Citizenship issue in Crimea

To: MINELRES list submissions <>
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 1998 23:34:05 -0800
From: MINELRES moderator <>
Subject: Citizenship issue in Crimea

From: MINELRES moderator   <>

Original sender: John Jaworsky    <>

Citizenship issue in Crimea

I received an enquiry to clarify the nature of the citizenship problems
faced by the Crimean Tatars, and thought that this topic would be of
broader interest to MINELRES subscribers.  I am not a legal expert, and
therefore hope that others who have more direct, hands-on experience
with this issue can add to my observations on this topic.

Ukraine adopted a zero option citizenship policy in the fall of 1991,
which meant that all those who were permanent residents of Ukraine
when it became an independent state automatically became citizens
of Ukraine unless they indicated that they did not desire this citizenship.
However, Ukraines citizenship policy does not permit dual citizenship.
Therefore the main problem (as I see it, based on the materials available
to me) is that those Crimean Tatars who arrived in Ukraine after it
became an independent state could not become citizens of Ukraine
unless they formally renounced their previous citizenship.  Since most
of the Crimean Tatar diaspora in the Soviet Union lived in Uzbekistan and
other states of Central Asia, those Crimean Tatars who left for Ukraine
after it became an independent state were required to renounce their status
as citizens of these states before they could formally apply for Ukrainian

However, it was very difficult (and expensive) for the Crimean Tatars
living in Crimea to officially  renounce their previous citizenship.  In
the case of Uzbekistan, the formal fee (in 1996) for processing the
appropriate documents was approximately $100 (U.S.), and informal
fees were probably much higher.  In addition, it was very difficult for
Crimean Tatars to satisfy some of the other naturalization criteria
specified in Ukraines original citizenship legislation (e.g., a working
knowledge of Ukrainian, and proof that they had the appropriate financial
resources to support themselves).  Last but not least, local bureaucrats
in Crimea were often very reluctant to expedite the naturalization process
for Crimean Tatars.

On 16 April 1997 Ukraines parliament adopted legislation On the
Introduction of Changes to Ukraines Law On Citizenship of Ukraine which
simplified some of the countrys naturalization procedures.  In particular, if
individuals find it very difficult to get an official document indicating that
previous citizenship is no longer valid they can submit a notarized
declaration stating that they renounce this previous citizenship, and this
will apparently suffice.  In addition, residence and language requirements
have been eased for some categories of naturalization applicants.

However, relatively few Crimean Tatars living in Crimea have gone
through these naturalization procedures.  This is largely because what
may appear to be relatively straightforward procedures are still, in fact,
very complex and drawn-out procedures given the hostility towards
Crimean Tatars of many local politicians and bureaucrats in Crimea
(and, to a lesser extent, in Kyiv), widespread corruption and
inefficiency in Crimea (and Ukraine as a whole), and the very difficult
socio-economic situation in which most Crimean Tatars find themselves.
In addition, given the gross injustices done to the Crimean Tatar
community ever since it was brutally deported from its homeland in
1944, the requirement that they go through a formal naturalization
procedure is greatly resented by the Crimean Tatars. This is why
the Crimean Tatar leadership has requested that Ukraines president
issue a decree which would automatically grant citizenship to the
Crimean Tatars presently residing in Crimea.

The implications of the fact that very large numbers of Crimean Tatars
living in Ukraine are not citizens of this country should be obvious.  It
has affected their access to social benefits, the privatization process,
voting rights, higher education, etc.

Incidentally, the latest Crimean Tatar protest action in Crimea appears
to have been timed to coincide with the visit to Ukraine of Uzbekistans
President Islam Karimov.  According to the Ukrainian newspaper Den
(18 February 1998) 64.1 thousand Crimean Tatars in Crimea are still
formally citizens of Uzbekistan.  According to another report in the
same newspaper (19 February 1998), the Ukrainian Presidents
representative in Crimea stated that the issue of the citizenship of the
Crimean Tatars would be raised by the two presidents during their

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