Identity in Crimea Before Annexation: A Bottom-Up Approach (Video)

As part of the Danyliw 2015 seminar, I spoke on my research unpacking the meaning of Russian identity in Crimea before annexation and the (lack of) sentiments of pro-Russian secession. Videos from other participants in the seminar are also available on Danyliw Seminar’s YouTube channel.

I summarised the ideas from the presentation in a previous post on Russian identity in Crimea before annexation


EU citizens – taxation, but no representation

The Conservatives not outlined their plans to secure the rights of non-UK EU citizens in their manifestoes. By contrast, the Liberal Democrats and Greens have placed the need to guarantee the rights of EU citizens front and centre in their pledges to fight a hard Brexit.

Whoever forms the government is slated to begin Brexit negotiations with the EU on 19 June. The rights of non-UK EU citizens is one of three key requirements of the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. In other words, assuming the Conservatives or Labour form the next government, they will not be able to avoid the complex issue of non-UK EU citizens for long.

In their manifesto, the Conservatives continue to pander to a rhetoric of British citizens first and controlled immigration. This rhetoric assumes British citizens are unaffected by the uncertain future of non-UK EU citizens in the UK. Worse still, the Conservatives continue to act as if the rights of non-UK EU citizens are not uncertain and as if nothing has changed since the Brexit referendum. Yet, the Brexit referendum changed everything for non-UK EU citizens, from their status in the UK to their sense of belonging. As Barnier argued in May 2017, the “only cause of uncertainty [for non-UK EU citizens] is Brexit”.

This is consistent with the EUintheUK Survey I conducted last year, which around 3,000 non-UK EU citizens participated in between July and August 2016. The survey showed that for many, the Brexit referendum transformed their image of the UK from a tolerant to an unwelcoming country where many non-UK EU citizens felt unwanted and unrepresented. In other words, many non-UK EU citizens felt the vote to Leave the EU was also a vote against EU citizens.

The Liberal Democrats and Greens understand this uncertainty. But they will not lead the next government. How and when will the next government secure the residency and working rights of non-UK EU citizens? How will they secure their pensions? Three million people in the UK are waiting for, and need, answers to these questions.

This piece was originally posted on EUROPP’s website: UK general election preview: What to look out for as Britain goes to the polls

Our man in Moldova

In courting the country’s most loathed oligarch, the EU and US will only lose the sympathy of ordinary Moldovans. This piece is co-authored with Mihai Popșoi and was originally posted on Open Democracy.

In the midst of the UK referendum to leave the EU, Moldova’s most hated oligarch, Vlad Plahotniuc, put pen to paper. In a recent, stirringly pro-European piece for Politico, Plahotniuc stressed that: “Moldova belongs in the European Union, now more than ever”.

Plahotniuc and his allies have recently become more visible in the west, with several visits to the US and an op-ed by Moldova’s prime minister Pavel Filip in The Hill.

Instability in Moldova is typically explained away by geopolitics, with the country positioned on a rift between the west and Russia. It’s a fear many of the country’s nominally “pro-Western” politicians have readily exploited.

Whatever the the fear of “losing Moldova” to Russia, it cannot justify supporting Plahotniuc, an opportunistic oligarch who is pursuing a policy of unchecked state capture. This policy of appeasement may be a short term victory for the EU and US, but in the longer term will only further erode the already-waning pro-western, and pro-European, sentiment in Moldova.

In July, a sizeable $600,000 contract was signed between Moldova’s Democratic Party, of which Plahotniuc is vice president, and Podesta, a US lobbying firm. Time will tell if it’s paid off.

Whether ordinary Moldovans can afford it is another matter. Financially, Moldova is yet to recover from one of the largest banking heists in history. This event saw $1 billion dollars (15% of the country’s GDP) disappear from the country’s three banks in late 2014.

Whatever the the fear of “losing Moldova” to Russia, it cannot justify supporting the opportunitistic oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc

The heist wasn’t so much the cause of today’s political impasse. Rather, it was a symptom of a much longer crisis, of a system which made such theft possible in the first place.

