After a quick summary of the complicated history of Russian-Tatar relations, it is time to delve into the related posts by sociologist Elena Ostryakova, from Moscow. The four links are this, this, this, and this.
As I mentioned before, Ostryakova writes about the Crimean Tatars and whether or not they are re-integrating back into the Russian governmental authority, after 25 years living under Ukrainian authority.
The current conflict, such as it exists, involves three major parties: (1) The Crimean Tatars themselves, who, as a community, have their own culture, history, traditions and communal political leaders; (2) The government of the Russian Federation, which now holds jurisdiction over the Crimean peninsula; and (3) the Ukrainian government, currently in the hands of Nationalist/Banderite political parties.
This third element is politically hostile to Russia, considers Russia to be its main enemy and intends to use any other elements or groups, for example Tatars and/or Islamists, as weapons against Russia. In one sense, the Ukrainian Nationalists are just a fringe group with a bizarre ideology; but in another sense they are geopolitically important, in that they have the full support of Western governments. Western governments and media help to promulgate Ukrainian Nationalist propaganda, their version of history, and their version of reality. In their version of reality, Crimean Tatars are chafing under the Russian “occupation” and yearn to return to Mother Ukraine.
Crimean Tatars constitute 13% of the population of the Crimean peninsula, which makes their opinions and attitudes very important. If they were all to go into opposition mode and take up arms against Russia, as the Ukrainians and Westies wish they would, then things could get very sour, very fast.
Fortunately for Russia, this is not happening. Ostryakova quotes Igor Barinov who heads the Russian Federal Agency on Nationalities issues. Barinov, on the results of his scientific survey: “The data from our survey will upset the Ukrainian propagandists: 0% of Crimean Tatars wish to move to the Ukraine. Only 2% of the Crimean Tatars nurture any kind of hopes regarding the Ukraine.”
Barinov goes on to cite, that 75% of Crimean Tatars are satisfied with their condition, and 61% have confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tatars are a suspicious people and may have been wary at first: In the Reunification Referendum, only 17-24% of the Tatars took part in the voting. In essence, they boycotted the vote. However, in recent elections to the Duma, Tatar percent of participation went up to 42%. This shows, according to Barinov, that Tatars are starting to think of themselves, not just as passive residents of Crimea, but as active citizens as well. Barinov reckons that around 70% of the Crimean Tatars have successfully adapted to life as Russian citizens. On the question as to whether they experience problems associated with their ethnicity, 9% of the Crimean Tatars report experiencing problems; this compares to an overall average of 5% for national minorities within the Russian Federation as a whole.
The Issue Of Dual Identity
Next, Ostryakova quotes a man named Vladimir Zorin, who is the Deputy Director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Zorin’s bio shows that he was born in 1948 in Vinnitsa, then a city in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Zorin graduated from the Tashkent Economic Institute in 1970. He taught Economics, History and Politics. Zorin was a member of the Communist Party, and even a regional Secretary. He lived and worked in Uzbekistan; when the Soviet Union split up he apparently became an Uzbek and even served as Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation (1991-93).
Zorin’s career in the 1990’s shows the usual pattern of educated people scrambling to earn a living while everything is collapsing around them. People who are used to a calm academic or institutional career are now expected to become overnight entrepreneurs and found their own companies, which Zorin attempted to do; but this kind of life is not for people like him. Fortunately, in time, and given his talents, he was able to find gainful employment in his usual metiers, as an academic Professor, and also holding various political posts. By the year 2000 Zorin seems to have worked his way back to Moscow and various posts within the Russian government. During this same year he successfully defended his dissertation. His specialty is the nationalities issue. A man of many talents, Zorin is also a writer and landscape painter. He is married and has three children. His political affiliation is a patriotic faction called “Russia – Our Home“.
Ostryakova quotes Zorin delivering the results of his survey on Crimean identity issues. Unfortunately, Ostryakova’s piece on Zorin’s study is rather sparse, and I could not find the original data of the survey. Zorin is quoted as saying, “Compared to other Crimean regions…”, but the piece does not state which region Zorin surveyed. From the context it is clear that he surveyed two cohorts, one of adults, and one of youth; but we are not given any information about the numbers or where these samples were taken from. According to Zorin, of those he sampled, over 10% of Crimean adults and 23% of schoolchildren and college students, consider themselves to have a dual linguistic and ethnic identity.
Zorin on linguistic identity: “Among Russians, 21% consider Ukrainian to be their second native language. Among Ukrainians, 38% consider Russian to be their second native language. One often encounters these categories [of people defining themselves]: Russian-Crimean Tatar; Russian-Belorussian; Russian-Armenian; Russian-Azerbaijani. Crimean young people [when surveyed] named as their second language over 30 different languages, including some rare ones such as Karaim.”
Switching to “civic” identity issues: Zorin conducted his survey during the peak of the “blackout“, in other words this was back in November, 2015 when all of the Crimean peninsula was deprived of electricity due to malicious sabotage. Ukrainian Nationalists and pro-Ukrainian Tatar groups on the other side of the border specifically targeted the infrastructure of the civilian population of the peninsula, intended as an act of political blackmail. The blackmail failed in its intended result, and only hardened pro-Russian attitudes on the Crimean peninsula.
“As for civic identity, my survey, conducted during the peak of the blackout, showed this: 75.3% of adults and 71.1% of schoolchildren and college students wish to be accepted as Russian citizens.”
When questioned what they consider to be the main problems facing Crimea, 81% believe that inter-ethnic relations are calm right now. A quarter of the Russians, 12% of the Ukrainians, and 6% of the Tatars believe that relations have improved. None of the ethnic groups showed any inclination to secede from Russia, Zorin concluded.
If these surveys are accurate, then it seems that the Russian Federation authorities currently enjoy enough hope and good will on the part of the Crimean population as to work on solving any remaining ethnic problems in a calm and constructive manner. But will they be allowed to do so, given the realities of the new Cold War and the geopolitical predicament in which Russia currently finds itself?
Which brings us to the thorny issue of Islam….
[to be continued]