Oleksandr Akhmatovych, Minister of Justice in the Crimean Regional Government. Polish Tatar
Oleksandr Akhmatovych, Minister of Justice in the Crimean Regional Government. Polish Tatar

The first steps of the government of Suleiman Sulkevich


The fact that the process of creating a viable regional government in Crimea has taken so long has irritated the German command. It decided to act. After consulting with the German Foreign Ministry, on June 5, General Kosch instructed General Suleiman Sulkiewicz to form a government, whom he appointed Prime Minister.

The first order, published by S. Sulkevich, stated: “ With the permission of the German command, I take over the management of Crimea and the formation of the government in order to bring the country to the regional parliament. The first task is to rebuild the normal functioning of all governmental and public institutions… “.

Suleiman (Matthew) Sulkevich
Suleiman (Matthew) Sulkevich

On June 21, the composition of the Crimean regional government was published in newspapers. In addition to Sulkevich (who held the positions of Prime Minister, Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Interior, Military and Maritime Affairs), it included: Prince S. Gorchakov (Comrade of the Prime Minister, Acting Minister of the Interior) ), T. Rapp (Minister of Agriculture, Regional Property and Supply), V. Nalbandov (Head of the Ministry of Education and Religions, Regional Controller and Regional Secretary), P. Sokovnin (Minister of Public Education and Religions), L. Freeman (Minister of Roads) communications, post and telegraph), O. Akhmatovich (Minister of Justice), D. Seidamet (Minister of Foreign Affairs), E. Moldavsky (Minister of Supply), D. Nikiforov (Head of the Ministry of Finance, Trade and Industry), Count V. Tatishchev ( Minister of Finance, Industry,trade and labor).

In order not to repel the Crimean Tatar national forces, the German administration gave seats in the newly formed government to representatives of the Tatar parliament. In addition to the introduction of D. Seydamet into the government, the popular ambassador to the Ottoman Empire was appointed A.-S. Айвазова.

Based on the opposite political orientation of the members of the regional government, it is impossible not to draw a pessimistic conclusion about the longevity of its existence. There were two groups in the regional government that saw the future of Crimea differently. The first group was represented by S. Sulkevych, D. Seidamet, O. Akhmatovych and their supporters from the so-called “German group”, who in the long run saw Crimea as a Crimean Tatar state independent of Russia. The second group brought together other ministers (V. Tatishchev, S. Gorchakov, V. Nalbandov, etc.), who regarded the independence of Crimea as a temporary phenomenon and hoped to restore a united Russia after the expulsion of the Bolsheviks.

Speaking about the basic principles on which the new government was to work, S. Sulkevych noted: “ I intend to involve broad social elements in the work. The central government, organized under my leadership, will make every effort to eradicate interethnic friction and reduce class antagonism; in the administrative sphere there will be a broad decentralization of power, in the foreign policy sphere we will maintain strict neutrality . ”

From the moment of his appointment, Sulkevich immediately appealed to the Kurultai leadership to provide him with a candidate for the post of his own Secretary of State, who would help the Prime Minister to settle Tatar affairs. This secretary was to be not only a delegate to the Kurultay, but also to be in close contact with its leadership. Sulkevich emphasized: ” Only under such conditions will I always be able to have accurate data on the desires, needs and attitudes of my native people, so as not to lose in view of their blood interests in governing the region .”

Declaration "To the population of Crimea"
Declaration “To the population of Crimea”

On June 25, the Declaration of the Crimean Regional Government “To the Population of Crimea” was published, which set out the basic principles that the newly formed government sought to act on. Thus, the government considered it expedient to preserve the laws of the Russian state promulgated before the Bolshevik coup. All decrees and orders of the Soviet government were repealed. The zemstvo assemblies of all levels and the city councils in force at that time were declared dissolved. It was planned to hold new elections to local self-government bodies on a qualifying and curial basis. Freedom of religion, assembly, and the press were proclaimed, but the need to maintain censorship and ban sects that were “obviously criminal and lacking in morality” was proclaimed.

Simferopol became the capital of the region. Crimean citizenship was introduced. Anyone born on Crimean soil could become a citizen without distinction of nationality or religion, if he could support his family by his own work. After all, according to S. Sulkevich himself, he wanted to “liberate Crimea from the elements that came and created Bolshevism here.”

Only those who were assigned to a state or community, who served in a state or public institution, lived in the Crimea for at least three years, and had “judicial and moral integrity” could obtain Crimean citizenship. Every Muslim, wherever he lived, had the right to obtain Crimean citizenship when applying.

At the same time, the right to private property was restored with the return (or restitution) of property, enterprises and estates confiscated or nationalized during the Bolshevik rule to their former owners. The endowments selected by the treasury were returned to the Tatar communities. Grain from vakuf fields was immediately handed over to Crimean Tatar peasants without any intermediaries. Free trade was introduced, securities were restored, the use of which was abolished by the Bolsheviks. It was planned to print their own banknotes.

A special point was stipulated the need to create their own army and navy, which was to be based on those ships of the Black Sea Fleet that remained in port after the retreat of the Bolsheviks. The staff of the Ministry of War was quickly selected, and the positions of county military commanders were organized, to which many Crimean Tatars were appointed. On July 24, Major General O. Milkovsky, a Lithuanian Tatar, was appointed Assistant Minister of War (that is, S. Sulkevych himself) with the duties of direct leadership of the Ministry of War. Muslim clerics were seconded to the Ministry of War. The staff of the regimental mosque of the Crimean cavalry regiment was approved. Officer ranks were approved, which in January 1918 were given to his soldiers (squadrons) by Sulkevich himself.At that time he held the position of director of military affairs.