This banking crisis led to the collapse of two pro-European coalition governments. In February 2016, Vlad Plahotniuc formed a ruling coalition led by Moldova’s prime minister Pavel Filip. This government is highly disliked by a majority of the public, who loath the influence of Plahotniuc — Moldova’s wealthiest and most hated oligarch.

Moldova’s Grey Cardinal

Perhaps readers of Politico should get to know the article’s author a bit better.

Vlad Plahotniuc is widely considered to be Moldova’s wealthiest person. However, the full extent of Plahotniuc’s assets and wealth remains unknown. He owes his financial standing to a privileged position in the inner circle of former Communist President, Vladimir Voronin. However Plahotniuc remained in the shadows of Moldovan politics while building an economic empire through commercial raiding. Moldovan media did not even have a photo of Moldova’s richest man until 2010.

All rights reserved.Once the Communist Party lost power in 2009 and a pro-European coalition emerged from Moldova’s so-called “Twitter Revolution”, Plahotniuc began to appear in Moldovan politics. He was quick to change his allegiances by sponsoring the then-opposition Democratic Party, of which he is now deputy chairman. The oligarch was also instrumental in promoting his protégées in key state offices, including the judiciary and law enforcement.

Coupled with his media empire (he owns Moldova’s main TV channels), Plahotniuc’s influence is now unchallenged. His fortunes rose with the October 2015 arrest of Vlad Filat, Moldova’s ex-prime minister and former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. Filat also happened to be Plathotniuc’s main political and oligarchic rival. After eight months in custody, Filat was convicted in July 2016 to nine years in prison for his connection to the one billion dollar theft.

Coupled with his media empire, Plahotniuc’s influence is now unchallenged 

In July 2016, a Moldovan banker, Veaceslav Platon, was arrested in Ukraine in connection with the banking theft and, despite possession of Ukrainian citizenship, was nonetheless hastily extradited to Moldova. Platon is now in pre-trial detention. This turn of events contrasts to the fate of Ilan Shor, another wealthy Moldovan-Israeli businessman considered the central figure in the banking heist, who was arrested back in 2015, but was then allowed to run for mayor of Orhei, a town not far from Moldova’s capital. He ended up winning with a landslide.

Still, days before Filat’s conviction in July 2016, Shor (who is the main prosecutorial witness in both Filat and Platon’s cases) was re-arrested, only to be released in early August to house arrest, suggesting that Moldova’s authorities are willing to punish some more than others.

Plahotniuc’s friends in the west

Despite being opposed by large popular protests since May 2015, Plahotniuc has gained the support of Moldova’s key partners in Washington and Bucharest, Moldova’s main ally within the EU.

In May 2016, the oligarch visited the US, where his meeting with assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland left many Moldovans flabbergasted. The US ambassador to Moldova had to justify the meeting saying that it was the Moldovans who voted for this government and that the US has to work with it. Even so, Plahotniuc does not currently hold public office. To top it off, the trip wasn’t official — Plahotniuc travelled on a tourist visa.

Diplomatic euphemisms aside, many in the pro-western camp felt disheartened by this display of realpolitik, which seemed an appeasement at best. Meanwhile, pro-Russian forces were quick to seize the opportunity of presenting it as a full-blown endorsement. Russian media even portrayed Plahotniuc’s trip as western interference in Moldovan presidential elections.

Corruption versus realpolitik

This month, Moldova will hold its first direct presidential elections since 1996. However these elections are unlikely to end the political, and economic, crisis that is gripping this post-Soviet state.

According to recent polls, at least three candidates have a real shot at the presidency, Plahotniuc’s protégé, Democratic Party chairman Marian Lupu just behind. The strongest candidate is Igor Dodon, leader of the pro-Russian Socialist Party, who is likely to face a centre-right candidate in the run-offs, unless the right fails to agree on a single candidate and paves the way for a Plahotniuc-backed candidate.

The two main forces on the right are Maia Sandu and Andrei Năstase who are currently dueling to be the single unifying candidate. Sandu, a Harvard-educated and former World Bank employee, is a former education minister and heads the newly created Action and Solidarity Party. Năstase is a protest leader and prominent lawyer who heads the rival Dignity and Truth Platform Party. Sandu has been polling somewhat better than Năstase, but the latter appears unwilling to concede.

