Amet Ozenbashli
Amet Ozenbashli

Crimean Tatar movement after the overthrow of the autocracy


After the revolution, the process of national uplift began among the Tatar inhabitants of the peninsula, who in 1917 made up more than a quarter of the population. Despite all the differences in views between different groups of Crimean Tatars, they were united by a common goal: everyone believed that the national movement should be formalized as soon as possible. The political self-determination of the Tatar intelligentsia took place in accordance with the program established by the National (People’s) Party, established in the spring of 1917, by Milli Firka.

Delegates of the First All-Russian Muslim Congress
Delegates of the First All-Russian Muslim Congress

On March 12 (February 27), a general meeting of the Crimean Muslim Charitable Society was held with the participation of A. Bodaninsky, at which it was decided to convene a general Crimean meeting of Muslims. A temporary Muslim Revolutionary Committee was formed, headed by Ali Bodaninsky, Ibrahim Fehmi, and Ibrahim Tarpi. The latter applied for election as the new mufti, but at a new meeting of Crimean Tatar activists on March 15, it was decided to ban the practice of appointing the mufti “from above.” Chelebi Chelebiyev was elected the new mufti. V. Zarubin rightly pointed out: “In Celebiev, two images were organically combined for the new East, which borrowed the European spirit: a religious leader, a senior figure in the Muslim hierarchy, and a reformer, a principled opponent of the archaic clergy, landlords’ privileges, national “deviations,” and all that is connected. with the so-called Eastern despotism… Ahead Chelebiyev and his associates saw the convening of the Congress of the Crimean Tatar people – Kurultai and further – the All-Crimean Constituent Assembly

The first page of the newspaper "Voice of the Tatars" - the body of the Music Executive Committee
The first page of the newspaper “Voice of the Tatars” – the body of the Music Executive Committee

A general meeting of Crimean Muslims opened in Simferopol on March 25 (12) under the chairmanship of teacher S. Khattatov. According to various sources, from 1.5 to 2 thousand delegates took part in its work. At this forum, the Provisional Crimean Muslim Executive Committee (Musvykonkom) was elected. It consisted of 50 people, headed by the Commissioner of the Spiritual Board, Mufti Ch. Chelebiev. It included such well-known figures of the Crimean Tatar movement as A. Ozenbashli, H. Chapchakchi, S. Khattatov, A. Bodaninsky, I. Tarpi, S. Memetov, S. Idrisov and others. In the spring and summer, an extensive network of grassroots bodies of the Music Executive Committee was established in the Crimea – 124 city, county and township executive committees, as well as women’s and youth committees.

From April 5, virtually all the affairs of the Crimean Tatars passed to the jurisdiction of the Music Executive Committee. He played the role of the highest body of the Crimean Tatars, that is, he focused in his activities the religious, spiritual, economic and political spheres of life of the whole nation. This is evidenced, for example, by the fact that one of the first decrees adopted by the Musvykonkom was a decree concerning education.
Crimean Tatars took a rather active part in all-Russian congresses of Muslims. In May, the Music Executive Committee elected two representatives – Asan Sabri Aivazov and Mustafa Kipchaksky – to the bureau of the Muslim faction of the State Duma to participate in preparations for the First All-Russian Muslim Congress, which took place in Moscow this month. The First Congress was attended by 1,500 delegates from all cities, towns and villages of the former Russian Empire. A delegation of Crimean Tatars came to Moscow from the Crimea, and a month later another Crimean Tatar delegation visited Kazan, where the Second All-Russian Muslim Congress took place.

Entrance ticket to the meeting of the First All-Russian Muslim Congress
Entrance ticket to the meeting of the First All-Russian Muslim Congress

The central bodies of the Music Executive Committee were the newspapers “Millet” (“Nation”, editor – A.-S. Aivazov, published from June 27) and the weekly “Voice of the Tatars” (editors – A. Bodaninsky and H. Chapchakchi, published from July 22).

