Features News Events Interviews Take me out Competitions RSS
On the cover
¹7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard – and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


Ukraine History

The Tatars ‘Mounted Couriers’, Unexpectedly Troublesome

People spoke about the conflict in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia as though fault rested only on the shoulders of their Russian neighbours. No one took a moment to look back in time to see how Georgia’s settled minorities felt about their removed autonomous status back in the early days of Independence. And therein lies the tenet that is so poignant in politics today: ‘history has a way of repeating itself’. And so if Ukraine as a nation of numerous visible and not so visible minorities is not careful, perhaps Georgia’s fate could soon become it’s own.
Ukraine has numerous minorities living within it’s borders, but none, perhaps, carries such historical resonance as the Crimean Tatars.

History is Important
They are a fascinating mix of ethnic groups which include descendants from the Khazars, the Cumens, the Romanians, the Byzantine Greeks, the Slavs, the Circassians, even a few Venetians (to name but a few). Weary of nomadic life under the Golden Horde, these clans settled in and colonised Crimea and surrounding area in 1441. From then on, they were known as the Crimean Khanate and were offered protection from the Ottoman Empire. They were an influential population growing steadily more so as the relationship between the Tatars and the Ottomans became one of mutual benefit and understanding: the Tatars skill at cavalry became indispensible in war and in exchange for their services as skilled riders in the frontline, the horsemen got rich from the military campaigns of the Ottomans.
Because of this partnership, it’s been said that the Khanate was one of the strongest powers in Eastern Europe right up until the 18th century. They played a vital role in defending the borders of Islam and were quite well known for their devastating raids in attempts at preventing Slavic settlement in the Steppes. In so doing, they enslaved many Slavic and Romanian peasants, acquiring a considerable booty at each turn. They were also able to maintain a massive slave trade between the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East using Feodosia, a resort and port town in Crimea, as one of their trading posts. It is estimated that more than 3 million people, many of them Ukrainian, were seized and enslaved during their reign of domination.

An Ambiguous Affiliation
During the days of the Khanate, the Ukrainian Cossacks served as guards on borderlands and patrolled Tatar movement. They were also more or less happy to plunder everybody equally and as such, the Cossacks and Tatars shared an adolescent animosity for each other: Cossack raids followed by Tatar retaliation, Tatar raids followed by Cossack retaliation were constant occurrences. It was all a bit of a game. Bohdan Khmelnitsky took advantage of this rivalry and managed to unite the Cossacks and the Crimean Tatars in the middle of the 17th century. Together, they gained several important victories.

The Faithful Departed
The Tatar’s favour fell into decline however, as the Ottoman Empire also began to lose influence – Eastern Europe was shifting allegiances and was becoming more and more interested in Christian kingdoms. They would come back empty handed after military campaigns and without guns to fight off ever-increasing European and Russian armies, the Crimean Tatars didn’t stand a chance. Their raids provided them with major economic sources, but those too could no longer be sustained and the Khanate found itself in serious trouble. Ukraine and Russia took advantage of this opportunity and would combine forces to launch a full-scale invasion (Russo-Turkish War of 1735-1739) of the Crimean peninsula for the first time.
The Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774 demonstrated however, that the Khanate would not go down without a fight, and yet it resulted in a rather surprising turn of events: the Tatars aligned with Russia. Observance to this latest treaty however, would not last and as civil war ensued, Catherine II took it upon herself to gather the entire peninsula under the great wing of the Russian Empire.
This made little difference however, and on into the 19th century these wars continued. It was at this time the Tatars began to feel the burgeoning pressure of the Slavs. They started to emigrate in waves, finding homes in Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. But making their way over the Black Sea proved difficult if not deadly, and many would perish in their attempts to cross the unforgiving waters. Only 100,000 would decide to remain in Crimea.

