Monday, February 15, 2016

DE-OCCUPY CRIMEA: End Russian Occupation, Restore Crimean Tatar Republic

Remember Crimea
A Crimean Tatar protest against Russian occupation of Crimea.
 The sign reads: "We are on our own land." 
A new organization, De-Occupy Crimea, has been formed to help end the illegal Russian occupation of Crimea and restore the "Crimean Tatar Autonomous Republic" within an independent Ukraine.  Sound like a dream? It won't be easy. It will take time. But given the history of the Crimean Tatar people, out of sheer force of will, they will one day be masters of their indigenous homeland. 

"We have the legal status of being the indigenous population of Crimea and we need to act on its behalf," the Majlis Congress declared in August 2015 in Ankara, and again at its congress in December 2015 in Kyiv.  "The right to self-determination belongs to the indigenous Crimean Tatar people."  (Paul A. Goble, "New Organization Formed,", 4 Dec. 2015.) 

Crimean Tatars, a peaceful and long-suffering people,
mourn the 2014 Russian takeover of their homeland. 
After heroic efforts to return to Crimea & rebuild their
homes and communities, they find theselves once again
under the genocidal thumb of Russia. 
De-Occupy Crimea has been registered as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Ukraine and plans to work with international organizations and the Ukrainian government to make its case.   It is calling on national and world leaders and the international community to recognize its claims as indigenous people.  It also seeks international recognition that "the actions of Russia in Crimea are a genocide, beginning from the moment of the inclusion of the peninsula in the Russian Empire in 1783 up to the present day."  Over that period "more than a million and a half Crimean Tatars were forced to leave their motherland," and half of those deported in 1944 by Stalin died as a result."

Concerned about the continued suffering of the Crimean people, the death and disappearance of hundreds of Tatar, the human rights abuses, and the seeming indifference of Ukrainian authorities "despite bold words," De-Occupy Crimea is dedicated to increasing efforts to make sure that "Crimea is not forgotten."
Crimean Tatars form De-Occupy Crimea 
As Eurasian specialist Paul Goble noted after the recent World Congress:
“The Crimean Tatars for the last 300 years have developed their own immunity to the kind of difficulties they face now because they survived both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.....They will survive Putin’s Russia, and help bring to an end the illegal Russian anschluss of their homeland." (, 12/2015)  

My Peace Corps friend Jud Dolphin, now serving in Skopje, Macedonia, reminded me, in an article he wrote for the Street newspaper he works with, of a wonderful quote by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr: “Nothing worth doing is complete in our lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope.....Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love." 

TO WATCH FOR: A new documentary is coming out in March 2016 in Washington, DC: "A Struggle for Home: The Crimean Tatar," by filmmaker Christina Paschyn. Link: to learn more about this film and to see a trailer.

See also blog on Mustafa Dzhemilev, a long-time fighter for the rights of the Crimean Tatar:

Readings on the Crimean Tatars: Blog post from my PCV friend Barb Wieser.  A SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Sometimes people ask me where they can read more about the history of Crimean Tatars and their struggles. I always first point them to the website of the American diaspora organization, International Committee for Crimea ( which is filled with informative, well researched articles. 

Unfortunately,  there are very few English language books about the Crimean Tatars, and with one exception, they are all academic books and not readily available or easily accessible for the average reader. However, if you do wish some in depth reading, here is a list of books that you can perhaps find in your library or order from the internet or your local bookstore.
The haunting cover of the French
edition of Lily Hyde's Dream Land.

1.       Dream Land: One girl’s struggle to find her true home by Lily Hyde (Walker Children’s Paperbacks, 2008)
This young adult novel—the only work of fiction that I know of in English that tells the story of the Crimean Tatar’s return to Crimea—seems to be well researched and does a good job of  showing actual events through the eyes of a young Crimean Tatar girl. 

2.       The Crimean Tatars by Alan W. Fisher (Hoover Institution Press, 1978)
This is the only comprehensive history book about the Crimean Tatars and includes much information about the time of the Crimean Khanate (14th-18th centuries). It was published before the Crimean Tatars began to return to Crimea so their current history is not included in the book. However, the fact that The Crimean Tatarsremains in print and is also now available in a kindle edition, attests to the continuing value of this work.

3.       The Tatars of Crimea: Return to the Homeland, edited by Edward A. Allworth (Duke University Press, revised edition, 1998)
This is an update of Allworth’s original book published in 1988. It is a collection of essays by different  scholars of the region—almost half of whom are Crimean Tatar—that discusses Crimean Tatar identity, politics of Crimea, life in exile, and return to their homeland. It also has a great deal of information about Ismail Gasprinskiy and his importance in Crimean Tatar history.

4.       The Crimean Tatars: The Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation by Brian Glynn Williams (Brill Academic Publishers, 2001)
Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to read this volume because the library does not own a copy, but I wanted to list it as one of the very few books concerning the Crimean Tatar experience.

5.       Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars’ Deportation and Return by Greta Lynn Fehling (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)
Beyond Memory is the most recent of the academic books written about the Crimean Tatars and I found it the most interesting, especially Uehling’s exploration of what kept alive the desire to return through the years of exile. It is filled with interviews by the author with Crimean Tatars directly involved in the national movement to return and the often violent protests that marked the Tatars’ return to Crimea.

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