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Gromyko Warns Tatars About Protests : Demand for Crimean Homeland Is Being Studied, Group Is Told

July 28, 1987|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Soviet President Andrei A. Gromyko on Monday warned a group of Crimean Tatars not to resume their demonstration while a top-level commission considers their demand for restoration of their lost homeland.

But representatives of the Tatars said they were not satisfied with the outcome of their 2 1/2-hour talk with Gromyko and indicated that they may resume their protest near Red Square.

The meeting of 21 Tatars with Gromyko and two other high-ranking Soviet officials--Interior Minister Alexander V. Vlasov and Pyotr N. Demichev, a candidate, or non-voting, member of the Politburo--was arranged Sunday after the Tatars halted their unprecedented demonstration outside the Kremlin wall.

The police showed extraordinary tolerance toward the 300 or so demonstrators, who carried signs lettered "Homeland or Death." The police attitude was attributed here to Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's policy of glasnost , or openness.

Still, Tass, the official Soviet news agency, indicated that Gromyko, who was recently named chairman of a government commission to look into Tatar demands for restoration of their autonomous republic in the Crimean peninsula, scolded the group for taking their case to the streets.

"It is not in your interests to whip up and heat up the situation," Gromyko was quoted as saying.

In 1944, the dictator Josef Stalin deported about 250,000 Tatars to Central Asia on grounds that they had collaborated with the invading troops of Nazi Germany. Soviet authorities now acknowledge that many Tatars fought with the Red Army against the Germans but that this distinction was not made in applying the deportation order.

After the Tatars were deported from the Crimea, hundreds of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians moved into the area, a choice region bordering on the Black Sea. The Tatars' constitutional rights were restored in 1967, but they complain that they are not allowed to return to their former homeland. About 20,000 of them live in the Crimea today, compared to several hundred thousand before the deportation.

On Monday, members of the Tatar group said that Gromkyo told them that four other members of the Politburo, besides himself, are on the nine-member commission considering their demands. One of the four was identified as Vladimir V. Shcherbitsky, Communist Party leader in the Ukraine, which absorbed the former Crimean republic in 1954.

The other three were identified as Alexander N. Yakovlev, a close ally of Gorbachev, Viktor M. Chebrikov, head of the Soviet security police, the KGB, and Vitaly I. Vorotnikov, premier of the Russian federation.

Pressure Called Harmful

Tass' account of the meeting said "it was noted that all attempts to put pressure on bodies of state power could only impede the commission's work, which would need some time to draw its conclusions."

Gromyko was said to have made it clear that the main consideration in resolving the problem is that the interests of all the Soviet nationalities be taken into account.

The issue of nationalities is a sensitive one in the Soviet Union, which embraces more than 100 ethnic groups. Any resolution of the Tatar question could have far-reaching repercussions among other national groups with grievances.

Some of the Tatars told foreign correspondents after their session with Gromyko that he failed to give concrete answers to their questions and declined to say why there was no Tatar on the commission.

Sabrie Seutova, a Tatar from Uzbekistan, said the group was in no mood to compromise, and added, "We have the right to autonomy. We want what we had in 1944."

She said a tape recording of what was said at the meeting with Gromyko will be played at a mass meeting of Tatars who have come to Moscow to join the protest. Then, she said, they will decide on the next step. Others said the Tatars have vowed to conduct a public hunger strike, or to resume their demonstration.

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