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Kok Bayrak is one of the new symbols of the struggle for the liberation of Crimea

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Kok flag
Kok flag

Many Ukrainians, having seen the blue flag (“Kok Bayrak” in the Crimean Tatar language) with a golden tamga, know that it is the national flag of the largest indigenous people of the Crimean Tatars in Crimea and Ukraine in general. But when and where did it originate, what does it mean? Not all professional historians are able to answer these seemingly simple questions. Inaccuracies and errors also often occur in the reference literature and resources. Meanwhile, the social significance of the Crimean Tatar flag is growing. It can be seen from time to time over Ukrainian diplomatic missions, in the parliaments of foreign countries. For over a hundred years, the blue flag with a tamga has been a symbol of the unity of the Crimean Tatar people and their struggle for their rights. And since 2014, after the beginning of Russia’s aggression, it has acquired additional meanings for many people in Ukraine and the world – it has even spread,supported by government agencies, the slogan “Two flags – one country.” Therefore, in this article we will briefly present the history of one of the main Crimean Tatar national symbols, which now has a special meaning for the representative of the Ukrainian political nation of any ethnic origin. 

Birth of a national symbol

As a rule, peoples have their own symbols that reflect their identity, traditions and aspirations. Flags occupy an honorable place among national attributes. The acute question of determining the national flag mostly arises in the periods of nation- or state-building, the development of mass national movements.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the modern Crimean Tatar national flag became popular among the Crimean Tatars and acquired a special status during the wars and revolutions in Crimea in 1917-1919. This happened synchronously with many other peoples of Eastern and Central Europe. The Crimean Tatar flag has ancient roots, but acquired its modern appearance a little over a hundred years ago. Many pages of its history have not yet been studied or are debatable.

The first mystery of the Crimean Tatar cock-flag is actually the time of its official recognition as national. There is a widespread version in the mass media and even popular science literature that this happened on November 26-December 13 (December 9-26), 1917, at the Crimean Tatar constituent assembly, the Kurultai. However, the analysis of its protocols and the national constitution – the Crimean Tatar Basic Laws, adopted on December 13 (26), 1917 – does not allow to support such an interpretation. In this important document, which combines many achievements of European law with Muslim and traditional Crimean Tatar, there is not a word about the national flag.

Even more fragile is the version that the blue banner with the tamga became the flag of the Crimean People’s Republic at the end of 1917. The Crimean Tatar Basic Laws proclaimed such a republic, but another article stated that “the question of the form of government in the province can be resolved only by the regional Constituent Assembly.” In the autumn of 1917, the Crimean Tatar bodies of national self-government put forward the idea of ​​holding a national Crimean Tatar, and later a Crimean regional constituent. They put into practice the idea of ​​the Kurultay, the Crimean Tatar constituent assembly, which later became a one-year national parliament. The majority of Crimean socio-political forces and the temporary regional authority – the Council of People’s Representatives of the Tavriya Province – supported the idea of ​​holding the Crimean Constituent Assembly.They were to meet in February 1918, but the left-wing radicals, led by the Bolsheviks, put an end to the democratic development of Crimea. In January 1918, with the help of ships and sailors of the Black Sea Fleet, they seized power in the Crimea and banned the activities of the Tavria and Kurultay. As a result, the PRC proclaimed at the Kurultai was never formed, and accordingly it could have no governing bodies, no flag or other symbols.

To clarify the true history of the national Crimean Tatar flag, it is necessary to take a closer look at the events in Crimea after the fall of the Romanov dynasty, when bans and restrictions on political and national activity fell for a while, and opportunities for relatively free nation-building opened up.

1917 became a kind of “spring of nations” for Eastern Europe – a time of mass national movements. It was then that the blue flag became very popular among the Crimean Tatars, although it did not happen immediately. In the spring of 1917, in the spring of 1917, in the wake of revolutionary enthusiasm, Crimean Tatar activists held a series of mass events, including the All-Crimean Muslim Congress, the first democratically elected mufti; It is known that during the first demonstrations the red flag was used, which was then perceived not as a Bolshevik, but as a symbol of the supporters of the revolution and was popular among various national and political forces. March 17 (30), 1917 in Simferopol, several thousand Crimean Tatars arrived with a large red flag,in which the Crimean Tatar language was written “Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood and Justice” in the new Muslim cemetery to take an oath to the Provisional Government.

