By Paul Goble
Moscow is celebrating its Sevastopol accord with Kyiv as “a victory … over the West,” but unless it focuses on the issues raised by the Crimean Tatars, the Russian powers that be will fail to see that this “victory” is not so much a solution to the problem as a change in its nature, a Moscow analyst says.
In an analysis posted online today, Sergey Markedonov argues that both Moscow and Kyiv in their accord have neglected to take into consideration “a very important player” – the national movement of the Crimean Tatars, whose leaders are considering how to proceed in the wake of the new base accord (www.chaskor.ru/article/znakomaya_stilistika_17132).
Indeed, at the very time that the Kharkov accords were being signed, the Moscow analyst says, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people again put forward the notion to Ukrainian officials that the Crimean Tatars should receive “proportional representation in the organs of power” in Crimea.
According to Mustafa Cemilev, a leader of the Crimean Tatars and a member of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, “such quotas should exist ‘independently of whom we vote for.’” That is, Markedonov says, “if today according to the census, the Crimean Tatars form about 12 percent” of Crimea’s population, they must have an equal percentage of government positions.
Another Crimean Tatar leader, Ali Khamzin, the head of the department of foreign ties of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, says that “independently of the possible development of the situation in Ukraine” after the accords, the Mejlis and the World Congress of Crimean Tatars consider “the convention of an international conference on the security of the Crimean Tatar people.”
“The threat to this security,” Khamzin clearly believes according to Markedonov, “is the Russian presence in Sevastopol and in the Crimea as a whole.” Indeed, he characterizes “the accords as “a bomb which can lead to the disintegration of Ukraine,” much like the events in Georgia in August 2008 or Yugoslavia in 1999 but “without a single shot, bombing or force.”
Such possibilities, Markedonov continues, makes “the search for adequate assessments of the potential of the Crimean Tatar movement an extraordinarily important task today.” At the very least, he says, “it is much more useful than the celebration of the latest ‘victory’” over the West.
If that assessment is to be adequate, he says, it should not fall in the trap of “alarmist” predictions about “’a second Cyprus’” or “a second Kosovo’” but rather seek to consider the ways in which “the force” represented by the Crimean Tatars could become either “a factor of unleashing an ethno-political crisis or on the contrary could promote stabilization.”
After the Soviet Union collapsed, Markedonov points out, “two ethno-political movements – the Crimean Tatar and the pro-Russian – began to develop in parallel in the Crimea.” But if the latter reached “its peak in 1994,” the Crimean Tatar one “has demonstrated its vitality and creativity, skillfully playing on the complexes of the Ukrainian leadership.”
For nearly 19 years, the Moscow analyst says, “the Crimean Tatar movement on the one hand has spoken in support of the new state [of Ukraine], the inviolability of its borders and against pro-Russian Crimean separatism but on the other it has sought a special status on the Crimean peninsula, one that does not take the all-Ukraine legal bas too much into consideration.”
Since 1991, “the Crimean Tatar movement has actively used the practice of unilateral seizures of land parcels” in Crimea, a practice that is “partially” the result of the lack of land resources for those returning but one that “leaders of the Crimean Tatar movement “justify by the fact of the Stalinist deportation in May 1944.”
“In this way,” Markedonov says, “the tragedy of the Crimean Tatar people is presented by its current leaders as an event which legitimizes any illegal actions today. By the way,” he continues, “the illegal actions are connected not only with ‘the national trauma’ but also with the high level of corruption” in Crimea, something that makes resolving the problem more difficult.
And that in turn feeds in to another danger, the Moscow analyst suggests. “One cannot fail to see the growth of radical Islamism among the Crimean Tatar youth,” something that he suggests is “a threat not only to Russian and Ukrainian security but to the secular national movement of the Crimean Tatars.”
That danger also helps to explain why the Crimean Tatar Mejlis’ department of external affairs is now calling on that body “to consider the question about the preparation of an appeal to the leadership of Ukraine, the EU countries, the US, Russia and Turkey, the countries of the CIS and also international organizations like the UN, PACE and the OSCE.”
“In this appeal of the Crimean Tatar people as a subject of international law,” Markedonov points out, “’the question about support for the resolution of the national question arising from the deportation of 1944 and the provision of guarantees, security, the right to existence and development as the indigenous people of Crimea.’”
Anyone “familiar” with appeals from Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh,” Markedonov says, will note a certain common “style.” And anyone who does not want the Crimean issue to grow over into something like one of these others must focus on this issue now. Otherwise, he says, “the dividends of ‘the Kharkov victory’ will not be too much in evidence.”