Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Tatars – Crimean and Kazan – Back European Choice for Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 27 – The Tatars, both Crimean and Kazan, are two of the small group of nations on the territory of the former Soviet space that is actively committed to the expansion of democracy and other Western values, and so it is no surprise that each of them has declared itself in support of a European choice for Ukraine.

            The Crimean Tatars are the most directly involved because a major part of their community lives within the boundaries of Ukraine. (The remainder is in exile in Central Asia.) Over the last few days, hundreds of Crimean Tatars went to Kyiv to take part in pro-Europe demonstrations (

            Those who made the trip did so on an individual basis, but before they left, they asked representatives of the Mejlis for Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian flags to carry. Members of the Mejlis expressed their support for this effort. Once they arrived in the Ukrainian capital, they linked up with the Crimean Tatar organization in Kyiv.

            One Muslim leader on the peninsula said that their participation in the Maidan represents “a major plus not only for the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people but also for Ukraine” because it shows that] there is such firm support for democratic values in society.” He added that he “personally” had been inspired by this.

            Before the Crimean Tatars left for Kyiv, they organized a demonstration under the banner of “I choose the EU” in Simferopol/Akmesdzhite on the lines of those which took place throughout Ukraine.

            Meanwhile, leaders of the Kazan Tatar nationalist movement released a statement in support of a European choice for Ukraine.  They said that they wanted to express solidarity with all Ukrainians who “want to live in a free, European, and democratic state” and with Yuliya Timoshenko who has declared a hunger strike (

            The Kazan Tatar leaders said that they considered “the most important task of the Ukrainian people at the present moment” to be “the struggle for national and social liberation, for the construction of a genuinely independent Ukrainian national state and against the enslavement in whatever form of one people by another.”

            History shows, the Kazan Tatars said that “only an independent Ukrainian state will secure the Ukrainian people the best conditions for its all-sided spiritual and material development and that only such a state can be a reliable guarantee of a genuinely free, really happy, and well-off life for the Ukrainian people.”

            Among the signatories of this declaration are Raif Galiyev, the president of the Council of Elders of Tatartan, Fauziya Bayramova, the president of the Milli Mejlis of the Kazan Tatar, Rafis Kashapov, the president of TatarSocial Center, Nail Nabiullin, president of Azatlyk, Ayrat Shakir, the imam of the Tatar national movement, Nafiz Kashapov, a Kazan Tatar émigré in Kyiv, and Farit Rakhimov, president of the Tatar Teachers Association.

            Some may be inclined to dismiss these moves as simply efforts by small groups of people to call attention to themselves by exploiting the events in Kyiv, but that would be a mistake.  Both the Crimean Tatars and the Kazan Tatars have been consistent in their pro-European stance, something that makes their support worth having whatever happens in Kyiv.

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