Musvykonkom worked closely with the Crimean Tatar trade unions, which began to appear at this time. The first to appear was the Muslim trade union of the Simferopol district in April, which united 63 musicians.

Amet Ozenbashli
Amet Ozenbashli

Under the auspices of the Musvykonkom, organizations were created to unite Crimean Tatar youth. The Muslim Youth Union was one of the first to be established in Yevpatoria on May 27. It was headed by Hamil Zenki and Umer Aji Asan. The newly formed union set itself the following tasks: to spread knowledge among the Tatars, to study political issues, to work in the field of development of national art, to eradicate obsolete rites. Such organizations began to be established in other cities. For example, in Feodosia, a Muslim educational circle “Medzhenie” was established. It was headed by a seven-member board chaired by Umar Effendi and his deputy, Ablyaz Dzhemilev.

On the initiative of the Music Executive Committee in the summer of 1917 in Simferopol, the All-Crimean Congress of Studying Tatars took place. In the course of his work, it was decided to create an organization “Union of Learning Tatars”, which was to conduct cultural and educational work, organize reading libraries, hold charity events, amateur performances to raise funds for poor students. The deputies of the congress traveled to all cities to organize local branches of the Union. The Bakhchisaray branch of the Union proved to be the strongest. This city was the cultural center of the Crimea, and therefore there was the largest number of Tatar youth who studied. Subsequently, an independent center was formed, which was called the Bakhchisaray Union of Tatars studying “Unity”.

Deputation of Crimean Tatars to the Central Rada
Deputation of Crimean Tatars to the Central Rada

On August 4 (July 22), 1917, a document entitled “Political Program of Tatar Democracy” was published in the newspaper “Voice of the Tatars”. Today we call this document the first version of the political platform developed by Tatar leaders, which became the basis for the first program of the Crimean Tatar party of Milli Firka, adopted in early August (late July).

This project consisted of nine points:
1. In union with all political groups, Tatar democracy considers it its duty to prepare the Tatar people until the moment when the Masters of the Land of Russia – the Constituent Assembly.
2. In the Constituent Assembly, the Tatar people will seek the establishment of a Federal Democratic Republic.
3. The Tatar people in union with other nationalities inhabiting the Crimea do not demand political autonomy for themselves, but will not allow the establishment of political hegemony in the Crimea of ​​any people who have no cultural, historical or ethnographic rights to such.
4. In the Constituent Assembly, Tatar democracy will demand the transfer of all land to the working people.
5. The Tatar people demand the return to the Vakuf Fund of all stolen lands and vakuf capitals appropriated by the old regime.
6. The Tatar people demand for themselves national and cultural autonomy as a necessary factor in the free development of national identity.
7. The working Tatar people demand the abolition of the class privileges that exist for some Tatars (Murzaks), who were still terrible parasites on his body.
8. Tatar democracy sets itself the task of guarding national interests, and therefore it fully supports the creative work of the Provisional Government, as it does not run counter to the ideology of revolutionary democracy.
9. The Tatar people demand the allocation of rear Tatar soldiers in special military units to serve at the front in protecting the state from a cruel enemy . “

Thus, we see that this program provided for the creation of a Tatar national-cultural autonomous federal republic within a single federal democratic state. A course was proclaimed to abolish all classes of privileges and equalize the rights of all nationalities. It was especially emphasized that all the land and the so-called waqf fund should be handed over to the working Tatars. The waqf fund accumulated income from land, property and personal monetary contributions transferred by the Tatar inhabitants of the peninsula. The endowment fund has always gone to charity.

