"Indigenous Status" for the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine:
A History of a Political Debate

By Natalya Belitser
Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy
Kyiv, Ukraine


Part I

Part II



Part I

...Crimean Tatars are returning to Crimea not to pursue an improvement of their socio/economic position. They are returning to their historic Motherland - the only place where we have any chances of saving our national identity, and hope for the rebirth of our nation and all those cultural values that were crushed by the Bolshevik regime.

Mustafa Dzhemilev, MP of Ukraine, Chair of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people,
speaking at a roundtable, Kyiv,
28 September 2000. [3]

Currently, ...there is a dangerous confrontation and growing ethno-political tension in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, first of all, between the illegitimate Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people and local representative and executive authorities. The leadership of the Mejlis... resorts to destructive methods like one-sided demands, and threats of conducting civil disobedience actions....

Leonid Hrach, Speaker of the Crimean parliament, Head of the Crimean branch of
the Communist Party of Ukraine. Statement at the session of the PACE Committee
on Migration, Refugees and Demography,
Strasbourg, 5 April 2000. [4]


Today, Ukraine remains the only post-Soviet country that has developed and implemented, with some support from the international community, successive state programmes [5] aimed at the repatriation and reintegration of former deportees from Crimea - first and foremost, the Crimean Tatars. [6] These programmes have focused mainly on the most urgent socio-economic needs of repatriates. Legal-political issues, though less costly, were for some time not tackled at all because of numerous controversies, fears of ensuing political and inter-ethnic tensions and other difficulties of an objective and subjective nature. Although the legislative process in Ukraine as a whole is often criticized for its numerous incongruities, gaps, inconsistencies and other deficiencies, the most controversial, hotly contested and confusing part concerns the notion of "indigenous peoples." According to the Ukrainian Constitution of 1996, indigenous peoples, together with the titular ethnos and national minorities, constitute the people of Ukraine, or Ukrainian political nation. At the same time, no legislation has yet been adopted defining which exactly ethnic groups would fall into this category, or what rights and obligations indigenous peoples possess, or specifying their relations with both central and local authorities.

The Emergence of the Issue of the Crimean Tatars as Indigenous People of Crimea

The topic of special rights for the Crimean Tatars, who were returning to Crimea after their forcible mass deportation of 1944 and the almost half a century of living in exile, first surfaced as an important political issue during the debates in the national legislature of Ukraine on 12 February 1991. That whole day the Supreme Council (SC) of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic discussed the then hottest issue of raising the status of the Crimean oblast (then an ordinary oblast of Ukraine) to the level of Crimean Autonomous Republic. In this way, the SC responded to the demand of the Crimean oblast Council to adopt a law implementing the results of the referendum carried out in the separatist, pro-Russian region on 20 January 1991. 81,3 % of eligible voters participated in that referendum, and 93,3 % of them supported the restoration of the Crimean ASSR "as a subject of the USSR and as a party to the new USSR treaty." Almost all of the Crimean Tatars whose spontaneous mass repatriation began in 1989, [7] boycotted the referendum because of recommendations issued by the Organization of Crimean Tatar National Movement (OKND), then the most influential among several nascent political movements within the Crimean Tatar community. According to the OKND, that referendum did not take into account rights and interests of Crimean Tatar returnees, and besides, its outcome might have a dangerous impact on regional stability.

None of the members of the Crimean Tatar delegation who came to Kyiv to present their view on the restoration of Crimean autonomy was allowed to participate in either the parliamentary sittings of 12 February, or in preceding discussions organized jointly by several permanent Committees, though their appeal for admission was supported by some MPs. During the two sittings, a total of 33 MPs took part in the discussion, and almost every speaker referred to the Crimean Tatar factor in the context of Crimean autonomy. But although the Crimean Tatar aspect was constantly addressed, and the solution to be reached would, inevitably, strongly affect the future of their community, this was not perceived at the time as a strong enough argument for allowing the Crimean Tatars' representatives to participate in the discussion.

The SC was at that time very poorly politically structured and could be seen as consisting of two opposed groups - a strong left majority (the so-called Group of 238) and the national-democrats (the People's Rada, later the Congress of National-Democratic forces). There were also a few "independents" who moved between the groups depending on circumstances. It was therefore no surprise that the very rhetoric, even the specific terms and expressions used, displayed totally different, incompatible views and approaches. In fact, these original differences and the arguments presented by the two opposing sides persisted over the next eleven years and can be recognized, with some modifications, in current political debates.

The stenographic report of the debates of 12 February 1991 already contains the argument that formerly deported Crimean Tatars, returning to their homeland, are indigenous people of Crimea. They should, it was stated by the representatives of the national-democrats, therefore have a voice in such discussions, and any decision on the legal status of the disputed territory must be postponed until all of those wishing to return had actually done so. [8] Their opponents, including the Chairman of the Committee on Legislation and Rule of Law, Oleksandr Kotzuba, and the deputy Chair of the Committee on State Sovereignty, Inter-Republic and Inter-Ethnic Relations, Albert Korneyev, avoided, as a rule, naming the Crimean Tatars "a people" (as a subject of self-determination). They instead used the term "Crimean Tatar population," or referred to the will of "all of the peoples of Crimea," expressed in the referendum, as providing a firm basis for granting Crimean autonomy.

The essence of the autonomy - in this instance, defined by the draft law as a "territorial-administrative" arrangement - also caused heated debate concerning the status and the rights to be provided (or not) by this autonomy for the Crimean Tatars. Some deputies, for example, Mr. Volkovets'ky, ("Narodna Rada" faction) and Mr. Shcarban, ("Agrarians" group), proposed to solve this issue by establishing a national territorial autonomy for Crimean Tatars to be named "The Crimean Tatar Autonomous Republic." This proposal was rejected by the left majority as completely unacceptable. Mr. Korneyev, for example, argued that "Russians and Russian-speakers constitute a majority of the population of Crimea" while Nikolai Bagrov, the then Chair of the Crimean regional council, and the First Secretary of the Crimean regional committee of Communist party, stressed that "the Crimean Autonomous SSR, that has to be restored now, was formed in 1921 as a territorial, not a national autonomous unit." Mr. Bagrov also declared that for him and his allies, the very idea of Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people of Crimea made no sense in historically multinational Crimea. [9]

The issue of the Crimean Tatars was repeatedly raised not just by those MPs who seemed genuinely concerned by a fate that would clearly depend on any solution reached. It was also heavily exploited by the proponents of restoring Crimean autonomy according to the proposed draft; they pleaded that this move would also reverse the "historical injustice" of their deportation. But in fact, the Crimean Tatar aspect of the debates was not the main issue at stake. During the final vote, those cast by 253 MPs - more then the established left majority of 238 - signified the emergence of a Crimean Autonomous Republic within Ukrainian SSR. It was obvious that the main stimulus behind this decision, though not so explicitly expressed, was a fear of fueling, through a rejection of demands for autonomy, further separatist passions in Crimea, and the hope of appeasing local pro-Russian and pro-Soviet separatists, thereby weakening their positions. This benevolence of national authorities was meant to demonstrate their respect for "the voice of the people" in Crimea. In this sense, ignoring the voice of Crimean Tatar people was evidently perceived by the decision-makers as being much less dangerous for Ukraine's future, as well as for their own political prospects should violent conflict erupt in Crimea.

The Next Stage: 1991-1996 [10]

Today, it can only be speculated how much the events of February 1991 affected general mood of the Crimean Tatar returnees and in particular, stimulated their political mobilization under the guidance of the OKND. But it seemed plausible that the traumatic experience of not being allowed, in any capacity, to have a voice in a political decision-making process that would have been of paramount importance to their future, as well as quite unfavourable outcome of this process, had an impact on further developments. The law of 12 February 1991 "On the Restoration of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic" was condemned by the OKND statement of 8 March, because "the determination of the statehood of national territories could not be done by a simple majority of a population that had been resettled from other territories" [i.e., the Russian community]. The OKND appeal to the International Helsinki Committee on human rights stated that one more "Russian-speaking republic" has been created in the ancient Crimean Tatar land, thus violating the rights of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people. Such an assessment of the reanimated Crimean ASSR was fully shared by Rukh - the then most popular Ukrainian movement for independence and democracy. In March 1991, Rukh's Council of Nationalities issued a special Statement on the Situation in Crimea declaring, inter alia, that the Ukrainian state must guarantee strict observance in Crimea of the rights of all nationalities, but first and foremost, of the Crimean Tatars "as the indigenous people having no other Motherland." [11]

One of the most far-reaching reactions to the restoration of the Crimean ASSR was the decision by OKND to convene, in June 1991, the Second Kurultay (National Assembly) of the Crimean Tatar people. [12] The Kurultay lasted for five days (June 26-30) and adopted a number of resolutions, statements and other documents. [13] Perhaps, the most significant of these was the "Declaration on the National Sovereignty of the Crimean Tatar People." It announced the establishment of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people - the principal representative body of the whole people between the sessions of Kurultay. It also stated that the only subject of self-determination within the territory of Crimea is the Crimean Tatar people, whose "political, economic, spiritual, and cultural rebirth is possible only in its national sovereign state" and that it would be based on "mutual respect between Crimean Tatars and all other national and ethnic groups" and a strict observance of the rights of "all people irrespective of their ethnic origin." Such a state was defined as the main aim of the Crimean Tatar people to be pursued "using all means provided by the international law." In this and other documents, the hurried restoration of the Crimean ASSR without consulting with the Crimean Tatars was recognized as an attempt to affix by legal means the consequences of the deportation. In the appeals directed to the highest authorities of the USSR and Ukrainian SSR, the United Nations Organization (UNO) and other international organizations, all of them were asked for understanding and support of the Crimean Tatars' peaceful, non-violent struggle for national self-determination by democratic means.

Of course, - as was easily predictable - there was no positive reaction from any of the entities addressed. At the same time, these points of the Declaration have been widely quoted by all of the opponents and adversaries who have rejected any negotiations on special rights for Crimean Tatars relating to their "indigenous status." Since then, the provisions of the Declaration, deliberately taken out of their historical context, [14] have been effectively used by anti-Crimean Tatar propaganda as confirmation of their sinister intentions to establish an ethno-centric Crimean Tatar state, threatening the Slavic population of the peninsula.

Therefore, in retrospect, it could be assumed that not only the actual situation in the Crimea during the late 80s and early 90s, but also the insensitive attitude of the then highest Ukraine's authorities who had neglected the appeals and demands of the Crimean Tatars, provoked a quick and effective mobilization and self-organization of the community, and promoted a certain radicalization of the Crimean Tatar political agenda.

Meanwhile, on 24 August 1991 the Verkhovna Rada (VR) proclaimed Ukraine's independence. This was later confirmed by the convincing results of the all-national referendum of 1 December. [15] This time, the Crimean Tatars, in contrast to their boycotting the Crimean referendum of 20 January 1991 and the USSR referendum of 17 March 1991, did participate, and it appears to be true that it was exactly their votes that ensured the approval, if only by a slight majority, of Ukrainian independence on the territory of Crimea. [16] The Crimean Tatar political elite's position, evidently shared by the Crimean Tatar electorate, can be explained in several ways. First, they firmly believed that any attempt to re-draw the borders of newly independent states would provoke a bloody conflict like those already incited in other post-Soviet regions, and therefore dash any hopes for a peaceful resettlement in Crimea. Second, the Crimean Tatars, as victims of the totalitarian Soviet Empire, naturally welcomed its collapse and hoped that an independent Ukraine would prove to be much more democratic than its Soviet predecessor. The personal contacts and ties of friendship established between the leaders of the Ukrainian movement for independence and leaders of the OKND - who were often imprisoned in the same Soviet GULAGs - might also have contributed to the Crimean Tatars support for Ukrainian independence.

It should be noted that from the very beginning, the fledgling Ukrainian state has shared the concerns of the Crimean Tatars about avoiding violent inter-ethnic conflict in Crimea. Consequently, legal commitments securing minority rights seemed a pivotal issue. Nevertheless, special attention to the plight of the Crimean Tatar returnees was not among the newly independent Ukraine's priorities, nor was their situation recognized by the authorities as a factor crucial to enduring inter-ethnic peace in Crimea, where the main problem remained rising Russian separatism. [17] (The sad evidence of this neglect was made clear, for example, in an incident that occurred in March 1992, when a delegation of Crimean Tatars arrived in Kyiv to organize a protest meeting near the building of the Verkhovna Rada but was dispersed by the militia.) [18] It was therefore no wonder that the peculiarity of the Crimean Tatar situation was ignored by the law "On National Minorities in Ukraine" [19] that was quickly prepared and adopted on 25 June, 1992 - much earlier than in most other post-Soviet republics and countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Nor, at the time, did the political demands of the Crimean Tatars attract any attention from the international community that swiftly appraised the law on national minorities as consistent with the traditions of European liberal democracy, and as one of the best in the region.

Indeed, the definition of national minorities provided by Art. 3 states that national minorities are any groups of Ukrainian citizens who are not ethnically Ukrainian, share a national self-identity, and (voluntarily) associate on this basis. This definition is broader than that usually used in the legislation of other countries because it does not take into consideration the length of time the ethnic groups lived in the lands now under Ukraine's jurisdiction. It follows that no distinction can be made between, for example, Afghani communities comprised mostly of refugees or people recently graduated from the local institutions of higher education, and those Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, Jews etc., who have traditionally inhabited the same lands where they are found today. The Crimean Tatars were not mentioned separately in this law, with the exception of an indirect reference to "representatives of the deported peoples whose return would be decided in accordance with the relevant legislative acts of Ukraine and treaties with other countries" (Art. 10). From the perspective of this law, the Crimean Tatars, whose only homeland is Crimea, can therefore be considered as disadvantaged compared to other "classical" national minorities that have kin-states. For example, according to Art. 7, the state should promote, through (bilateral) international treaties, education in ethnically related countries for members of national minorities.

An important innovation introduced by this law was the creation of the Ministry on Nationalities that would play the leading role in implementing state policy on inter-ethnic relations. This Ministry initiated the drafting of a Concept of Ethno-Politics in Ukraine. The process began in 1993 as a joint venture of MPs, governmental bodies, academics and NGOs, including those representing minorities. This document was meant to lay a foundation for adopting other legislative acts and bills concerning minority rights and inter-ethnic relations in Ukraine.

In contrast to the smoothly passed law on national minorities, this draft drew a distinction between national minorities and indigenous peoples or, more explicitly, the Crimean Tatar people, whose representatives actively participated in the discussions on this matter during regular meetings of an informal and expanded working group. Existing international legal standards were taken into account, particularly, those provisions and definitions found in the Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169, 1989, that came into force on 05.09.1991). At the same time, the Ukrainian version of "indigenousness" proceeded from the notion that indigenous peoples are a kind of minority that differ from ordinary national minorities because they have neither a kin-state nor another territory on which they had formed and developed as an ethnos.

