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Indigenous Peoples and National Minorities of Crimea

     It’s a common knowledge that the geographical position is a key factor of forming of the population in the particular territory. It was the famous ethnologist Lev Nikolayevich Gumilev who pointed out at this fact. As far as the territory of Crimea concerns, its geographical position not only determined, but also dictated the conditions of the existence of its population during the whole history of its colonization. What was it mainly manifested in? It was the very fact that Crimea is a peninsular. One could even say it is an island. You see, 99 per cent of its territory is washed by the sea. Thus, the fist inhabitants of Crimea who arrived there by chance or accidentally via the Perekop neck unwittingly became its hermits, because whatever direction they went they were certainly hampered by the boundless sea.
       In fact, for justice’ sake one should mention that no people or tribe that arrived at Crimea at that ancient time wanted to leave this paradise on Earth. During the whole history of Crimea’s colonization any people, leaving the territory of Crimea were made to do it forcibly: as a result of the conquest of this territory by the conquerors.
       In pre-ancient times the first inhabitants of Crimea were Taurs – one of the Celtic tribes that dropped in Crimea via the Perekop neck. Nobody knows precisely when it happened. In any case the Celts came to Crimea long ago the Cimmerian invasion, who came to Crimea in the second millennium BC and ousted Taurs from Crimean plain to the mountains.
       In ancient time the ancient Greeks who were good sailors visited Tauria as they called Crimea and decided to colonize it. It was the beginning of the sea colonization of Crimea, dated back by the 8th century BC. Since this moment the ancient Greeks or Hellenes created a chain of the independent town-states along the whole Black Sea coast of Crimea that were inhabited by Hellenes. Using these towns Greece carried on the brisk trade with the mainland population of Crimea.
       As far as the mainland population of Crimea concerns, one must admit that it changed with time. Cimmerians who used to dominate in Crimea before the 8th century BC were ousted by Scythians to the Middle Asia. Only a little part of Cimmerians left in Crimea, finding refuge in the foothills next to Cimmer Mountain. Though, Scythians who created their own state in the 4th century were ousted by Sarmatians to trans-Black Sea steppes and only a small part of them escaped in the mountains where they mixed like Cimmerians with Taurs.
       As we see, the Crimean Mountains, bordering Crimean peninsular in the South, first raised no interest in the peoples, arriving from the mainland to Crimea. The newcomers from the steppes were mainly interested in Crimean plain. Nevertheless, some of them did not only regard Crimea as the steppe pasture. In the process of their interrelation with the Hellenes it turned out that they were ready to take another culture – agriculture. You see, in addition to the trade with the indigenous population of Crimea Hellenes practiced agriculture, especially wine-growing and wine-making, olive oil-making and etc. You know, one could do agriculture in the mountains as well: in mountainous valleys and on the flanks of the hills. Thus, since ancient times the special population started forming in Crimean Mountains. They could adapt to unusual forms of existence and survive in far more hard life conditions. These highland people, being primarily multiethnic, at this had a range of common uniting traits of character, such as: industry, combined with love with life and grit, and they didn’t retreat in the face of any difficulties.
       The Sarmatians didn’t live in Crimean step for ever, as well. The Scythian-Sarmatian state was destroyed in the 3rd century AD by the new conquerors of Crimea who came from the Baltic Sea coast, from far away Gothland – Ostrogoths. However, they couldn’t conquer the whole Crimea as well, because all Hellenic town-states, including Panticapaeum with neighborhood territories already didn’t belong to Greece, but to the almighty Roman Empire. The population of these towns was comprised of not only Greeks, but the most mixed contingent from the whole Mediterranean who showed Ostrogoths a fitting rebuff, making them confine only with the Crimean plain. But, Sarmatians had to escape in the mountains anyway. They settled there near today’s Sevastopol, and founded their own state that went down in history as Alania.
       However, hundred years later Goths suffered the same fate as their preceding conquerors – they were also ousted to the mountains. At this time these were fierce Huns who went fire and sword almost over the whole Crimea (excluding the mountains) and ravaged the Pontian state as well. Retreating under the Huns’ attacks Goths were partly exterminated, and partly left to the mountains in an organized group. They settled there compactly between Balaklava and Sudak, forming a kind of state that existed during almost one thousand years. They could preserve not only their ethnic integrity, but even their language for a long time. Later on, in the 13 – 15 centuries Gothia transformed into the vast princedom of Pheodoro, that included Alania and Alushta in the east. The capital of this mountainous princedom was Mangup fortress, built by the highlanders back in the 6th century (it existed up to the middle of the 15th century).