Stalin’s Paranoia
The years before the Bolsheviks took control were productive for the Crimean Tatars. They began to emerge again and prosper in the fields of education bringing about a new Crimean Tatar elite. But this also, was not to last as WWII brought the entire Soviet population under the control of the Soviet police. Tatars would serve in the Red Army but Stalin would exaggerate collaboration between certain religious and political leaders with Hitler and that would be enough to accuse the whole population of being traitors. Some argue that this was more than just retaliation and was in fact an important political chess move, as ethnic minorities living in a geopolitical hotspots, indeed posed a threat.
In May of 1944, the Tatars were removed en masse by Soviet leader Josef Stalin. While politicians say that the move was done as humanely as possible, the participants remember events quite differently: shipped off in cattle cars heading for Central Asia, thousands died along the way or perished from malnutrition and disease not long after arrival. Some would even be forced to work in the Gulag.
Only in 1967 would the government claim, not that they had made a mistake, but that the charges laid on the Tatars as Nazi collaborators, were false.

Another Battle on the Horizon?
Khan’s Palace, the 16 century building built by the Tatars, still stands about half-an-hour by bus from Simferopol. On 18 May of this year, tens of thousands of people marched in a rally in and around that Crimean city marking the 65th Anniversary of the deportation. Once descendants of strong Mongolian armies, the Tatar population is becoming stronger once again. They have finally been given permission to return to their homelands and are very important political players on the Crimean issue. Unfortunately, they still face obstacles: some remain political, such as land rights, language and education, some as demoralising as racism. Promises made by the Ukrainian government during the days of their own coming into Independence have yet to be realised and assurances for the reinstatement of social and legal rights have done little to assuage the increasing restlessness within the population.
However, the State Security Service of Ukraine, commissioned by the President earlier this year, has started to take steps (albeit baby steps), making it their mission to look into the deportations and their consequences. Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev commends the creation of this investigative unit and wants to make people understand that this investigation is not to be considered as a punishment for those at fault – those responsible for the deportation are in fact no longer alive - but rather, a reconciliation and an unveiling of the truth; “for society to know that it was in fact a crime. That it was tantamount to genocide.”
Historically, Tatars allegiance belongs to no one. But since Ukrainian independence, they seem to side with Kyiv and Ukraine on most issues and certainly the one concerning Crimea. Refat Chubarov, the Deputy Leader of the Tatar representative body (the Mejlis) says that “Ukrainians don’t have any imperial ambition. What’s more, Ukrainians and Tatars share a bond from being on the wrong side of Russian imperial ambition and many unfortunate parts of our history come from Moscow. It’s the same with Ukraine.”
This is the feeling at the moment, but promises only go so far. Like the Aboriginals in Australia or the First Nations people in North America, living without any real legal or social rights as a nation along with the inability to reclaim valuable land, it’s my guess that it won’t be long before the Crimean settlers get fed up waiting for something to be done. The problem is that we are all waiting for the government to get their act together and stop behaving only in the best interests of themselves. By then though, the Crimean trump card may already have landed in Russian hands and the pot that could have been belonged to this great nation, will no longer be ours to keep.
History continually repeats itself and Russia is in for the ride. It’s our responsibility to make sure that message doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

Lana Nicole

Go back

Comments (0)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!

Print Print   Send Send    In favorites In favorites

Read also:
  • A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels
  • More Than A Square
  • Game of Thrones
  • A Divisive National Hero
  • The Ukrainian Roots of Sholem Aleichem

    Global news 
  • Events Calendar
    «« October 2018 »»
    Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7
    8 9 10 11 12 13 14
    15 16 17 18 19 20 21
    22 23 24 25 26 27 28
    29 30 31

    Remember me
    Forgot your password?

    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didn’t Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Univer­sal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they don’t understand the meaning of these words.

    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street – the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades – children’s favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. What’s On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


    Essential Kyiv listings
    Car Rental
    Bars & Pubs
    Catering Services
    Courier Services
    Foreign Banks
    Hotel Service
    Internet Cafes
    Lost & Found
    Medical Care
    Language Courses
    Souvenir Shops
    Travel Agencies
    Real Estate
    Cable & Satellite TV
    Fitness Centers
    Flowers and Gifts delivery
    Food Delivery
    Freight Forwarders
    Internet providers
    Translation Services
    Veterinarian Clinics
    Beauty Salons
    Whatson Birdies Party

    Useful Links