Regrettably, these encouraging developments were halted in 1994 after the first President, Leonid Kravchuk, failed to be re-elected, and his successor Leonid Kuchma replaced most of the high-ranking ministerial staff with loyalists. For the Crimean Tatars, the dismissal of Oleksandr Yemets, [20] Minister of Nationalities and Migration, and the subsequent appointment of Mykola Shulga, [21] had rather negative implications. All kinds of formal activities focused on settling general Crimean and specifically Crimean Tatar issues (including further discussions on the Draft Concept of Ethno-Politics in Ukraine), were soon slowed down or stopped completely. As a result, the Concept has still not been submitted for the VR's consideration, and its consecutive continual redrafting by governmental officials appears not to have contributed much to the general quality of the document. [22]

However, notwithstanding the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the officials responsible for developing of the appropriate legal solutions, public interest in the issue did not wane, and public debates on the possibility to provide some specific "indigenous rights" for Crimean Tatars persisted. The matter acquired a new impetus during vigorous discussions on various drafts of the Constitution of Ukraine which proceeded with the active involvement of Ukraine's emergent civil society. It is worth mentioning that a number of NGOs, including those without a single Crimean Tatar member, proposed to supplement the Constitution with clauses concerning the right to self-determination (within the borders of Ukraine) for "indigenous ethnoses" in general, and for securing the rights of the Crimean Tatar people in particular. For this, a quota in the parliament of Ukraine was to be provided for the Crimean Tatars, whereas in the Crimea, its administrative autonomy should have been transformed into a kind of a national-territorial unit with a two-chamber legislature. [23]

Proceedings Following the Adoption of 1996 Constitution

The events described above, particularly the continued, insistent demands of the Crimean Tatars, and the public debates surrounding the different drafts of the Constitution of Ukraine, did have some impact on the attitude of legislators. As a result of a compromise reached by the left and right-centrist wings of the parliament, the notion of "indigenous peoples" was, for the first time, introduced into the Ukrainian legal terminology with the actual adoption of the Constitution in the turbulent night session of 28 June, 1996. Though the term was used in three of the articles, no specific ethnic groups eligible for this status were named, nor were the rights to which they were entitled defined, leaving these issues to be further addressed by separate legislative acts. [24] Only in this manner was it possible to reconcile those MPs who were struggling to satisfy the insistent demands of the Crimean Tatars for indigenous status, and those who bitterly opposed such a move, or any similar move singling out the Crimean Tatar people.

Very soon after the adoption of the Constitution, in compliance with Art. 92 par. 3, [25] the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine formed a Working Group responsible for preparing a Draft Concept of National Policy of Ukraine Concerning Indigenous Peoples, and a Draft Law on the Status of the Crimean Tatar People. In a few months the Working Group accomplished the task [26], and by the end of 1996 both drafts were ready for further processing.

The Draft Concept listed the following objective criteria for the determination of those ethnic groups in Ukraine that could be regarded as indigenous peoples: (a) descent from ancestors who had traditionally inhabited certain geographical regions of Ukraine in its current state borders; (b) the preservation of a cultural, linguistic, and/or religious group identity which differs from that of the titular ethnos and the identities of national minorities of Ukraine, and a desire to further maintain and develop this identity; (c) the existence of distinct historical traditions, social institutions, a system and organs of self-governance and other traditional institutions; and (d) the absence of an ethnically related national state or motherland beyond Ukraine's borders. It can be seen that apart from those criteria usually used by international law, [27] the last point reflects an important addition justified by the existing realities and differences in the situations of the various ethnic groups in Ukraine. [28]

Reckoning also with the subjective criterion, namely, the expressed wish of a given ethnic group to identify with the community of indigenous peoples, [29] the draft made it clear that in Ukraine today only the Crimean Tatars satisfy all of the appropriate criteria. Concerning the two other problematic groups, the Krymchaks and Karaits, it was suggested that for them, the necessary pre-condition would be to develop the mechanisms for expressing their desire for such a status, and to establish bodies of self-governance authorized to speak on behalf of the whole group. The draft also addressed the issue of the Crimean Tatars as not only indigenous, but also formerly deported people, with the ensuing need for a number of special measures aimed at promoting their return, resettlement and the full restoration of their individual and national rights. The last part of the draft contains a set of recommendations (sixteen altogether) proposing certain steps and measures to implement the national policy of Ukraine with regard to indigenous peoples. In particular, it states that a law on the status of the Crimean Tatar people should be prepared "which would address the issues of the status of the Mejlis, the representation of the Crimean Tatars in local legislative and executive organs, in the Parliament of Ukraine, and other urgent matters." It also recommends that Ukraine join the International Labour Organization Convention 169 (ILO Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries).

The same Working Group (WG) prepared also a draft law which, "in recognition of the Crimean Tatar people's aspirations to preserve and further their ethnic identity, traditional institutions, way of life, language, and creed within the boundaries of the Ukrainian State where this people lives," embraced practically all of the most urgent and topical issues raised repeatedly by the Crimean Tatars throughout the history of their repatriation. It stated unequivocally that "under this Law, the legal status of the Crimean Tatar people shall be determined as that of an indigenous people of Ukraine," and that "The Crimean Tatar people shall be an inalienable component of the Ukrainian nation" (Art. 1). The draft proclaimed a new type of a relationship between the State and the indigenous people that would be based, inter alia, on the State's guarantees their participation in the decision-making process where it concerns their affairs (Art. 3). As an additional guarantee to keep intact the Crimean Tatars' identity, registration on a voluntary basis in the State Register of the Crimean Tatar People (to be adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers), was also proposed (Art. 5). Article 6 addressed the issue of securing representation of the Crimean Tatar people in all elective bodies, including the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and that of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC), and organs of local self-administration at all levels. Representative bodies of the Crimean Tatars - the Kurultay, Mejlis, regional and local Mejlises - were to be officially recognized under Art. 9. Moreover, the "Mejlis representatives shall take part in drafting and implementing legislative acts, national and republican programmes, and measures affecting issues vital for the Crimean Tatar people, its repatriation and the restoration of rights violated by the coercive deportation" (Art. 9, par. 5). According to Art 11, the Crimean Tatar language can be used in all spheres of public life in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea alongside with the state language. However, while providing a rather wide spectrum of rights for the Crimean Tatars, thus recognized as an indigenous "people" and not just a national or ethnic minority group, the draft noted (in line with the ILO Convention 169) [30] that the use of the term "indigenous people" in this law shall not signify the acquisition of rights identical to those of peoples qualified as bodies politic under international law (Art. 12, par. 3).

Had these drafts been immediately submitted to the VR Permanent Committees, considered in a timely manner and, according to the optimistic scenario, approved at a parliamentary session (as the Crimean Tatars and their supporters had hoped), many subsequent developments and events would, perhaps, have proceeded in a less confrontational manner. In particular, the problem of political participation and representation in all branches of government might have been legally resolved before the elections of March 1998, which were marred by large-scale acts of protest undertaken by the Crimean Tatars, and reports of clashes between groups of protesters and the local militia. [31] Since this did not happen, most of the current sources of seething antagonism in Crimea have persisted.

At the official level, the only serious discussion addressing the legal and political aspects of providing the formal status of "indigenous people" to the Crimean Tatars, occurred at a roundtable organized by the State Committee on Nationalities and Migration on 2 October, 1998 (at the initiative of the then Vice-Prime Minister Volodymyr Smoliy). [32] It is interesting to note that despite the differences in views and approaches, the general balance of the presentations favoured such a solution. This opinion was further strengthened by a conclusion to be found in a formal review, provided by the Institute of Political Science and Ethno-national Research. In this review presented by the Academician Ivan Kuras, Director of the Institute, it was emphasized that "If the Crimean Tatars will continue to insist on being recognized as indigenous people, this demand should be satisfied, because... it is quite legitimate, and justified beyond any doubts..." Mr. Kuras also stressed the need to ensure guaranteed proportional representation for the Crimean Tatars in the state administration and elective bodies, and to recognize officially both the Kurultay and Mejlis." [33] Regrettably, this initiative on the part of the executive body responsible, in particular, for solving the problems of former deportees, did not, in any way, impress the legislators, and the VR did not take the draft "status law" even for consideration by the permanent Committee.

Moreover, the situation of the Crimean Tatars deteriorated even further after 23 December 1998, when the Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, seemingly ending heated debates and power struggling between Kyiv and Simferopol that raged for almost a decade, was eventually adopted. [34] This remarkable event was pushed forward not only by the Crimean power holders, but also by international organizations, in particular, by the OSCE, and was anticipated as an ultimate solution to a long-lasted crisis. However, as was predicted during the parliamentary debates on the issue and confirmed by later developments, this Constitution did not solve any major problems existing in the relationship between the Crimean autonomy and the central authorities, as well as between the Crimean legislature and the government of the ARC. [35] At the same time, it definitely aggravated the plight and dissatisfaction on the part of the Crimean Tatars whose aspirations were totally ignored. In terms of general ethno-politics in Ukraine, this Constitution can also be regarded as a backward step, and as adding controversy to the national legislation in force. Unlike the Constitution of Ukraine, not only were "indigenous peoples" not referred to, but even "national minorities" were not mentioned, in stark contradiction to the law of Ukraine of June 1992. [36] In fact, the Constitution of the ARC is based on a totally different system of political and ideological approaches (denying, inter alia, the applicability of the status of a national minority to Russians of Crimea). In the terminology used only such categories as "citizens, foreigners, stateless persons, persons belonging to formerly deported groups" etc. can be found, thus emphasizing the exclusively individual dimension of human rights, and thoroughly avoiding even a hint of the possibility of providing for group rights. Whereas earlier adopted national legislative acts assume that, alongside with individual rights, those pertaining to (national) groups' rights shall be protected as well.

Although the detailed analysis of explicit and implicit reasons underlying the failure to develop a legislative framework dealing with the Crimean Tatars (and other minorities) is beyond the scope of the given paper, one should note the lack of consistency or any definite strategy in state policy relating to integration of the Crimean Tatars, as many political analysts and experts have pointed out. [37] The regrettable absence of continuity between those activities that had been performed by successive governments and deputies of the VR was also identified as a cause of the unsatisfactory implementation of the decisions once reached. [38] Characteristically, when the position of the same Ministry of Justice that had initiated the endeavours of the Working Group was evidently reversed, the aforementioned drafts were left without the kind of lobbying support needed to ensure their submission to the VR. Since the VR itself turned out rather reluctant to regard these issues as a priority, or rather, to examine them at all, the work done by the WG seemed futile, and Crimean Tatars' optimistic expectations of 1996-1997 were dashed.

In defiance of the sad fact that the Crimean Tatar issues had virtually disappeared from the VR agenda for several years following the adoption of the Basic Law of Ukraine, at the level of civil society the efforts to reanimate public and officials' interest in the unsolved Crimean Tatars problems continued. Some of these activities have been rather successful, in particular, those of the Ukrainian Centre for Independent Political Research that carried out in 1998-1999 a series of roundtables and seminars addressing, step by step, all particular aspects of the Crimean Tatar situation. To ensure a comprehensive discussion covering all of the existing views and approaches, executives, MPs, NGOs, scholars and, of course, representatives of the Crimean Tatar community were brought together. [39] In this way, positions of opponents and proponents with regard to the indigenous status for the Crimean Tatars were reaffirmed but more clearly formulated. And while the arguments of the supporters were mostly focused on the international standards and experiences of other countries, and repeated those stipulated by the draft documents mentioned above, the reasoning of the contenders adhered to several quite diverse notions and stereotypes, hardly exhibiting any internal coherence. [40] Their most widespread and frequently used arguments can be grouped as follows:

  • Some of them consider the recognition of any ethnic group as an indigenous people the same as establishing some kind of "ethnic privileges," with the inevitably ensuing inter-group rivalries and conflicts. Therefore, the whole issue should be abandoned as incompatible with the democratic principle of "equal rights for all, without any preferences or privileges." (This standpoint is usually displayed by the most orthodox leftists, who under certain circumstances are easily "convertable" to the dedicated believers in the supremacy of individual human rights).
  • Another line of thinking concerns a duration of a given ethnic group's living on a territory of today's Ukraine, claiming that if its presence here has lasted through ages, it provides enough reason for being recognized as an "indigenous people," too. (These ideas are often articulated by some leaders of "classical" national minorities, for example, by the MP Popescu, representing Romanian community, MP Kovazc, speaking on behalf of the Hungarians of Transcarpathia, and Mr. Levitas, heading a Jewish NGO.)
  • Denial to regard the Crimean Tatar people as the most likely candidate for the indigenous status is often based on a pseudo-historical, erroneous conception that the Crimean Tatars - as was stated by the Tsarist Russia's and then Soviet historiography - had arrived in the Crimea only in XIII century. In other words, it means that they are the descendants of the Golden Horde invaders that took over Crimea during the so-called "Tatar-Mongol invasion." (This argument can often be heard from the representatives of various Russian organizations of Crimea, but such a perception is also widely shared by many ordinary people who are not very keen on delving in the research data on the ethnogenesis of the Crimean Tatars). [41]
  • Rather popular objection refers to the Crimean Tatars' high level of education and other signs of "modernity" which, presumably, do not go in line with the perception of "indigenous peoples" as somewhat marginalized groups unable to cope with modern civilization, and needing some additional state support because of this disadvantage. (This argument is often put forward by those Crimean officials who feel not inclined to demonstrate overtly confrontational position when facing the Crimean Tatar demands. The same pertains to some of the experts who, presumably, (or deliberately?) confuse the ILO Convention 169 for its previous version, namely, Convention 107 of 1957, the one that has later been recognized as drastically out of date and therefore, revised considerably. At times, such a perception seems also be shared by some representatives of a younger generation of the Crimean Tatars, usually those socially ambitious and well educated, though not in law or politics).

