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Crimean parliament guarantees broader rights to Tatar minority

Published time: March 11, 2014 14:09
Edited time: March 11, 2014 14:51
Crimean Tatars talk after praying in the Khan Chair mosque in Bakhchisaray, near Simferopol (Reuters / Thomas Peter0

Crimean Tatars talk after praying in the Khan Chair mosque in Bakhchisaray, near Simferopol (Reuters / Thomas Peter0

A resolution passed by the Crimean parliament guarantees proportional representation in the republic’s legislative and executive bodies for the Crimean Tatar ethnic minority and grants their language official status, among other things.

The resolution provides for constitutional reform that would amend several key provisions of Crimea’s basic law. Under the amended constitution, the Crimean Tatar language would be granted official status, on a par with Russian and Ukrainian in Crimea.

It stipulates proportional representation in future parliaments and provides for at least 20 percent of seats in the republic’s executive for Crimean Tatars. They would have guaranteed representation in the lower levels of government as well.

The parliament also wants to recognize as official the self-governance bodies of the Crimean Tatars, starting with the Kurultai, a general assembly of the Tatars.

Crimean MPs pledged to fund programs for support of the Tatar community in Crimea and repatriation of Crimean Tatars, who were deported from the peninsula by Joseph Stalin's Soviet government in the 1940s.

There will also be recognition of the Tatars’ cultural impact on Crimea through the return of the original names of some geographical features such as mountains or rivers that were changed at the time of the deportation.

Parliament Speaker Vladimir Konstantinov called the bill “historic” and said Crimean Tatars have been waiting for the reform for 70 years.

“The Crimean Tatar people have not been offered anything like this from either the Soviet Union or independent Ukraine. They have been hoping for this for decades, and it will allow Crimeans of all nationalities to develop and feel safe and comfortable on Crimean soil,” he said.

The Crimean authorities have denounced the self-proclaimed government in Kiev. Crimeans began protesting after the new Kiev authorities introduced a law abolishing the use of other languages for official purposes in Ukraine. More than half the Crimean population is Russian and uses only this language for their communication.

On Tuesday, the Crimean parliament adopted a declaration of independence from Ukraine, which is required to hold a March 16 referendum. On Saturday, Crimean residents will cast their ballots to decide whether the region wants to remain part of Ukraine with broader autonomy rights, or to join Russia.