Crimean Tatars in the Ukrainian Revolution
by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz
A Turkic people numbering some half-million, Crimean Tatars are faithful to Islam although their complex and fascinating past includes some conversions to Judaism. (The latter chapter in Crimean history should not be confused with pseudo-historical fantasies about the Khazars.)
They were victimized with gross brutality by the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, which deported them in their entirety to Central Asia in 1944. We recall that in 1967 the Soviet government absolved the Crimean Tatars of charges against them.
The decree affirming the innocence of the Crimean Tatars reads as follows:
"On citizens of Tatar nationality formerly resident in the Crimea"
"After the liberation of the Crimea from Fascist occupation in 1944, accusations of active collaboration of a section of the Tatars resident in the Crimea with the German usurpers were groundlessly levelled at the whole Tatar population of the Crimea. These indiscriminate accusations in respect of all the citizens of Tatar nationality who lived in the Crimea must be withdrawn, the more so since a new generation of people has entered on its working and political life.
"The Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet decrees to:
"1. Annul the section of the relevant decisions of State organs which contains indiscriminate accusations with respect to citizens of Tatar nationality who lived in the Crimea.
"2. Note that the Tatars formerly living in the Crimea have taken root in the territory of the Uzbek and other Union Republics; they enjoy all the rights of Soviet citizens, take part in public and political life, are elected deputies of the Supreme Soviets and local soviets of deputies of working people, work in responsible posts in Soviet, economic, and Party organs, radio broadcasts are made for them, a newspaper in their national language is published, and other cultural measures are undertaken.
"With the aim of further developing areas with Tatar population, the Council Ministers of Union Republics are instructed to continue rendering help and assistance to citizens of Tatar nationality in economic and cultural construction, taking account of their interests and peculiarities.
"Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, N. Podgorny
"Secretary of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, M. Georgadze
"Moscow, the Kremlin, 5 September 1967."
CIP observes that Crimean Tatars are a vulnerable component of the global Islamic ummah and warns against scapegoating of them by Russian colonialist agitators.
For example, Robert Coalson of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on February 18, 2014, "Refat Chubarov was elected head of the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar self-government body. He says that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow has exploited regional tensions as a way of maintaining its influence in the post-Soviet space.
"As the Soviet Union fell apart 'Moscow was frantically looking for various tools to hold on to the [Soviet] territories,' he says. 'Nagorno-Karabakh – Armenia and Azerbaijan; Transdniester – Moldova; provocations in Tbilisi – Georgia; attempts involving Interfront, the Popular Front, in the Baltic states.... The center, Moscow, viewed Crimea as one of these sort of hooks by means of which it could hold on to all of Ukraine." Our brother Chubarov's accurate remarks reflect the position we have taken for nearly a quarter century.
In the London Financial Times of February 20, Kathrin Hille in Moscow and Roman Olearchyk in Kiev, wrote, "Volodymyr Konstantinov, speaker of Crimea's parliament, said on Thursday that the region might try to secede from Ukraine if the country split… Russian media also quoted him as saying Crimeans might turn to Russia for protection… The president of the Crimean Tatars' assembly called Konstantinov's comments 'treason.'"
Further, the Jewish Forward, in New York, on February 21, 2014, published a column by Rabbi Marc Schneier stating, "We are… concerned about the worrying prospect of a possible outbreak of violence against the Crimean Tatars… incidents in recent years includ[e] desecrations of mosques… largely perpetrated by ethnic Russian extremists. According to Crimean Tatar leaders, in recent days prominent ethnic Russian politicians in Crimea have openly advocated that Crimea consider seceding from Ukraine and ask to be annexed by Russia. When Crimean Tatar leader Refat Churbatov took to the floor of the Crimean Parliament earlier this week to call for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in [Kyiv]… and maintenance of the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, he was met with a deafening cascade of boos and stamping of feet by members of Parliament."
In Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine, as in the Muslim Caucasus and Muslim Balkans, Russian imperialism is the main enemy. In Syria, Moscow abets the dreadful atrocities of the non-Muslim dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad. Similarly, Russia's Chinese ally oppresses the Muslim Uighurs, whose defense CIP has embraced.
CIP supports the just demands of the Ukrainian peoples for freedom from Russian domination, and from tyrannical misrule. Without hesitation, CIP affirms the rights of the Crimean Tatars.