Besides these points, representatives of executive and legislative bodies often state that in Ukraine, sufficient legal basis has already existed to secure political rights of every citizen, including Crimean Tatars. [42] Sometimes, fears are expressed that the next step of the Crimean Tatars would be to assert a people's right to the external (political) self-determination that would entail, in all probability, similar demands from other ethnic groups. [43] More sophisticated and less frequently used argument points out that those countries recognizing the existence of indigenous peoples on their territories are usually signatories to the ILO Convention 169, and since Ukraine does not join this legal instrument, adoption of the relevant law would be premature. [44] Serious concerns have also been expressed about the preferential land rights for indigenous peoples, the issue gradually becoming the crucial point of the international discourse on indigenous rights. Indeed, the developing standards (though not yet practically implemented) hardly cope with the realities of Soviet legacy in post-Soviet states. [45] Absence of the relevant legal provisions in other Central and East European countries and the former USSR republics (except the Russian Federation) has also being used as a valid argument. [46]

From this brief account it can be seen that apart from the decisively negative political standpoint blankly rejecting any positive solution, a public unawareness on the issue is also an essential element contributing to the resistance to such an outcome. Poor understanding of the essence of the existing legal norms and provisions is further aggravated by the evident gap between the legal criteria and definitions of "indigenous peoples," and spontaneous perception of the term by people who are far away from juridical theories and practices. It follows that raising public awareness through wider informational campaigns would be a substantial component of a strategy aimed to ensure, eventually, the success of a sluggish legislative process concerning indigenous peoples and their rights. Up to now, the publications addressing the issue, as well as public discussions during seminars, conferences, roundtables etc. were engaging a rather limited circle of the participants, and included only a few of MPs whose ranks are entitled to pass a competent decision. A low level of understanding of the very concept of "indigenous peoples," demonstrated sometimes by civil servants, MPs, and ordinary public alike, can also be illustrated by a curious fact that many advocates of such a status to apply for the Crimean Tatars believe, at the same time, that "in Ukraine, there are two indigenous peoples, namely, Ukrainians and the Crimean Tatars." [47]

Be it as it may be, those vigorous and comprehensive public discussions of 1998-1999 perhaps contributed to the re-surfacing of the issue at the level of the national legislature. Indeed, when MP Roman Bezsmertny (People's Democratic Party) produced the second, less assertive version of the "status law," that one was officially registered on 10 September 1999 and soon transferred for the consideration of the Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations (headed by Hennady Udovenko, People's Rukh of Ukraine). After a year of considering the draft by the Committee, on 31 October 2000 it was recommended to be included into the agenda of the VR plenary sessions, though up to date, this is not yet realized. [48]

It should be acknowledged, however, that not so much public discussions and parliamentary debates but, rather, protest actions of the Crimean Tatars resulted in certain moves towards satisfying their demands. Let us recall that, for example, an acceptance of providing for the Crimean Tatars a quota to the parliament of Crimea in 1994 became possible only after the civic unrest of the autumn 1993. Turbulent events of the summer 1995 entailed the Resolution # 636 of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine that contained, among many other important proposals, the recommendation on considering juridical measures in order to "include the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people into the legal space of Ukraine." [49] Realization of this recommendation was, however, delayed until 18 May 1999. On this day the President of Ukraine, in the wake of a large-scale protest march of the Crimean Tatars, issued a Decree "On the Council of Representatives of Crimean Tatar People," thus establishing it as an advisory/consultative body under the President. The preamble to the Decree says that this step has been undertaken in order to ensure "more effective solving of the political-legal, cultural and other issues relating to the adaptation and integration of the formerly deported Crimean Tatar people into Ukrainian society," and to address "the uncertainty of a legal status of the Mejlis elected by Kurultay of the Crimean Tatar people."

After almost a year of delays resulting from misinterpretations and discontent between the Mejlis and the Administration of President on some points of the regulations on the Council's activities, an agreement was eventually reached and approved by the next Presidential Decree dated 7 April 2000. [50] On 11 May 2000, the first meeting of the Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar People was held, followed by the President's instructions concerning realization of the recommendations developed during the meeting. Since then, the meetings have been convened regularly (approximately once a quarter), and quite a number of most vital issues have been addressed and discussed, usually with the engagement of central Ukrainian and Crimean authorities. And although implementation of the decisions reached during the meetings is often lagging behind the actual needs, it can be acknowledged that as a device aimed at maintaining a permanent dialogue between the Crimean Tatars and the State, this legal solution has proved to be rather successful.

It should be noted, however, that the establishment of the Council, though usually regarded as a de-facto recognition of the Mejlis, [51] can in fact be viewed as only a palliative, still far from securing a genuine legal recognition of the plenipotentiary representative bodies of the Crimean Tatar people. Nor has this step prevented further severe attacks on the Mejlis on the part of Crimean leadership and local Russian nationalists' organizations. These continue to condemn it as an "illegal power structure," representing "not the Crimean Tatars community but Crimean Tatar extremists only." A pre-election period that is characterized by, alas, already traditional aggravation of the inter-ethnic tensions, brought even stronger charges, like the "organized criminal group which calls itself "Mejlis." [52]

Despite the continued manifestations of the overt malice and resentment, general attention to and the respect for the self-governing bodies of the Crimean Tatars seem to be on the rise. Convincing evidence for this is the Fourth Kurultay that has been convened in Simferopol on 9-11 November 2001. This time, the National Congress of the Crimean Tatar people (that was not tackled directly by the Decree on the Council of Representatives) was warmly greeted, as usual, by leaders of the democratic political parties and NGOs of Ukraine. But not only by them: the letters of welcome appeared also from the President of Ukraine, from the Prime Minister of the Crimean government and some other official agencies. [53] Formal greetings were also sent by the Ambassadors to Ukraine of several countries, including Turkey, Sweden, Great Britain and, for the first time, the USA. [54] This rather odd situation, reflecting the growing de-facto recognition of the de-jure non-existing entity, suggests that to end this pending absurdity, a more assertive legal solution is needed than that so far implemented.

One more important event, addressing Crimean Tatars needs and demands at the national level, occurred on 5 April 2000. This day, parliamentary hearing on "The legislative regulation and realization of a State policy on providing the rights for the Crimean Tatar people and national minorities who were deported and have voluntarily returned to Ukraine" was at last carried out. [55] (The decision on holding the hearing was reached on 17 May 1999 during the joint meeting of the President, the Speaker of the VR, and the leadership of the Mejlis, but it was postponed several times due to the resistance of the then overtly Left leadership of the VR).

Apart from the VR deputies, representatives of the Crimean authorities, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar NGOs, as well as scholars and journalists interested in the problem, were invited to participate. The main speaker to cover the issue was the then Deputy Prime Minister Mycola Julinsky, while MP Refat Chubarov, Deputy Chair of the Mejlis, was appointed as a co-rapporteur. Altogether, 16 speakers took part in the debates, addressing different aspects of the problems faced by the returnees, and displaying already long-standing, politically motivated differences in the opposing perceptions with regard to the legal-political rights to be provided for the Crimean Tatars. In fact, no particularly new points or approaches were raised by the speakers except, perhaps, a rather harsh presentation by the member of the Communist faction, MP Petro Baulin. [56] This deputy recalled what he named "the genocide perpetrated by Crimean Tatars in the past centuries against the Orthodox South-West Rus," as well as "bloody offensive by the Crimean Tatar allies of Germans during the Great Patriotic War." [57] A trend to avoid dealing with complicated legal-political issues by focusing instead on the less controversial socio-economic needs of the repatriates was easily observable, as well as the attempts to regard the Crimean Tatars as the "(formerly) deported people" rather than "indigenous people." [58] These trends were exaggerated by the regrettably low turnout of the MPs [59] among whom the Communists, as the most disciplined, prevailed. It is also noteworthy that the general level of comprehension of such an abstruse legal notion as indigenous peoples and their rights on the part of the MPs' ranks seemed even poorer than that reached by the participants of the roundtables mentioned above. [60]

Over the two weeks following the hearing, draft Recommendations were debated and eventually agreed upon by the representatives of the different VR factions. On April 20, this draft did not pass, and only after an additional concession made to the leftists the Recommendations were finally approved by the vote of 291 deputies. [61] The deputies turnout, higher than that during the hearing, presumably helped to pass the Recommendations that admitted, inter alia, a "dissatisfactory legal regulation of the process [of return and integration], and low effectiveness of the practical measures applied by bodies of the executive power for the solution of issues relating to the return and resettlement of [former] deportees in Ukraine." The recommendations per se have been addressed to the Parliament of Ukraine, the President, and the Cabinet of Ministers. The first two points read as follows:

  1. Take measures for the development and adoption of laws for the implementation of the Articles 11, 92 (item 3) of the Constitution of Ukraine, also for securing the rights of the Crimean Tatar people and national minorities who were deported and have voluntarily returned to Ukraine.
  2. Solve the legal issue on simplified procedure of obtaining citizenship of Ukraine for the repatriates.

In retrospect, it should be noted that while the first issue is still far from being realized, the second one has indeed been resolved, in particular, by the adoption on 18 January 2001 of the new version of the Law on Citizenship of Ukraine. [62] Article 8 of this law defines the conditions for the acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship on the ground of a territorial origin. This applies to persons whose parents or grandparents (or at least one of them), or brother/sister had been born on the current territory of Ukraine, or on lands once belonging to a state - predecessor to Ukraine. According to the same article, to be registered as a citizen of Ukraine, it is enough now (for citizens of other countries) to submit a statement on the renunciation of a previous citizenship, and application for that of Ukraine. This allows to escape those hard, prolonged, and sometimes expensive procedures that have earlier been needed to prove the absence of citizenship of another state. Although this law has not directly referred to the Crimean Tatars and other former deportees, these are certainly the main beneficiaries, because for them this particular amendment, that was absent in all previous versions of a citizenship legislation, turned out a great relief. In particular, many especially difficult cases have been duly solved during a relatively short period after the law has come into force. (The law provides that alhough the document on the renunciation of a previous citizenship has still to be submitted over a year following registration, if a person could not obtain such a document because of reasons beyond his/her control, a personal declaration on the renunciation of a previous citizenship can be submitted instead of it.) By passage of this law and its efficient implementation, previous concerted activities of the VR, executives and NGOs, combined with a generous organizational, financial and informational input from the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) Mission to Ukraine, have been aptly finalized. Up to date, according to the official data, about 98 % of the Crimean Tatar returnees acquired Ukrainian citizenship. [63] Therefore, the whole campaign of the successful settlement of a rather difficult legal and political issue - providing Ukrainian citizenship for former deportees - should indeed be assessed as a kind of internationally recognized "best practices" in this area. In a broader framework, Ukrainian "wide experience in repatriation" and integration of the formerly deported Crimean Tatar people was recently examined by the NGOs of Meskhetian repatriates. A special seminar addressing this particular issue was carried out, with the support of the Council of Europe, in Bakuriani (Georgia) on 22-24 January 2002. [64]

Indigenous Status for the Crimean Tatars: An International Perspective

Many Crimean Tatars, especially those engaged in active public life, firmly believe that "the whole world recognizes us as the indigenous people of Crimea, and only Ukraine denies this, and refuses to provide for us such a status." [65] The reality is, however, much more complicated than it can be assumed proceeding from this widespread perception.

There are several international agencies involved in problems of the resettlement and integration of former deportees in Crimea. By the end of 1994, the first to appear on the scene was the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), soon followed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UNHCR that have established their offices not only in Kyiv but in Simferopol, too. Since 1997, the International Renaissance Foundation (Soros branch in Ukraine) has run, quite successfully, a Programme on "Integration into Ukrainian Society of Former Deportees from Crimea - the Crimean Tatar People, Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks, and Germans" that renders essential financial and organizational support for cultural revival and educational needs of returnees. Recently, Crimean Tatar issues appeared also on the agenda of the Council of Europe (CoE).

Not surprisingly, while the urgency of easing socio-economic plight of returnees, and the necessity to satisfy their cultural and educational needs have been easily recognized and shared by all of these entities, the political demands put forward by the Crimean Tatars have usually encountered much cooler response. Therefore, the activities and programmes of the UNDP, with some contribution from the International Organization on Migration (IOM), were mostly focused on assisting the government of Ukraine to improve socio-economic conditions of the repatriates, also on some inter-ethnic conflict prevention projects. As was mentioned above, the UNHCR tackled, quite successfully, citizenship issues, while the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) was the first to become deeply engaged in looking for solutions to legal and political issues, and developed a number of recommendations and proposals concerning a wide range of them. [66] (It should be mentioned in particular that in the letter of 14 February 1997, Max van der Stoel commented also on the Draft Concept of the National Policy of Ukraine in Relation to Indigenous Peoples). [67] Rolf Ekeus, successor of Mr. van der Stoel in the office, seemed to adhere to the same line. In his recent letter, the HCNM congratulated the Government of Ukraine on the creation in 1999 of the Council of Representatives of Crimean Tatar People under the President of Ukraine, but expressed his concerns about political representation of the Crimean Tatars in the context of the forthcoming elections in March 2002. Like his predecessor, Rolf Ekeus has been convinced that "a form of guaranteed representation for the Crimean Tatars can best ensure the long-term political stability of the peninsula." He also offered the services of his office to assist Ukrainian authorities in amending the current legislation on elections to the Parliament of the ARC. [68]

Regrettably, since Rolf Ekeus' visit to Ukraine was postponed until February 4, 2002, the opportunity to benefit from his valuable assistance in order to amend timely the law on elections in the ARC has been missed. Surprisingly, according to the information that appeared in Ukrainian electronic and printed media, during his two-days stay in Ukraine and meetings with the President, the Speaker of the VR, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the HCNM seemed not pedaling the issue further - at least, in terms of public record. [69] He expressed instead his deep appreciation of the Ukraine's policy on minority rights and interethnic relations, and said that the OSCE is seriously considering the projects that would provide for Ukraine financial aid for the Crimean Tatar repatriates. [70] At the same time, Hennady Udovenko, Head of the VR Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations, who also met with the OSCE HCNM, did admit that Crimean Tatar issues remain to be a major concern of Ukrainian ethno-politics. In particular, Mr. Udovenko referred to the failure of solving legally a long-lasted dispute on the status of the Crimean Tatars, of adopting a law on their political rehabilitation, and of developing an appropriate legislation securing guaranteed representation of the Crimean Tatars in the elective bodies of Ukraine and the ARC.[71]

As for the CoE, its interest in the Crimean Tatars, alerted by the continued plight of the community and the appeals sent by the Mejlis, was first expressed by organizing in 1999 a roundtable dedicated specifically to the return and reintegration of the Crimean Tatars. That roundtable, initiated by the CoE Directorate General for Social Affairs, included also visits to local communities. [72] It is interesting to note that the problems identified as those of major concern for returnees were then presented in the following order:

  • citizenship
  • employment
  • housing
  • social protection
  • cultural revival

This, characteristically, set aside many of the legal-political issues claimed as crucial by the Crimean Tatar community.

