Measures Taken by the Federal and Regional Authorities in the Interests of the Crimean Tatar Population

According to the data provided by the Federal State Statistics Service of the Russian Federation as of January 1, 2019, about 230,000 Crimean Tatars (12.2 per cent of the total population) live in the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. Though they are widely spread across the region and do not constitute a majority in any municipal entity, they are concentrated predominantly in the Kirov and Belogorsk Regions (about a third of the population), with the smallest number living in Yalta (2 per cent).

The federal authorities have constantly given serious attention to the needs of the Crimean Tatar community. The mechanisms have been legislated to ensure the rights of these people. The Constitution of the Republic of Crimea has set out their language as one of the official languages, as well as enshrined the principle involving the creation of equal conditions and opportunities for the development of all national cultures.

The work is underway to overcome the negative historical heritage of the Soviet period. The Decree No. 268 on Measures to Rehabilitate the Armenian, Bulgarian, Greek, Crimean Tatar and German People and to Provide State Support for their Revival and Development (as amended on September 12, 2015) signed by the President of the Russian Federation on April 21, 2014, is being implemented. Moreover, Law No. 1107-1 of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic of April 26, 1991, on the Rehabilitation of Repressed Peoples and Law No. 1761-1 of the Russian Federation of October 18, 1991, on the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Political Repression are applied in full to the Crimean Tatars. The first phase of construction of a Memorial Complex to the Deportation Victims has been completed in the village of Siren, Bakhchysarai district.

Within the framework of the Federal Special Purpose Program for the Development of Crimea until 2020, USD 180 million were allocated for financing the measures to rehabilitate the repressed peoples, which exceeds the budget foreseen by Kiev for the "provision of the necessary facilities to national minorities" (USD 2.5 million in 2014). Since 2015, the State program "The Republic of Crimea – the Territory of Interethnic Harmony" (with the budget of RUB 10 billion) has been implemented to finance the construction of socially significant facilities for Crimean Tatars, including housing and gas supply infrastructure, as well as to support the national media.

With the help of the Land Commission established under the instruction of the Head of the Republic of Crimea, contradictions around the so-called "land grabbings" carried out by Crimean Tatars during the period of Ukrainian sovereignty over the peninsula are being gradually resolved. In particular, an inventory of more than 60 land plots has been made, with more than 3,500 people recorded in the Unified State Register of Immovable Property Rights and Related Transactions as owners of such plots.

Within the framework of the Federal Special Purpose Program and the relevant programs of the State Committee on Interethnic Relations and Deported Citizens of the Republic of Crimea and the Government of Sevastopol, 60 families were provided with housing in 2017 and 120 families – in 2018. Around 300 ethno-cultural events are organized annually (almost 80 per cent of which serve the interests of Crimean Tatars).

Funds are being allocated from the federal budget to repair and restore the Bakhchysaray Historical, Cultural and Archaeological Museum-Reserve (by 2021, RUB 1.6 billion is planned to be allocated for the restoration of all 16 buildings of the Khan's Palace, only. No works with so huge funding were carried out over the last 30 years). The restoration works are carried out by Russian (Moscow and Kazan) experienced specialists. Thus, we consider unfounded the rhetoric with references to the need for "inspections" by "more professional" Turkish or Middle Eastern art restorers and architects.

The Crimean Tatars widely participate in the electoral process. Up to 40 per cent of the community participated in the elections of the President of the Russian Federation in March 2018. In general, the voting results reflect the prevailing sentiments, inter alia, concerning the lack of statistically significant support for the so-called "alternative Crimean agenda" on the part of individual presidential candidates, which envisaged for repeating the referendum on the status of the peninsula.

The ethnic group successfully exercises its voting rights: 150 Crimean Tatars were elected to the local councils following the elections which took place in the Republic. At the same time, regular calls of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, which is prohibited in Russia, to boycott any election campaigns on the peninsula do not gain support among the Crimean Tatars. The Crimean Tatars favor the upcoming regular Republican government elections, which will be held this year. The elections promote the positive dialogue between the Crimean Tatar community and local authorities. Crimean Tatars are represented in Crimean government structures at all levels (including the federal one) and in government bodies, including law-enforcement ones, in proportion to their share of the population (not less than 10 per cent of officials).

Ruslan Balbek is a Crimean deputy in the State Duma who was elected on the United Russia party list and is the Honorary President of the public organization Regional National and Cultural Autonomy of Crimean Tatars in the Republic of Crimea.

The republican authorities provide significant support to the Crimean Tatar community in spiritual and religious spheres. The Spiritual Council of Muslims of Crimea and city of Sevastopol (SCMCS, re-registered in 2015 as a centralized religious organization in Russia) with Mufti Emirali Ablaev at its head conducts constructive work in the realm of countering nationalist and extremist views among Crimean Tatars. SCMCS exerts canonical governance over 187 officially registered local religious Muslim organizations, which possess their own houses of worship and mosques. Muslim feasts are annually declared as holidays, pilgrimage to Mecca is organized, processing of international passports is being simplified for the Crimean people who participate in the annual Hajj. In spring 2020, the construction of the Chief Cathedral Mosque in the city of Simferopol (with a capacity of 4,000 people) will be completed.

