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Crimean Tatars

The Crimean Tatars are a Turkic-speaking ethnic group originally residing in Crimea. They speak the Crimean Tatar language. The Crimean Tatars are descendants of a mix of Turkic - (Bulgars, Khazars, Petchenegs and Kypchaks) as well as non-Turkic (Scythians, Sarmatians, Cimmerians, Alans, Greeks, Goths, Adyghe) peoples who had settled in Eastern Europe as early as the 7th century BC. The current name has been in use since the 13th century when Crimea was occupied by the Mongols (or Tatars, as they were known in Europe and Russia). The Crimean Tatars emerged as a nation at the time of the Crimean Khanate. The Crimean Tatars adopted Islam in the 13th century and thereafter Crimea became one of the centers of Islamic civilization. The khans built a greater palace, Hansaray in Bakhchisaray, which survives until today. During the reign of Devlet I Giray the architect Sinan built a mosque, Cuma Cami, in Kezlev. Crimean Tatars were known for frequent devastating raids into Ukraine and Russia. For a long time, until the early 18th century Crimean Tatars maintained massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. The Crimean Khanate became a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire in 1475. The Ottoman-Russian War of 1768-1774 resulted with the defeat of the Ottomans and Russia annexed the Crimean Khanate in 1783. After the annexation, under pressure of Slavic colonization, Crimean Tatar began to abandon their homes and move to the Ottoman Empire in continuing waves of emigration. Some researchers estimate that one million Crimeans had to abandon their homeland in the 19th century. Many Crimean Tatars perished in the process of emigration, including those who drowned while crossing the Black Sea. During World War II, the entire Crimean Tatar population in Crimea fell victim to Stalin's oppressive policies. Although a great number of Crimean Tatar men served in the Red Army and took part in the partizan movement in Crimea during the war, the existence of the Tatar Legion in the Nazi army and the collaboration of Crimean Tatar religious and political leaders with Hitler during the German occupation of Crimea provided the Soviets with a pretext for accusing the whole Crimean Tatar population of being Nazi collaborators. All Crimean Tatars were deported in 1944 as special settlers to Uzbek SSR and other distant parts of the Soviet Union. Today, more than 250,000 Crimean Tatars have returned to their homeland, struggling to re-establish their lives and reclaim their national and cultural rights.


Rusyns (also referred to as Ruthenians) are a modern ethnic group that speaks the Rusyn language and are descended from the minority of Ruthenians who did not adopt a Ukrainian national identity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The ethnic identity of Rusyns is highly controversial, with some researchers claiming a separate East Slavic ethnicity distinct from Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, while others considering Rusyns to be a subgroup of the Ukrainian nation. Most if not all of the Eastern Slavic inhabitants of present-day Western Ukraine referred to themselves as Rusyns prior to the nineteenth century. At the moment most Ruthenians consider themselves Ukrainians. The Rusyn national movement is much stronger among those Rusyn groups that became geographically separated from present-day Ukrainian territories, for example the Rusyn emigrants in the United States and Canada, as well as the Rusyns still included within the borders of Slovakia. When the Rusyns accepted Christianity (and who or what they worshiped before) is a source of some debate, but it clearly occurred prior to the Great Schism between the Orthodox and Catholic churches in 1054. Many Rusyn churches are named after the Eastern Christian saints Cyril and Methodius, who are often referred to as the "Apostles to the Slavs". Many Rusyns are Eastern Catholics, who since the Union of Brest in 1596 and the Uzhorod Union in 1646, are united with other catholics under the spiritual leadership of the Pope, but retain their Old Slavonic liturgy and most of the outward forms of the Greek or Eastern Orthodox Church. Rusyn is in substance similar to the Ukrainian language - enough so that the Ukrainian government considers Rusyn merely a dialect of Ukrainian, to the resentment of some Rusyns. In the extreme west of Carpathian Ruthenia, the language approaches Slovak.