The next step to address the issue of the Crimean Tatars was taken by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Before including it into the agenda of the PACE regular session, its Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography was instructed to prepare a report on the current situation, and to draft appropriate recommendations. The rapporteur appointed by the Committee was Lord Ponsonby (United Kingdom, Socialist Group), who visited Kyiv and Crimea in the autumn of 1999, and prepared a draft report, upon which the subsequent debates were supposed to rely. The rapporteur, in contrast to the established practice usually used by virtually all of the international missions to Crimea, chose not to meet with any representatives of the Mejlis, and contacted instead only the officials from both central and ARC governments. To some extent, this approach might have conditioned Lord Ponsonby's opinion on the subject, as well as his general perception of the situation in Crimea. This can be illustrated by a particularly amazing passage of his Explanatory Memorandum that addressed exactly the issue under consideration of the given paper. It reads as follows: "Unlike other ethnic groups deported from Crimea... they lay claim to the status of indigenous people. Although this Rapporteur could not get an answer as to what that status implied in legal terms he was led to believe that this is a euphemism for titular nation. (N.B.!) As such, it could be viewed by Crimean Tatar extremists as a first step to national autonomy. Many Crimean Tatars, while making a decision to return to Crimea, were guided by unrealistic expectations fostered by some of their political leaders." [73]

This particular point reveals that the Rapporteur, unlike Crimean Tatar [74] and some of the Ukrainian experts, has not performed as somebody sufficiently knowledgeable about this sensitive issue. No wonder, his report has aroused strong criticisms on the part of the Mejlis leaders [75] and, sometimes, rather sarcastic responses from the Crimean Tatar community. [76] Regrettably, Lord Ponsonby's position can also be regarded as undermining the justified attempts to implement provisions of the Ukrainian Constitution. Nevertheless, concluding the debates in Strasbourg, [77] run by a sheer coincidence on 5 April 2000, - the day of a parliamentary hearing in Kyiv - an impressive Recommendation 1455, [78] containing a number of concrete points shaping a strategy for further actions, was adopted. Inter alia, it calls on international community and its particular agencies like the Development Bank, also the European Union and the CoE member states "to contribute generously, at bilateral and multilateral levels, to assistance projects targeting returnee Crimean Tatars." Moreover, the key words "indigenous peoples," though used rather implicitly, can be found in paragraph VIII of the Recommendation that says: "invite the Government of Ukraine and the regional authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to study the experience of other member states of the Council of Europe concerning the representation of minorities and indigenous peoples, with a view to securing the effective representation of the Crimean Tatars in national, Crimean and local public affairs."

As further developments have shown, the attention paid by the CoE to the Crimean Tatar issues is not withering, which is an encouraging sign. The PACE debates were followed by the next study visit to Crimea on 20-29 September 2000, the results of which were discussed by the roundtable in Kyiv organized jointly by the CoE, the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, the State Department for Nationalities and Migration, and the International Renaissance Foundation. The report on a mission, and its conclusions and recommendations have been presented by Marcel Zwamborn from the European Committee on Migration (one more of the CoE structural units, dealing with social and legal aspects of the integration process). This time, it was admitted that "the return and integration of the formerly deported peoples of the Crimea is a complex process with difficult political (N.B.!), economic, social and cultural features," and the most pressing problems that needed to be addressed and solved, were listed as follows:

  • political participation and representation
  • citizenship
  • income: job and businesses
  • housing
  • land rights
  • education [79]

Compared with the first CoE round table, the shift of the attention towards legal-political issues, and growing recognition of their importance, are evident. This change could also be assumed proceeding from the CoE Committee of Ministers response to the Recommendation 1455, [80] and the presentations at the third CoE roundtable held in Yalta on 5-6 October 2001. [81]

In general, the CoE, like the OSCE, tends to regard the Crimean Tatars as a national minority. Therefore, from this perspective the only legally binding instrument to provide for their rights is the CoE Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM), entered into force on 01.02.1998, of which Ukraine is a signatory. Currently, the CoE Advisory Committee for the FCNM is developing its opinion on the official State Report on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention, submitted by Ukraine (received on 2 November 1999) and supplemented by a shadow report on the situation in Crimea, prepared by Crimean Tatars. [82] Subsuquent conclusions and recommendations of the CoE Committee of Ministers will, by all means, be of great interest and importance for further shaping of Ukrainian national policy in this area.

In contrast to the CoE, the UNO is traditionally engaged in issues of indigenous peoples' rights, and the governmental experts of the Working Group, established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in March 1995, continue to work on a draft UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (The draft had in fact been prepared by the independent experts, representing mostly the indigenous communities themselves, a few years before the WG was commissioned to such a task). Since 1994, Nadir Bekirov, a member of the Mejlis, has actively participated in all sessions of the Working Group, including the last one taking place in Geneva on 28 January - 8 February 2002. [83] Although this very fact might be considered as a covert admission by this UNO specialized structure of the Crimean Tatars belonging to the category of indigenous peoples, this did not entail any legal consequences, nor was it perceived as a valid argument during the domestic discourse on the issue.

In conclusion, it is important to emphasize that although political participation and representation in both elective and executive governmental bodies, a formal status of the Mejlis and Kurultay, land issues and other matters of legal-political nature have eventually been recognized by international community as urgent and topical, it has never been proposed to solve them all together in a package. Accordingly, the initiative to address these issues by a bill on indigenous status was never encouraged. [84] Indeed, apart from some of the leaders of the Crimean Tatar diaspora, and a few independent experts from abroad favouring this idea [85], no support has so far been provided for its implementation. Nor was the Ukrainian legislature ever recommended by any international intergovernmental organization to at least consider the "status law" drafts. Moreover, it should be heeded that within Ukraine, in defiance of strong resistance from leftists, such terminology as "the Crimean Tatar people" - thus distinguishing it from national minorities - has already become firmly rooted in public and legal discourse, and regarded as politically correct. (See, for example, the title for the parliamentary hearing in Kyiv on 5 April 2000, the exact name of the Council of Representatives, the full name of the Integration Programme run by the International Renaissance Foundation etc.). Whereas in the relevant documents produced, for instance, by the Council of Europe, the word "people" is thoroughly omitted, and the target group is being named simply "the Crimean Tatars," or "the Crimean Tatar population" or, even less correctly, [86] "the Tatars of Crimea." 87 Sometimes, different ethnic groups formerly deported from the Crimea are referred to, indiscriminately, as the "peoples of Crimea." [88]


Part II
Current situation: The
Crimean Tatars and Elections-2002

Nowadays, the most urgent issue of all of the legal and political problems faced by the Crimean Tatars concerns their representation in the elective bodies, particularly in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Its actuality is stressed by the fact that after the abolishment of a temporary quota for formerly deported ethnic groups that was valid for a period between 1994-1998, no one representative of the Crimean Tatar community was elected to the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of the ARC in March 1998. [90] Taking into account the realities of the Crimean situation, the purely majoritarian electoral system introduced instead could hardly have brought any other results. Such an outcome may be explained by the fact that from the very beginning of the repatriation process, the Crimean Tatars were deliberately settled in such a dispersed way that in no one of the 100 constituencies they might have formed a majority, or at least some 40 % of voters. [91] Besides this, unlike the situation of 1994, in 1998 almost 100,000 Crimean Tatars, who were not yet citizens of Ukraine, were not allowed to take part in the elections. This decision, perceived as discriminatory by the Crimean Tatars has also attracted attention of some international organizations, in particular, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. The letters and recommendations developed by structural units of these organizations address, inter alia, this particular issue. [92] Therefore, the necessity to adopt a new law before the forthcoming parliamentary elections in the ARC on 31 March 2002 (coinciding with the elections to the VR of Ukraine and local bodies of self-governance) seemed obvious. Therefore, following a resolution passed by Verkhovna Rada in May 2001, several draft laws were prepared and submitted for the consideration of the Ukrainian parliament.

One of them, worked out by Jury Kliuchkovsky (People's Rukh of Ukraine faction), proceeded from the notion that the new law should comply with the law on the elections to the VR of Ukraine, but also guarantee for the Crimean Tatars at least some seats in the Crimean parliament. According to this draft, elections in the Crimean autonomy were to be based on the same mixed majoritarian/proportionate system as that in force for all-national elections (50 deputies to be elected in single-mandate constituencies, and 50 on party lists in a multi-mandate constituency). The single-mandate constituencies should have been of two different types: 41 - of ordinary majoritarian type (covering the whole territory of Crimea), and the rest of the remaining nine to be organized as national constituencies. Seven of the latter had to be for the Crimean Tatars, one for the Karaits and Krymchaks (the two ethnic groups autochthonous for Crimea, and potential candidates for the status of "indigenous peoples"), and one more for formerly deported national minorities - Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Germans. The right to nominate candidates for national constituencies would be provided for the appropriate national assemblies; the participation of a voter in a national constituency would have been determined by his/her individual wish only (expressed by a personal written application). In case of the absence of such an application, a voter was supposed to vote in an ordinary majoritarian constituency (in this way, the principle of "one person - one vote" would have been observed).

From this brief description it can be seen that the mechanisms proposed by the author would indeed secure the right of indigenous peoples, as well as of formerly deported national minorities in (multinational) Crimea to get their representation in the parliament of the ARC. In particular, this draft recognizes the specific situation of the Crimean Tatars, for whom, let us repeat, in contrast to other formerly deported ethnic groups, Crimea is their only homeland. This principal difference makes their insistent demands for political rights and equal participation in the decision-making processes in the ARC quite understandable and fully justified.

From the very beginning of negotiating new "rules of the game" for the elections in Crimea, a vigorous campaign against any legal provisions to secure Crimean Tatars representation in the VR of the ARC, headed and orchestrated by its Speaker (and leader of the Crimean communists) Leonid Hrach, started in Crimea. Any move in this direction was classified as a violation of the Crimean and Ukrainian Constitutions, creating a dangerous precedent of providing privileges for certain ethnic groups that would provoke violent inter-ethnic clashes in Crimea. [93] In particular, local media argued that "a number of Russian organizations of Crimea have already announced that if election quotas are provided for the Crimean Tatars, they would also demand the same quotas for Russians living in Crimea." [94]

To counter the endeavours to secure the Crimean Tatars' representation, another draft law on elections in the ARC was prepared. [95] It was presented by the MP from Crimea Lev Mirimsky ("Trudova Ukraina" faction; in Crimea, Myrymsky enjoys also a strong support from the "Soyuz" party not represented in the parliament of Ukraine). In compliance with the resolution of the VR of 24 May 2001, this draft was also based on a mixed - 50% : 50% - majoritarian/proportionate system, but it did not contain any special provisions ensuring the representation in the legislature of the ARC of either indigenous peoples (notably the Crimean Tatars) or formerly deported national minorities.

The third draft submitted by Nataliya Shtepa (Communist party) provided that only proportionate system had to be used for electing deputies to the VR of the ARC. The same idea has also been vigorously supported and lobbied by the incumbent Communist leadership of the Crimean parliament reckoning that their party - the one with the strongest position in the ARC - would therefore take all the advantages in case of adopting a proportionate system for the next elections. However, during the debates on all of the draft laws submitted to the session of the VR of Ukraine on 3 July 2001, the author of the latter voluntarily recalled it, and called on MPs to vote for that drafted by Mirimsky. This move was also supported by Georgiy Ponomarenko (Communist faction) on behalf of the Committee on State Building and Local Self-Governance that had previously considered all three drafts. [96]

Despite rather convincing reasons and explanations of the necessity to ensure representation in the Crimean parliament of the formerly deported Crimean Tatar people and national minorities, that were presented during the meetings of permanent Committees and later on the VR sittings, [97] on 5 July Mirimsky's draft passed the first reading. The second reading, though included into the VR agenda for October, was postponed several times. Those suggestions made by the VR Committee on State Building and Local Self-Governance during the preparation for the second reading, rendered it almost identical to the Law "On Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine" adopted on October 18. The proposals developed by MPs Chubarov and Kliuchkovsky to ensure representation of the Crimean Tatars in the VR of the ARC were turned down by the same Committee. [98]

Meanwhile, on 18 October President of Ukraine, in his letter to the VR Speaker, strongly expressed his opinion that at regional and local levels, and in particular in the ARC, mixed electoral system cannot be introduced. He insisted on preserving the majoritarian system and warned that otherwise, his veto right would be used. [99] At the same time, President Leonid Kuchma during his meeting with the Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar people on September 17 in Yalta [100] and later in Feodosia stressed his position about the "need for mandatory provision for representation of the Crimean Tatars either by means of allocating quotas, as in the 1994 elections, or by establishing national constituencies." [101]

Since the President publicly committed not to sign a law containing even an element of proportionality, a Working Group, consisting of the MPs and governmental officials, was formed with a purpose to find a compromise acceptable for all interested parties. Communist members of the group, however, have again demonstrated their principal disagreement with the idea that Crimean Tatars should participate in the Crimean elections on the "ethno-national basis," and rejected all suggestions containing such kind of provisions. After this, Refat Chubarov resigned from the WG and prepared, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, a draft law (two drafts actually) that he submitted to the Presidential administration and other bodies responsible for bringing them to the attention of the Parliament. Briefly, one of the drafts provided for the establishment of several national electoral constituencies, whereas the other proposed all-Crimean multi-mandate majoritarian constituency for former deportees, with 12 candidates having the highest rating to receive the deputies mandates. Commenting on this situation, Mr. Chubarov said that if the President of Ukraine would throw behind the law on the Crimean elections the same weight that he puts behind other important legal matters, the parliament would certainly pass the Crimean electoral law in one of the versions acceptable to the Crimean Tatars. Moreover, he believes that "the problem of introduction or non-introduction of new mechanisms to ensure our representation in power bodies is directly linked to the political will of the Ukrainian leadership." [102]

Meanwhile, the problem of representation in governmental bodies of Ukraine, and of the ARC in particular, was addressed by and vigorously discussed at the Fourth Kurultay (National Congress) of Crimean Tatar people convened in Simferopol on 9-11 November 2001. Among the important documents adopted by the Kurultay was an Appeal to the VR of Ukraine. It stated that this urgent issue should be considered by the VR as soon as possible, that further exclusion of the Crimean Tatars from the decision-making processes concerning the developments in the ARC would be no more tolerated, and that conserving the existing situation might be recognized as a continued discrimination against the Crimean Tatar people. [103]

Regrettably, the speeches by the President and the appeals of the Kurultay did not influence the left-wing MPs, as was evidenced by further proceedings in the VR and its permanent Committees.

Indeed, several approaches were again proposed in order to avoid vetoing the draft by the President and at the same time, ensuring the Crimean Tatars representation in the VR of the ARC. One of them allowed the Crimean Election Commission to form separate election constituencies for the returned deportees; another suggested that while establishing ordinary election constituencies, the demographics of returnees should be taken into account. However, when the VR session on 15 November 2001 considered the new version of the law on elections in the ARC in the second reading, these proposals gained support only from the factions of People's Rukh of Ukraine (NRU), Ukrainian People's Rukh (UNR), Reforms-Congress, and partially of the Fatherland and Apple factions. After both amendments were rejected, what remained was, in fact, the same draft by Mirimsky. This compelled MP Refat Chubarov to call on his fellow deputies "for not preserving by the VR of independent Ukraine the consequences of the crime perpetrated by the former regime," to reject this "Communist draft" as well. [104] Indeed, it gained only 190 votes, and thus did not pass. [105]

An attempt to come back (contrary to parliamentary regulations) to the second voting of this already rejected draft on 29 November had failed, too. Therefore, the old, not amended, law on the elections in the ARC would formally remain in effect, and as a result, election campaign in the Crimean autonomy would have begun on 1 December 2001. This created a legal collision with a new law on elections to the VR of Ukraine, according to which the date of its start has to be a month later.