In his memoirs, one of the Crimean Tatar leaders, in 1917 the chairman of the Vakuf Commission and co-chairman of the Kurultai D. Seydamet wrote that representatives of the new national elite learned about both the Kurultai and the blue flag from the works of Leon Kahon. The works on Turkology of this European researcher had a noticeable influence on the beginning. XX century on the supporters of Turkism, the leaders of the Turkic peoples. “The book” Gok sancac “(” Blue Flag “) by the same author, translated by Nejip Asim Bey, although briefly, provided information about the sky-blue flag, which fluttered over the Crimea in honor of our ancestors and the Turks,” – said D. Seydamet in the context of the events of the autumn of 1917

At the grand opening of the first Crimean Tatar Museum within the walls of the Bakhchisaray Palace on November 3 (16), 1917, the Mufti of the Muslims of Crimea, Chairman of the Crimean-Muslim Executive Committee N. Chelebidzhihan delivered his famous program speech on Crimean Switzerland. cooperation of the peoples of Crimea in defense against anarchy. At the same time, the Crimean Tatar leader, in particular, said: “For some time, we had fame, both on land and at sea, but for a century and a half we were in a state of captivity and oppression, and we swore to raise our national blue flag in this palace. ». These words were met with loud applause. Probably, in honor of the opening of the National Museum over Khan Sarai raised a cockpit. The mufti also ordered another flag:”The February revolution overthrew the old regime, and our people rallied under the red flag. But the past months, and we have not seen any science, no knowledge, no art, no industry, no order, no justice. ” According to him, the disorder came from the central government, so he called on the Crimean Tatar people to take their destiny into their own hands.

At the end of that revolutionary year, the Kok Bayrak was already perceived as one of the national Crimean Tatar and Turkic symbols. It is known that during the solemn and crowded opening on November 26 (December 9), 1917 of the Kurultai in Bakhchisarai, blue and red flags fluttered above the entrance to the Khan’s Palace. A historical study by Crimean Tatar politician E. Kirimal states that during the first meeting of the national constituent assembly, which took place in one of the halls of the historic palace, over the presidium consisting of Mufti N. Chelebidzhikhan, D. Seidamet, A. Hilmi, A. Bedreddin and Sh. Gasprinska hung three flags. One of them was sky blue and symbolized the people, the second green and meant religion, and the third red – revolution. And above the flags, according to E. Kirimal, was located tamga Girayev. In the photo of the Presidium of the Kurultai,made during that historic meeting, two flags can be seen behind its members, but the shooting angle does not capture the entire wall. Thus, the description of E. Kirimal can be correct. Another photo, where the participants of the first meeting address the participants of the rally in the square inside the palace complex, also shows two large flags. And one of them was probably blue.

The left-wing radical regime was not popular in Crimea and in April 1918 fell under the blows of Ukrainian and German troops, as well as Crimean Tatar insurgents. Germany took advantage of the strength and mistakes of the UPR authorities established its control over Crimea, but it was in a difficult situation and did not introduce a direct occupation regime. She was looking for loyal forces in the Crimea to form a regional government. In May 1918, the Kurultai gathered in Simferopol, which announced a course to create an independent Crimean republic and tried to initiate the formation of regional authorities. At the same time, the “Project for the Creation of the Supreme Power in Crimea”, developed by some Crimean Tatar politicians, was announced. It proposed to declare the Crimean Tatar parliament regional and replenish it with representatives of other nationalities,to elect a prime minister and instruct him to form a regional government. The flag of this cabinet was declared a blue flag. The Kurultai followed this path and appointed D. Seidamet head of the Crimean regional government, but his talks with Russian liberals and socialists proved fruitless. The Kurultai could not form a government for the whole of Crimea on its own, because due to the colonization policy of the Romanov empire, the Crimean Tatars then made up only a quarter of the Crimean population.after all, due to the colonization policy of the Romanov empire, the Crimean Tatars then made up only a quarter of the Crimean population.after all, due to the colonization policy of the Romanov empire, the Crimean Tatars then made up only a quarter of the Crimean population.