If the two fail to agree on a single candidate, the pro-European right would lose more than the presidency. They would also lose the initiative for the next parliamentary elections, where they’ll need to build a competitive pro-European movement to oppose the incumbent government and the surging pro-Russian Socialists.

Moldova’s partners should not turn their back on the country and its people just because a vilified oligarch has outfoxed his opposition and captured power. Instead, Moldova needs stronger incentives to reform via political conditionality.

Unless there is a concerted effort to play good cop, bad cop in Moldova, the US and EU should compare notes more effectively if they want to remain credible as an alternative to Russia in the region.

Enough, Plahotniuc. Enough, Real Politik.

Vladimir Plahotniuc is the executive coordinator of the Moldovan Government Coalition Council and deputy chairman of the Democratic Party of Moldova.

Moldova seems in the midst of one of its biggest economic crises, facing a minimum of a $1 billion hole (1/7 GDP) since the largest banking theft in history in 2014. Moldova is also to be in the midst of a political crisis.

And yet we (the EU, EU member-states and the US) are doing nothing but legitimizing those responsible for the crisis. Because of what? A lack of knowledge about Moldova? A commitment to real politik to save Moldova from Russia? Because they talk the language of reform and Europeanization, and dress in expensive, smart suits?

This is paradoxical and counter-productive. Legitimizing thieves, and state captors (i.e. Vlad Plahotniuc), will do nothing but continue to discredit the project of Europeanization further in Moldova. ‘Saving’ Moldova from Russia by entrenching and legitimizing Plahotniuc will not save Moldova from Russia.

It’s time to wise up. It’s time to realise that Plahotniuc is a racketeer, a state captor, a guy who’s held numerous passports in different names and a guy who stayed in the shadows until 2009. Plahotniuc is the most hated oligarch in Moldova and does not hold public office.

As Natalia Morari reported in the New York Times, “Nobody considers Plahotniuc pro-European. He is pro-Plahotniuc and pro-corruption”.

So why are we legitimizing him? 

Presumably because the “Europeanizers”–Moldova’s Democrat Party (pro-Business former Communists)–can afford a $600k contract with Podesta. So, where did this cash come from?


Advice to non-UK EU Citizens After the Referendum: Become a Permanent Resident (if you can)

As part of a project I’m beginning on the meaning and practice of EU citizenship in the UK after the UK-EU referendum, I am conducting research on the experiences of migrants, as well as their rights in the UK. Last night, I attended an  event hosted by a legal firm and London chambers on EU migrants’ rights after ‘Brexit’.

As the opening speaker remarked, the event was designed to “calm people down and prevent panic” concerning the rights of non-UK EU/EEA citizens after the referendum.

From the perspective of lawyers and unions (who themselves seem far more concerned with the rights of their non-UK EU members than the Labour Party), the message is clear: to secure your rights to reside in the UK, in whatever relationship the UK has with the EU, apply for UK permanent residency.

But, is it that simple to apply and become a permanent resident in the UK?

Said lawyers advised too you seek the advice of lawyers before applying for permanent residency. Perhaps lawyers might always advise you seek their advice (that is, after all their business model). However, for a status that costs just £65 (far cheaper than the £1,236+ for UK citizenship) this seems to mask a veil of complexity regarding who can apply to be a permanent resident.

The second reason they advise seeking legal advice is that, if your application is refused for permanent residency, the fees (from 10 October 2016) to appeal the decision will increase dramatically:

To apply to be a permanent resident, you have to prove that you have been exercising treaty rights for 5 years (while not residing outside of the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 month period). Exercising treaty rights means fitting within one of these five categories:

  1. Worker
  2. Student
  3. Self-sufficient person
  4. Self-employed person
  5. Job-seeker

First, the job seeker status is not indefinite, and can only be used for up to 3 months. In other words, you can’t apply to be a permanent resident of the UK if you’re an EEA national that has been seeking a job for the past 5 years.