Since the situation turned absurd indeed, and of course nothing was ready for such an early start in the ARC, it became obvious that some urgent steps were needed to overcome such a collision. Therefore, one more draft "On Changes and Additions to the Law of Ukraine "On Elections of Deputies of the Autonomous republic of Crimea" was being hastily prepared in order to settle at least main legal controversies. Taking into account the time pressure, this draft was recognized as the most urgent by President, and according to special resolution of the Constitutional Court, it must have been considered without any delay.

By that time, this odd situation came into attention of Rolf Ekeus, the new OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. As was mentioned above, he stressed the necessity to introduce, through the new law, the mechanisms ensuring guaranteed and proportionate representation of Crimean Tatars in the parliament of the ARC. In the letter dated 4 December 2001, Mr. Ekeus expressed his concerns relating to the issue, and offered the services of his office in assisting Ukrainian officials to consider which of possible specific forms of such an arrangement may be the most appropriate way forward, also expressed his intention to visit Ukraine as soon as possible. While the visit was postponed, and the proposed intention not realized, the draft mentioned above was submitted by MP Roman Bezsmertny (People's-Democratic Party) first to the Committee, then to the VR session on 13 December 2001. As Mr. Bezsmertny explained, its urgent adoption would save time for continuing to work on another, more substantial draft that was meant to ensure the Crimean Tatar representation by proposing, once again, the establishment of either all-Crimean constituency for former deportees, or a number of national majoritarian (single-mandate) constituencies. In parallel with these endavours, the Communist faction insistently lobbied their own draft prepared by MP Anatoliy Drobotov and submitted to the same sitting. This draft differed from that presented earlier by Myrymsky by only one position. Namely, the right to nominate candidates would have been provided to public associations pursuing development of national cultures. Though this amendment was claimed to be a concession aimed at increasing chances of different ethnic groups of Crimea, its opponents stated that it was just a trick to compel President to repeat the previous objections against applying the mixed electoral system to local elections, including those in the ARC, and to veto the whole draft. Nevertheless, this draft passed the first reading on 13 December [106] but failed the second reading on December 20. That meant that the old law would automatically remain in effect, and that formally, the election campaign was already going on in the Crimea beginning from 2 December. Though actually, nothing of this kind had yet occurred, it was already clear that in all probability, the old majoritarian system would be preserved for the elections in the ARC.

Indeed, on 17 January 2002, the VR of Ukraine passed eventually the law on the amendments to the law of Ukraine "On Elections of Deputies to the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea." Only insignificant changes concerning purely organizational matters, and bringing them in line with the provisions of the law on elections to the VR of Ukraine, were adopted. That meant that the essence of the law of 12 February 1998, that had ignored any mechanisms to ensure Crimean Tatar representation, remained unchanged. Moreover, the last opportunity to ameliorate the situation by drawing the borders of the constituencies in such a way as taking into account the places of Crimean Tatar compact settlements was not used. It was not a surprise because after some struggle, Leonid Hrach succeeded in forming the Central Elective Commission (CEC) of Crimea, consisting of 15 members, almost exclusively from his supporters. As a result, electoral districts have been established and re-established in a manner favouring the candidates from only one political force that caused immediate protest statements from the Crimean Tatars [107], also from the "For Transparent Power" and other political parties and blocks opposing the Communist "Hrach's Block."[108] This and a number of other flaws of the CEC were characterized as a "total outlawry" by some other well-known public figures and politicians in Crimea. [109] Not only the eventual establishment of the constituencies was disputed; the very decision on the elections in Crimea and the establishment of its Central Election Commission, adopted by the VR of the ARC on 19 December 2001, were questioned by many influential politicians and officials, among them, by the Prime Minister of Crimean government, Valeriy Gorbatov, and the Representative of President of Ukraine in Crimea, Anatoliy Korniychuk. It was stated, in particular, that the juridical service attached to Mr. Korniychuk's office considered as invalid the whole Resolution of 19 December concerning elections in Crimea. Violations of many regulations and legal acts were identified; besides, the very decision was adopted by deputies' turnout too low to allow it to pass. [110] Some further decisions of the Crimean Electoral Commission, in particular, that concerning the use in electoral ballots of Russian language only, were also claimed illegal.

While these protests might have become a matter for consideration of the Constitutional Court, whatever the outcome, the crucial failure of Ukrainian legislators to adopt in due time any legal mechanisms ensuring the Crimean Tatar representation in the VR of the ARC and in the elective bodies at lower levels, is already a matter of fact. The scale of this failure is further augmented by the fact that all the recommendations and proposals issued by the Council of Europe, [111] the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, [112] the President, and a number of MPs concerned with finding a proper and just solution to this problem have been ignored. This outcome also suggests some undesirable trends within the Ukraine's parliament, where leftists proved able to impose their will and mobilize a majority if not to vote for all of their proposals, then at least to block those of the opponents. This situation resembles to some extent that of 1991 (referred to by the first part of the paper), thus raising doubts as to the actual advancement towards democracy and European standards of minority protection reached over the years of Ukraine's independence. Also, these developments compel the Crimean Tatar political elite to believe that such a poor performance exhibits insufficient political will rather than simply a weakness on the part of actors repeatedly declaring their commitment to resolve the matter positively. This time, the consequences of their disillusionment and disappointment may be much more far-reaching and threatening than ever before.

Because, as rightly noted Oxana Shevel, [113] this was a déjà vu from the situation prior to 1998 elections, when the parliament rejected presidential proposal for a Crimean Tatar quota, while the president rejected parliamentary proposal for a proportional system, following which a majoritarian system was introduced as a compromise between the President and the Left. That situation had left Crimean Tatars without their deputies in the VR of the ARC. It should also be remembered that at that time, the situation was aggravated by the fact that approximately 90 thousand of the Crimean Tatar repatriates lacked Ukrainian citizenship, and therefore, were not allowed to participate in the election process. This provided authorities with the argument that they were doing their best to solve the problem, whereas the resistance from other (CIS) countries was actually responsible for the unsettled election issues, and for the outcome unfavourable for the Crimean Tatars. This time, the repetition of the same situation with the elections in Crimea would most probably demonstrate that the Ukrainian authorities and society as a whole bear actual responsibility for leaving this urgent issue virtually unheeded.

Despite the failure in finding a legal solution for guaranteeing the Crimean Tatar representation in the elective bodies, this time, Mejlis decided not to boycott the elections but to concentrate on active participation instead. On 19 January 2002, the second session of the Fourth Kurultay of Crimean Tatar people approved nomination of 55 candidates in ordinary single-mandate constituencies of Crimea. According to MP Refat Chubarov, the decision to limit the number of candidates, instead of covering all of the 100 constituencies, was conditioned by the politically expedient intention to cooperate with other partners in order to prevent a victory of the leftist hardliners. Therefore, in other 45 constituencies the Crimean Tatars were going to support candidates from other democratic blocks and teams. [114]

The chances for the Crimean Tatars to reach sufficient representation in the next composition of the Crimean parliament under ordinary majoritarian system were usually estimated to be rather poor. (According to a leading Crimean political analyst, in the best case they could count on 5-6 seats only) [115]. Although the successful campaign for the acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship, indeed, made a difference in comparison with the situation of 1998 elections, there was a number of other negative factors affecting the probability of the Crimean Tatar candidates to win regional and local elections. Among them, the lack of financial resources sufficient to compete on equal grounds with the candidates supported by the Communist party or by pro-Russian political movements, could be named. One more serious problem appeared to be a dispersion of the anti-Communist opposition in Crimea that would demand from its members a complicated and sophisticated political maneuvering in order to reach a viable agreement on not competing with each other's candidates. [116]

In general, the electoral landscape-2002 in the ARC looked rather variegated politically and ideologically. The main rivals on the scene were, by all means, the "Hrach's Block" and the "Kunitsyn's Team," the latter headed by the ex-Prime Minister of Crimea. [117] (Last summer, the dismissal of Serhiy Kunitsyn seemed finalizing the protracted struggle between the government and the parliament of the ARC, and Hrach's previous unsuccessful attempts to get rid of this strong opponent. Entering the election campaign, Kunitsyn has managed, however, to recruit Crimean deputies and to form the biggest faction named "For the United Crimea." He also organized, together with the incumbent Prime Minister and the Representative of the President, a local branch of the "For the United Ukraine" (pro-governmental) electoral block that was now recognized as the most potent, highly professional, and having a good chance to get no less than 40 seats in the newly elected legislature of the ARC.) [118] Apart from the "Kunitsyn's Team" as a probable partner, Public Committee "For a Transparent Power" led by Andriy Senchenko and Serhiy Velyzhansky could also be named as potentially friendly for the Crimean Tatar candidates. This entity was believed to ensure up to ten deputies, whereas approximately the same number of seats was expected to be filled by the Social Democrats (United), and by the Russian block. This evaluation predicted for the Hrach's block a much more modest accomplishment of around 25 % than it widely advertised. [119]

It should be added, however, that the later events of the unprecedentedly turbulent election campaign in Crimea have virtually toppled all analytical prognoses and considerations. The new turn was started by a sensational decision of the Tsentralny district court of Simferopol to cancel the registration of Leonid Hrach (who until that time was absolutely confident of his being a "political master" and "leader of Crimea") for the elections to the ARC legislature on the grounds of untruthful data submitted in his declaration on income and possessions, also some other violations of the enacted legal regulations. This happening, having raised a turmoil not only in Crimea but in Russia as well, has been followed by the failed attempt to take revenge by abolishing the registration of 34 of Hrach's main rivals (including the two Crimean Tatar candidates), and the threats to hold in Crimea a referendum on joining Russia, and to disrupt the whole election campaign if the court's ruling remains in force. [120] All these developments drastically changed the political landscape in Crimea and beyond. As a result, wide possibilities for harsh statements, appeals, speculations, rallies, tent camps and other protest actions appeared - this time, being realized not by the Crimean Tatars, traditionally regarded as the main, if not only, source and cause of conflict in Crimea, but by Hrach's Communist supporters. [121] Although these public manifestations never proved able to engage more than several hundreds of participants - mostly pensioners and a dozen of sporting-looking youth - some alarmist reaction can be identified in media responses to the development of the situation in Crimea. [122]

These events were also accompanied by a number of strong statements issued by influential Russian politicians. As has been reported, in particular, by the RFE/RL, a group of prominent Russian political leaders, presenting a wide spectrum of political orientations and preferences - Sergei Shoigu, Yurii Luzhkov, Gennadii Zyuganov, Boris Nemtsov, and Gennadii Raikov - appealed to Kuchma. They called on him to "restore justice" with regard to Hrach (meaning, evidently, that the President should somehow abolish the court decision - an idea looking rather odd in the context of "rule of law" rhetoric of the same personalities). "The removal from the electoral campaign under invented pretexts of Leonid Hrach, the chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic [of Crimea], is evidence of the activation of the forces that intend to undermine the relations between Ukraine and Russia," they wrote in the appeal. [123] These and other serious complications accompanying the election campaign in Crimea might have led to the eventual derangement of the elections to the autonomous legislature, thus creating for the Crimean Tatars - and not only for them - a new sort of challenges to cope with.

The situation looked somewhat better for the Crimean Tatars when it came to their representation in the legislature of Ukraine. During the last session of the Kurultay, an agreement on political collaboration between Mejlis and People's Rukh of Ukraine that had been signed on 31 July 2001 was confirmed. Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov were recommended as the candidates to be included into (the "passable" part of) the Rukh party list. [124] Soon it became clear that Rukh would take part in all-Ukrainian elections not on its own but within the rather potent block "Nasha Ukraina," headed by one of the most popular politician, former Prime Minister Victor Yuschenko. It meant that the promise to put the Crimean Tatar candidates into the "guaranteed" part of the list converted into a much more difficult task of preserving their positions on the list common for the whole block. Indeed, at the "Nasha Ukraina" conference convened on 16 January 2002, general electoral list was eventually approved; on this list, Mustafa Dzhemilev ranked 28th, whereas Refat Chubarov 60th. [125] The same conference also nominated the candidates to be supported by the block in the single-mandate majoritarian constituencies; in ten of them covering the whole territory of Crimea, six names were those of members of the Mejlis. [126]

As to the elections to the local bodies of self-government, including city and village councils, some competition for the Crimean Tatar votes was expected to come from parties that were not "sanctioned" by the Kurultay. For example, Ahtem Chiigoz, the vice-Chairman of the Bakhchesaray regional Mejlis, in private discussion noted that the NDP (People's Democratic Party) and some other all-Ukrainian parties were already trying to engage Crimean Tatar electorate on the lower local levels of elections circumventing regional Mejlises and the central Mejlis. [127]

Therefore, it seemed that in the context of Elections-2002, the most important task for the Crimean Tatars to gain at least proportionate representation in the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea remained the least likely to be accomplished. Acknowledging this prospect, Mustafa Dzhemilev told Rene Bibo, the Second Secretary of the USA Embassy to Ukraine, that "The Crimean Tatar people is interested in democratic majority in the parliament of the ARC, because even 20 Crimean Tatar deputies would not be able to influence the decision-making process in such a way as to make it favourable for us." [128]

Although the whole story of the elections in Crimea on 31 March 2002, as well as all the preceding and succeeding events, is beyond the scope of this paper, a brief on actual results is worth including here. It is also interesting to compare the actual outcome with expectations and prognostications made by many political analysts, as well as with the results of the previous elections in 1998.

