SD Khattatov, AS Aivazov, N. Chelebidzhikhan, D. Seydamet near the Aleviz portal in Khan Sarai
SD Khattatov, AS Aivazov, N. Chelebidzhikhan, D. Seydamet near the Aleviz portal in Khan Sarai

Convening the First Kurultai


The news of the Crimean Tatars’ intention to convene the Kurultai provoked anger and indignation from almost all other political forces that existed on the peninsula. Many newspaper speeches (mostly in cadet newspapers) claimed that Crimean Tatars had ” finally opened the visor and taken action against Russia, as Ukraine had done before .”

Grand opening of the First Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar people in the Khan's Palace of Bakhchisarai
Grand opening of the First Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar people in the Khan’s Palace of Bakhchisarai

For example, the newspaper “Vedomosti South”, which was the organ of the provincial government, opposed the slogan “Crimea – Crimean Tatars to” instead offering another slogan: “Crimea – for Russians”: ” When Ukraine declared independence firmly established, the link between Crimea and Russia will be interrupted. But even then, Crimea will remain part of Russia. After all, Crimea will not be able to exist on its own… Will Crimea, in spite of everything, stop being a part of Russia? Is Crimea able to decide its fate without Russia’s participation? ».

That is, neither the revolution nor the Bolshevik coup, aimed at rolling the country to civil war, did not change the essence of the “main nation of the empire” to see itself as the dominant force for which all other peoples formerly part of the empire had to continue to build their own policy.

According to D. Seydamet’s memoirs, Crimean Tatars tried to correct this attitude towards themselves, but in vain: “The main idea of ​​our newspapers was to protect Crimea from anarchy, unite Crimeans, prepare them for self-government… Unfortunately, Russians, obsessed with the idea of ​​national supremacy, and other national minorities, who joined them in this matter for profit or caution, did not allow the embodiment of our slogan [to life]. And no matter how much, after the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd, they did not divide society into two opposing enemy camps, the only ones who were united were the Bolsheviks. Conservatives, liberals, Mensheviks, Social Democrats, Socialist-Revolutionaries – all, despite the danger of Bolshevism, pursued different political goals, and none of them went to cooperate with us…. Both in the center and in the provinces, the Bolsheviks, in order to prevent the emergence of an alternative force, incited revolts and anarchy. They did the same in the Crimea.Their goal was to monopolize power in their own hands. To cooperate with the Bolsheviks actually meant to submit one hundred percent to their power, to their program.».

Noman Chelebidzhikhan speaks at the opening of the First Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar people
Noman Chelebidzhikhan speaks at the opening of the First Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar people

Musvykonkom planned to determine the status of Crimea and the fate of the Crimean Tatar population of the peninsula in two stages, holding a constituent assembly: December 7 (November 24) 1917 – national (Kurultai), and in 1918 – regional (all-Crimean). Moreover, according to the decision of the Kyiv Congress of Peoples, the Kurultai was to convene before the All-Russian Constituent Assembly.
In mid-November, elections of delegates to the All-Crimean Tatar Congress were held on the peninsula. Explaining the reasons for his convocation, D. Seidamet said: “We are against the Tatarization of Crimea, but we are against the sovereign power of any other nationality over Crimea. If we convene the Tatar national constituent assembly “Kurultai”, it is only to find out for ourselves and to reveal to others the will of the Tatar nationality. But the voice of the Tatars is not yet the voice of the whole Crimea. This requires an all-Crimean constituent assembly, in which all nationalities inhabiting Crimea must take part . ”

The first solemn meeting of the Kurultay in the hall of the Divan Khan-Saray (Khan's Palace). D. Seidamet, then S. Gasprinska, N. Chelebidzhikhan are sitting near the rostrum
The first solemn meeting of the Kurultay in the hall of the Divan Khan-Saray (Khan’s Palace). D. Seidamet, then S. Gasprinska, N. Chelebidzhikhan are sitting near the rostrum

Elections to the Kurultai were held by direct, secret, and equal voting in specially created district election commissions in five Crimean counties. The election began on November 30 (17) and lasted for several days. D. Seydamet later recalled: ” After 134 years of oppression, the Crimean Turks set about the historical and sacred cause of founding an organization responsible for their fate.” they will not entrust their rights to anyone else, ”the children were asked to bring them to the ballot box .
The elected delegates gathered in Bakhchisarai, the former capital of the Khanate. But on December 7, as expected by the Music Executive Committee, the Kurultai was unable to begin its work. The delay, according to D. Seydamet, was caused by a hurricane, which did not allow some delegates to arrive in time in Bakhchisarai.

