Crimean Tatars feared for their safety when Crimea voiced allegiance to Russia after Ukraine ousted Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovych on February 22. Their fears grew when Russia increased its presence and they realized Crimea would be annexed. To ease these concerns, Moscow and the new Crimean government promised the Tatars equal treatment, including 20% representation in Parliament. The promise was broken Sunday.
Vice President of the Crimean Parliament and head of the constitutional committee Grigory Ioffe said the decision to grant the Crimean Tatars a quota-based representation had been made before Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill of annexation.
No legislative measure to create such type of quota exist under Russian law, Ioffe stated, before adding that elections for executives in Russia were done through “principles of equality.”
Ioffe did say Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar will be the official languages of Crimea.
Crimea voted on March 16 to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Almost 60% of the population are ethnic Russians, while Tatars make up 15%. Tatars used to be the majority, but Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin deported them to Central Asia after World War II. The people only started making their way home in the 1980s.
Tatar leaders pushed the population to boycott the March 16 referendum, and many escaped to Ukraine’s mainland.
On March 19, Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev told Russian media that Parliament wanted the Tatars to leave their lands and relocate.
The Tatars’ worries escalated, and on Saturday they voted for autonomy in Crimea.