Under these circumstances, in June 1918, the German occupation authorities commissioned the formation of the Crimean regional government to Lieutenant General, ex-commander of the Muslim Corps, Lithuanian Tatar S. Sulkevych, who was associated with the Crimean Tatar national movement. He quickly formed a cabinet of representatives of the Crimean Tatars, Russians and Germans of the Crimea. The declaration of the regional government published on June 25, 1918, in particular, stated the desire to preserve the neutrality and independence of Crimea until its position at the international level, and the state flag was declared a blue flag with the coat of arms of Tavriya province – a double eagle with Chatyrdag and an Orthodox cross. That is, Sulkevich’s government tried to combine the symbols of the Crimean Tatars and the Orthodox inhabitants of the Crimea. The existence of such a government without internationally recognized status was beneficial to the Germans,after all allowed to preserve a situation, and then to decide what to do with the Crimea.

However, Sulkevych’s cabinet without significant support from the Germans, in the face of confrontation with the Ukrainian state, internal contradictions in the government, weak social base in the Crimean society lasted in a semi-crisis and crisis state for only 4.5 months. After Germany lost World War in the autumn of 1918, the political situation in Crimea changed dramatically again – Sulkevich’s cabinet was replaced by the Crimean regional government of S. Crimea, which was dominated by cadets, 2 socialists, several non-partisans and no Crimean Tatars. In addition, detachments of Denikin’s Volunteer Army and Entente troops landed in the Crimea. The Crimean cabinet advocated a “united and indivisible” Russia, tried to mobilize the Crimean Tatars into the ranks of Denikin’s army, which led to a deterioration of relations and then a confrontation with national self-government bodies.

At that moment, the annual mandate of the Crimean Tatars in the national parliament, determined by the national constitution, ended, and therefore the Crimean Tatar national government (Directory) and the Crimean Tatar parliamentary bureau elected by him continued their activities. The last body approved in January 1919 an important document in the context of our topic – “Regulations on the cultural and national autonomy of the Muslims of Crimea”, developed by the Crimean Tatar Directorate of Justice. § 4 of the First Part of the Regulation stated: ” Crimean Muslims have their own national emblem, which is the image of” Tarak Tamgas “and the national flag, which consists of one banner of gray-blue color with the image of the national emblem in the upper corner of the pole .”

Thus, it seems that it was then that the Crimean Tatar flag received a modern look, and the sky-blue flag with a gold tamga was recognized in the document by the Crimean Tatar self-government bodies as national. Before that, as far as we can judge from 1917, the blue flag and the Tamga Gerayev were used separately. Finally, a successful combination of a blue cloth and a tarak-tamga (translated from the Crimean Tatar – “crest of the coat of arms”) was found. As in the case of the trident, there are different versions of the meaning of the cockroach – scales (symbol of justice), falcon, etc., but we have no reason to single out any as the most likely at the moment.

The flags of power and noble families of the Crimean Khanate had different colors – red-black, red, yellow-red, etc. Among them were the blue ones, for example, during the reign of Khan Bor Gaza Gerai (late 16th-early 17th centuries), but they did not dominate. However, at the beginning. XX century It was believed that in the ancient Turkic states could be flags using blue and gold colors. There is a version that the blue flag in the Middle Ages could be a symbol of pre-Islamic faith – Tengriism, meant the sky, had a sacred meaning, and therefore was not often used. Be that as it may, in 1917–1918 such a flag entered deep into the socio-political life of the Crimean Tatars, so the addition of the tamga of the Tamga, which was from the 15th century through the Gerai dynasty, was added to it. closely connected with the Crimea, only strengthened the importance of the flag, symbolized the unity of generations, reflected the state traditions.

