The Crimean Tatar community observed a day of mourning yesterday, the anniversary of Empress Catherine II’s 1783 manifesto proclaiming the Russian annexation of the Crimean Khanate. Crimean Tatars intend to hold commemorative observances and rallies on this date each year from now on, as they do annually on May 18 to commemorate their mass deportation in 1944 by the Soviet authorities. Some 250,000 Crimean Tatars–deportees and their offspring–have in recent years returned to their homeland, where they live in appalling conditions.
Yesterday, in both the Crimean capital Simferopol and other localities, thousands of Tatars rallied to demand recognition of their people as indigenous, official status for their language, guaranteed representation of Tatars in the Crimea’s republican and local governing bodies, and recognition of the Crimean Tatar Majlis and Kurultai as representative bodies of their people. Outside the building of the communist-dominated Crimean Supreme Soviet, Tatar demonstrators burned copies of Catherine’s manifesto and of the current Crimean constitution. The latter document fails to recognize the Tatar people’s special position and rights (NTV, April 8).–VS
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