At an expanded meeting of the Kurultai of the Crimean Muslims in February 2018, a Shura/Council of the Crimean Tatars (headed by Mufti Emirali Ablaev) was established in the framework of the SCMCS, which works towards enhanced interaction with the regional authorities. Distinguished cultural leaders and secular priests of the community are elected to the Shura/Council of the Crimean Tatars. At the same time, unlike other ethnic communities of the peninsula which enjoy only national and cultural autonomies, the Crimean Tatar community has its own consultative ethnic body, being unique in many ways, – the Coordinating Council of the Crimean Tatars, which was established under the Office of the Head of the Republic of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov (Emirali Ablaev is one of the two Deputies). The results of the 6th Kurultai of the Crimean Muslims (October 2018) confirmed the efficiency of such ways of cooperation.

A range of local and regional national and cultural Crimean Tatar autonomies function officially. The Republican House of Friendship was established in the city of Simferopol in order to harmonize the inter-ethnic relations and contribute to the work of the national and cultural autonomies of the Republic of Crimea. Besides, more than 30 public associations of the Crimean Tatars function and include such recognized organizations as Milli-firka, Kyrym Birligi/Crimean Unity and Kyrym/Crimea, which comprise more than 30,000 people. Gaspirali Media Center, Television and Radio Company Millet with the radio station Meydan as well as editions in ethnic languages:  Yanji Dunjia, Kyrym, Yyldyz, Arzy, Armachyk, Khidayet, Suvdagsesi, etc. receive government support. The radio station Vetan Sedasy began broadcasting. In general, 58 Crimean Tatar mass media outlets are functioning now.

The first Crimean Tatar public television – Television and Radio Company Millet (The People) is actively developing and receives funding, inter alia, from the State budget. There are several studios within the TV channel, 22 projects are being implemented. The Public Council functions in the framework of the Company. Despite the fact that the channel has begun broadcasting only recently, the TV channel has launched the satellite TV broadcasting for the most parts of Russia as well as for Eastern European and Central Asian states, mainly for Turkic-speaking countries. A great deal of cultural and educational work is carried out by the Gasprinsky media center which in fact has recently become a republican media holding that publishes the Crimean Tatar periodicals (it has its own publishing and printing office), as well as by a media-club that united all national artist groups of the peninsula.   

After 2014, the Crimean Tatar theatre and the Crimean Tatar museum of cultural and historical heritage received additional funding. The Crimean Tatar artist groups and solo artists work in the Crimean state philharmonic and receive state funding. 

The Crimean state industrial pedagogical institute established earlier for the Crimean Tatars, unlike other Crimean higher education institutions, has not become a part of Vladimir Vernadsky Crimean Federal University in 2014. Today, it is an independent republican institution of higher education with more than 50 per cent of the Crimean Tatar students. Furthermore, in order to develop the capacity of the Crimean Tatar youth, the Center for Youth Tolerance is being created at the University (currently, a modern 12-storey building is being completed) and is expected to function as an independent budgetary educational institution. The Crimean Federal University and the Crimean state industrial pedagogical institute have two departments of the Crimean Tatar language, there is a research center of the Crimean Tatar philology, history and culture of the Crimea (during the "Ukrainian period" it was just a "center" with a lower priority status).

The language of the community is studied in the general education institutions upon applications from parents. Appropriate classes or groups are formed in accordance with the needs of the population. In the 2017 – 2018 academic year, in Crimea there were 15 general education institutions (3,753 students) and 133 special classes (1,879 students) with the national component. At the same time, the number of students who study in the Crimean Tatar language is increasing rather than reducing despite forgeries of official Kiev authorities and Mejlis representatives.

Over the last years 66 textbooks with a circulation of 81,000 copies were translated, edited and published in the Crimean Tatar language, since 2018 the first original study materials for the language and literature of this nation have been used in the educational process.   

Positive results of deliberate efforts of the republican authorities and community activists are reflected in the understanding of their historical past that is quite difficult for the majority of the Crimean Tatars, they are also reflected in the discussions concerning editing of the textbooks and study materials in the Crimean Tatar language. Against the long-dominant isolation of the Crimean Tatar descendants, veterans of the Great Patriotic War, on ethnic grounds, the participation in the parade on May 9, 2019, in Crimea (for the first time) of the separate Crimean Tatar component in the Simpheropol "Immortal Regiment" column was perceived quite positively.  

The Crimean Tatars have been successfully integrated in the Russian society, 95 per cent of them obtained Russian citizenship, retired employees receive payments from the Russian budget. According to FADN survey (January 2017), 75 per cent of the community representatives are satisfied with the standard of living, 65 per cent assess the situation on the peninsula positively, 81 per cent do not see manifestations of interethnic tensions. 

In April 2017, the International Court of Justice while considering the claims of Ukraine against Russia concerning the application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965 in its preliminary decision (on interim measures) did not support the forged accusations of Russia by Kiev regarding the alleged erasure of cultural identity of the Crimean Tatars on the peninsula carried out by Russia. Nor were substantiated the Ukrainian accusations that the Russian authorities allegedly prohibit the Crimean Tatar representatives to organize demonstrations and public events in Crimea and limit opportunities to receive education in the national language. 

The Days of the Crimean Tatar Culture held in December 2018 in Ankara contributed to the objective perception of the real life of the Crimean Tatars on the peninsula by their largest diaspora abroad, in Turkey.