Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Mustafa Kirimoglu, a prominent Crimean Tatar political leader and Ukrainian legislator, listens during a news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara, Turkey, on March 17. / Burhan Ozbilici, AP

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Crimean Tatars living in Turkey said Monday they worry of a return to the terrible oppression they suffered in the Ukraine province the last time it belonged to Russia and the Soviet Union.

"We've seen this movie before and we don't want to see it again," said Celal Icten, 59, head of Crimean Tatar Association of Istanbul, whose parents were born in Istanbul and Romania but both draw direct lines to the ancient city of Bakhchisaray, the pre-Tsarist capital of Crimea.

"We don't want to be caught up in a war between East and West. We don't want to live with the Russians and we definitely don't want a Crimea ruled by Russia," he added.

The ethnic Russian majority living in Crimea voted Sunday to join Russia, which has yet to say whether it will agree to annex Crimea and retake the land it gave up in the 1950s.

Crimean Tatars, predominately Muslims who descend from Turkic and Mongol inhabitants of the Black Sea region, boycotted the referendum as "illegitimate," but now they worry what will come of them.

The Tatars were living in Crimea long before Russia's conquest of it in 1783. But their numbers were decimated in 1944 after former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ordered Crimean Tatars deported to the frozen wastes of Central Asia and the Ural Mountains, leading to the deaths of as many as 200,000 people from disease and starvation.

Since Tatars were allowed to resettle in Crimea in the 1980s and 1990s, around quarter of a million have moved back there, although many settled outside the peninsula in countries such as Turkey, where even the most conservative estimates show the diaspora as dwarfing the number living in Crimea.

"Crimea is an historic and cultural importance for Turkey and we have a Crimea diaspora in Turkey," said Mitat Celikpala, chairman of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. "According to our foreign minister we have 4 million here, and in Crimea there are just 240,000 Crimean Tatars."

On Monday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry also called the referendum in Crimea illegitimate and vowed not to recognize the outcome, as has the United States and Europe. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said secession of Crimea could open the door for many territories to attempt the same, causing upheaval.

"Pandora's box should not be opened. If you create a de facto situation in Ukraine, this will have a domino effect on all the countries in the Eurasia region," Davutoglu told Turkey's NTV. "The security of Tatars is the main strategic priority for Turkey."

Turkey is a member of NATO, the U.S.-European military alliance, and has the second-largest standing army in the organization. NATO vowed Monday to work with Ukraine by sending monitors and trainers but not direct military help.

Whether Turkey would impose harsh sanctions on Russia was in doubt, given that it like Europe relies on Russian energy, especially natural gas. But Crimean Tatars inside Turkey say they will push Ankara to act in some way.

"This is a serious amount of pressure and they have some expectations from the Turkish government as they are very active in politics," Celikpala said of diaspora groups. "They are pressuring the government to take actions and this is the reason Turkey has to act carefully."

Members of the Tatar diaspora groups are unified in their opposition to a Russian takeover of Crimea and have held meetings with Turkish ministers. For them, the genocide that came with rule from Moscow has never been forgotten.

"Crimea was left without Tatars," Icten said. "They came in the night to houses, people were put on train cars and forced to leave. Our population has known assimilation, genocide, famine. Through these different ways we know the Russians."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Crimean Tatars fret over Russian domination again

More In

test

Real Deals

Flip, shop and save on specials from your favorite retailers in central Ohio.

GET DEALS | COUPONS

Things To Do

FRI
25
SAT
26
SUN
27
MON
28
TUE
29
WED
30
THU
31

CLASSIFIEDS

Classifieds from across Central Ohio
Lancaster
Chillicothe
Newark
Marion
Bucyrus
Mansfield
Zanesville
Coshocton

Weeklies & Shoppers

10TV Headlines

Dispatch Headlines

METROMIX