Sunday, February 19, 2017

Despite Opposition, Some Brave Russians Continue to Demonstrate for Crimean Tatar Rights

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 19 – Yesterday as they have done every 18th of the month since November, small groups of activists have come into the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg to demonstrate on behalf of the rights of the Crimean Tatars, actions that their participants say are the most difficult because of xenophobia, ignorance and viciousness of many around them.

            (The reason the demonstrations began on November 18th and continue on the 18th of each month since, participants say, is that it was on May 18, 1944, that the Soviet government deported the Crimean Tatars from their homeland to the wilds of Central Asia, an action in which so many of that nation lost their lives.)

            In a comment for the New Chronicle of Current Events portal, Yevgeniya Litvinova, one of the leaders of these actions, says that the reaction of most people to these demonstration is “extremely aggressive,” with participants being attacked and their signs ripped away (

                “Xenophobia,” she continues, “is a feeling which unites the minority of Russians. It is one of the bindings [Vladimir Putin loves to invoke]. And over the course of an hour on Nevsky Prospekt [in the northern capital, one can hear all the evil words about Tatars, about oneself and about other ‘traitors to the motherland.’”

            Butthere are other reactions as well, and these give Russian supporters of the Crimean Tatars some hope. One young couple shouted “Hurrah! Young people are behind you!” and an elderly lady said simply “’thank you.’” Perhaps especially moving was the man who once it was explained that it is the Russian occupiers repressing the Tatars said it was right to speak out.

            “Such words are the exception, and the rule [consists of] threats” and questions about how much the demonstrators are being paid and by whom, Litivinova says. Many passers-by insisted that “Crimea always was Russian” and that the Crimean Tatars as part of the Golden Horde “attacked Russia” and so had to be defeated and controlled.

            Instead of being intimidated by such comments or by the actions of provocateurs, she continues, those things simply underscore why such demonstrations by Russians in Russia are needed and why they must continue.

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