SOCHI, May 16 (RIA Novosti) – Russia may consider a proposal to acknowledge the Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people, but first the issue needs to be carefully studied, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday.
“We should definitely think about this. But while solving one problem, one cannot cause another problem,” Putin said at a meeting with representatives of the Crimean Tatar community.
The ancient Greeks founded the first colonies in the region, which they called Tauris. The peninsula was later conquered by the Turk-Mongols and joined the Russian Empire in 1774. Putin said Greeks also have a right to be called an indigenous people of Crimea, adding that “they had been there earlier than we were. That’s why we need to look at all these issues carefully.”
In late April, Putin signed a decree on the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars who suffered during the repression of the Stalin era. “If you have any fears that the decree that I signed does not absolutely guarantee what is written down there, we may think some more so that these fears do not emerge. I am ready to think together with you,” the Russian president said.
The Crimean Tatars, a historic people of the region, were deported en masse to Central Asia by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin 70 years ago. Although many of them returned in the early 1990s, they were unable to reclaim the land they had possessed before their deportation.
Many Crimean Tatars have taken over unclaimed land as squatters by building houses, farms and mosques. Ukrainian authorities have in the past failed to settle the land disputes.
Crimea, formerly a part of Ukraine, held a referendum on reunification with Russia on March 16 in reaction to dangerous nationalist rhetoric from the coup-imposed authorities in Kiev. Over 96 percent of voters in the region supported integration into the Russian Federation.