A separate item was the organization of special purely Tatar national military units on the peninsula – the so-called Tatar squadrons. Soon, with the permission of O. Kerensky, the Music Executive Committee began to form Tatar national military formations, the so-called squadrons.
At the end of the document there was a call to convene the All-Russian Constituent Assembly as soon as possible, which was to legislate for the Tatars the above requirements. The Tatars also assured the Provisional Government that the Tatar people would fully support the central government in carrying out all its measures aimed at “consolidating the rule of law in the country.” After all, as stated in the document, ” it was the Provisional Government that had to guard all national interests .”
However, it did not happen as expected…

In July 1917, news of armed clashes on the streets of Petrograd reached the peninsula. This led to the fact that the provincial commissioner of the Provisional Government M. Bogdanov decided to increase the pressure on the leaders of various political parties and organizations and even to arrest those whom he considered dangerous to maintain peace in Simferopol. Particularly dangerous was Chelebiev, who could hypothetically call on Tatar forces to oppose the Provisional Government. On the morning of August 5 (July 23), Chelebiyev was arrested by Simferopol counterintelligence forces and taken by car to Sevastopol.

The arrest of the mufti caused great indignation among the Crimean Tatars and led to an organized demonstration against the Provisional Government, located on the peninsula. Telegrams were sent from all parts of the peninsula to Simferopol to the address of the provincial commissioner Bogdanov with protests from the Crimean Tatar branches of the Musvykonkom and private individuals with indignation over the arrest of the mufti and demands to release him immediately.
In fact, the actions of the local authorities led to the same action that she wanted to avoid. A huge crowd of Crimean Tatars surrounded the prison building demanding the release of Crimea’s first popularly elected mufti. As Chelebiev was not in prison, the prison administration refused to extradite the “criminal” to the crowd. Representatives of all 124 branches of the Music Executive Committee were ordered to go immediately to the capital, where an emergency congress of Crimean Tatar organizations was to take place.

It was in Simferopol on August 6-7 (July 24-25), 1917 that the First Crimean Tatar Delegate Congress took place, the work of which was aimed at coordinating the cooperation of the city and township branches of the Musvykonkom with the democratic and socialist parties. The desire to establish close cooperation with the Central Council and the Provisional Government was emphasized. After all, frightened by the explosion of Tatar discontent, the representatives of the Provisional Government in the Tavriya province revoked the arrest warrant and released the arrested Chelebiev.

The intentions to cooperate with the Central Rada were supported by an official delegation sent to Kyiv by the Musvykonkom in early August (late July). One of the leaders of the movement, D. Seidamet, described that visit quite openly in his memoirs. He stated that “the anarchy that surrounded us on all sides eloquently proved to us the groundlessness of our intentions to keep the country on a contractual basis with the Russians, with the Russian authorities. This put us in front of the need for a more in-depth study of the national movement of Ukrainians. “

The heads of the Music Executive Committee D. Seidamet and A. Ozenbashly went to Kyiv. They met with the Chairman of the Central Rada M. Hrushevsky, the Secretary for International Affairs O. Shulgin, the Chairman of the General Secretariat V. Vynnychenko and S. Petliura, and took part in the meetings of the Central Rada. Seydamet was delighted with the figure of M. Hrushevsky, who ” caused astonishment and admiration for his own tireless activity, knowledge of history, strategic thinking: he could better than others set a goal and determine the shortest path to it .” The results of the Crimean Tatars’ trip to Kyiv were presented on August 11 (July 29) in the Voice of the Tatars newspaper.

The delegation submitted several notes to the representatives of the Central Council. The first expressed a request to support their desire to establish autonomy on the peninsula and wishes to join Crimea to Ukraine. The Central Rada was also given a note on the establishment of a Muslim army on the peninsula.

At that time, the Ukrainian Central Rada was dominated by the political forces of the federalist trend. After discussing the Muslims’ proposals for autonomy, the General Secretariat considered it undesirable to raise this issue before the central government until the issue of the future fate of territorial autonomy for Ukraine itself was resolved. The result of the meeting was that the Central Rada recognized the Crimean Tatar people as the main subject of self-determination in Crimea.

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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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