Second, to fall under apply under the categories of student or self-sufficient person you must hold comprehensive, private, medical insurance (under EU law). This is the brutal irony: as a state with free-at-point-of-use healthcare, the NHS does not count as a form of medical insurance, as ruled by the UK Court of Appeal.

I am yet to meet a student from elsewhere in the EU/EEA studying in the UK who has medical insurance. You do not need medical insurance to function in the UK. But, so as to prove you are not a ‘burden’ on ‘us’, EU/EEA students must seek medical insurance to meet the requirements of residency in the UK.

Third, then, the easiest category to apply for permanent residency is as a worker. But do you have payslips and P60s for the last 5 years? Well, the advice was to keep everything. Because, if your employer goes out of business, the onus is on you to prove that you worked there, if you want to apply to be a permanent resident.

Yet, with the casualisation of work, I worry about the ability of many EU migrants to meet these standards. Take higher education, where you can often be employed on 6-9 month contracts and may be spend the summer elsewhere to save money. Universities are disincentivised to provide longer term contracts, to save money, and to prevent you from acquiring the right to a permanent contract. Ultimately, this casualisation is further undermining your rights to gain permanent residency in the UK.


Finally, you can no longer apply to be a UK citizen unless you are already a permanent resident. The Home Office used to reimburse your fee (£65) to apply to be a permanent resident, when you applied to be a UK citizen. However, this is no longer the case: instead, your application for citizenship is refused, you lose the £1,236 and, most likely, cannot apply to be a citizen for another 10 years.

So, while we live in the no-mans-land of “Brexit means Brexit”, permanent residency seems to be the answer, so long as you are a worker can prove that to be the case for the last 5 years.

Crimean Residents Vote in Russian Elections, Reluctantly

For the first time since Russia annexed Crimea, Russian elections were held on the territory of the disputed peninsula. That elections were held in Crimea has been a source of contention between Russia and the international community. OSCE election observers refused to monitor the polls in Crimea, and the US and EU condemned the September 18 elections as illegal and illegitimate. Ukraine has called for sanctions to be placed on those elected from Crimea to the Duma.

Unsurprisingly, Russia’s leading party, United Russia, swept the floor in Crimea, with United Russia candidates winning all three single-mandate seats in Crimea, capturing over 65 percent of the vote, and the single-mandate seat in Sevastopol.

In Sevastopol, the election almost appeared competitive. United Russia’s candidate received only 34 percent ahead of Oleg Nikolaev, who received 22 percent as the Party of Growth’s (Partiia Rosta) candidate, a largely pro-Kremlin party. The “ex-Muscovite” Nikolaev, who has lived in Sevastopol since 2010, was involved in Crimea’s annexation in 2014. He is an ally of Alexander Chaly, who was de facto head of Sevastopol’s city council after annexation.

In Crimea, the United Russia candidates were primarily locals, born in Simferopol, Crimea’s administrative capital. Andrei Kozenko, who won the Simferopol district, was formerly leader of the youth wing of Crimea’s pre-annexation fringe pro-Russian party, Russian Unity (Russkoe Edinstvo). Russian Unity was key in facilitating Russia’s annexation of Crimea’s on the ground in 2014; its leader, Sergei Aksyonov, become Crimea’s de facto leader following annexation.

However, a deeper examination of the Duma elections in Crimea shows an odd picture of a peninsula that Russia claimed experienced a “spring” and enthusiastic return to Russia just two years ago.

First, there are about 100,000 fewer registered voters in Crimea in 2016 as compared to the 2014 referendum and 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary elections. What explains this decline remains unclear: whether mass post-annexation emigration, refusal or inability to gain Russian citizenship, or to register as a voter, or a combination of all three.

Second, turnout was low: around 47 percent in Crimea, similar to Russian turnout overall, and 44 percent in Sevastopol. Turnout in Crimea was not dissimilar to turnout in Ukrainian elections before annexation. However, it is a far cry from the 83 percent turnout for the 2014 annexation referendum, as alleged by Crimean authorities at the time. Turnout was also low despite the fact that there were allegations of extreme incentives to participate, from cinema tickets in Yalta to smartphones in Evpatoria.

