Staunton, April 5 – Russian nationalists in Crimea and in Russia are expressing their outrage at and opposition to what they see as Vladimir Putin’s “Tatarization” of Crimea, a policy that they argue does not reflect the ethnic balance on the peninsula and that calls into question Moscow’s portrayal of itself as a defender of ethnic Russians.
The appointment to key positions of Crimean Tatars and efforts by leaders of that nation to take control of various facilities have infuriated ethnic Russian leaders there who thought that it was they, rather than the Crimean Tatars, who were exercising their right to self-determination.
After all, they point out, Russian President Vladimir Putin justified his moves in Crimea by talking about the repression of ethnic Russians, and the ethnic Russians, who form the majority of the peninsula’s population, were the most enthusiastic backers of joining Crimea to the Russian Federation.
Consequently, many of them now say that the formation of a national cultural autonomy for the Crimean Tatars there is totally unacceptable and “absolutely impossible.” And they are increasingly directing their anger not at the Crimean Tatars, although there is enough of that, but at Moscow instead.
The attitude of the ethnic Russians in Crimea is echoed and amplified by Russian nationalists elsewhere. In an article yesterday, Konstantin Krylov, the editor of Voprosy Natsionalizma and an outspoken Russian nationalist, denounced what he described as Putin’s launch of “the Tatarization of Crimea”.
Krylov’s anger was sparked by what he called “the attempt at the seizure by the Mejlis of the Bakhchisaray historical-cultural park” and the failure of local officials to block that action as they should have done because most of the objects there “do not have any relationship to the Crimean Tatars.”
He argued that Russians must understand that “the policy of ‘multi-nationality’ being conducted in Crimea in the form of the seizure and diversion of the historical-cultural heritage is de facto a declaration of war against all Russian patriotic forces” and “a gift to Ukrainian propaganda.
Because that is the case, Krylov continues, Russians must stop complaining and start acting to oppose this because “there is a chance to defend the interests of the Russian community, culture, archaeological science and the future of Russian Crimea.” In support of his position, he offers a selection of reports from Crimean outlets.
At a minimum, such Russian attitudes will make it more difficult for the Kremlin to make the concessions it has promised the Crimean Tatars. But perhaps more important, these feelings will call into question among ethnic Russians Putin’s professed support for the interests of that community and thus become the basis for a division rather than unity among them.
Many Russians are already angry that Moscow is giving so much money and deference to North Caucasian leaders like Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov. If they conclude that Putin is repeating that policy in Crimea, even more are like to question his Russian credentials and the value of his declarations about defending the interests of Russians.