While the results of the recent Crimean elections are still being tabulated – or fine-tuned, if you will – there’s been an unfortunate dearth of the coverage of Tatar voting patterns, desires, and turn-outs. While much was made of the Tatar boycott during the initial Crimean referendum last March, there’s been a conspicuous silence around their (non-)involvement during this initial round of local elections.
The reasons for this shortage of coverage are somewhat self-evident. Between the by-a-thread ceasefire, the decision delaying the implementation of Ukraine’s DCFTA, and the recent commentary around Putin’s thoughts on Kazakhstan’s Russians, post-Soviet space is filled with other stories worth pursuing. Correspondents are in Donetsk and analysts are still fresh from the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit – and Crimea remains something of a fait accompli, an area that’s morphed from interest to static predictability, supplanted by the east, by Brussels, by Moscow.
And this attention elsewhere has come at the expense of further detailing the latest developments among Europe’s newest oppressed minority. There have been a handful of pieces that have come out examining Tatar plans – and plights – this weekend, but the pickings are slim. RFE/RL detailed the quasi-festive mood surrounding the proposed Tatar boycott, while Reuters offered a few sentences on the political position of Tatar leadership. Bloomberg, meanwhile, tossed a total of 13 words toward the Tatars’ decision(s). Unfortunately, the lengthiest look came from the Kremlin-sponsored RT. I’ll waste neither my time nor yours detailing the piece, but if you’re interested in a prime example of false equivalency, this stretch about sums it:
Long-time Mejlis leader Mustafa Dzhemilev (who resigned from his post in November 2013) and the current leader, Refat Chubarov, urged the people to boycott the elections to emphasize that Crimea is not a legitimate part of Russia. Both have been banned from entering Crimea.
Other Tatar politicians, prominent figures and activists [Editor's note: Don't worry about identifying these "others"], however, encouraged people to go to the polling stations and vote for their candidates in order for Crimean Tatars to be properly represented in local self-government bodies.
Unfortunately, this shortage of appropriate coverage helps ossify a pattern – aside from the initial round of stories last March, the lack of interest surrounding the plight of the Crimean Tatars has manifested itself in the English-language coverage Ukraine has seen over the last six months. The banning of Mustafa Dzhemilev – who still lacks a defining, long-form, English-language profile – and Refat Chubarov went largely under-covered in Western press, and, aside from a brief burst of pieces noting the coming legal noose hanging around the Tatar population, the fall-off from following the Tatars’ struggles has been steep.
This weekend offered an opportunity to help swell some of the coverage around the Crimean Tatars’ struggles, but, by and large, the opportunity went missed. If it wasn’t clear before, it’s that much more obvious now that interest in the Tatars’ struggles will take more than fabricated elections and falsified referenda to generate interest beyond Kyiv.
Update: Unfortunately, RT still maintains the lengthiest English-language look at recent Tatar struggles - but the German-language Frankfurter Allgemeine offered a rough sketch of the pre-election situation, and the tensions continuing to brew.