However, it was not used for long in public life in the Crimea, because it was often risky for both whites and reds, and after the establishment of the communist regime in the 1920s it became almost impossible, because it threatened the freedom and lives of supporters of “bourgeois-national »Symbols. The Crimean Tatar flag appeared sporadically in Crimea during World War II, but the crime of genocide – the total expulsion of Crimean Tatars from Crimea by the communist regime in 1944 and the uprooting of its memory in the land of their parents – removed almost everyone from public Crimean life. manifestations of Crimean Tatar identity. Only in the diaspora of the Crimean Tatars the memory of the national flag was preserved.

Return of the national flag

Most of the ethnic groups deported by the Stalinist regime allowed them to return to their homeland in the 1950s, but not to the Crimean people. The Crimean Tatar people, together with the Meskhetian Turks and the Germans of the Volga region, are among the deported peoples who have been detained for the longest time in places of deportation in the USSR. However, a mass national movement for return unfolded in the late 1950s. On May 18, the Day of Deportation, activists sometimes hung a black mourning flag in high places in the Crimean Tatar settlements.

The weakening and democratization of the center in the USSR led to a new development of national movements. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Crimean Tatars, despite all obstacles, began to return en masse to their homeland. At the same time, the national flag returned to the public sphere.

In a comment to the Voice of Crimea, Eskender Bariev, a member of the Crimean Tatar People’s Majlis, mentioned that the national movement in the USSR was under the slogan of Lenin’s solution to the national question of returning to Crimea and restoring the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. He was surprised when he first saw a flag with a tamga in 1990 in a compact place of residence of compatriots in Sudak.

And the last Soviet political prisoner Sinaver Kadyrov in an exclusive comment noted that for the first time after a long break, the Crimean Tatar flag was used by activists of the national movement at a rally in Moscow in

On May 20, 1989, ” There was a double feeling,” he recalls of the reaction to the tamga flag first seen in the Crimea. to promote the theme of nationalism or pan-Islamism, which in our case was very inappropriate. The issue of returning the people to the Crimea had to be resolved. Therefore, by the decision of the constituent congress of the Organization of the Crimean Tatar National Movement in 1989, the national flag was declared a symbol of the OKNR . ” S. Kadyrov also mentions the purely practical difficulties that arose in the manufacture of flags on the eve of the collapse of the USSR due to lack of reports in the public literature: “I, like many others, knew about the national flag in absentia – I did not understand the details… Lack of information also became a problem: how to be and what to do. What to do when there is no fabric in the retail color of our flag “Kok-Mavi” (sky blue or in another version – “gray-blue”) and where to place a cockroach – in the center or in the upper corner .

The national flag regained its legitimacy at the Second Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar people, which worked on June 26-30, 1991 in Simferopol. On the last day of the national congress adopted a resolution “On the national flag and coat of arms” which regulated the status and appearance of the banner: ” 1. To consider Crimean Tatar national flag blue rectangular cloth with the image in its top right corner of the flagpole gold tamgas. The ratio of the width of the flag to its length is 1: 2 “.

Kok flag
Kok flag

Majlis member E. Bariev recalls that the Crimean Tatar Youth Center initiated the “Light a Fire in Your Heart” campaign in memory of the deportation victims, but there was also a need to celebrate positive events in the history of indigenous people. He has also been a co-organizer since 2005 of the All-Ukrainian action “This is your country – our Ukraine”, when on the State Flag Day, August 23, on the tops of the Crimean mountains young people from different regions of the country raised Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar flags, laid capsules to future generations. . In 2008-2009, E. Bariev thought of initiating the Day of the Crimean Tatar Flag, and in 2009 he voiced this idea at the School of Young Politicians. The Crimean Tatar youth considered the connection of its celebration to two historical dates – the First Kurultay in December 1917 or the Second Kurultay in June 1991. Finally, on the initiative of the Crimean Tatar youth organizations, on June 26, 2010, the Crimean Tatar Flag Day was celebrated for the first time. . And already on August 29, 2010 at the III session of the V Kurultay of the Crimean Tatar people the youth initiative was supported and it was decided to celebrate the National Flag Day on June 26 – the day of the opening of the Second Kurultay.In the 1990s, the Crimean Tatar flag became very widespread. In the beginning, the Crimean Tatar diaspora helped, which had been preserved since the period of wars and revolutions. XX century tradition of its manufacture. Shortly after the collapse of the USSR, the tamga flag could be seen in Crimea in the homes of Crimean Tatars and at mass rallies. The annual mourning rally on May 18 in the central square of Simferopol before the temporary occupation of Crimea has always been held under national flags.