The Crimean Karaites, also known as Karaims, are a community of ethnic Turkic adherents of Karaite Judaism in Eastern Europe. Originally centered in Crimea, Karaims were established in Lithuania and elsewhere in Europe from late medieval times. Some regard them as descendants of Karaite Jews who settled in Crimea and adopted a form of the Kypchak tongue. Others view them as descendants of Khazar (unlikely) or Kipchak (more likely) converts to Karaite Judaism. Today Crimean Karaites deny their Israelite origins and consider themselves to be descendants of the Khazars. Virtually all scholars of Khazar history, however, agree that the Judaism of the Khazars was Rabbinical in nature. Modern Karaims seek to distance themselves from being identified as Jews, emphasizing what they view as their Turkic heritage and claiming that they are Turkic practitioners of a "Mosaic religion" separate and distinct from Judaism. Whatever their origin, from the time of the Golden Horde onward, they were present in many towns and villages throughout Crimea and around the Black Sea. During the period of the Crimean Khanate some of the major communities could be found in the towns of Cufut Qale, Sudak, Kefe and Bakhchisaray. Many Karaims were farmers. Members of the community served in the military forces of the Crimean Khanate and of Lithuania.

Crimean Germans

From 1783 onwards, there was a systematic settlement Germans to the Crimean Peninsula (in what was then the Crimean Khanate) in order to weaken the native population of the Crimean Tatars. In 1939, two years before the deportation of the Russian Germans to Central Asia, around 60,000 of the 1.1 million inhabitants of Crimea were German. Not until the Perestroika, Germans were allowed to return to the peninsula again. The German reunification brought a rebirth of Crimean-German culture and, since 1994, they have had a small representation in the Crimean Parliament. Of the 2 million inhabitants of Crimea, around 3,000 are of German ancestry.

Romanians of Chernovtsy Region

Chernovtsy Region comprises a significant Romanian community which was persecuted by Soviet authorities on ethnic grounds, especially in the first 16 years after the region was taken from Romania in 1940. All official declarations referring to this issue since the Romanian Revolution of 1989, both those of the representatives of the Romanian community and those of the Romanian government, have stated that there is no intent to revise the present internationally recognized border. However, the Romanian community has constantly addressed the its demands to be officially recognized with the status of "native population" to the Ukrainian government. The bulk or 88% of the Romanian population in Northern Bukovina (Chernovtsy Region) is generally concentrated in four raions close to the border with Romania.


Hutsuls are an ethno-cultural group of highlanders who for centuries have inhabited the Carpathian mountains in Ukraine. Although Hutsuls have a distinct self-identity, there is an ongoing and, often politically charged, debate on whether Hutsuls are of the Ukrainian ethnicity or the Rusyn one, as well as whether they originated from the Romanian people. Two prominent theories of their origin state that the Hutsuls may have begun as an early non-Romanised Thracian or Dacian population, which was later linguistically assimilated with the neighboring Slavs, or the origin may only go back as far as a later Romanised Dacian (Romanian) population, which was also linguistically assimilated. Although most of them speak the Hutsul dialect (a dialect of Ukrainian/Rusyn with Polish influences), several words in their dialect have Romanian origins). Due to the current educational system, the Hutsul dialect is in danger of extinction. Traditional Hutsul culture is often represented by the colorful and intricate craftsmanship of their clothing, sculpture, architecture, woodworking, metalworking (especially in brass), rug weaving, pottery, and egg decorating. Hutsul culture bears a noted resemblance to the traditional culture of Romania, with that of western Ukraine, and with that of other mountainous people which may have similar origins. Most Hutsuls belong to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Ruthenian Catholic Church. Hutsul society was traditionally based on forestry and logging, as well as cattle and sheep breeding; the Hutsuls are credited with having created the breed of horse known as the Hucul pony. They use unique musical instruments, including the "trembita", a type of alpenhorn of Dacian origin, as well multiple varieties of the fife, or sopilka, that are used to create unique folk melodies and rhythms. Also frequently used are the bagpipe (duda), the jew's harp (drymba), and the hammered dulcimer - cymbalom. The Hutsuls served as an inspiration for many writers, such as Ivan Franko, Lesya Ukrainka, Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, Vasyl Stefanik. Sergei Parajanov's film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, which is based on the book by Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, portrays scenes of traditional Hutsul life. Every summer, the village of Sheshory in Ukraine hosts a three-day international festival of folk music and art. Two Hutsul-related museums are located in Kolomyia, Ukraine: the Pysanky museum and the Museum of Hutsul and Pokuttya Folk Art. Traditional Hutsul sounds and moves were effectively used by the Ukrainian winner of the 2004 Eurovision song contest, Ruslana.

