On May 18, 2009 the Crimean Tatar people gathered for all-Crimean mourning meeting, dedicated to 65th anniversary of deportation of their compatriots from the Crimea by Stalin's regime.
The Crimean Tatars went a long way from being declared a "non-people" to being part of the current Crimean government. It's hard to find anybody who would question this development.
But to understand better the current situation it's necessary to touch upon some historical aspects and have a short glance into the past. The Crimean Tatars are Turkic people who inhabited the Crimean peninsula (now a part of Ukraine) for over seven centuries. They established their own Khanate in the 1440s and remained an important power in Eastern Europe until 1783, when Crimea was annexed to Russia. During World War II, the entire Tatar population in Crimea fell victims to Stalin's oppressive policies. In spite of tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars together with inhabitants of Crimea of other nationalities fought against fascist occupants at fronts of war, on May 18, 1944 by the decision of the leadership of the USSR they were unjustly accused of being Nazi collaborators and deported and exiled en masse to remote regions of Central Asia, Siberia and Ural where many died of disease and malnutrition.
Colonial policy of Russian empire, which had destructive consequences for natural development of Crimea and its indigenous people, was transformed during years of Soviet totalitarian regime into system of repressive actions against Crimean Tatar people. Although, Soviet decree of 1967 removed the charges against Crimean Tatars, the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement in Crimea and to make reparations for lost lives and confiscated property.
In contrast to those times the situation nowadays considerably differs. We can see an unprecedented example of a voluntary decision of Ukraine to let deported people return to their land, which was taken at the very beginning of our independence. Ukraine unconditionally accepted Crimean Tatars back and immediately gave all of them citizenship, all political, social and cultural rights.
Up to now approximately 265 thousands Crimean Tatars have returned to Ukraine (above 14% of population of Autonomous Republic of Crimea, АRC). Adaptation, integration and settlement of repatriates are given strong support by the President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko and the Ukrainian Government working through the mechanism of the Council of representatives of Crimean Tatar people (Mejlis).
These quite complicated processes are carried out on the basis of long-term state programs. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has authorised the Program on deported Crimean Tatars integration to the Ukrainian society and the Program of assistance to social support and adaptation of Crimean Tatar youth for years 2006-2010. Let's have a look just at one figure, which reflects activity of the Government of Ukraine in this direction. In 2008 alone approximately 8.2 million USD were appropriated for the need of the Crimean Tatars.
For today search of sources of alternative financing to the state budget, in particular, attraction of the international help for deported is important. Particularly, Turkish businessmen are widely invited to invest to the economy of Crimea.
At the same time Ukraine highly appreciates an open-hearted approach of Turkey in solution of the problems concerning shortage of job opportunities and housing for Crimean Tatars. Those housing and infrastructure projects supported by the Turkish Government through the assistance programs demonstrate real co-operation and help which comes from Ankara. In this connection it's necessary to point out the positive dynamic demonstrated recently by the Turkish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (TIKA) which has been giving active and strong support for the development of Crimean Tatar infrastructure on the peninsula for the last decade.
Besides, during the parliamentary elections held in 2007 deputies of all levels elected from among the Crimean Tatars were close to 12% of total number of deputies. 7 members of parliament have been elected to Supreme Council of АRC. One representative of Crimean Tatars has been elected to Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council) of Ukraine. All these figures visually demonstrate that political rights of Crimean Tatars are preserved pro rata.
The state is seriously involved in formation of legislative basis for implementation of the rights of Crimean Tatar people. At present one of the important steps considers adoption a draft-law on restoration rights of persons deported by national identity. In this bill definition of such basic terms as "deportation" is made, and also a state guarantee of national minority's rights is given. On 8 of April, 2009 Ukrainian legislative body organized public discussion of this bill with attraction of the politicians and scientists which again confirmed their strong desire to strive for its support and necessity for its soonest adaptation at the highest Ukrainian parliamentary level.
Ukraine pays serious attention to preserving and augmenting rich culture of Crimean Tatars and education of the people. Nowadays at least three newspapers are published in Crimean Tatar language, 15 schools functioning where 4170 pupils study, Crimean Tatars TV editor office is broadcasted.
The Ukrainian authorities honour the memory of an outstanding Crimean Tatar public figure Ismail-bey Gasprinskiy. They also endeavour to restore Zindzirli Medrese in Bakhchisarai, a mosque Kebir-Jami in Simferopol and other national cultural and historical monuments of Crimean Tatars.
The substantial improvement in the life of the people, who came back to their homeland, is directly connected with Crimea's tourism sector, which has a potential to create additional jobs and to raise level of material well-being of each resident of the region. Several years ago the Council of Ministers of ARC already established the program of development of tourism field of Crimea, named "Seashore", aimed at creation of new jobs for the inhabitants of this peninsula.
But it is premature to say that all issues related to the settlement of Crimean Tatars are solved. In spite of strong efforts of all the parties concerned Crimean Tatars still come across big problems in the sphere of land issues (land distribution, land ownership etc.) on the peninsula. Competent authorities of Ukraine make an analysis of correspondence between concluded contracts of purchase or lease of large ground areas on the territory of ARC and the legislature of Ukraine. Upon finding any variances between them such contracts are annulled and land is relinquished to the state or to the legal owners. And this work will be continued.
We believe that the problems Crimean Tatars experienced in the past and still exist now nevertheless will not develop into political gridlock. We believe in wisdom of Crimean Tatar people and see solution of the existing problems only through cooperation and understanding. And without doubt, the highest leadership of Ukraine has enough will and experience to maintain inter-confessional peace and ensure social-economic stability in Crimea.
In conclusion let us remember the words Mustafa Dzhemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatars Mejlis in ARC once said that "...in the near-term outlook for the Crimean Tatar people the most significant date will be not a day of national mourning, but other, very joyful and bright date – the date of restoration of all their rights and national-territorial autonomy".
Dr. Sergiy Korsunsky, Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Turkey