Concerning the all-Ukrainian multi-mandate constituency electing half of the VR (225 deputies) according to proportionate system, the most important result is that "Nasha Ukraina" block headed by reformist ex-premier Viktor Yuschenko has won 23.57 % of votes, or 6 108 088, thus leaving - for the first time - the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) at the second place with 19.98 % (5 178 074). [129] Accordingly, the number of deputies from this block elected under proportionate system, amounts to 70; this means that both Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov who ran for seats in the VR on this block list, entered the Ukrainian parliament - in full compliance with the expectations of practically all political analysts and sociologists. Though this time, the exclusive rights of the Mejlis to represent (ethnic) Crimean Tatars in Ukrainian parliament have been disrupted by Zarema Katusheva, elected on the communist party ticket. [130] It should also be noted that national democrats notably improved their position in Crimea, since there were 94.067 or 9.77 % votes for "Nasha Ukraina" in multi-mandate constituency. It accounts for additional 7,683 votes when compared with results of elections in 1998 for all of the parties that can be considered predecessors of the "Nasha Ukraina" block. [131]

Characterizing the elections in Crimea in general, it was noted that they had much in common with those in other regions of Ukraine, especially concerning the widely used "administrative resources" and dirty "black PR." It was also acknowledged that the group of Russian political technologists working in the Crimea (on behalf of Hrach personally and his block) was the largest of all, and that pro-Russian rhetoric, posters and slogans were most visible there throughout the election campaign. [132] But unlike previous elections, general trends exhibited by the electorate preferences all over Ukraine closely resemble those in the Crimea. The most remarkable of them has been the loss of the communist popularity. Although it remains rather high (all-Ukrainian voting for communists reached only 19.98 %, whereas in the Crimea they showed much better result of 33.9 %), it should be remembered that in 1998 communists got 39.3 % in multi-mandate constituency; therefore, essential decrease of their popularity is evident even in their "stronghold" Crimea. The reduced number of communist deputies elected to local bodies also confirms this trend. The most striking example is, perhaps, in the Sevastopol city council, to which only 8 communists were elected, whereas in 1998, their number amounted to 50, thus having constituted 75 % of all of its members). [133]

As to the elections to the Crimean legislature and local councils, the best outcome consists, perhaps, in the fact that the elections did occur in defiance of the repeated endavours to block them by different means, and to destabilize fragile political peace in the peninsula. Despite blackmail, threats and protest actions organized by Hrach and his supporters (with substantial financial and in-kind help for him coming from abroad - mainly, from Russia) and many contradictory and controversial appeals to and decisions of the courts and the Crimean Elective Commission, the CEC eventually recognized elections valid in all of the 100 Crimean constituencies. [134] (Although up to date, only 95 deputies are officially registered, whereas five are still waiting for the eventual court decisions).

For the Crimean Tatars, the results turned out better than it had been anticipated. Six Crimean Tatars supported by Kurultay, and one from the "Kunitsyn's team" were elected to the VR of the ARC (one more ethnic Crimean Tatar, Lentun Bezaziyev, entered the Crimean legislature as a member of the pro-communist "Hrach's block"). Since the election of Server Memedliayev, one of the Crimean Tatar winners (constituency # 70, Kirovsky region) was later cancelled by a court decision, this means that six officially registered representatives of the Crimean Tatar people, or seven ethnic Crimean Tatars (6 + 1 formula) are officially registered as deputies of the 100-seat Crimean VR (currently, there are 93 members registered as deputies). Remarkably, this time Crimean Tatars got more mandates than representatives of the Russian block that gained only 5 seats. [135] General ethnic composition of the Crimean deputies elected in 2002 is as follows: there are 41 Russians, 35 Ukrainians, seven Crimean Tatars, four Jews, two Gagauzians, one Czech, one Greek, one Armenian, and one Abkhaz. [136] Apart from the relatively successful outcome for the Crimean Tatars, another important feature of the recent elections to the VR of the ARC consists of a significant drop of the communists' popularity. [137] Overall failure of all of the tricks used by the summoned (and well-paid) Russian "political technologists" to secure their employers' victory, should also be noted. [138]

Moreover, despite all endeavours to prevent registration of the elected deputies and disrupt preparation for the first session of the VR of the ARC scheduled for April 29, this session not only took place duly, but also managed to elect the speaker and appoint the premier of the Crimean government. At this session, crushing defeat of Hrach (who received his deputy mandate in defiance of the latest of court decisions, and personally participated in the voting) has become evident: Borys Deich, proposed for speaker by non-communist majority, obtained 52 votes, while his rival Leonid Hrach received only 22. During the election of the Crimean premier, Serhiy Kunitsyn (former premier dismissed in June 2001 by Hrach) received 64 votes. On May 15, during the second session of the Crimean legislature, one more important step forward has been done: Ilmi Umerov, an outstanding leader of the Crimean Tatar people, Deputy Chair of the Mejlis, former (rather successful) vice-Premier of the Crimean government headed by Anatoliy Franchuk, has been elected as a vice-speaker. This occurred despite the violent resistance of the communist faction, and in defiance of their previous strong statements about the intention to prevent just such an outcome. Moreover, during the same two "package" voting for the Presidium of the Crimean VR and for the Crimean government, Crimean Tatars, having only six deputies, gained also quite visible representation in the Cabinet of Ministers of the ARC. Now, Edip Gafarov (former head of the Republican Committee on Nationalities and Former Deportees) became a vice-Premier, whereas Aziz Abdullayev is now Minister of Industry, and Server Saliyev occupied the post vacated by Edip Gafarov. All this occurred very smoothly, without any protracted or even brief "battles," and demonstrating amazingly unanimous voting (for 15 members of the Presidium voted 79 deputies out of 94 present, whereas for the government (consisting of 31 members) - 94 out of 95. [139] In this context, a question may duly arise about communists participation and their unexpectedly mild attitude towards persons that have been noisily and repeatedly announced unacceptable "enemies." The answer could be find in a very pragmatic and prudent approach of satisfying their curbed appetite for power by providing for them four seats in the Presidium, and two posts in the government.

All these events, clearly signifying the end of "Hrach's era" in the Crimea, might mark the end of the permanent struggle between the Crimean legislature and the Crimean government, also between Kyiv and Simferopol, and enhance the chances for just and fair representation of the Crimean Tatars in the executive bodies of lower level as well. Since Hrach had been elected to the VR of Ukraine as number 11 on the CPU list, after the failed attempt to renew his position in the Crimean legislature he announced his intention to leave Crimea for further working in Kyiv. In such a way, former "leader and master of Crimea" would now play a part of a "small fish in a big pond." [140]

In regard to the results pertaining to local elective bodies, Sinaver Kadyrov, the Mejlis coordinator for the elections in Crimea, announced that altogether 957 Crimean Tatars have been elected to local bodies of self-governance of different levels, thus constituting 13.9 % of all of the deputies in Crimea. [141] Taking into account that the percentage of the Crimean Tatars in the ARC population amounts to 12.3 %, their share among deputies of local elective bodies is therefore even higher than just commensurable, whereas a problem of under-representation in the VR of the ARC remains topical. Although this may be seen as an impressive victory if compared to the results of elections-1998, such an outcome might have been stipulated, apart from the obvious success of the citizenship campaign, by additional, less conspicuous reasons. Namely, this time, the acute struggle has developed between Hrach and his supporters on one side, and quite diverse political forces that established provisional alliance and pulled together their resources to withstand the pressure of the main enemy, on the other. Within such a peculiar political landscape, the fight against Crimean Tatars traditionally launched by Hrach and his communist and pro-Russian supporters turned out much less effective than before. [142] However, the unstable majority united by a common enemy rather than common ideology or political or economic interests, would in all probability be soon split on smaller factions pursuing their own, often conflicting, interests. This would make the formation of a viable and professional Crimean government, and particularly, securing top positions for the Crimean Tatars to satisfy their demands, rather a difficult goal to achieve. [143]

Concluding Remarks

In general, the proposed solution for addressing all of the major problems of the Crimean Tatars simultaneously by providing them with the legal status of "indigenous people of Ukraine" does not altogether comply with mainstream European system of securing minority rights. Apart from the Scandinavian countries, where the evolving legislation and practical measures target the indigenous Saami people (Finland, Norway, Sweden), and Inuits of the Greenland (Denmark), no other precedent of this kind can be identified, especially in countries of Central, Eastern, or Southern Europe. Therefore, since the history and current situation of the aforementioned "typical" indigenous peoples is hardly comparable to that of the Crimean Tatars, the efforts of those advocating such a solution, by referring to these cases may indeed look somewhat artificial.

The very uniqueness of the Crimean Tatars' case demands, however, innovative approaches that may lie beyond the framework of standard legal and administrative measures used to secure minority rights. This autochtonous people that once had their own well developed state, the Crimean Khanate (lasted for over three centuries until the Russian annexation of Crimea in 1783), now exists in the ancestral lands as an unwelcome minority. This is the consequence of the fact that their national life in Crimea was initially undermined by Tsarist Russian and, later, Soviet policy, and finally destroyed by forcible mass deportation of 1944. Their painful and difficult repatriation represents the latest stage of this tragic history. What is at stake today is no less than the issue of the survival of Crimean Tatars as a separate, coherent ethno-cultural entity. Although at least half of the former deportees and their descendants have returned to Crimea, and more are expected, the threat persists of an eventual, apparently "natural" and non-forcible assimilation, or gradual disappearance by dissolution within the Russian-speaking Slavic majority. An unfavourable social environment, rooted in the mentality of the settlers moved to Crimea after the deportation of the indigenous population, is further aggravated by the hostile attitude of pro-Soviet, pro-Russian, and pro-Communist parties that still wield considerable power in the ARC. Under such conditions, to support the unwavering will of the Crimean Tatar people for national rebirth and their sustainable development, and to settle peacefully an otherwise unavoidable ethno-political conflict in Crimea, requires strong affirmative action. To be effective, these special measures should be implemented not in an incremental manner but through a comprehensive set of legal and practical provisions covering all aspects of their rights and needs. This was the very intention behind those articles of the Constitution, that were further developed by the draft legislation on the Crimean Tatar indigenous status that embraced the whole complex of their legal-political, socio-economic, cultural and educational rights, needs, and interests.

The shameful protracted story of the failed attempts to ensure the Crimean Tatars' political participation by changing the election legislation can by itself serve as convincing evidence for the need and urgency to adopt such a comprehensive law. But even if some amendments were adopted, they could again prove to be temporary. Since in trying to avoid the politically least acceptable view that the Crimean Tatars are entitled to guaranteed representation in governmental bodies on the basis of their "indigenousness," the tactics chosen by the interested parties have been to link this right to the consequences of deportation. It would inevitably follow that had these consequences already been a part of the past (or simply declared as such), the need for any kind of affirmative action for the Crimean Tatar people could be regarded as unnecessary. This, however, would leave intact the principal cause of conflict between the Crimean Tatar minority and the majority of the Crimean population imposing its will through "majority-based democracy" procedures and therefore easily circumventing any Crimean Tatars objections not supported by legal mechanisms. In this way, the Crimean vicious circle would endure.

Accordingly, it can easily be predicted that without a "status law," any further attempt to resolve any issue - be it representation, or the legalization of self-elected bodies, or land rights, or language and education problems - would, in all probability, face the same difficulties and the same resistance (and the same poor prospects of success). The inevitable implications are that precious time and human resources will continue to be wasted on fruitless and dangerous confrontation, thus hampering the further harmonization of Crimean Tatar-Ukrainian relations and the genuine integration of the Crimean Tatar people into Ukrainian society. It is also clear that the attempts to implement those decisions, decrees, and recommendations that have been adopted by the executive authorities but not backed by the comprehensive legal framework, always encounter serious difficulties essentially reducing their effectiveness. [144]

One additional reason for the adoption of a "status law" relates to pending draft legislation on the rehabilitation of formerly deported ethnic groups, as well as on the amendments to the law on national minorities. Their processing - in fact, the whole process of furthering minority-related legislation - is hampered by the major obstacle of the unresolved issue of a legally defined difference between national minorities and indigenous peoples. The impetus for this process had been expected to come from the Concept of Ethno-Politics in Ukraine, but this draft, though once again under consideration by the newly established working group, has also not yet been approved. It is obvious that all of these separate drafts must be brought into harmony with each other and with the Constitution of Ukraine, and that the law on the status of the Crimean Tatar people should be included into this legislative complex as an indispensable constituent.

It can be added that, in fact, the status of indigenous people for the Crimean Tatars might rather be regarded as that of a "nation without its own statehood." Since some special rights for this kind of ethnic entities are not yet enshrined in international law (though already addressed by academics and the research community, [145] this Ukrainian initiative seems worth more serious attention and international support than it has received thus far. By passing such a law, especially if combined with joining ILO Convention 169, an agreement would be reached between the State and the most vulnerable ethnic group of Ukraine that is, at the same time, the most organized and easily politically mobilized along the lines expressed by its well developed and authoritative political elite. This approach can be regarded as a sort of bargain, with mutual obligations assumed voluntarily by both sides. If each side upheld its part of the bargain, then the State would develop and implement decisive and viable guarantees for the revival and sustainable development of the Crimean Tatar people, who would in turn - pursuing the same aim - respond by rejecting more drastic options. (Like, for example, the establishment of their own sovereign state as the strongest guarantee for survival - a strategic political aim pursued by the most radical part of the Crimean Tatar community within Ukraine and abroad).

Can any better, more viable and realistic solution instead of the "status law" be recommended? The whole history of Crimean Tatars repatriation, which is also the history of their continued struggle for recognition as a "people," with the ensuing right to internal self-determination within the borders of today's Ukraine, casts doubts on a positive answer. The only alternative would be to establish in Crimea a national autonomy instead of an administrative-territorial unit. Since this prospect seems even less plausible, at least for several decades, the only remaining option is to focus efforts on mobilizing political and organizational support, national as well as international, and cultivating public opinion in favour of the eventual adoption of a Law on the Status of the Crimean Tatar People in Ukraine.

January-May 2002

End Notes

[1] In: "The Role of International Organizations and Donor Institutions in Solving Problems of Integration into Ukrainian Society of Persons Deported on Account of their Ethnic Origin from the Territory of Crimea." Collection of materials from the Round Table on September 28, 2000, Kyiv, pp.47-48.

[2] See: Kryms'ki Studii # 3, 2000, pp.63-66.

[3] This period is comprehensively covered by "Politics in and around Crimea: A Difficult Homecoming" by Andrew Wilson, in: The Tatars of Crimea: Return to the Homeland, Edward A. Allworth, ed., 1998, pp. 281-322.

[4] For broader context of the legislative proceedings on elections in the ARC, see "Crimean Election Law and Formation of Political Climate in the Autonomy," Research Update Vol. 8, # 4/252, January 28, 2002 (issued by the Ukrainian Centre for Independent Political Research, available also at the UCIPR web-site http://www.ucipr.kiev.ua).

[5] In addition to the three consecutive programmes on repatriation and resettlement of former deportees, on 10 January 2002 the Cabinet of Ministers adopted one more State Programme "On Adaptation and Integration into Ukrainian Society of Formerly Deported Crimean Tatars and Persons of Other Nationalities, Rebirth and Development of their Culture and Education."

[6] Four other groups of former deportees, namely, Armenians, Bulgarians, Germans, and Greeks constitute, all together, less than 2 % of all the repatriates.

[7] The repatriation of the Crimean Tatars was enormously delayed compared to that of all other formerly deported nationalities of the USSR. It only became possible after the formal restrictions were abolished by the Declaration "On Recognizing as Illegal and Criminal the Repressive Acts Against Peoples Subjected to Forcible Displacements, and Securing the Rights of These Peoples" adopted by the SC of the USSR on 14 November 1989.

