Monday, July 15, 2013

Who is Trying to Kill Qirim, the Oldest and Most Important Crimean Tatar Newspaper?

By Paul Goble

The death of a paper, especially one that speaks for a small community that has few other mouthpieces, is always a tragedy. Efforts to kill such a paper by those who wish that community ill, however, are something much worse—a crime closely related to genocide, particularly because the perpetrators seek to hide behind budgets, bureaucracy and a belief that few beyond those immediately involved will pay attention. That is why it is so important to identify what the ethnic Russian officials are doing to shut down “Qirim,” the newspaper that for two decades has been the primary reporter on and organizer of the Crimean Tatars and their national movement.

Like all small communities, the Crimean Tatars lack the advertising base to support a network of publications; and like other nations who suffered deportation under the Soviet Union, they lack the resources to pay high subscription fees. Consequently, and since the end of Soviet times, they have turned to and received financial subventions from the government in order to maintain these publications, which serve the community. 

“Qirim” is no exception. Created in 1989 and operated on a shoestring budget for the last two decades, the editors and journalists of that Crimean Tatar–language paper, published in 4,000 copies, have played a major role in helping the Crimean Tatars to return to their national homeland and to survive as a national community.  Unfortunately, at various points in the past and now once again, officials first in Kyiv and then in Simferopol do not share those goals and have used their powers to try to shut down the paper (day.kiev.ua/ru/article/media/vypusk-gazety-kyrym-vosstanovlen-vremenno).

In January 2011, after Kyiv handed over responsibility for providing government assistance to such media outlets—it had earlier covered about 75 percent of the paper’s costs of production—the ethnic Russian–dominated government of the Crimean Autonomous Republic shut off funding and forced the paper to suspend operations. After some back and forth and the arrival of more outside assistance, “Qirim” was able to resume publication. But now Anatoli Mogilev, the ethnic Russian who heads the Crimean Autonomous Republic and who has repeatedly taken steps against the Crimean Tatars and their representatives, has once again declared that his regime will not fund the paper any more, putting “Qirim’s” future in serious doubt (krymtatar.in.ua/index/article/id/1036).

In July 2011, Bekir Mamutov, the editor of “Qirim,” made clear in comments to the Kyiv paper “Day” that far more than an individual paper is involved. “Today when there are only two newspapers in the Crimean Tatar language, one a weekly and one twice a week, [ending the existence of one of them by eliminating government subsidies] cannot be described in any way other than stupid and discriminatory. ‘Qirim’ has the ability to reach to the very last Crimean village; it fulfills social functions, in part serving as a national theater, museum, library, and school” to the entire Crimean Tatar nation (day.kiev.ua/ru/article/media/vypusk-gazety-kyrym-vosstanovlen-vremenno).

“Not less important,” he continued, “is that the paper contributes to the support and strengthening of the linguistic milieu in Crimean Tatar families.  If one considers the fact that Crimean Tatar is on UNESCO’s list of disappearing languges, this circumstance alone should push the government of Ukraine to support the vitality of the national press.” Obviously, the local ethnic Russian-dominated autonomy will not unless it is pushed. At present, its officials have made sure that one cannot even buy a copy of “Qirim” in the news kiosks in the center of Simferopol.

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