14:28 May. 20, 2016
Ethnic minority that have openly opposed Russia's occupation is under a threat
Russia suffered an unexpected defeat in the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday when its singer came in third, while Ukraine, of all countries, took first place.
To add insult to injury, Ukraine's contestant, Jamala, is of Crimean Tatar descent. And she didn't sing just any song, but a song about her people's ruthless deportation by Soviet authorities in 1944, when more than 230,000 Crimean Tatars, an overwhelming majority of the population, were exiled from the Crimean Peninsula. Nearly half died as a result of this ethnic cleansing.
Russian officials criticized Ukraine's victory as yet another example of the West's "propaganda and information war" against their country. Meanwhile, Europe is no doubt feeling good about itself for delivering a karmic blow to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whose annexation of Crimea in 2014 and continuing war in Ukraine still sting.
But the Eurovision victory took place in the world of entertainment. In the real world, Russia is escalating its crackdown on the Crimean Tatars, who now make up 12 percent of Crimea's population after the Soviet Union allowed the deportation survivors and their descendants to return in 1989.
On April 26, Russia banned the Crimean Tatars' legislature, the Mejlis, calling it an extremist organization. On May 12, the authorities arrested several Tatars, including Ilmi Umerov, deputy chairman of the Mejlis. Activists say that more searches and arrests are likely soon. This would be a particularly tone-deaf move on Russia's part, considering that the anniversary of the 1944 deportation is this week.
But if past treatment of the Crimean Tatars is anything to go by, Russia probably isn't bothered by that.