Why Russian chauvinists hate Crimean Tatars: Test of Jamala

by Vitaliy Portnikov, a¬†Ukrainian journalist ¬†(The original Vitaliy Portnikov’s article is here)

To [Russians] the very existence of this nation – is the reminder that the Crimea is not “theirs”.

Why the Russian mass media that are close to the Russian government are so angry about Ukraine’s decision to send the Crimean Tatar singer Jamala to the Eurovision-2016? Why do Russian politicians talk about it as an insult to Russia? What, actually is happening here?

Jamala is a well-established singer on the Ukrainian stage, she has even been a contender for Ukraine’s nomination to the Eurovision song contest several times before. No-one should be concerned with her ethnic origin. Yes, the Crimean Tatars live in the Crimea, which after the annexation Russia considers “its own”. But they also live in Ukraine, they live also in Turkey. Why Ukraine cannot send to the Eurovision a Crimean Tatar singer?

Now about the song. The song is dedicated to the year 1944 – the time of deportation of the Crimean Tatars. But this deportation has been officially condemned in Russia back in the Soviet times, as well as in the post-Soviet Russia. The Russian president Putin even signed a special presidential decree regarding the rights of prosecuted and deported nations under the Soviet regime. It means that the tragedy of 1944 received an unequivocal condemnation in Ukraine, but also – in Russia. Let me emphasise: this was an official condemnation by the Russian government. So what was the point of worrying?

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The reason is that there are two “Russias”: there is Russia that needs to adapt to follow the international rules and the universal human values – and there is Russia which doesn’t care. This is Russia of chauvinists and Stalin’s supporters, which doesn’t want to apologise for anything nor remember its own crimes. And there is more and more of this second Russia – especially after the annexation of the Crimea, the war in Donbas in Eastern Ukraine and the horror in Syria. This is exactly the Russia which came against Jamala.

This Russia, even before the occupation of the Crimea, claimed that it is not worth bringing up the issue of the Crimean Tatars’ deportation anymore. […] – because – [they just repeat Stalin’s claim] – “the Crimean Tatars co-operated with the Nazis.”

The Russians hate the Crimean Tatars because this nation did not renounce its origin, its own people, its Motherland. Because the very existence of the Crimean Tatars reminds the Russians that the Crimea is not “theirs”. It is an irrefutable proof of a civilisational assault on the ethnic population of the peninsula starting from 1700-s – an assault that is committed on a daily basis by the Russian occupiers and their henchmen. Just think about it: systematic driving out of the Crimean Tatars, who have been the majority of the population of the peninsula, devastating wars, then the campaign of the communist terror which took the lives of tens of thousands of people, both in the Crimea and beyond, including the national elite of the Crimean Tatar people. Then – just after only 25 years -the complete mass deportation of the native nation of the Crimean Tatars from the Crimea. And now – annexation and the rule of Russian puppet governor Aksenov. Sorry our Russian neighbours, but Ukraine gave a respite to the Crimean Tatars compared to the background of your atrocities. And what is the difference between your attitude towards the Crimean Tatars and Hitler’s attitude towards the Jewish people? The Fuhrer also wanted that they did not exist – that they did not remind him and his supporters about the Germany which he wanted to forget – the Germany of equal citizens, not those confused by the racial ideas of the Nazis.

You know the outcome of this story. And it is much more important that the outcome of the Eurovision contest.

Translated by Bogdan Babych, University of Leeds