Bessarabian Bulgarians

The Bessarabian Bulgarians are a Bulgarian minority group of the historical region of Bessarabia in Ukraine. The number of Bessarabian Bulgarians is estimated at over 140,000, being a majority in Bolhrad District and also inhabiting other districts of Budjak in the Odessa Oblast in the southern part of the country. The modern population of Bulgarians settled in the region at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Particularly strong waves of emigration emerged after the Russo-Turkish Wars of 1806-1812 and 1828-1829. After arriving in Bessarabia, the Bulgarians founded their own towns, such as Bolhrad (1819) and Comrat, and around 64 villages. A Bulgarian school was founded in Bolhrad on 28 June 1858, which had serious effect on the development of Bulgarian education and culture, and is in fact the first modern Bulgarian school. After the whole region of Bessarabia was incorporated once again within the bounds of Russia in 1878, the process of Russification grew stronger, as many Bulgarian intellectuals returned to newly established Principality of Bulgaria to help set up the Bulgarian state. Although being an officially accepted minority under Soviet rule, the Bessarabian Bulgarians lost some features of their cultural identity in the period. A movement of national revival originated in the 1980s, with Bulgarian newspapers being published, cultural and educational associations being established and Bulgarian being introduced into the local schools.


Lipovans are the Old Believers, mostly of Russian ethnic origin, who settled in the southern part of Odessa Region as well as in Chernovtsy Region in Ukraine. They emigrated from Russia over 200 years ago as dissenters with the mainline Russian Orthodox Church. They settled along the Prut River in Moldova and in the Danube Delta. They have maintained strong religious traditions that predate the reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church undertaken during the reign of Patriarch Nikon. When he made changes to worship in 1652, part of the believers carried on worshipping in the "old way". In that sense, they continued to speak Old Russian, to cross themselves with two fingers instead of three, and to keep their beards. The Russian government and the Orthodox Church persecuted them and as a result some committed suicide by burning themselves, with many other being forced to emigrate. The main centre of Lipovan community in Ukraine is Vilkovo. In this town, they built their own church, St Nicholas. In order to construct their homes, the Lipovans created islets of dry land by digging mud out from trenches and put into work a series of canals. The house walls were made of reed and mud, and thatching was standard for the roofing. Because this characteristic materials, the buildings had a tendency to sink into the mud and needed to be rebuilt every few years.


The Gagauz are a minority Turkic people in southwestern Ukraine (in Budjak). Along with the Chuvash, Yakut and Dolgan people of Russia, they are the only ethnic Turkic groups that are predominantly Christian (Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant). Ancestors of the Gagauz can be traced to the early nomadic tribes, Guzi and Uzi. Byzantine written history records that in the 11th century the nomadic tribe Guzi crossed the Danube River and settled in the Balkan regions of Greece and Bulgaria. Once settled in these new regions, the Guzi people shifted to a sedentary lifestyle and adopted Orthodox Christianity. The ethnic mixes of the Guzi with other Turkic tribes of the Pecheneg, Polovtsi and Cumans are direct ancestors of modern day Gagauz. Turkic-speaking tribes inhabited the Budjak region of southern Bessarabia from the 16th to 18th centuries. Before 1807, a portion of these tribes were forced to abandon the Budjak by the Tsarist government of Russia and resettled in Crimea and Azov. Between 1820 and 1846, the Russian Empire allocated land to the Gagauz and gave them financial incentives to settle in Bessarabia. They speak Gagauz and tend to be rather well-educated farmers. The Gagauzi have retained their individual identity and have resisted attempts over the years to become assimilated into other cultures. They are a close-knit community that tends not to mix with other nationalities. The "elders" consistently attempt to preserve the clearness of the Gagauz blood. The younger generations are more open to mixing with other cultures. There is a trend toward migration from rural to urban. These people are predominantly Orthodox with some Turkish characteristics. The Gagauz who visit Jerusalem receive the honorary title "Hadzi", which is a mix of Moslem and Christian beliefs. The Orthodox Church among the Gagauz is closer to Greek Orthodox, than to Russian Orthodox.