On December 9 (November 26), 1917, in Bakhchisarai, the Constituent Assembly of the Crimean Tatar people, the Kurultai, began its work in a solemn atmosphere after the prayer in the Khan’s mosque. It consisted of 76 deputies.

In the works of many researchers there are reports that among the deputies of the Kurultay were four women – Hatice Avdzhi, Anife Bodaninska, Shefika Gasprinska (daughter of Ismail Gasprinsky) and Ilkhan Tokhtar, who were elected by more than 70% of the Tatar population of Crimea. However, D. Seydamet’s memoirs stated that there were 5 women among the deputies. Researcher A. Ivanets, analyzing the reports of the mandate commission, found the name of the fifth delegate of the Kurultai – Anife Khanum Nuri Kurtiyeva, who was elected from the Feodosiya district.

Opening the meeting, Ch. Chelebiyev made a bright speech, which sounded, among other things, the following words: ” Dear gentlemen national representatives! Today, our political life, which ended a century and a half ago, is truly reborn. The Kurultai, gathered in the Divini-Ali hall, reaffirms the national Tatar rule, which has put an end to Russian despotism. The Tatar nation is entering the world arena again. ” He further called on the deputies to “take the helm of power into their own hands and independently dispose of their own destiny .”

Delegates and guests of the First Kurultai
Delegates and guests of the First Kurultai

After the opening of the Kurultay, Sh. Gasprinska, Ch. Chelebiev, D. Seidamet, A. Hilmi and A. Bedreddin were elected to its presidium. Immediately after the start of work, the Kurultai received a lot of congratulations and congratulations. One of them was a greeting sent by the Ukrainian Central Rada: “ On behalf of the entire population of Ukraine, we greet the Crimean Tatars, who have been our oldest glorious allies since the time of the Crimean Khanate. From now on, the Tatars are the legitimate masters of the Crimean peninsula, with the recognition of the Kyiv Congress of Peoples . ”

In his memoirs, D. Seidamet recalled: ” All of us, especially me, were very pleased to see a delegation from Kyiv from the Ukrainian Rada, which increased our friendly relations and respect for Ukrainians, especially Professor Hrushevsky. ” The Kurultay also received congratulations from the Chairman of the Ukrainian General Military Committee S. Petliura.

During the work of the Kurultay, the three main political directions were clearly defined, which later took shape in three respective wings. The right, the most radical, which include representatives of the traditionalist clergy and nobility (murzatstva), saw the main goal of the future people’s parliament to recreate the Crimean Khanate, modernized in accordance with modern requirements (the leader in this area was D. Seidamet).

In the context of the impending civil war on the peninsula, the center tried to prevent bloodshed, which has not yet been seen in the Crimea. To achieve this goal, the center was ready for negotiations and compromises with the main forces that fought against each other (Ch. Chelebiev). The left, whose representatives agreed to carry out significant reforms in the popular and political spheres, focused on the cultural revival of the nation (A. Bodaninsky).

Convening the First Kurultai

There were some leaders who could not completely agree with any wing. For example, A.-S. Aivazov, who generally supported the centrist program, spoke at any meeting against any compromise with the Bolsheviks.

