Tuesday, October 03, 2006

An impromptu Crimean Tatar reading overview...


An interview (RUS) with Refat Chubarov, a Ukrainian PM, first deputy head of the Crimean Tatae Mejlis, conducted by Gulnara Bekirova, a Crimean Tatar historian and author, for a Simferopol newspaper in late August this year (reproduced at kirimtatar.com).

Here's why Chubarov voted for Yanukovich as prime minister - and his view on the coalition:

Election of Victor Yanukovych as Ukraine's premier was predetermined by the formation of the "anti-crisis" coalition. In my view, Our Ukraine and BYuT factions had only two ways to act in this situation: to be in the [...] opposition or to take part in the formation of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. Honestly, I have a hard time imagining myself in the opposition to the government where the key posts are nominated by president Victor Yushchenko, whom we supported in 2004.

Another motivation that affected my personal position is my understanding of responsibility for solving issues that have to do with well-being of the tens of thousands of our compatriots. Subsequently, what's important to me is the possibility of constructive cooperation with the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.


The coalition situation is a mess. De facto, the process of creation of the coalition of the Party of the Regions, SPU and Our Ukraine faction began - but wasn't completed. So de jure, the "anti-crisis" coalition, which includes which [the Communist Party of Ukraine], continues to exist. And for me it is unacceptable to be in the same coalition with the Communists.

And some more on the "strange bedfellows":

- I'd also like to know what you think about the election of [Leonid] Grach, known for his attitude toward the Crimean Tatar problem, as the head of the [parliamentary] Committee on Human Rights, Ethnic Minorities and Interethnic Relations. Don't you consider this a serious retreat of the democratic forces?

- Of course, a committee's head plays a certain role in its work, but any decision is adopted during the session by the vote of the committee's members. [...]

In general, though, [...] democracy does have its own [ugly faces], as they would've said in the Soviet times: members of the committee headed by the former secretary of the Crimean Regional Communist Party [...] are Levko Lukyanenko and Mustafa Jemilyov, both of whom had spent over a decade and a half in prison camps for their struggle against the Communist regime.



Gulnara Bekirova marks two anniversaries - Andrey Sakharov's 85th birthday (May 21) and 30th anniversary of Mustafa Jemilyov's Omsk trial - by quoting this story (RUS):

[...] The trial kept getting postponed. [Mustafa] Jemilyov had been on hunger strike for many days by that time. To take part and observe the trial, [...] Sakharov and his wife Yelena Georgievna Bonner arrived in Omsk, along with the activists of the Crimean Tatar movement. One of them was Aishe Seitmuratova, who [writes this] in the upcoming collection of her Radio Liberty stories: "The police weren't letting anyone except the mother and brothers inside the court building. Andrey Dmitrievich [Sakharov] and Yelena Georgievna demanded the right to enter. I took my mother's passport to try to enter - her maiden name was Jemilyova. The policeman attempted to drag the passport out of my hand, and I lowered it, and he wanted to grab it down there... [He] thought it was my hand and began twisting it, but it turned out to be Yelena Georgievna's hand, and started screaming: 'Oy, they are twisting my hands.' Andrei Dmitrievich promptly slapped the policeman on his face. Bonner had a tape recorder in her bag, to record the trial, and she started waving the bag, and it flew away... The police ran after it, but I, as a former athlete, got their ahead of them all - grabbed the bag, pushed it close to myself and wouldn't let go of it. They were taling Bonner and Sakharov away, and I was holding the door with my hands. But then I heard Sakharov's voice: 'Aishe, I'm ordering you to let it go: they'll detain me and will let me go go, but if they arrest you, they'll jail you. We can't free Mustafa, and we'll have to fight for you as well.' And I had to obey Sakharov's 'order.' In just 15 minutes, through our contacts, we sent the information to Moscow that Sakharov had been arrested. At the police department where he was taken, the police officer literally began to shake out of fear and fled when he saw [Sakharov's] IDs - an [Academy of Sciences member] certificate, three times the Hero of Socialist Labor. When Mustafa was being taken away, Andrey Dmitrievich ran after the car, yelling: 'Hold on, my friend, hold on.' Sakharov was demanding to meet with Mustafa to ask him to stop his hunger strike." [...]



A June 2004 article (.pdf file) in the ISIM (International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World) newsletter, recently highlighted by the International Committee for Crimea: Islamic Knowledge in Ukraine, by Aleksander Bogomolov, Vice-President of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and head of the Modern Orient Department at Krymski Institute of Oriental Studies, Kiev, Ukraine.

Rather brief and academically dry - but hey, the subject is so undercovered that any mention seems precious, and when it does get into the spotlight, the tone is often quite hysterical. I was delighted to read this piece, even though it's from two years ago.

Here're a few passages on Islam in Ukraine - in the Soviet times and now:

[...] In spite of the absence of any institutionalized forms of Islam, such as formal mosques or a professional clergy, during the post-WWII period, religious life, as well as informal religious instruction, persisted within communities of the Volga Tatars who were scattered mainly across the mining region of Donbass, and within the compact Crimea Tatar groups of the Zaporizhia and Kherson regions; as well as among the Crimea Tatars living in exile, from which the majority returned in the late 1980s and early 1990s.


The only formally acknowledged Islamic place in the public domain in that period was the cemetery — usually a section of common burial grounds, but sometimes having a separate location — such as the case of the Sverdlovsk Muslim cemetery (Luhansk region).

Beyond the cycle of these main ritual festivals and performances most Muslims gradually absorbed the behavioural codes of their non-Muslim environment. The mullahs and the pious were not able to insist on the full scope of religious observance; Muslim traditions were losing ground and were increasingly blended with common Soviet customs resulting in a rather unorthodox synthesis.


With the re-establishment of Islamic institutions and hierarchies in the early 1990, those pious Muslims who had been trained in informal settings of Islamic learning came to the fore. They filled the vacancies in the newly emerging clergy which was now comprised of muftis, deputy muftis, and imams. Some of the older religious leaders, after being succeeded by younger clerics, continued to be vocal public speakers giving voice to the traditional local Islam.


The local Islamic tradition is held in esteem by Crimea Tatar politicians.
Being nationalists they consider whatever is “our own” has greater value than any imported good. Thus they champion “our traditional Crimean Islam.”


With the advent of religious freedom after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Muslim organizations and individuals from Turkey, the Arab Middle East and South Asia appeared on the Ukrainian scene. [...] Religious education and guidance is now being provided by a variety of international and national organizations, including the official Turkish Diyanet, Aziz Mahmud Hudayi Endowment, cemaats of the Suleymaniya, followers of Fethullah Gulen, as well as the Ikhwan Muslimun, Hizb al-Tahrir, Salafis, the Tabligh, and even Habashis. Many young Crimeans are eagerly studying Islam as imparted by these groups and often shifting from one to the other.


It is difficult to judge to what extent new types of religious knowledge and organizations impinge on the Muslim communities of Ukraine. Is it possible to say that some of the Ukrainian Muslims are actually Ikhwani or Suleymanci? For instance, are the youth distributing flyers of Hizb al-Tahrir in April 2003 and rallying against the US invasion of Iraq, Tahriris in the sense that they have adopted the movement’s ideology? Individual involvement and preferences continuously change. [...] However, the very idea that Islam involves more than ritual only is spreading and may lay out the foundation for a more comprehensive religious world outlook. What that would be remains to be seen: “We are trying to understand what is going on with our community in Islamic terms; we are looking for knowledge from all possible sources, but we do not want to be taught the one thing as being opposed to the other,” as one young Crimean Muslim put it.

(Not so brief, sorry.)

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