where their homes had long been occupied by other people, the Kremlin shuddered in fear. It is no secret that even in independent Ukraine, Russian influence totally dominated Crimea. Russia undermined, provoked, bought up Crimea. The Kremlin has seen the Crimean Tatars as a special object. On the one hand, Russians have been doing everything to prevent them from coming to power, while on the other, they have tried to flirt with them in every way, especially now. However, people who remember the pain and abuse can distinguish between collaboration and normal coexistence.


“When I was little, my mother told me of her family being evicted and her riding a train to the exile as a child,” Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Refat Chubarov told The Day. “Of course, she did not tell all the terrible details so as not to traumatize me when I was little. But even then, I knew how cramped and stuffy their railroad car was, and knew that some people died on the way. She was 10 when she saw it. I was little when I heard it and I really wanted to appear where my mother had been so that I could defend her. The image of my mother as a child, a defenseless girl made me incredibly sorry. I was very sorry for her and I imagined myself being able to defend her there, in that terrible car. The time that passed between 1944 and my childhood was compressed in my mind. Now, 70 years on, my mother resides in her native Crimea, but I am not allowed to visit her. After so many years, I still feel that misfortune and tragedy of our entire people continues. And once again, I cannot protect my mother, although I am almost 60 years old now.”

When asked what Ukraine had to do for the Crimean Tatars now, as it was fighting an aggressor and facing unexpected challenges, Chubarov said: “Ukraine now has to do what it failed to do in 23 years before the war and the occupation of Crimea started. It failed not only with regard to the Crimean Tatars, but above all it failed to protect itself. Had the Crimean Tatars enjoyed their rights to the full, they simply would not have allowed the invasion to begin. I refer here to the creation of an ethnic Crimean Tatar autonomy in Crimea. The Crimean Tatars would have had more opportunities there not only to exercise their rights, but also to strengthen the Ukrainian state. When they say that it cannot be done at the moment, because Crimea is now beyond Ukrainian control, so there is no need to rush things, I respond that we must hurry up precisely right now. After all, when powerful international players and Ukraine will sit down at the negotiation table, each party will bring their arguments. The Kremlin will talk about their ‘spiritual bonds.’ Meanwhile, Ukraine, while relying on clear legal principles regarding borders and territorial integrity and Russia’s violations of international law and treaties, will need to bring to the table a unique argument. The right of indigenous peoples to self-determination will be that argument.”

“Of course, the pro-Russian forces should have been held responsible for their 20-year-long campaign of provoking and creating the conditions for destabilization in Crimea and Ukraine in general,” Chubarov continued. “Eleven years ago, Den published a long interview which I gave to Mykola Semena on the eve of May 18, the deportation day (Semena is now being persecuted by the occupation authorities). In it, I stated very clearly what Ukraine had to do urgently to provide both for its security and for the future of Crimea as part of the Ukrainian state. These words of mine came in the naive expectation that we would get the government to listen to us then, under president Yushchenko. Unfortunately, we had not, neither then nor earlier or later. Semena is being persecuted in Crimea for being a Ukrainian patriot, while I cannot go home and visit my mother.”


“The history of the annexation demonstrates that Crimea itself cannot exist outside Ukraine,” member of the National Council on Television and Radio Serhii Kostynskyi told The Day. “The Ukrainian state should listen to the Crimean Tatar people. In this regard, a lot has already been done. Parliament resolutions have recognized the Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people of Crimea as part of Ukraine. We need to pass a law on indigenous peoples of Ukraine, dealing with the status of the Crimean Tatars, Karaites, and Krymchaks. This law should provide a place for their self-governing bodies – the Mejlis and the Kurultai. We also need to determine where we stand on the use of ethnic quotas in the election procedures for local government and the Crimean republican authorities in order to prevent discrimination against Crimean Tatars. Having lived all my life in Crimea, I witnessed such discrimination when Crimean Tatars were not given the opportunity to serve in the judiciary, law-enforcement agencies, and public administration. Ethnic Russians ensured their domination in Crimea in that way. It affected not only Crimean Tatars, but also ethnic Ukrainians. The Crimean Tatars are a prisoner people at the moment. Looking into the ethnic characteristics of people who are detained or have their homes searched in occupied Crimea, they are primarily Crimean Tatars.”

“I emphasize that the Crimean Tatars have never sought to transfer Crimea to another nation or to create a separate nation,” Kostynskyi continued. “Those Russians who had shouted that the Crimean Tatars were seeking to transfer Crimea to Turkey eventually proved themselves imperialists who supported the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The history of the annexation vividly demonstrates that Crimea cannot exist outside Ukraine, neither economically nor in any other regard. However, the Crimean Tatars need to feel that the Ukrainian state is their home too.”

By Valentyn TORBA, The Day. Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day