       As far as the ethnic composition of the mountainous population concerns, naturally, it was mixed, and became even more diverted after just another invasion of the next conquerors to Crimea, both from the North – from the continent, and the South – from the sea.
       Crimea couldn’t escape the great migration of peoples as well, because it was right on its way. After the Guns the step part of Crimea was conquered by Black Bulgarians, invading the steppes of the Black Sea region of the modern Ukraine, including Kyiv. Bulgarians were ousted then by Khazars, replaced then by Pechenegs not for long. Then Polovets came to stay here for long. After the collapse of the Roman Empire the coastal towns of Crimea went partly to Byzantium and the former Panticapaeum went to Khazaria. However, after the fall of Khazarian empire at the end of the 10th century and weakening of Byzantium in the age of crusade Crimea drew attention of two western European sea powers – Venice and Genoa that took advantage of the weakness of Byzantium and took up the initiative in Silk Road trade. You know, Crimea was located right in the middle of this road. Its sea ports served to transship the goods from the continent to the ships. As far as Crimea concerns, after Polovets were ousted by Mongol-Tatars from the Black Sea region and Crimean steppes, it was included into the vast Mongol empire that in Europe was referred to as Tartaria. Right since this period – starting from the 13th century Mongoloids started populating Crimea.
       The newcomers, regardless their glaring sharp racial differences spoke the usual Turkic dialect, that starting from the Huns’ invasion became widespread in Crimea, because Huns, Bulgarians, Pechenegs and Polovets, they all spoke Turkic languages. That is why the change of the rule in steppe Crimea in the 13th century didn’t affect much the rest of Crimean population. The highlanders and the inhabitants of the South Coast of Crimea kept on living their independent life, having mainly trade relations with the steppe dwellers. The Turkic language remained to be in use in Crimea as it used to be before. It was the language of the interethnic communication and it was even used in divine service in the Christian churches since the 6th century. It was the common Turkic language, that was understandable for the whole Crimean population, that became the cement factor of consolidation of the whole multiethnic (and even multi-religious) population of Crimea into one single people. Though, such consolidation took place only in the middle of the 15th century when one of the Chingizids – the claimants to Khan throne in the Golden Horde, Khaji Girey declared the foundation of the independent from the Golden Horde state in Crimea. He received support of Crimean people.
       By the way, one should add that the separation of Crimea from the Golden Horde Empire wasn’t simple, but was accompanied by the bloody battles where Crimea was also supported by the Turkish fleet. As compensation for this support Turkey demanded the occupation of the coastal towns that belonged to Italians who paid considerable tribute to the Crimean Khanate. That is why it is natural that Crimea refused Turkey. Then Turkey took forcibly these towns, making Italians escaping to the mountains and the Crimean Khan who took part in the opposition was captured. According to the peace treaty since that time the Crimean Khanate became the vassal of Turkish Ottoman Empire, though formally it preserved its sovereignty. As far as Crimean Italians, escaping in Crimean Mountains concerns, as all highlanders they took Islam soon and started calling themselves Crimean Tatars. Only a little part of rich Italians who were captivated by Turks was bought out by Crimean Jews and started referring themselves as Krymchaks.
       Thus, the pre-ancient, ancient and mediaeval history of colonization of Crimea resulted in foundation of the integral Crimean state in Crimea in the beginning of the 15th century AD. This state incorporated not only three distinctive and independent Crimean provinces: steppe Crimea, Crimean mountains and Crimean coast, but the whole diversity of ethnic population of Crimea, as well as the whole mix of the most various religions that co-existed in peace and mutual tolerance. At this, the factor that united and cemented the new state was first, common language that was formed on the Turkic basis in the process of the interrelation of different peoples, second, the common culture that was developed through close relations in cramped space of the island. The citizens of this state that existed for more than three centuries were distinguished not by their racial and ethnic origin, but only religion. The Christians of various bodies were referred to as Urums, irrespective of its variants. The Jews – Krymchaks, Karaites – Karaites, and Muslims – Tatars. Such division preserved until now. That is why, neither Crimean Tatars, nor Urums, Krymchaks and Karaites had no so called common national appearance, because they do not differ by their ethnic origin, but their religion.
