The experiences under the new authorities are mixed but there is shared feeling that their voices carry little weight. Those that stayed believe that they should live in the land of their forefathers even though they face the possibility of persecution. Since the annexation the Tatars have been singled out by the Russian authorities because of their openly pro-Ukrainian stance and refusal to conform to the new regime.
The Tartars are a Muslim minority indigenous to the peninsula and were dominant inhabitants until they were forcibly deported to Uzbekistan by Stalin after WWII. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Ukrainian government asked thousands of Tatars to return to Crimea. However, those returned found their property occupied. Attempts at compensation were made by the Ukrainian state but were often badly implemented and were also countered by the Russian Orthodox Church lobby.
Many Crimean Tatars have therefore come to view Russia as their oppressor and feel let down by Ukraine for allowing the territory to secede so easily. When the Russia Special Forces first occupied the region last year, the Ukrainian forces stationed on the peninsula were overwhelmed and abandoned their positions without a fight.
Video by Yuliia Stets
Text by Isobel Koshiw
Filmed in March, 2015