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Crimean Tatars Presentation at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
and the Future of Crimea

The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation hosted the multi-media presentation, No Other Home: The Crimean Tatars, on September 12, 2008.  The Foundation welcomed an overflow crowd of over 50 guests, all eager to have a chance to see into the lives, culture, and history of the Crimean Tatars.  

The documentary project, which is sponsored by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, is co-directed by Maria Sonevytsky, an ethnomusicology Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University and Alison Cartwright, an award-winning New York based photographer.  Ms. Sonevytsky and Ms. Cartwright spent three weeks of May 2008 in Crimea documenting the life of Crimean Tatars through recorded interviews and photographs.

Scarred by a tragic history, the Crimean Tatars are struggling to reclaim their land after being deported by the Soviets in the 1944.  The project managers hope to bring light to the struggles and perspectives of the Crimean Tatars and the impact their return is having on the autonomous region of Crimea.  

As a promoter of human rights, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation aims to contribute to the global discourse on the rights of indigenous populations in disputed territories. The project assesses how the Crimean Tatar political community's support for the growth of a democratic and stable civil society in Ukraine has been a vital force in neutralizing the secession movement in the Russian-dominated territory of post-Soviet Crimea while, on the contrary, also stoking some of the inter-ethnic hostilities that are fodder for conflict and misunderstanding today.

As cited in the Krushelnycky article linked below, of Crimea’s population of around 2 million, roughly 1 million are ethnic Russians, 600,000 are ethnic Ukrainians, and 300,000 are Crimean Tatars. Tensions remain among the populations, exacerbated by the fact that some local authorities have been hostile to Crimean Tatar returnees. This hostility has led to some violent incidents. A large number of ethnic Russians resent being part of Ukraine, openly call for annexation by the Russian Federation, and support the recent actions of Russia in Georgia.

In the aftermath of the recent events in Georgia, the project that these two documentarians started has taken on a new meaning. Russia’s aggression in Georgia has raised concerns among some Western analysts that Ukraine might be targeted next, due to Crimea. Georgia and Ukraine share a lot in common: both are striving to enter NATO; both have a significant population of ethnic Russians; and both have disputed territories with mixed indigenous and minority populations. Furthermore, Crimea is of great strategic importance for Russia since its Black Sea Naval fleet is located at the Sevastopol port. Since the lease ends in 2017 it is feared that Moscow may try to destabilize Ukraine so that it can continue to control Sevastopol.

Echoing the events that unfolded in South Ossetia, Russia has tried to present itself as a defender of Russian citizens. Like in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, although not confirmed, it has been reported that Moscow has been issuing Russian passports to residents of Crimea. If there indeed is an increasing number of Russian citizens in the peninsula, it may give Russia a pretext to defend its citizens. 

And finally, Russia has attempted to conjure up yet another reason to intervene in Crimea – to protect an ethnic minority, the Crimean Tatars. The Russian media reported on a document of a group of Crimean Tatars that calls on the Russian and Tatarstan Presidents to defend their nations rights against Ukrainian “unceasing genocide.” The appeal, however, was later disowned by the leader of the group who said it was not an official document of the organization.

In the future, the documentarians hope to turn the project into an exhibit that will be shown it in cities such as Kyiv, Lviv, Simferapol, New York, and Washington. 

 

Crimean Tatars

 

To read more about Crimea in the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia conflict, please go to the following links:

http://georgiandaily.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7785&Itemid=65

http://azer.com/

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/ukraine/2008/ukraine-080824-rferl01.htm
 

For more information on the project, contact the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, 1701 K Street NW – Suite 903, Washington, DC 20006, telephone:  (202) 223-2228 or email:  info@usukraine.org.  

Your support of this project, No Other Home: The Crimean Tatars, is encouraged.
Click here to donate: http://www.usukraine.org/donate.shtml.

 

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