       This differentiation is valid only when it comes to the indigenous population of Crimea, in other words, inside the Crimean nation that was formed during the existence of the Crimean state.
       However, in 1783 this state was destroyed. This time it was the Russian Empire that during Catherine II’s rule expanded to the territory, commensurable to the former Tartaria (the dearest wish of all monarch of the Russian Empire who considered themselves the descendant of Chingiz-Khan). In fact, Crimean nation preserved itself, dividing into 4 parts: Crimean Tatars, Crimean Karaites, Krymchaks and Urums. But, as before, the overwhelming majority of population of the peninsular was made to leave Crimea. And again as before the highlanders became the truest patriots to their Homeland.
       The slaveholding Russian state created the most unbearable conditions to the indigenous population of Crimea, making them leaving the country in masses. According to Maksimilian Voloshin’s apt remark “All this Mahomet paradise was completely destroyed. The luxuriant towns of “The Arabian Nights” the Russians replaced by few poor provincial towns and gave them pseudo-classical names – Sevastopol, Simferopol and Yevpatoriya”. After Russia conquered Crimea it set itself a goal to exterminate the people whose mentality didn’t let them perceive the laws and rules of slaveholding Russia. The emigrated inhabitants of Crimea were replaced by Russian serfs from remote parts of Russia. But Russian population didn’t know the peculiarities of agriculture in the conditions of Crimean landscape and they turned out to be feeble, drawing Crimean nature to the ecological catastrophe. After that the immigrants from the Orthodox Greece and Bulgaria were taken to Crimea. When it turned out that their number was not enough the Germans and Armenians were urgently started settling here. This way the new population of Russian Crimea started forming.
       Today Crimea and its population is part of Ukrainian state – the fragment of so called Soviet Union, the state with an ugly totalitarian regime that fell into oblivion in the result of the revolution of 1990. In Soviet time the indigenous people of Crimea was completely forcibly deported from Crimea (to be more precise its Muslim part, the most numerous one). But after the revolution of 1990 the Crimean Tatar people partly returned, despite the still existing communistic bans. The Ukrainian state still can not finally decide: whether return to the communist totalitarism or run after the democratic Europe. The last option is an overwhelming task for Ukraine yet, as its population predominantly consists of the communist lowbrows, to be more precise Russian hereditary slaves, longing for the authoritarian regime that corresponds to their traditions and their way of thinking. These Russians comprise 65 per cent of 2 million Crimean population. This is so called national minority of Ukraine. Ukrainians – the state forming nation comprise a little more than 20 per cent of Crimean population. Crimean Tatars, returning to their Homeland, despite the prohibition of the local and state authorities, comprise about 12 per cent, Karaites – only 800 persons and Krymchaks – ten times less. As far as Urums concerns, they were deported to trans-Azov region by Catherine II that is why there are just few of them. The rest – Armenians, Bulgarians, Germans, Greeks, Azerbaijanis and others all in all comprise 2-3 per cent of the national minorities of Ukraine.
       Thus, the national and ethnic composition of today’s Crimean population is very diverse and what is more important - mutually hostile. Russians who are formally considered to be the national minority in Crimea, in fact represent the overwhelming majority and that is why dictate their way of life and ideology. They are opposed by Ukrainian national state system that often has to admit its disability in this confrontation. Here we have intolerance between Russians and Ukrainians. But Crimean Tatar people – the historical opponent of Russian chauvinism and hegemonism, also oppose Russians. It seems like the very political situation suggests Ukrainians to consolidate their strengths with Crimean Tatars in their aspirations to create a single nation in Ukraine. However, they do not dare to make this step, apparently, fearing Russia’s reaction. This uncertainty of the Ukrainian authorities already started irritating Crimean Tatars. You know, only thanks to them the Transdniestrian scenario didn’t repeat in Crimea in the 90-es, that is separation from Ukraine. It was very open Russian chauvinism that threw Crimean Tatars in Ukrainian arms. Stupid and short-sighted Russian national - chauvinists (communists) prevented from separation of Crimea from Ukraine themselves.


     March, 2012

     E. Kudusov



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