Friday, February 28, 2014

The Struggle for Indigenous Rights in Crimea

The recent Russian moves in Crimea do not bode well for the indigenous Crimean Tatar population. The dream of reestablishing the institutions and status they enjoyed in their homeland during the existence of the Crimean ASSR from 1921 to 1944 looks even more distant in the light of these events. The Crimean Tatars along with the Volga Germans were the only two nationalities with ASSRs deported by the Stalin regime that never had their territorial autonomy restored. Instead they remained exiled in Uzbekistan as most of the Chechens, Ingush, Karachais, and Balkars returned from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to the North Caucasus and the Kalmyks returned from Siberia to the shores of the Caspian Sea under Khrushchev's administration. After their release from the special settlement restrictions, the Crimean Tatars engaged in a mass movement to pressure the Soviet government to allow them to return home and restore the Crimean ASSR. This movement included peaceful demonstrations, mass petitions, letters, and moving back to Crimea. On 5 September 1967, the Soviet government finally admitted that the claim that the mass of Crimean Tatars were traitors was in fact false. It was not until 1987, however, that the Soviet government actually allowed Crimean Tatars to return to their ancestral homeland in any numbers. Since that time those that have returned, abut half the population from Uzbekistan, have struggled against a great deal of Russian racism by the Russians settled on their land following their deportation. Their attempts to reestablish homes, mosques, and communities in their ancestral homeland have even encountered violence from these settlers. Such efforts look like they will be even harder in the future now that the Russian government of Putin is openly siding with the racist colonial settlers in Crimea.

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