Banknotes of the Crimean regional government
Banknotes of the Crimean regional government

The Declaration “To the Population of Crimea” emphasized that in connection with the “extreme degree of popular darkness” the regional government would pay special attention to public education and open a network of primary and secondary schools, as well as establish a university. In fact, on August 30, the Tavriya University was opened in Simferopol. In October of the same year, classes began at the historical and philological, physical and mathematical, legal, medical and agronomic faculties.

Sulkevich’s concerns in the field of culture did not stop only at the opening of the university. The government regularly allocated funds to help other educational institutions, publishing textbooks. On August 17, the order “On improving the financial situation of employees in secondary and other educational institutions” was adopted. Much attention was paid to national education. On October 28, 1918, 2,000 rubles were allocated for the renovation of the Simferopol Tatar Teachers’ Seminary.

Russian was proclaimed the state language, but Tatar and German received the right to use it officially.

According to the plan of the leaders of the new government, the state emblem and flag were to unite the interests of Tatars and other nationalities. Therefore, the form and content of these symbols of statehood have long been discussed. Local historian A. Markevich took an active part in the discussion, who in a letter addressed to S. Sulkevych dated June 9 even offered his version of the state emblem of the Crimea with detailed explanations of each symbol. He suggested: “The coat of arms should be divided into two parts, but lengthwise or crosswise – I can’t say now how it will be more beautiful. On the upper or right part of the coat of arms there should be an image of George the Victorious (on the canvas), based on the following grounds: a) it is an ancient Russian coat of arms; b) it is the coat of arms of the Italian colonies (Genoese) on the Black Sea; c) this symbol is also revered by Muslims. Thus, all the nationalities of Crimea, Russian, Greek, Armenian (associated with Kafa and other colonies) and Tatar will see in this part of the coat of arms that they all respect the image close to them. On the lower or left part there should be an image of the Crimean tamga – the coat of arms in the Tatar period of his life. As for the color, the first part of the coat of arms should be a combination of three colors: gold (certainly not yellow), black and white, namely:on a golden field of black image of George the Victorious on a white horse». However, this project did not receive widespread support.

Circular of Prime Minister S. Sulkevich
Circular of Prime Minister S. Sulkevich

Eventually, the state emblem of the Crimea was the emblem of the former Tavriya province (Byzantine eagle with a golden octagonal cross on the shield), and the flag was the national blue “Kok Bayrak”, which was the traditional flag of Genghis Khan and his descendants. These were the plans of the Crimean regional government, which he planned to implement until peace and order were established and it became possible to create a common democratic and legislative body (the name of which was not established and fluctuated between the wording: Crimean Constituent Assembly, Crimean Sejm or Crimean Parliament).

On June 29, the Council of Ministers of the Crimean regional government decided to reinstate the dismissed tsarist officials. The families of the White Guards, who were shot during the Soviet era, were to receive an increased pension.

Becoming the head of the Crimean regional government, Suleiman Sulkevich immediately began active work to create the system he considered the best. According to O. Fedyushin, Sulkevich “ was a figure who was best suited to manage this occupied territory until a further program of action was worked out for her. But the German leadership did not take into account (or did not understand) the most important political fact, as it turned out – Sulkevich’s own aspirations and his serious intentions to defend the interests of Crimea everywhere and in everything, as he understood them . ”

1917-1918 – the time of the highest flowering of the Crimean Tatar movement. S. Sulkevych, who was a Lithuanian Tatar by nationality, could not help but understand this. The affinity of national aspirations led to the new prime minister’s desire to achieve two results at the same time: taking into account the interests of Crimean Tatars, who were serious about achieving their own Crimean state, and working together with German leadership and other nationalities and parties to build a satisfactory system. representatives of so many different political forces.

Oleksandr Akhmatovych, Minister of Justice in the Crimean Regional Government. Polish Tatar
Oleksandr Akhmatovych, Minister of Justice in the Crimean Regional Government. Polish Tatar
Flag of the Crimean regional government
Flag of the Crimean regional government

To succeed in satisfying two completely opposite aspirations, Sulkevich took a kind of step. On July 5, the regional government issued an official statement stating that “there can be no two governments in Crimea,” and that the Kurultai was deprived of the rights of the national parliament.
On July 30, Sulkevich informed the Directory about the recognition of the cultural and national autonomy of the Crimean Tatars and assured them that the Ministry of Internal Affairs would not interfere with the approval of the statutes of national public organizations. At the same time, a law was passed on non-interference by the government in the religious life of Crimean Tatars. County and district chiefs, chiefs of city police departments were addressed with an order stating: “Due to the increase in the number of cases of police interference in the affairs of the Crimean Tatar National Directory, I order all police officers to provide full assistance to the officials of the said Directorate in fulfilling their duties . ”

It is also worth mentioning Sulkevych’s order that all waqfs be transferred to the management of the Kurultay, which acquired the right to dispose of them according to the needs of their own communities in the person of their proxies. Historically, local residents most often chose teachers who provided financial documentation and provided assistance to those most in need.

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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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