[8] See speeches of the MPs Semenets, Koziarsky, Shevchenko, Volkovets'ky et al. Stenographic report of the two sittings of the SC of the Ukr.SSR on 12 February 1991, published (in Ukrainian) in Kryms'ki Studii, # 5-6, 2001, pp. 33-60.

[9] Ibid.

[10] This period is comprehensively covered by "Politics in and around Crimea: A Difficult Homecoming" by Andrew Wilson, in: The Tatars of Crimea: Return to the Homeland, Edward A. Allworth, ed., 1998, pp. 281-322.

[11] Published in the Collection of Documents by the Association "For inter-ethnic peace and understanding in Ukraine," Kyiv, 1999, pp. 45-47 (in Ukrainian).

[12] The Kurultay of 1991 was named the Second in order to memorize the First Kurultay of November 1917 that had declared the establishment of the Crimean Republic, adopted a democratic Constitution that guaranteed the right for self-determination for all peoples populating Crimea, and elected the government. The Second Kurultay of 1991 was meant to stress symbolically the continuity of that democratic tradition.

[13] Available (in Russian) at http://www.crimeatau.org.ua

[14] It should be remembered that at that time, the situation in Crimea was so strained and complex that such scenarios as either the establishment of some form of a Crimean statehood within the USSR, or, most probably, joining the Russian FSSR were viewed as quite plausible.

[15] About 92 % of voters supported the Act on Independence. In Crimea, there was the lowest turnout (65 % of the electorate), and the lowest affirmative vote (about 54 %).

[16] By that time, around 140,000 Crimean Tatars had returned, therefore, their votes should have been an essential part of those 561,500 residents of Crimea who supported Ukrainian independence.

[17] See, for example,"Who Has a Right to Crimea?" by Volodymyr Butkevych, 1992. Available at http://www.infoukes.com/history/crimea/index.html

[18] On this occasion, however, Refat Chubarov was allowed to present Crimean Tatars' claims to the session of the VR.

[19] Available (in Ukrainian) at http://www.rada.kiev.ua/cgi-bin/putfile.cgi

[20] Oleksandr Yemets, Deputy of the VR and member of the Reform and Order Party (PRP), from the very beginning of his political career in the late 80s and until the tragic death after a car crash on 28 January 2001, was strongly committed to democratic values and always belonged to the national-democratic wing of the Ukrainian political spectrum.

[21] To some extent, this might have been determined by personal views and preferences of the new minister, who in his previous capacity of academics and expert gained a reputation of a staunch opponent of indigenous status for Crimean Tatars. Also, Professor Mykola Shulga, the highly competent sociologist and former member of the Central Committee of the CPU, ideologically closely associated with the left wing.

[22] The last draft, submitted by the then Prime Minister Victor Yuschenko on behalf of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and registered by the VR on 08.08.2000, is an abbreviated version of the earlier elaborations, containing just a schematic outline of such categories as "national minorities" and "indigenous peoples." Remarkably, in the draft's section listing the priorities for further legislation strengthening a legal basis for ethno-politics in Ukraine, a draft law on the status of the Crimean Tatar people has been omitted.

[23] See, for example, the letters prepared by the Association "For inter-ethnic peace and understanding in Ukraine," and addressed to the Co-Chairs of the Constitutional Commission and to the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people in May and June 1995 (Collection of Documents, Kyiv, 1999, pp. 23-26).

[24] See "The Constitutional Process in the Autonomous Republic of Crimean in the Context of Interethnic Relations and Conflict Settlement" by Natalya Belitser and the references therein, Kryms'ki Studii, # 2, 2000, pp. 45-59.

[25] This paragraph reads that the rights of indigenous peoples are determined by the laws and legislative acts of Ukraine.

[26] Both Ukrainian and English versions of the two drafts were later published in Kryms'ki Studii # 1 (7), 2001.

[27] Fore more details on the existing definitions and criteria, see report by Natalya Belitser, in: "Crimean Tatars: "National Minority or Indigenous People?," UNCPD, Kyiv, 5 February 1999, pp. 15-32 (in Ukrainian).

[28] The view on this criterion as suitable for the purpose of defining the Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people seems shared by Max van der Stoel, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. In his letter of 14 February 1997, it was stated: "I do not intend to suggest that no distinction can be made between national minorities and indigenous peoples. An important difference is, in my view, that in contrast to a national minority, an indigenous people does not have a kinstate." Available at:
Also, it could be noted that the approach proposed by the Draft as early as in 1996, does not look outdated if compared with the definitions and criteria developed later. See, for example, "The Rights of Minorities: A Declaration of Liberal Democratic Principles Concerning Ethnocultural and National Minorities and Indigenous Peoples," adopted on
16 September 2000. Providing the explanation for the distinction between the three categories of minorities, this Declaration comments with regards to indigenous peoples, ."..Their additional and distinguishing characteristic consists in their having been settled in the land prior to the majority, and having become a minority by conquest and/or colonisation." (Both English original and Ukrainian translation are published in Kryms'ki Studii #1(7), 2001.)

[29] According to Art. 1 par. 2 of the ILO Convention 169, "Self-identification as indigenous or tribal shall be regarded as a fundamental criterion for determining the groups to which the provisions of this Convention apply."

[30] The actual language used by ILO Convention 169 (Art. 1 par. 3) reads as follows: "The use of the term people in this Convention shall not be construed as having any implications as regards the rights which may attach to the term under international law."

[31] For more details, see "Repatriation of the Crimean Tatars: A Chronicle of Events" by Julia Tyschenko and Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, published by the Ukrainian Centre for Independent Political research (UNCPD), Kyiv, 1999, pp. 195-215 (in Ukrainian).

[32] See "Informational report on the roundtable concerning the issues of indigenous peoples in Ukraine, 2 October 1998," State Committee of Ukraine on Nationalities and Migration, pp.1-14 (in Ukrainian).

[33] Ibid.

[34] See "The Constitutional Process in the Autonomous Republic of Crimean in the Context of Interethnic Relations and Conflict Settlement" by Natalya Belitser and the references therein. In: Kryms'ki Studii, #2, 2000, pp.45-59, and "Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian State: the Challenge of Politics, the Use of Law, and the Meaning of Rhetoric" by Oxana Shevel, Kryms'ki Studii, #1(7), 2001, pp. 109-129. Both papers are also available at:

[35] See, for example, "Crimean Concerns" by Refat Chubarov, Kryms'ki Studii #4, 2001, pp. 30-42, and "Only Ten Independent Steps: Tenth Anniversary of Ukraine's Independence and the Crimea" by Mycola Semena, ibid., pp. 20-29 (only Ukrainian versions yet available). For recent analysis, see also "Sergeyi Kunitsyn unites the democrats," Argumenty i Fakty, #5 (339), January 2002 (in Russian); and "Crimea: A Self-Programmed Future Crisis?" Dzerkalo tyzhnya, #5 (380), 9-15 February 2002 (in Ukrainian).

[36] See also "The Role of International Organizations and Donor Institutions in Solving Problems of Integration into Ukrainian Society of the Persons, Deported on Account of their Ethnic Origin, from the Territory of Crimea," speech by Natalya Belitser (Collection of the materials from the Round Table on September 28, 2000, Kyiv, pp. 49-54).

[37] This kind of criticism has been presented, for example, by Marcel Zwamborn, Consultant to the Council of Europe. (See: "Integration of formerly deported peoples from the Crimea: report of a mission from 20 to 29 September 2000," Council of Europe, Mig\cdmg\docs\2000\33e, pp. 9-10); and by Oxana Shevel from Harvard University, "Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian State: the Challenge of Politics, the Use of Law, and the Meaning of Rhetoric," Kryms'ki Studii, #1 (7), 2001, pp. 123-125).

[38] See, for example, the speech by the Ex-Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Julinski on 3 June 1999 (Proceedings of the Roundtable "Legal Measures to Secure the rights of the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine: Questions and Prospects," Kyiv, 3 June 1999, pp. 44-47).

[39] Five relevant UNCPD publications covered the presentations and verbatim reports of the discussions. In addition, in 1999 the same NGO compiled and edited a book presenting for Ukrainian readers the information about all contemporary Crimean Tatar public figures and political leaders.

[40] Various positions presented by the advocates and opponents of special legal status for Crimean Tatars can be found in the two publications by the UNCPD: "Crimean Tatars: "National Minority or Indigenous People?," Kyiv, 5 February 1999, and "Legal Measures to Secure the rights of the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine: Questions and Prospects," Kyiv, 3 June 1999.

[41] Contrary to this "historical" substantiation of Crimean Tatars being not autochthonous to Crimea, currently many scholars asserted the formation of their ethnos from numerous mountainous, coastal and steppe tribes of Crimea. These native groups were further mixed up with many other peoples and ethnic groups appearing on the scene at different times, including Europeans and only later those belonging to the Golden Horde warriors. Such a view seems now to prevail; for the most recent publications, see the first chapter of: The Crimean Tatars. The Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation by Brian Glyn Williams, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2001. 520 p.; also a contribution, "The Crimean Tatars" (by Greta Lynn Uehling) to the Encyclopedia of the Minorities, forthcoming in 2002. (The paper is also available at http://www.iccrimea.org.scholarly/krimtatars.html).

[42] See, for example, the presentation by Valentina Subotenko, Head of the Section on Citizenship Issues of the Administration of President of Ukraine, "Crimean Tatars: National Minority or Indigenous People?" Proceedings of the Roundtable, a Publication by the UNCPD, Kyiv, 5 February 1999, pp. 41-46; and that by Vyacheslav Oleschenko, deputy head of the Department on State and Legal Affairs of the Administration of president, "Legal Measures to Secure the rights of the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine: Questions and Prospects," Proceedings of the Roundtable, Kyiv, 3 June 1999, pp. 47-50.

[43] These fears are in fact not substantiated because they do not take into account the so-called "internal self-determination." For more details on the issue, see "The right for self-determination in the Crimean Tatar context" by Natalya Belitser, "Legal Measures to Secure the rights of the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine: Questions and Prospects," Proceedings of the Roundtable, Kyiv, 3 June 1999, pp. 10-20.

[44] This argument was provided, in particular, by Leonid Shklyar, Head of the Department of Political Analysis and Prognosis at the Administration of President of Ukraine ("Crimean Tatars: National Minority or Indigenous People?" Proceedings of the Roundtable, a publication by the UNCPD, Kyiv, 5 February 1999, pp. 54-62). Remarkably, the same reasoning can be found in the review of the Draft Concept of the National Policy of Ukraine Concerning Indigenous Peoples prepared by Max van der Stoel, the then OSCE HCNM (Letter of 14 February 1997).

[45] The argument provided by Leonid Shklyar, Head of the Department of Political Analysis and Prognosis at the Administration of President of Ukraine, see Footnote 30. Actually, the land issue for Crimean Tatars turned out to be rather discriminative, because as a consequence of deportation and living in exile, they were not members of collective farms and therefore, unable to enjoy preferential rights for participation in land privatization in Crimea. (For more details, see: "New aspect of land reform - on opportunity to redistribute lands in Crimea" by Valenina Telychenko, Kryms'ki Studii, # 4, 2000, pp. 84-86).

[46] Presentation by Valentina Subotenko, Head of the Section on Citizenship Issues of the Administration of President of Ukraine, see footnote 28.

[47] Incredibly, [but] the latter statement can be found in the Encyclopedia on Migration Processes in a Contemporary World: Worldwide, Regional, and Domestic Aspects (Yu. Rymarenko, ed.) published by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and Institute of State and Law with the support of the Ukrainian Office of the UNHCR, Kyiv, 1998. (See the article "Indigenous Peoples" on p. 388, which reads: "In Ukraine, to (the category of) indigenous peoples belong Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, Karaits, and Krymchaks").

[48] For comments and analysis of certain legal points addressed by this draft, see Ihor Koliushko, "Legal Measures to Secure the rights of the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine: Questions and Prospects," Publication by the UNCPD, Kyiv, 3 June 1999, pp. 31-34.

[49] Official recognition of Mejlis and Kurultay remained, after the Second Kurultay of 1991, among the most acute of Crimean Tatars' problems. Although the necessity of this was already recognized by the first President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk (speech presented in May 1994 on occasion of the Days Crimean Tatar culture in Ukraine, referred to by M. Julinski, 1999), no implementation of either President's or Cabinet of Ministers' intentions and recommendations occurred until May 1999.

[50] Published in Kryms'ki Studii #4, 2000, pp. 55-57.

[51] The Council is composed of all 33 members of the Mejlis; Mustafa Dzhemilev is Chairperson of both Mejlis and the Council, and Refat Chubarov serves as his First Deputy in both bodies.

[52] See, for example, an Appeal of the Russian Community of Crimea to Compatriots - a leaflet that appeared on the streets of Bakhchisaray in July 2001 (unofficial translation by Alim Memetov, distributed by the Crima-L on 24 July 2001). Even more pronounced hate speech, condemning not only Crimean Tatars but also their supporters from the Bakhchisaray regional State Administration, can be found in the Open Letter to the President of Ukraine signed by several public organizations - Russian Movement of Crimea, Council of the WWII Veterans, Society for Russian Culture etc. (Crimea-L, 24 August 2001). Crimea-L: A Discussion List on Crimea and Crimean Tatars at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crimea-l

[53] For the detailed reports on the Fourth Kurultay, see: Research Update, v. 7, #42/243, November 19, 2001 (issued by the UNCPD, available at http://www.ucipr.kiev.ua), and informal report by Kemal Seitveliev distributed by Crimea-L.

[54] UNIAN, November 11, 2001.

[55] For the report on the hearing and the adopted Recommendations, see Kryms'ki Studii # 3, 2000, pp. 51-59.

[56] This notorious Communist deputy is known for his extreme xenophobia and anti-semitic hate speech (see, for example, Bigotry Monitor, Vol 1, # 22, December 2001).

[57] See the verbatim report (in Ukrainian) in Kryms'ki Studii # 3, 2000, pp. 23-24.

[58] Such a view has been expressed, in particular, by Ivan Kuras, Vice-President of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and Director of the Institute of Political Science and Ethno-national Research. (See Kryms'ki Studii, # 3, 2000, pp. 20-21). His presentation was also a striking illustration of reversing, in less than two years, of the position claimed to be relying on the impartial research studies, as was so clearly expressed during the roundtable on 2 October 1998. (See footnote 23).

[59] Only 282 MPs were registered, whereas before the first sitting (morning of the same day), the turnout of deputies amounted to 349.

[60] For example, the absence of the universal definition for indigenous peoples as an argument against regarding the status of the Crimean Tatar people, discussed earlier and agreed upon as being not valid, was put forward during the parliamentary hearing by the opponents of the indigenous status.

[61] For an English translation of the full text of the Recommendations, see Kryms'ki Studii # 3, 2000, pp. 57-59.

