Dance of Crimean Tatars, a lithograph from the series The Beautiful Scenery and Chief Places of Interest throughout the Crimea by Carlo Bossoli, 1843
Calls by Russian politicians to rename Crimea “Tavrida” or “Tavriya” are part of an effort by Moscow to “de-Turkify” the peninsula and thereby separate the Crimean Tatars from the land “on which they arose and evolved,” according to Bekir Mamurov, editor in chief of “Kyyrym.”
Mamutov, who is also a member of the Mejlis and dean of the faculty for Crimean Tatar and Turkish philology at the Crimean Engineering-Pedagogical Institute in Simferopil, said that such efforts were “morally ugly” and ultimately an absurdity.
The name “Qirim” (“Crimea”) was well established no later than the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th centuries, Mamutov points out, and its original toponymic meaning extended to political terms such as Qirim Ulusi (Crimean Ulus), Qirim Yurtu (Crimean Yurt), and Qirim Hanligi (Crimean Khanate).
To try to obscure that history by renaming the peninsula is nothing more than an indication that Moscow wants to “de-Turkify” or “if you like, “de-Crimeanize Crimea,” Mamutov says. But at the same time, he continues, it shows just how ignorant the Russian authors of this idea are.
More than that, those behind this idea think that by renaming Crimea the Tauride as Catherine II did in the 18th century they will be restoring a Greek name. But Mamutov says, they are in for “a surprise.” As they will soon learn, Tauride comes from “tav er” which is ancient Turkish for “a proud man,” just as “shum er” in that language means “free man.”
Anyone who wishes to become convinced of that need only consult the dictionary of ancient Turkic published in Leningrad in 1969. If someone does, almost certainly, Mamutov suggests, he or she “will lose any desire to rename Crimea” because they will see that in dealing with that land, “one cannot avoid Turkic words.”
One has the impression, the Crimean Tatar philologist says, that some in Moscow “are thinking day and night about how to separate us, the children of this land, the Crimeans from Crimea” by trying to push the notion that “on the territory of Crimea there are no indigenous peoples.”
“They suppose,” he suggests, “that by changing the name of the land, they will be able to spiritually, morally and historically alienate our people from the land on which they appeared and evolved and that they will be able to take our Motherland away from us.” But that is a fool’s errand, Mamutov says, because the Crimean Tatars will never agree to rename Crimea.