Third, turnout varied massively. Before the elections, Crimean Tatar leaders urged their community to boycott the elections. This did not deter Remzi Ilyasov, the leader of Qirim—a Crimean Tatar organization aligned with Crimea’s post-annexation authorities—from claiming that he expected 60 percent of Crimean Tatars to participate.

Such claims proved extremely optimistic. In several villages—such asPionerske—and suburbs of Simferopol with high Crimean Tatar settlement, turnout was as low as 7-8 percent, indicating that the boycott may have been a reality.

By contrast, the highest turnout (up to 60 percent) was not in regions with more pro-Russian sentiment, such as Sevastopol, the “Russian city” (Russkii Gorod) and site of the heralded Black Sea Fleet, but in Crimea’s small and more isolated northern towns such as Rozdolne and Pervomaiske. It is unclear what explains this higher turnout, whether real or fraudulent.

Finally, some reports demonstrate a lack of interest in the elections, as if there was little belief that much could change or be changed by participating, despite concerns of rising prices since annexation.

Overall, it is important for the international community to denounce the holding of Duma elections in Crimea as illegal and illegitimate, and it is important to refute Russia’s use of elections to normalize Crimea as a de facto part of Russia. But it is also prudent to recognize that the Duma elections do not indicate resounding support for the post-annexation authorities and Putin’s regime.

Low turnout across Russia indicates a systematic slowing of support for United Russia. Crimea’s annexation may have given the Putin’s Russia an initial “hit of cocaine,” but domestic economic paralysis and international isolation are becoming a sobering reality for the Kremlin.

This piece was originally posted on the Atlantic Council

A Divided and Broken post-EUropean Britain

At some point in this debate–which seemed to have no beginning–but firmly ended about 5.45am on 24 June, divisions within Britain became evident. I spend my working life immersed in literature that argues Moldova and Ukraine are ‘divided societies’.

Well, the EU referendum seemed like a blue eye, brown eye experiment: creating a huge rift between those voting to stay and leave the EU, and the reasons behind this, and vilification of the Other. We transformed from a society with 40 years of open euroscepticism to a country of two competing echo chambers, fuelled by media polarisation.

This was no more evident than in the debates I attended, none of which included undecided voters. To attend the BBC’s Great Debate on Tuesday, you could only get tickets through one of the campaigns. How do you imagine a debate goes when you invite into a room 50:50 the most passionate zealots of each campaign and sit them side by side?

It goes something like this: team Remain clap, team Leave clap. And when Boris Johnson ended on the infamous–“24 of June will be our independence day”–after a debate where all the Leave side argued was “we need to take back control”, it was terrifying to see this met with a raucous standing applause.

How could BoJo, an Etonian, PPE Oxford-educated, Bullingdon club member of the establishment, who has no qualm with inventing a twenty year anti-fact diatribe about the EU (e.g. 1 million people were killed in Bosnia, a war he covered as a journalist), construct himself as a man of the people?

We now have to live with the consequences of a society that has voted to leave the EU because it is more scared about immigration than it is about the economy. As the economy goes in to free fall, as the pensions of the most vulnerable (many of whom voted to leave) are threatened, well at least we have “our country back” (whatever this means) and just have to pull up our sleeves and get on with it…right?

This is ironic because it is precisely the immigration that has been an engine of growth in the UK, particularly in places left behind by globalization. There would be no growth, in cities such as Hull, but for immigration. 

We now have to live with the consequences, as a younger generation who voted overwhelmingly to stay. We now have to live with a post-EUropean Britain long after those who voted for it (i.e. the over 65s) have died.

We now have to live with the consequences, as academics and researchers, who are concerned about the future of a post-EUropean project for all that we invested, professionally, politically and personally, in Britain being in the EU.

The vilification of experts and facts makes me concerned about this future. Comments such as “of course you have this opinion because of what you do”, as a teacher and researcher, makes me concerned about this future. The effect on higher education, a sector dependent on and made better by migration, makes me concerned about this future.