In July 2012, the Kurultai adopted a resolution “On the official symbols of the Crimean Tatar people – the national flag, emblem, and anthem of the Crimean Tatar people,” in which he noted that these symbols have become integral attributes of the Crimean Tatar people, demonstrating its unity, self-identification generations and centuries of struggle for their freedom. ”

A new symbol of the struggle for the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine

For over a hundred years, the Crimean Tatar flag has been a symbol of the identity of the Crimean Tatar people, its unity, and the struggle for their rights. « Bayraq olsa – millet olur! Millet olsa – devlet olur! There is a flag – there will be a nation! There is a nation – there will be statehood! For me, the Crimean Tatar flag is a symbol of subjectivity, a symbol of the people’s political maturity, a symbol of the struggle for their rights , ”said Mejlis member E. Bariev.

2014, when for the first time in post-Hitler Europe, Russia brutally broke the international legal order and occupied Crimea, changed many ideas. For many non-Crimean Tatars, the national flag of the indigenous people has acquired additional meanings, because the Crimean Tatars resisted the violation of the territorial integrity of our state. The last Ukrainian flag in Simferopol hung over the building of the Crimean Tatar Majlis until the fall of 2014. The occupiers turned the Crimean Tatar people into the most discriminated ethnic community in Crimea – banned the activities of national self-government bodies, ignored the will of Russia, the Crimean citizens of Ukraine, the majority of Crimean Tatars), etc. This policy of the occupiers is motivated by the understanding that many Crimean Tatars do not recognize Russia’s violation of international law and are immune to aggressive Russian propaganda.

It is obvious that the rights of Crimean Tatars can be fully protected only after the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Many Ukrainians now associate the indigenous flag with the struggle for the liberation of Crimea and the restoration of state sovereignty in the south. In their perception, the Crimean Tatar flag became one of the symbols of the struggle for the unity of Ukraine, the restoration of its territorial integrity. For example, director from the Crimea Galina Dzhikayeva, who was forced to leave her home in the Crimea due to resistance to the occupation, has her own Crimean Tatar flag and, as she admitted on Facebook, dreams of posting it on the balcony of a house in Simferopol. During the illegal detention by Russian security forces in 2019 near Saki of Ukrainian activist Oleh Prykhodko, a flag with a tamga was confiscated from him. And another forced migrant from the Crimea, a public activist,Businesswoman Natalia Lyutikova wrote on Facebook on the eve of the Crimean Tatar Flag Day: “I don’t know if Crimean Tatars realize that their flag is a symbol of returning home for many Ukrainians, for me personally as well. In general, I believe that the Crimean Tatar flag should become an international symbol of the struggle for the right of peoples to live and be free on their land. ”

It is not for nothing that the action “United with the flag – #LIBERATECRIMEA” initiated by the Crimean Tatars, during which the great Crimean Tatar flag visited 28 countries on four continents in 2018–2019, was actively supported by the Ukrainian diaspora.

Today, the Crimean Tatar flag is formally banned in the temporarily occupied Crimea, but is occasionally persecuted for its use. For six years now, the flag festival has been actively celebrated in the center of Kyiv and in other regions of Ukraine, and sometimes it is done even without the participation of Crimean Tatars (for example, they hang a flag with a tamga in Donbass). We believe that one day both the Day of the Crimean Tatar Flag and the Day of the State Flag can be celebrated freely again, and two people close in color will fly over the Crimea again….

photo from the site UNN

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

Andrey Ivanets

Candidate of Historical Sciences, Senior Researcher at Ukrainian National Research Institute

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