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Displaced Crimean Tartars struggle to reclaim land and status

15 March 2004

Forcibly displaced by Stalin to central Asia and remote areas of Russia, Crimean Tartars were only allowed to return to Crimea under Perestroyka in 1989, some 45 years later. Yet now the Tartars face further challenges, to regain their ancestral lands from which they were deported and to which they have a strong and undiminished relationship as indigenous and minority communities. According to community representatives, 1,000,000 hectares of land once belonged to the Tartars, but only 70,000 hectares has to date been returned to them.

Gulnara Abbasova of the Foundation for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea, highlighted the fact that the land plots that were given to Crimean Tatars are much smaller than the plots distributed among ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. She stated that the Crimean Tatars were excluded form the land restitution process, resulting in their exclusion from decision-making process and a consequently weak position in realizing their rights to land. Ms Abbasova’s organization ask that the Crimean Tatars are given an opportunity to participate effectively and equally as partners in the land restitution process.

Despite the need for political representation, Crimean Tatars are not able to directly elect their own parliamentary representatives who will be responsive to their particular concerns. Given the utmost importance of such representation, the Foundation suggested that the Crimean government should apply a system of quotas in the Crimean Parliament to assist in the process of facilitating effective minority representation and that such a system should be introduced before the next parliamentary elections.

While acknowledging that the situation of representation has improved, Ms Abbasova commented that much was needed to be done to ensure full participation of Crimean Tartars who now constitute 12 percent of the population, yet hold only 4 percent of posts in administrative, legislative and decision making bodies. The Ukrainian government has been accused of failing to take seriously the issues of the Crimean Tartars and of failure to implement measures to allow a self-governing body of Crimean Tartars with consultative status with the Ukrainian President.

In conclusion the government of Ukraine was urged to fully implement the Council of Europe’s recommendation 1455 (2000) regarding Repatriation and Integration of the Tatars of Crimea that: ‘invites the Government of Ukraine and the regional authorities of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea to study the experience of other member-states of the Council of Europe ‘with the view to securing the effective representation of the Crimean Tatars in national, Crimean, and local public affairs and for this purpose to take into account the Council of Europe’s 1995 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities’.

Notes for editors

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