So my reasoned questions about Britain’s post-EUropean future concern whether we can undergo a divisive process of separating from the EU while maintaining unity over bigger geopolitical questions such as sanctioning Russia? Can the UK end up with a better deal than say the Free Trade arrangements with Moldova and Ukraine?

My less reasoned questions include how do we, as rational staunch Europeanists, keep living on this island?

But perhaps my most significant question is what should I be worried about most? The future of Britain? (especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland) The future of British politics? (with a swing to the right and far right) The future of British international politics?

Or the wider impact Brexit will have on regional, if not global, politicsHow will the EU create the leverage it needs against Russia, against Moldova and Ukraine, against Hungary and Poland, with one less member state?

EU Renews Sanctions on Crimea but Overlooks Plight of Crimean Tatars

In April 2016, Crimea’s de facto authorities banned the Crimean Tatar Mejlis—the organ of political representation for Crimean Tatars on the peninsula—under the pretext of “extremism.” Increasingly, Crimean Tatars seem to be framed as “extremist” just for being themselves.

A historically nonviolent community, Crimean Tatars were the most visible and vociferous opponents of the region’s annexation by Russia. Since then, they have been a main target of repression by Crimea’s current authorities and the Russian regime.

Beatings, murders, kidnappings, and arbitrary internments of Crimean Tatars are continuing, and yet fail to be fully investigated by Crimean authorities. Ervin Ibragimov, a well-known Crimean Tatar activist and member of the Executive Committee of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars, was recently abducted from his home in Crimea. Mumine Aliyeva, a Crimean Tatar, was recently murdered on the peninsula. Lilia Budzhurova, a well-known Crimean Tatar journalist, was warned in May 2016 by security services about her “extremist” comments: she had published on Facebook about the impact on Crimean Tatar children whose parents were arrested. Buzhurova was previously a prominent journalist with the ATR Crimean Tatar TV station, before it was closed by Crimean authorities and relocated to Kyiv.

Within Ukraine, and among Crimean Tatar leaders, there is concern that the international community is not doing enough to condemn this repression. A report by the Council of Europe in April 2016 concluded that repression was predominantly “targeted against individual opponents, whether they are Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, or others.” However, at that time, the Council argued there was no “collective repression policy against the Crimean Tatars as an ethnic group.”

The report concluded with the hypothetical point that banning the Mejlis would “indicate a new level of repression targeting the Crimean Tatar community as a whole.” However, the Mejlis was banned around the time that the report was released—and yet the Council of Europe has yet to act. By contrast, theEuropean Parliament condemned the Mejlis ban as constituting a “systemic and targeted persecution of the Crimean Tatars.” Oliver Loode, a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, also described the Mejlis ban as an attack on “Crimean Tatar people as a whole.”

Ukraine was slow to recognize Crimean Tatars as an indigenous minority, but finally did so in 2014, following the annexation of Crimea. Russia still does not recognize the community as indigenous. Therefore, as suggested by theEuropean Parliament, it could be useful if the international community recognized Crimean Tatars as an indigenous community within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, at least as a way to increase awareness about them internationally—though recognition of the group as indigenous would be unlikely to decrease its repression by Crimea’s current authorities.

A Russian report to the OSCE denies repression of Crimean Tatars. Rather, Russian authorities argue that they are improving the “legal rights and interests” of the community which, under Ukraine, were “ignored or grossly violated.” Since banning the Mejlis, Crimean authorities have proposed creating a National-Cultural Autonomy for Crimean Tatars. Such a status will not recognize the community as indigenous, but will divide Crimean Tatars between those who are and are not loyal to the regime. The National-Cultural Autonomy would allow the regime to control and co-opt the organizational capacity, and autonomy, of Crimean Tatars on the peninsula, without giving them any real autonomy. It is also likely to be an instrument to show (and confuse) the West that Russia is being “supportive of Crimean Tatars,” when in fact it is doing just the reverse.

What, then, should the international community do?

First, it should continue to be firmly critical of Russia’s repression of Crimean Tatars. International actors should not be swayed by Russian discourse that the situation is not deteriorating, nor by Russia’s efforts to woo the West by creating a National-Cultural Autonomy. Rather, the voices of Crimean Tatars on the peninsula, which are labeled as extremist when speaking out against the regime, should be heard, if not amplified.

