Staunton, August 13 – In yet another throwback to Soviet days designed to distract attention from what it is doing to other groups, Moscow has announced that it has taken under its protection two small nations in occupied Crimea, the 850 Karaims and 350 Krymchaks, even as it continues its campaign against ethnic Ukrainians and especially the Crimean Tatars.
Today, the Russian government announced that it plans to include the Karaims and Krymchaks, two small ethnic communities in Crimea, in its list of numerically-small indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation, bringing the number of groups with that official status to 49.
This category of peoples, Nazaccent.ru notes, includes peoples numbering fewer than 50,000 who live on the territory of their ancestors and lived there before the appearance of a state, preserve their own social institutions and customary law, have their own language … and consider themselves distinct” and enjoy certain special rights under Russian law.
One can only welcome any protections extended to ethnic groups, especially those who have suffered so much: the Karaims, Jewish but not Semitic and thus able to escape the worst of the Nazi depradations, nonetheless suffered horribly in the 20th century; while the Krymchaks, also Jewish, were targeted for extermination by the Nazis and the quarter who survived the Holocaust were then deported by the Soviets after 1945.
But any credit extended to the Russian occupation authorities for these steps must not become the occasion for ignoring or downplaying continuing or even growing Russian oppression of the 300,000 Crimean Tatars and the 500,000 ethnic Ukrainians who live on the peninsula.