He believes in the return of the Crimea and does everything for its sake, on the other hand, he admits: it is unknown when it will happen. He speaks a lot about the peninsula, the occupation and opposition to the aggressor, and much less about himself. About the fate of the peninsula, Crimean Tatar autonomy and the collapse of the empire – the way a chairman of the Mejlis Refat Chubarov himself sees it in the section “Who is…” from Opinion.
About Crimean Tatars during Occupation
Chubarov stresses: the life of Crimean Tatars is much harsher than of other Ukrainians on the territory of the annexed peninsula.
“After all, in the very beginning we publicly and really massively demonstrated the rejection to the Russian invasion. I mean big rallies on March 14, two days prior to the so-called referendum. It’s when 50 thousand people formed a chain along all the roads of Crimea. Back then the invaders realized that the Crimean Tatars are a part of the population that is completely disloyal towards them. That is the case indeed, and that’s why they are the first to experience systematic discrimination. Putting it into practice, the occupiers set two goals at the same time: to crush the Crimean Tatars as quickly as possible and to show the rest that they will have the same fate if they’re not loyal to the authorities.”
The Mejlis leader highlights also three systemic problems which the Crimean Tatars face each day during the occupation.
“The first is the lack of the opportunity to freely express their views and defend them publicly, without the fear of being repressed. The second is a constant search for the opportunity to provide for their families without bowing in front of the occupier. The third system problem is the constant expectation of a radical change in the Crimea, or rather that the invaders will go away. However, these expectations are rather painful, given that they are not backed by proper support from mainland Ukraine and from the world.”
About the creation of Crimean Tatar autonomy
The politician is convinced: every nation has the right to self-determination on its own land, but at the same time there are many additional factors.
“On February 27, 2014, Russia invaded the peninsula as a territory of Ukraine. The country with a population of 45-million could not resist.
Now, imagine that tomorrow 300,000 Crimean Tatars will announce their state over there. But they are not alone on the peninsula – there are also Russians and Ukrainians. Let’s imagine that they agreed. Will the Crimea be an independent state surrounded by much more powerful ones? Having Russia as a Neighbor?
We need to talk about the other thing. About the radical change in the political and legal status of the Crimean autonomy. Its very existence should proceed from the right of the indigenous people of the peninsula to self-determination. At the same time, it is necessary to observe and ensure the rights of other peoples of the Crimea.
Even earlier Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians were those, who experienced the greatest discrimination on the peninsula. We were talking about it for all the years of independence. However, political Kyiv didn’t want to understand the danger of such a state of affairs. Its mistake was that the priorities were given only to the ethnic majority. And it was Russian.”
About Russia and the collapse of the empire
“One day arrogant and aggressive actions of Russia will give a spark that will set on fire everything. I mean a violation of the air borders of the Baltic States, flights over the battleships of the NATO, and so on. At some point, someone can just lose nerves or there will be an accident. There is no future for present-day Russia,” says Refat Chubarov.
At the same time, the head of Mejlis admits: it’s difficult to give the exact date of Crimea returning, after all, it may happen at any moment.
“For Putin, this is just his political, and perhaps even physical death. If Putin rules Russia, then there should be a situation that is more threatening than his mission to return the Crimea. More threatening conditions may be the collapse of Russia itself – the breakdown, the uprising. The modern world, our partners, together with Ukraine, are able to prepare such conditions. It is necessary to maximize sanctions, to isolate Russia and all its rulers from all processes that are taking place in the world and vital for Russia itself.”
About the peninsula of fear
Despite all the love for Crimea and the desire to return, the People’s Deputy still states: both the Crimean people and external experts characterize Crimea as a peninsula of fear.
“As of 2018, about 25 thousand Crimean Tatars left the Crimea, 67 people were arrested by Russian security forces, 19 people are missing. In addition, there are regular arrests and searches there.
The Russian occupation system doesn’t simply require a person not to be active in politics and not to oppose the occupation, it requires a person to show loyalty.
People are afraid of losing their job, and they lose it. No matter what’s your job – a doctor or a teacher – you should take care that nobody thinks something suspicious of you because in this case, they are coming for you.
There is displacement due to fear and repression. Repression is a way to root fear in people, and fear is an instrument that “squeezes” people from the peninsula.”
About what’s happening now in Crimea
Now the aggressor tries to strengthen the Crimea as much as its own outpost. For Russia, the peninsula is an area that can be used to influence the southern flank of NATO.
“This influence covers not only the Black Sea basin but also the Mediterranean Sea. Secondly, it doesn’t need people who don’t agree with the occupation in this territory. Such people should be pushed out of the Crimea. And this is happening through systematic repressions. This is not only intimidation, searches, and arrests, but it is also the inability to develop since entrepreneurs are leaving Crimea.
At the same time, Russia inhabits Crimea with its citizens, and it’s not because it can not do without them there. This is an additional factor that will allow it to hold the Crimea in case of de-occupation, well, it hasn’t been ruled out even in the Kremlin for a long time. In addition to modern anti-aircraft missile systems, there are still hundreds of thousands of citizens, who are no less valuable than all this weapon. Because weapons can be destroyed or taken away, but it is very difficult to do something with people who live in this area.”
About Russia’s strategy regarding the Crimean Tatars
Chubarov says that Russia continues to apply the Soviet era practice, declaring the rights of peoples for the sake of calming everyone down, and in practice doing completely reverse things.
“For example, the occupation authorities introduced in Crimea three official languages – Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar, but in a few months, they almost completely eliminated Ukrainian schools. Or diluting Crimean Tatar classes in schools. There, parents are strongly recommended to put a dash in the column “Do you want to have classes in the Crimean Tatar language?”, because they say that they lack teachers.”
About those who leave their homeland
One day the People’s Deputy admitted: he doesn’t like people who leave their land. But it is important to understand: it’s not about those who are forced to flee, but about those who prefer to seek a better life.
“I don’t understand them. I know a lot of people who were forced to leave their land. I am helping political emigrants in Ukraine, they are of different nationalities: Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens… I try to help them because the situation has thrown them out of their lands. But I do not understand the people who leave their land in search of a better life when they could put their efforts into their land. I am confident that we will come back – it is our people in the Crimea, which we don’t want to leave. All of us would like to be perceived as we really are so that we do not seek any other explanation of our behavior. We just don’t like people who leave their land, but the most we hate people who come to our land with evil.”
By Dmytro Zhuravel
The publication was collected from numerous interviews, speeches, and appeals of the material’s protagonist.