Staunton, April 21 – Russian occupation officials are talking with the representatives of the Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks and Germans, four numerically-small nationalities in Crimea who were deported alongside the much larger population of Crimean Tatars in a transparent effort to pressure the Crimean Tatars to cooperate with the Russians.
With only some exceptions, the Crimean Tatars oppose the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula and have been unwilling to cooperate with the occupiers. The latter have tried both sticks – including repressive actions – and carrots like this to get them to cooperate. But Moscow and its agents have had little success in winning over the Crimean Tatars.
Yesterday, on the first anniversary of the Putin decree on the rehabilitation of the repressed peoples of Crimea, Vagarshak Melkonyan, the head of the Association of Crimean Repatriants – Armenian, Bulgarian, Greek and German, said he wanted the authorities to do more to promote the repatriation of deportees.
Remzi Ilyasov, the deputy chairman of the occupation’s State Council, said that Russian officials are working on a law that will simplify the acquisition of Russian citizenship for those who were deported and who now want to return to Crimea. Zaur Smirnov, the chairman of the occupation parliament, said there were no obstacles now but that state regulation was a must.
According to Melkonyan, the four minorities he represents constituted 30 percent of all those deported from Crimea in Stalin’s time, but these nations now form only one half of one percent of the Crimean population. Consequently, he said, any repatriation programs will affect in the first instance the much larger Crimean Tatar population.
Representatives of the German Widergeburt society and the Greek Tauride organization also spoke at the meeting, noting that they hope to create compact settlements of their co-ethnics in Crimea and would like to see Moscow broaden the age range of those who can take part in rehabilitation programs and get assistance.
A major reason Moscow prefers to work with the non-Crimean Tatar minorities is that they are so small that they do not present the problems that the Crimean Tatars do and anything positive their leaders say can be used to promote the notion that the Russian government is being solicitous to minorities there.
But another reason is that these small groups are far more linguistically assimilated than the Crimean Tatars. According to Vladimir Zorin, deputy director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, who also took part in yesterday’s session, 92 percent of the Germans, 83 percent of the Greeks, 81 percent of the Bulgarians and 47 percent of the Armenians say Russian is their native language.
Only seven percent of Crimean Tatars do, he acknowledged.