On December 26 (13), the Kurultai proclaimed the creation of the Crimean People’s Republic, adopted its constitution (the first in the history of Crimea), declared itself (before the convening of the Crimean Constituent Assembly) the Crimean National Parliament and adopted the coat of arms and flag of the newly created republic. On the same day, a national government, the Directory, was formed. It consisted of 5 directors: Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director of Justice – Ch. Chelebiev, Director of External and Internal Relations (aka Chairman of the Revolutionary Staff and Military Leader) – D. Seidamet, Director of Religion – A. Shukri, Public Education – A. Ozenbashly, finance and endowments – S.-D. Hattatov. They were all Millie Firk party activists. The government, which was immediately recognized by both the Council of People’s Representatives and the leadership of the Central Council, lasted until January 1918, when Crimea was captured by the Bolsheviks.After being elected Prime Minister, Chelebiev stressed: “Our only goal today is to prevent anarchy in the country together, hand in hand with other organizations . “

On the same day, the Kurultai adopted the text of the Constitution of the Crimean Republic (“Crimean Tatar Basic Laws”), which was published on December 31 (18), 1917 in the newspaper “Voice of the Tatars”. The text of the Constitution itself was small in size and consisted of 18 articles. However, this text covered almost all issues of life of the Crimean Tatar people.

Very important, in light of the further construction of the political development of Crimea, was Article 12 of this Constitution, which stated: “ Considering that the question of the form of government in the region can be resolved only by regional Constituent Assembly convened on the basis of general, equal, direct and secret suffrage, the Kurultai believes that the form of government in Crimea can be determined by the Crimean Constituent Assembly. That is why the Kurultai instructs the parliament to take measures to convene the Crimean Constituent Assembly as soon as possible . “

At the end of December, the Kurultai appeared to the population of Crimea, in which it set out its proposals for further cooperation with other nationalities. Incidentally, it read: “Citizens compatriots! By issuing the basic laws (meaning the constitution adopted by the Kurultai), the Crimean Tatar Kurultai declared itself the national parliament. The Crimean Tatar national government elected by the national parliament will start performing its duties from this day on. ” The appeal further stated the main postulates according to which the Crimean Tatar national parliament tried to act. First of all, the parliament considered it necessary to stop the wave of anarchy that was already rolling on the peninsula. “The Crimean Tatar people,” the statement said, “who were able to form a parliamentary national government amid the fire of anarchy that has engulfed all of Russia, consider themselves and other Crimean peoples worthy of peace and prosperity in the region.”… The Crimean Tatar national government has categorically and steadfastly decided to maintain order and peace on the peninsula. … Crimean Tatars together with revolutionary democracy will try to prevent anarchy, which destroys everything and is already approaching Crimea and does not keep on its way any monuments of antiquity, no monuments of art, no temples of science and culture».

SD Khattatov, AS Aivazov, N. Chelebidzhikhan, D. Seydamet near the Aleviz portal in Khan Sarai
SD Khattatov, AS Aivazov, N. Chelebidzhikhan, D. Seydamet near the Aleviz portal in Khan Sarai

At the same time, the government tried to create all conditions on the peninsula for fruitful cooperation with other political forces and nationalities, promising to respect all personal and property freedoms: “The Crimean Tatar national government cares for the happiness and salvation of not only one Tatar people; he considers it his duty to protect the personal, property security and honor of all his Crimean compatriots. … The Crimean Tatar national government recognizes and respects the personal and civil rights of everyone and demands the same respect for the rights of its people . ”

The goals and tasks declared in the proclamation had to create the necessary conditions for the immediate convening of the Crimean Constituent Assembly: ” With deep conviction that stronger Crimean government can be created only pan-Parliament Crimean Tatar national government in every way and means seek early convening of the Crimean Constituent meeting “.

Immediately after the end of the Kurultay, the Directory and the Council of People’s Representatives concluded a joint agreement, according to which the Crimean headquarters became a joint center for the management of all hostilities on the peninsula. Not only the Crimean Tatar national military units were subordinated to him, but also some other military units, regardless of the nationality of their soldiers. The Crimean headquarters was to ” fight pogroms, riots, violence, and pacify the region in order to bring the country to the Constituent Assembly .”

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The project was implemented with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation

Tetiana Bikova

Candidate of Historical Sciences, Scientist of the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

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