Crimean Tatar people
Crimean Tatars —not to be confused with Tatarstan Tatars— are an indigenous people of the Crimean peninsula, where they currently make up some 13% of the total population. Crimean Tatar is their historical language, which some of them still speak, although during the 20th century an increasing number of Crimean Tatars adopted Russian. Crimean Tatars are mostly Sunni Muslims.
Crimean Tatars established themselves as a differentiated people during the Khanate of Crimea era (15th-18th centuries). Under the Russian Empire (19th century) they were the demographic majority in Crimea. The progressive settlement of Russians, Ukrainians and other peoples reduced their share to 35% (late 19th century) and 25% (early Soviet era).
Stalin deported the Crimean Tatars to the center of Asia and Siberia in 1944, accusing them of having collaborated with the German occupation. Their massive return to the peninsula did not take place until the independence of Ukraine.
The Mejlis and the Qurultay are the two main representative bodies of the Crimean Tatar people. The Mejlis is a permanent executive and representative body, while Qurultay performs parliamentary functions and only meets at the request of the Mejlis, at least once every two and a half years.
Ukraine officially recognizes the Mejlis as a representative body of the Crimean Tatars. In 2016, after the Russian annexation of Crimea, the Mejlis was declared illegal by the supreme councils of Russia and Crimea. The body is in exile in Kiev, and continues to denounce repression against the Crimean Tatar people under Russian occupation.
The dispute over Crimea
Crimea is the subject of a territorial dispute between Ukraine and the Russian Federation since 2014. Ukraine argues the Russian Federation illegally annexed Crimea after having occupied the territory. Russia holds that Crimea peacefully seceded from Ukraine and only afterwards it asked to join the Russian Federation. The Mejlis supports Ukraine's stance.
(Last updated November 2017.)