Since their first step to solve the problem of usurped land plots in Crimea, the new Crimean leaders have faced resistance from their former Crimean Tatar allies. The last month of this eventful year has seen growing confrontation between two former friends: the leader Crimea Sergey Aksyonov and the Crimean Tatar Sebat (Firmness) NGO.
The stumbling stone between them was Aksyonov’s initiative to solve one of Crimea’s most chronic problems – usurpation of land plots – a problem that first emerged in the last years of the Soviet Union, when Crimean Tatars began returning from where they were forcibly transferred to in the Soviet times. The years as part of independent Ukraine saw no progress in the matter. So, now it is for Russia to try solving it.
Inspired by the success of the “Crimean spring,” the Russian leaders declared that one of their top priorities would be to settle (in the good meaning of this word) all of Crimea’s repatriates, which meant that they were ready not only to finance efforts to improve habitats, but to provide land to whoever needs it, too.
Well aware of the significance of the moment (it will just suffice to mention the Russian president’s decree on measures to rehabilitate the Armenian, Bulgarian, Greek, Crimean Tatar and German peoples and on state support for their revival and development), the Crimean authorities got into gear to carry out the initiative. In November, they approved a bill on provision of national or municipal land plots, which, if observed, might help to solve the problem of land usurpation at least partially.
The Crimean authorities thought they had finally found the cure for that chronic disease but faced quite surprising resistance from their ally, Sebat. Opponent of the so-called Mejlis during the Ukrainian rule and supporter of pro-Russian forces during the February events, Sebat said that the bill was discriminatory. But the problem here is that Sebat is one of the most influential land usurpers (though they prefer calling their activity “meadows of protest”). According to the leader of Sebat Seydamet Gemedzhi, his organization involves almost 15,000 families who participated in the “meadows of protest,” that is, quite a big group of people with quite a certain interest. “And if this interest is ignored, the consequences may be quite serious – up to an ethnic conflict,” Gemedzhi warns.
Along with such warnings, Sebat is actively torpedoing the bill by organizing news conferences, sending letters to federal authorities, collecting signatures for a letter to the Russian president (according to Sebat, in mid-December they already had over 4,000 signatures).
Their activeness is quite logical: the leaders of Sebat have quite serious commitments to those who have usurped quite valuable land plots along major roads. Some of them own more than one plot and all of them have paid quite big sums to Sebat for the right to join the “protest movement” and to legalize the lands and to resell them at a profit later. So, it seems that the primary motive of Sebat’s cooperation with the regime (both former and present) was its hope to legalize such lands in exchange for support of anti-Mejlis actions.
Loosely speaking, if this bill is approved, the Sebat leaders will face a heap of open commitments and may lose both reputation and health.
However, it seems that the Crimean authorities are not going to yield to Sebat’s pressure. On Dec 24, President of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov confirmed his position that no less than 95% of usurped lands along highways must be vacated in early 2015 and on Dec 25 the State Council of the Republic of Crimea approved the abovementioned bill. One of the provisions of the bill says that by Jan 1 2016 all usurpers should either apply for the lands they have usurped or destroy all facilities they have built there. If they fail to apply or if their applications are declined, their facilities will be destroyed.
So, it seems that the Russian realities are beginning to rebuild the years’ old relationships between land usurpers and Crimean authorities. Supported by the state, the latter are quite unyielding and firm in their wish to achieve their goal even if they lose an ally in the not very loyal Crimean Tatar community.
So, hopefully, their firmness will not force stalemated Sebat into some much tougher resistance.