Friday, May 23, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Crimean Tatars View Russia as If It Were Still the Soviet Union, Zorin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – Vladimir Zorin, a former Russian nationalities minister, says that the Crimean Tatars continue to think about themselves in terms drawn from the Soviet past but have infused these terms with anti-Soviet attitudes and that this contradiction explains many of their current problems.

            In an interview given to Yuliya Taratura of “Dozhd” television, the former minister and current deputy director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology says the problems of the Crimean Tatars arise from the rapidity of change in Russia since 1991, their failure to recognize that, and Kyiv’s failure over the last 20 years to solve their problems (

            Zorin said this has left the Crimean Tatar community divided and uncertain, noting that during a recent visit he had met members of that nation who had voted in favor of the referendum as well as those who had not voted at all. And he blamed this divide and uncertainty on the failure of the Crimean Tatrs to see that Russia is not the Soviet Union.

            In his opinion, “the Crimean Tatars are still living in the Soviet Union and by the way, many in Crimea with whom we met still view out reality as that of the Soviet Union. But much has changed.” And such “anti-Soviet” attitudes are thus extended to the Russian Federation in the form of “anti-Russian” ones.

            Zorin argued that Russia now has a good track record of resolving ethnic issues and said that he “doesn’t know a single people today in our Russian Federation which feels itself in any way denigrated” by the system.  If the Crimean Tatars knew that, they would not have the attitudes they do.

            Unfortunately, he continued, they and others do not because the media in Ukraine and the media in Russia talk about different things. “As one acquaintance put it half-jokingly,” the former nationalities minister said, “we have won the information war on our territory and the Ukrainian authorities have won it on theirs.”

            With regard to the federalization of Ukraine, Zorin insisted that Moscow had made no demands on that point but only suggestions based on its experience in solving the nationality question.  Even though Russia is mono-ethnic and the annexation of Crimea has boosted the Russian share of the population by 0.7 percent, it remains a federation. 

            Zorin pointed out that “the Russian Federation is the only country on the territory of the former Soviet Union which has preserved ... a federative system for the state. No other former Soviet republic has gone along this path.” Had Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova or other countries done so, he insisted, “they would not have had those problems which they have today.”

            The former minister denied that Moscow had had a clear plan in advance to make Crimea or any part of Ukrainee part of Russia or to dispatch “our own people” there.  What has happened has been in response to what Ukraine has done.   The Kremlin and Russia did not create the current problems; “the real mistake and a real lack of desire for dialogue” by Kyiv did.


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