"In 10 years we will not hear your Crimean Tatar speech." How the Crimean Tatars weaned from their native language

Рустем ХалиловQHA media
20 November 2018, 00:51
Рустем ХалиловQHA media
20 November 2018, 00:51
Muhammed Umerov
for QHA

“In 10 years we will never hear your Crimean Tatar speech, so why should it be on the school curriculum?” Such an argument was used by the Principal of one of the Bakhchysarai schools in a conversation with a teacher of the Crimean Tatar language and literature, Lenie Asanova.

Before the beginning of the school year, Asanova learned that the Crimean Tatar was removed from the program. Struggling for her job and her native language, she went to the Principal and demanded to include at least one lesson of the Crimean Tatar language in the schedule.

A few days later, Asanova was again summoned to the Principal’s office. This time he was not alone. Two representatives of the Russian power structures were also there.

Lenie Asanova

They asked about my attitude towards the Mejlis. They recalled my recent trip to Kyiv and demanded to tell about it in detail. They said they could understand me and my views on the existing problem, but they would not change the school curriculum. They warned me against telling anyone about our conversation, because problems may arise

The conversation was not limited to this. Employees tried to find out from Asanova about the political views of some of her neighbors.

The story of the Bakhchysarai teacher ended with the fact that the Crimean Tatar language was no longer taught in school, and Asanova became the head teacher of the primary classes.

Such stories in Crimea after the annexation are not exceptions, but the rule. The Crimean Tatar language, which the Russian authorities in Crimea have formally recognized as the state’s language, is actually not studied in most schools of the peninsula, or is optional.

Following the annexation of the peninsula allocations were made from the Russian budget for the construction of kindergartens and schools in different places of the Crimean Tatars’ compact residence. However, the attitude of the Russian authorities to the Crimean Tatar language is vividly characterized by the situation with school No. 44 in the Fontany microdistrict in Simferopol, where about ten thousand Crimean Tatars reside.

Until 2014, it was called the “school of four presidents”, since the beginning of its construction dates back to the days of Leonid Kravchuk’s presidency. The construction lasted almost a quarter of a century. In 2017, the school in the place of compact residence of the Crimean Tatars was finally commissioned. Beautiful and modern, but without the vital national status. Today, children can study the Crimean Tatar language in the school No. 44, at the request of the parents, but only up to the 4th grade. After that, all subjects are taught in Russian, and only an hour a week remains in their native language.

Native language

New textbooks of the Crimean Tatar language for schools with instruction in the Russian or Crimean Tatar languages ​​have caused great resonance in the Crimea.

The Russian “Ministry of Education” of Crimea explained: the Crimean Tatar was indicated as non-native, in order to emphasize the level of complexity of the material in this textbook. Some families for whom the Crimean Tatar is native, were not satisfied with this explanation. Parents demanded to replace the textbooks with others, without “non-native” category, however, they did not achieve anything.

Such incidents only further contribute to the view that Russia seeks to eradicate the Crimean Tatar language as soon as possible, which, according to UNESCO, is already among the endangered ones.

But activists do not give up. For several years, the children's development center “Aile” (“Family”) has been operating in Simferopol, in which children learn the Crimean Tatar language. And the activists of the project “Ana-Babalarnyn Teshebbyusi” (“Parent Initiative”) explain to parents the mechanisms that the Crimean Tatars can use in educational institutions to ensure the right of children to study in their native language.


More than 260,000 Crimean Tatars live in Crimea. Approximately 150,000 reside in Central Asia (mainly in Uzbekistan), where their ancestors had been exiled in 1944 during World War II by the Soviet Union. However, of all these people, mostly the older generations are the only ones still speaking Crimean Tatar. In 2013, the language was estimated to be on the brink of extinction, being taught in only around 15 schools in Crimea. Turkey has provided support to Ukraine, to aid in bringing the schools teaching in Crimean Tatar to a modern state. An estimated 5 million people of Crimean origin live in Turkey, descendants of those who emigrated in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Of these an estimated 2,000 still speak the language. Smaller Crimean Tatar communities are also found in Romania (22,000), Bulgaria (6,000), and the United States. Crimean Tatar is one of the seriously endangered languages in Europe.

Emine Avamileva: This is inconvenient, first of all, to the parents themselves

Еміне Авамілєва, кримськотатарський громадський діяч

Unfortunately, parents today are rather passive and timid. According to the legislation, which is currently in force in the territory of Crimea, the educational process is carried out in the form of a social order. Of more than two hundred thousand Crimean children, about a third are the Crimean Tatars. If parents from among the Crimean Tatars are more patriotic, purposeful, principled and persistent, then 30% will receive education and upbringing in their native language, instead of 3%.


What is the reason for the passivity of the parents?

This is inconvenient, first of all, to the parents themselves. When parents communicate with school administrations, the latter exert psychological pressure on parents. They are given numerous arguments: How will your children prepare for the Single State Exam in the future? And how will your children master physics, chemistry, biology, etc. in the Crimean Tatar language? And how will they get further education in universities? And do you know, we have a problem with subject teachers? You know, there are no textbooks. That is, a number of obstacles are created. Parents can not always show a civil position and give up.

Thus, the number of children who receive education in their native language or study the Crimean Tatar language is about 3%.


The official written languages of the Crimean Khanate were Chagatai and Ottoman Turkish. After Islamization, Crimean Tatars wrote with an Arabic script.

In 1928, the alphabet was replaced with the Uniform Turkic Alphabet based on the Latin script. The Uniform Turkic Alphabet was replaced in 1938 by a Cyrillic alphabet. During the 1990s and 2000s, the government of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea under Ukraine encouraged replacing the script with a Latin version again, but the Cyrillic has still been widely used (mainly in published literature, newspapers and education). The current Latin-based Crimean Tatar alphabet is the same as the Turkish alphabet, with two additional characters: Ñ ñ and Q q.