Most Russians are convinced that Russia is any place that can be seized and kept by Russian forces.
Sergey Menyaylo, the so-called “governor” of Sevastopol, has declared that Crimean Tatars belong “high up in the mountains” and, in fact, are only guests in Crimea.
Many would accuse Menyaylo of feeble-mindedness, but he simply said what is believed by representatives of Russian society — the same 95 percent who currently support the seizure of Crimea and would gladly support the capture of any other territory regardless of who is living there.
For Menyaylo and others like him, the history of Crimea is of no interest. They consider it absolutely unimportant that the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union have conducted systematic policies of displacement and destruction of the indigenous people of Crimea. They are convinced that Russia exists anywhere there are Russian tanks — anywhere that territory can be seized and held by force.
And this force, of course, can be directed against external invaders as well as against the local population if it harbours any doubts about Russia’s right to the seized territories. This is medieval logic. But what is horrifying is that these Menyaylos live in the Middle Ages and that Russia has failed to move into the present. Any Russian who does live in the present becomes a marginal in his own country.
After Menyaylo’s announcement, it seems that no one could possibly have any further doubts that the policy of marginalizing the Crimean Tatars on their historical homeland will continue. This is, incidentally, what is happening with all the indigenous peoples in the Russian republics and regions. Everywhere where the memory of another people, another culture, another language can be destroyed, it is being destroyed.
This began when Moscow first occupied the principalities of ancient Rus. And now this experience is being transferred to all the native peoples of Russia. What differentiates the Crimean Tatars is simply the fact that they inhabit a territory than nobody recognizes as Russian. That not only history is on their side, but also tradition, the right of return, and, after all, the very soul of Crimea.
International law is also on their side, which some ignorant tyrant like Menyaylo cannot nullify. Putin himself cannot nullify it. And for that reason, Russian chauvinists hate the Crimean Tatars even more.