[62] Available at http://www.rada.gov.ua

[63] See Holos Ukrainy, 6 February 2002.

[64] See Press Release of the Union of Georgian Repatriates of 28 January 2002.

[65] A statement repeated by many participants of the meeting interviewed in Simferopol on 19 May 1999, during the commemoration of the 55th anniversary of deportation.

[66] The references on these can be found in "Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian State: the Challenge of Politics, the Use of Law, and the Meaning of Rhetoric" by Oxana Shevel,
Kryms'ki Studii, #1 (7), 2001, pp. 123-125 (available also at:

[67] In this letter, available at:
the OSCE HCNM, though emphasizing that "international and Ukrainian legal instruments regarding national minorities... are applicable to indigenous peoples," admitted also that "I do not suggest that no distinction can be made between national minorities and indigenous peoples. An important difference is, in my view, that in contrast to a national minority, an indigenous people does not have a kinstate." (As can be seen, the quotation complies with the approach developed by draft Ukrainian legislation on the issue).

[68] Letter to Mr. Anatoliy Zlenko, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, 4 December 2001.

[69] Although the HCNM did meet with the two leaders of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, on the second day of his stay in Kyiv, and conferred with them for several hours, not a single word of information about this meeting has appeared in either electronic or printed media.

[70] See, for example, "Holos Ukrainy" from 5 February 2002, "Kiyevskiye Vedomosti" from 5 February 2002, "Nasha Gazeta" from 9 February 2002, "Presidentsky Visnyk" from 9 February 2002 et al.

[71] UNIAN On Line [04.02.2002 16:55].

[72] See the report by Eva Koprolin, Administrative Officer of the DGSAH, "The Role of International Organizations and Donor Institutions in Solving Problems of Integration in to Ukrainian Society of the Persons, Deported on Account of their Ethnic Origin, from the Territory of Crimea" (Collection of the materials frrom the Round Table on 28 September 2000, Kyiv), pp. 15-25.

[73] See "Repatriation and Integration of the Tatars of Crimea," Report by Lord Ponsonby, Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography, PACE Doc. 8655, 18 February 2000.

[74] The legal-political department of the Mejlis, and the Fund for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea, prepared and published a number of highly professional essays and papers analyzing international experience in securing the rights of indigenous peoples and its applicability to the situation of Crimean Tatars, also Krymchaks and Karaits. In particular, three special issues of the Informational Bulletin "Altin Besik" covering all aspects of the problem, were prepared for the participants of the VR hearing on 5 April 2000. (Compiled by Nadir Bekirov, President of the Fund, and Head of the legal-political department of the Mejlis).

[75] See a Statement by Mustafa Dzhemilev from 5 April 2000, Kryms'ki Studii #3, 2000, pp. 60-62.

[76] See, for example, A Report (by Kemal Seitveliev) on Seminar on the repatriation and Integration of the Tatars of Crimea, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography, Yalta (Ukraine), 6-8 October 2001 (available at http://www.iccrimea.org/reports/coe-seminar.html).

[77] Verbatim report available at http://stars.coe.fr./verbatim/20002/E/0002051500E.htm).

[78] Repatriation and integration of the Tatars of Crimea, PACE Recommendation 1455 (2000).

[79] See "Integration of formerly deported peoples from the Crimea (report of a mission from 20 to 29 September 2000)" by Marcel Zwamborn, European Committee on Migration, Strasbourg, 15 November 2000, Mig\cdmg\docs\2000\33e.

[80] See CoE Doc. 9121 from 14 June 2001.

[81] See the informal report by Kemal Seitveliev, available at:

[82] See: Parallel Report "About the situation in Crimea (Ukraine)," Prepared by the Foundation for Research and Support of the Indigenous Peoples of Crimea on Behalf of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar People in accordance with the article 25 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe. In the preamble to this document, it is said that though Crimean Tatars consider themselves not as a national minority but as indigenous people, in the absence of other legally binding international documents and national bills, the opportunity has been used to scrutiny how Ukraine observed the rights of the Crimean Tatars according to the Framework Convention. Available at:

[83] The Statements by Nadir Bekirov can be found in Crimea-L mailings from 6 February 2002.

[84] This prospect received also rather negative comments from some individual experts studying the situation in Crimea. For example, Bernd Baumgartl, PhD, in his report wrote that .".. neither should the Crimean Tatars insist on definitive solutions on their status of indigenous people, with respective pressure and ultimatums." (See: Evaluation of the International Renaissance Foundation Programme "Integration of the Crimean Deportees into Ukrainian Society" by Bernd Baumgartl, Kyiv/Simferopol/Vienna, 12 April 2001, p. 24 (author's archive).

[85] See, for example, "The rights of indigenous peoples: overview of the international experience" by Bill Bowring, Migration Issues in Ukraine, #2 (5), 1998, pp. 22-33.

[86] For the concise explanation of why Crimean Tatars should not be equated with the Tatars, for example, from the Kazan, Astrakhan etc., see "The Crimean Tatars" by Greta Uehling , p. 2 (available at http://iccrimea.org/scholarly)

[87] See the CoE Doc. 8655 from 18 February 2000,Recommendation 1455 (2000) from 5 April 2000, Order # 565 (2000) from April 2000, Mig\cdmg\docs\2000\33e from 15 November 2000, and Doc. 9121 from 14 June 2001.

[88] See "Integration of formerly deported peoples from the Crimea (report of a mission from 20 to 29 September 2000)" by Marcel Zwamborn, European Committee on Migration, Strasbourg, 15 November 2000, Mig\cdmg\docs\2000\33e.

[89] For broader context of the legislative proceedings on elections in the ARC, see "Crimean Election Law and Formation of Political Climate in the Autonomy," Research Update Vol. 8, # 4/252, January 28, 2002 (issued by the Ukrainian Centre for Independent Political Research, available also at the UCIPR web-site http://www.ucipr.kiev.ua).

[90] This was noted as one of the serious drawbacks of the Ukrainian election campaign of 1998 by the OSCE and PACE observer mission (see Holos Ukrainy, April 1, 1998).

[91] Such a decision was adopted by the Council of the Crimean Oblast of the Ukr.SSR in September 1990; and it specified that in any of the administrative-territorial units of the Crimea returnees should have constituted no more than 25 % of residents.

[92] See the previous part of the given paper.

[93] See Research Update Vol. 7, # 42/243,. November 19, 2001 (issued by the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research).

[94] Krymskaya Pravda, November 13, 2001.

[95] For a detailed analysis of both drafts, see also "Crimean Concerns" by Refat Chubarov, Kryms'ki Studii #4, 2001, pp. 30-42 (in Ukrainian).

[96] Stenographic report of the VR sitting on 3 July 2001.

[97] A strongest argument stressed that those deportations that had completely destroyed the coherence of centuries-long national life of Crimean Tatar people, and displaced also several other ethnic groups), were based on a principle of ethnicity. Therefore, to redress effectively the resulted huge losses and damages, some special measures or "affirmative actions" are needed in regard to these groups.

[98] See Election Update #26, 31 October 2001, issued by the Elections and Political Processes Project (EP3), Development Associates, inc., Kyiv, Ukraine.

[99] The main arguments to explain such a decision were as follows: all political parties in Ukraine have national status; this aims to promote the formation and expression of public political will at the national level. Also, Crimea is not a political autonomy, its VR has no legislative powers and is a kind of self-government body. Because of this, there are no political or constitutional grounds to form this representative organ on a proportionate or a mixed electoral system.

[100] See Kryms'ki Studii # 4, 2001, pp. 70-73.

[101] Quoted from the speech of Mustafa Dzhemilev at the 1st session of the 4th Kurultay of Crimean Tatar people, Simferopol, 9 November 2001.

[102] Interview with Refat Chubarov, Context, #6, 2001, pp.33-40.

[103] An Appeal of the Fourth Kurultay of Crimean Tatar people adopted on 10 November 2001 (issued in Ukrainian).

[104] Stenographic report of the VR session on 15 November 2001, available at http://oracle.rada.gov.ua.

[105] For a positive decision, no less than 226 voices are needed. To provide a clear picture of the different factions stand on the issue, the result of voting by factions was as follows: Communist Party of Ukraine - 106 votes, Socialist Democratic Party of Ukraine (united) - 16, non-allied MPs - 16, Socialist Party of Ukraine - 15, Apple - 14, Fatherland - 9, Greens - 5, Labour Ukraine - 5, UNR - 2, NRU - 1. Democratic Union - 1. For the description of this session, see also Election Update #30, November 16, 2001 (published by the Elections and Political Processes Project (EP3), Development Associates, Kyiv, Ukraine.

[106] Stenographic report of the VR session on 13 December 2001.

[107] The Statement of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people of 4 January 2002, Golos Kryma, 11 January 2002.

[108] See, for example, "Sergey Kunitsyn Unites Democrats" by Yevgeniy Tulub, Argumanty i Fakty, #5 (339), January 2002 (in Russian).

[109] See "What Takes Place in Crimea is an Outlawry" by Sergey Kunitsyn, 17.01.2002, at: http://part.org.ua

[110] These issues have been covered in more detail by Victor Khomenko (Holos Ukrainy, 9 January 2002) and Mykyta Kas'yanenko (Den, 9 January 2002).

[111] See Recommendation 1455 (2000) "Repatriation and Integration of the Tatars of Crimea" of the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE adopted on 5 April 2000, and Reply from the CoE Committee of Ministers (Doc. 9121) adopted on 14 June 2001.

[112] See "The Constitutional Process in the Autonomous Republic of Crimean in the Context of Interethnic Relations and Conflict Settlement" by Natalya Belitser and the references therein,Kryms'ki Studii #2, 2000, pp.45-59.

[113] Letter to Crimea-L members of 31 October 2001.

[114] Interfax-Ukraina, 19 January 2002.

[115] "Crimea: A Self-Programmed Future Crisis" by Mykola Semena, Dzerkalo Tyzhnya, #5 (380), 9-15 February 2002 (in Ukrainian).

[116] According to media reports, some steps in this direction have already been undertaken by the non-leftist electoral groupings. (See, for example, Ukrainian Regional Report: Elections Newsletter-2002, Issue # 2, 15 February 2002. Published by the Kyiv Centre of the EastWest Institute, available at: http://www.urr.org.ua/newsletter/2htm).

[117] "Serhiy Kunitsyn Unites Democrats" by Yevgeniy Tulub, Argumenty i Fakty v Ukraine v Ukraine #5 (339), January 2002.

[118] See, for example, "Crimea: A Self-Programmed Future Crisis" by Mykola Semena, Dzerkalo Tyzhnya, # 5(380), 9-15 February 2002 (in Ukrainian); and "The 'Team' against the 'Block'" by Yevgeniy Smirnov, Argumenty i Fakty v Ukraine, #7 (341), February 2002 (in Russian).

[119] Ibid.

[120] "Back and Forth in the Crimea" by Tammy M. Lynch. The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review, Volume VII, Number 5, 13 March 2002.

[121] Both electronic and printed media of Ukraine in a period between February 25 - March 5 widely covered these events, considering them as the main political news. For more details, see:
http://uatoday.net.news, http://www.versii.com

[122] See, for example, "Hrach Calls for a Coup D'Etat?" by Nicolas Voitovsky, http://part.org.ua, 26.02.2002, and "Hrach Takes a Path of War, or the Crimea May Repeat the Fate of Kosovo" by Oleg Mitrofanov, http://part.org.us, 28.02.2002 (in Russian).

[123] RFE/RL, "Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 5 March 2002, Volume 4, Number 9. (Available at http://www.rferl.com).

[124] Resolution of the Fourth Kurultay of Crimean Tatar people adopted on 11 November 2001.

[125] According to recent sociological surveys, "Nasha Ukraina" has the highest rating, and is the undoubted leader of the pre-election race, therefore, both positions in the block's list seem ensuring deputies' mandates. (See, for example, "Our Ukraine, CPU and SDPU(o) Lead the Rating - Sociological Survey," 1.03.2002, at http://part.org.ua, and "Winners and Losers of the Parliamentary Elections Are Already Known," 16.02.2002, at http://www.razom.org.ua.

[126] See "This is: 'Our Ukraine,'" Ukrains'ka Pravda (electronic version) of 16.01.2002 (in Ukrainian). Available at http://www.pravda.com.ua

[127] See report by Kemal Seitveliev disseminated by Crimea-L in November 2001.

[128] Holos Kryma, # 7 (431), 15 Febryary 2002.

[129] http://www.pravda.com.ua, 15.04.2002. For a detailed analysis of Ukrainian elections see, for example, The Ukrainian List (UKL) # 171, 11 April 2002, and # 172, 5 May 2002; "Ukraine Takes Two Steps Forward and, One Step Back" by Taras Kuzio, RFE/RL Newsline, V. 6 # 64, 5 April 2002, and numeous analytical reviews on Ukrainian web-sites.

[130] "The idea of quotas is no more actual" by Aleksey Nezhivoy, Krymskoye vremia, 30 April 2002 (in Russian).

[131] "Nasha Ukraina" took the third place in Crimea following CPU and Social Democrats (united). Interview with Refat Chubarov, 4 May 2002.

[132] See, for example, Research Update, Vol. 8, No 17/265, 29 April 2002 (available at http://www.ucipr.kiev.ua).

[133] Ibid., see also http://www..krym2002.com, 02.04.2002, and http://part.org.ua, 15.04.2002.

[134] At http://part.org.ua, 29.04.2002

[135] KrymTAU-Inform, 22.04.2002, at: http://www.crimeatau.org.ua , see also Interfax-Ukraine, 05.04.2002 (in Ukrainian).

[136] RFE/RL Newsline, V. 6, # 81, 30 April 2002.

[137] Only 15 deputies are members of the CPU, whereas in 1998, there were 36 of them (interview with Refat Chubarov, 4 May 2002).

[138] "The Day when the Strongest Turned Out Helpless" by Mykola Semena, Dzerkalo Tyzhnia 6-12 April 2002 (in Ukrainian).

[139] "Honeymoon in Crimea" by Lilya Budzhurova, at http://www.pravda.com.ua, 16.05.2002.

[140] "Hrach is 'Little Stalin' Today" by Mykola Semena, 30.04.2002, at http://pravda.com.ua (in Russian).

[141] Krymskoye Vremya; 30 April 2002 (in Russian).

[142] Interview with Refat Chubarov, 4 May 2002.

[143] Opinion by Mustafa Dzhemilev, at http://aspects.crimeastar.net, 1.05.2002 (in Russian).

[144] Several dozens of decrees and resolutions, addressing Crimean Tatar issues, have been adopted by the executive bodies of Ukraine over the last decade, but many important points remain nothing else but good intentions.

[145] See, for example, "Nations Without States" by Gidon Gottlieb, Foreign Affairs, May/June 1994, pp. 100-112.

© 2002 Natalya Belitser