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Annexing Crimea in 2014, Russia Invades Ukraine

Who Are Muslim Crimean Tatars?

History, Identity, Demography, and Islam


The 2001 census recorded 243,400 Crimean Tatars in Crimea — plus another 11,000 who called themselves Tatars. Almost all of the 248,200 Crimean Tatars recorded in Ukraine as a whole.[3] 

In 2014 after Russian annexation of Crimea new authorities conducted a census. According to the census result the population of the Crimean Federal District is 2.2844 million people.

The ethnic composition is as follows: Russians: 1.49 million (65.3%), Ukrainians: 0.35 million (15.1%), Crimean Tatars: 0.24 million (12.0%). Official Ukrainian authorities and Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People claimed doubts that the results of population census in Crimea represent the facts.

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A survey in May 2013, asked respondents what language they spoke at home:

  • 82% Russian
  • 10% Crimean Tatar
  • 3% Russian and Ukrainian equally
  • 3% Russian and another language equally
  • 2% Ukrainian

Unlike some minority groups in Ukraine where “Russification” is common, the vast majority of Crimean Tatars, 93 percent, have identified their own language as their “native tongue” though 5.9 percent said it was Russian and 0.5 percent said it was Ukrainian.

However, in practice, “native tongue” is a poor indicator of actual language use as most Crimean Tatars got used to speaking Russian during the long years of exile.

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The Crimean Tatar’s diaspora allegedly numbers up to six million though the biggest numbers, five million, are supposedly in Turkey, which historically — in the Kemalist tradition — has not collected minority demographic data.

Smaller Crimean Tatar communities are in Romania, Poland, Finland, and the United States. Whatever their exact numbers, the existence of the diaspora allows Crimean Tatars now in Crimea to claim that their current minority status is artificial and ahistorical.

Islam in Crimea and Ukraine

The Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of the Crimea (DUMK) is an elective body linked to the Crimean Tatar Qurultay. The Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine (DUMU) is its all-Ukrainian equivalent established in 1992.

The Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of the Crimea (DUMK) is an elective body linked to the Crimean Tatar Qurultay.

The Spiritual Centre of Muslims of Ukraine (DTsMU) is based in the Donbas, where it was founded in 1994 by the alleged Volga Tatar gangster Akhat Bragin( aka “Alik the Greek”) who was killed by a bomb in the football stadium of his club, Shaktar Donetsk.

In 1997, DTsMU established the Party of Muslims of Ukraine, but after disappointing results, was folded into the Party of Regions in 2006.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in Sept. 2009 and is re-highlighted now for its relevance to current events.


[1] Khanate is a Turkic name for political entity ruled by a sovereign or a military leader  

[2] Golden Horde was a Mongol suzerainty that was established in wide parts of Eastern Europe since the 13th century.  

[3] See http://2001.ukrcensus.gov.ua/eng/results/general/nationality/




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About Andrew Wilson
Dr. Andrew Wilson is a Chatham House expert on Ukrainian and post-Soviet Union politics. He is an associate fellow at Russian and Eurasia programme of Chatham House think tank.