The Czech news site iDNES reported yesterday that Vladimir Putin just signed a decree that will streamline and fast-track the process whereby members of Russian minorities who now find themselves outside Russia proper can gain Russian citizenship. The decree is aimed at large concentrations of Russians in former Soviet republics who now hold Ukrainian, Estonian, Kazakh or other citizenship, or who may even be stateless. The law was proposed by the Duma last month in the wake of the Russian annexation of the Crimea as part of a “normalization effort” among the two million-strong population of the peninsula. It is also particularly relevant to the seventeen per cent of Ukraine’s citizens who claim Russian ethnicity.
At the same time, Putin signed a decree rehabilitating the Crimean Tatar, Armenian, German and Greek minorities, all of whom had been suspected of being perennial “enemies of the state” and who had suffered greatly under the Soviet regime. In particular, the Tatars had been expelled from the Crimea during World War Two and only allowed to return starting in the 1980s. The decree rules that the Soviet-era deportations were illegal, and guarantees autonomous rights for Crimea’s minorities.
Moscow’s decrees notwithstanding, reality in Russian Crimea may be a little different. For instance, the Globe and Mail reports that
A leading figure in the Crimean Tatar minority has been barred by Russia from returning to the peninsula following its annexation by Moscow, the Tatar community’s assembly said on Tuesday.
In an online statement, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People said Mustafa Dzhemilev, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and the former chairman of the Mejlis, had been handed a notice banning him from Russia for five years as he crossed back to mainland Ukraine after a weekend in Crimea.
The Mejlis statement said the current deputy chairman, Aslan Omer Kyrymly, was also handed a similar banning notice.
Decapitation (in the sense of neutralizing leadership) is, of course, one of the most efficient ways to “pacify” a restive population, something Putin the former KGB lieutenant colonel understands extremely well. In any case, these bans bode ill not just for the 300,000-strong Crimean Tatar community but for all other minorities under Russian suzerainty. The fact that Putin had also just announced that he will authorize an extensive gambling district in the Crimea to help the local economy is sure to be of no help to the much-abused and long-suffering (non-Russian) minorities of the Crimea.
One awaits, with bated breath, further developments.