Second, it is important for the West to address the issue of Crimean annexation and Crimean Tatar repression together. For example, when the EU extended sanctions on Crimea until 2017, there was no mention of the deteriorating human rights situation for Crimean Tatars, nor any mention of the Mejlis ban. This was a missed opportunity. (The EU is expected to formally renew its sanctions on Russia at its June 28-29 summit; sanctions on Crimea are a separate issue.)

Third, the international community should recognize Crimean Tatars as precisely that—Crimean Tatars. Too often, international media and policymakers refer to the community as simply Tatars, or as a Muslim minority within Crimea. This shorthand divorces Crimean Tatars from Crimea and their claims to the region. It elides Crimean Tatars with other Tatar communities elsewhere in Russia, such as the Volga Tatars, who are subject to different political and social contexts, as well as to varying degrees of repression from the Russian regime.

Finally, the international community, in particular the US and EU, should be steadfast in maintaining a coherent front in condemning and sanctioning Russia for annexing Crimea. Former US Ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock recently claimed that “Ukraine is better off without Crimea.” This overlooks the immense impact that annexation has had on everyday Crimeans, in particular Crimean Tatars, whose lives, rights, and freedoms as Ukrainian citizens were improving before 2014.

This article was originally posted on the Atlantic Council's New Atlanticist Blog.

What it Means (to Me) to be an EU Citizen

What does it mean to me (a scholar, activist, current EU citizen, UK citizen) to be an EU citizen?

I cannot answer this question without thinking about my field research, primarily in Moldova. EU citizenship, for me, is about the status it gave Moldovans, to become Romanians by gaining Romanian citizenship, and thus to become EU citizens. I’ve written elsewhere how this was not an easy, but financially costly, process; Romania does not “give out” EU passports (as right wing media claim).

Rather, gaining Romanian (and thus EU) citizenship is a significant process. It often involves going to the archives to retrieve documents of relatives (particularly those deported by the Soviet regime to Siberia). It involves paying for documents to be transcribed and translated, queuing in line in the embassy and waiting for 1-2 years.

But, after that time has passed, the status of becoming EU citizenship is gaining something far beyond that which Moldovan citizenship can provide: travel and work rights in 28 member-states. You get to stand a different line in the airport. You don’t have to spend time and money applying for visas. You don’t have to have ludicrous sums of money in your bank account. You no longer have to answer invasive questions about your purpose, profession, intentions.

Quite simply, EU citizenship is about belonging to the EU, and the rights and benefits that you acquire. Why would we give this up?

I cannot imagine life not being an EU citizen. Through luck, and the contingency of my life, I have never had to queue at an EU border not belonging to the EU.

Yet, it has only been through studying and researching EU citizenship, that it has come to mean so much via my research participants. The idea of giving something up that others fight so much to achieve is painful.

So I’m not just voting to remain in the EU (on 23 June). I’m voting to remain an EU citizen.

And, lastly, I’m voting for my friends and colleagues who, as EU but not UK citizens, cannot vote.

No, He does not Include Women

I’ve had many a debate that ‘man’ includes women and ‘he’ includes women. No way: ‘man’ does not include women, nor does ‘he’ include women, implicitly or explicitly. These are male pronouns, and they exclude women.

Time and again, I read student essays where the student refers to the author using male pronouns when the author is female. To me, this means they assume the author is male.

It’s not good enough. ‘He’ does not include women. It ignores the challenges and struggles women face in becoming more visible in the public sphere. It assumes, whether politicians or authors, that we are men when we’re not.

Language is power. The language we use constructs a reality. Whether or not you understand this reality, male pronouns are exclusionary not inclusive.

So, if you want to use a gender neutral pronoun, which I’m all for, use they or their. Once this may have been considered grammatically incorrect. But, it’s 2016 and we need new words that are inclusive as opposed to gendered, and exclusionary.

This isn’t a battle I expected to have to fight. But I’m not being referred to as a ‘he’.

Ukraine’s Eurovision victory brings the plight of Crimean Tatars to a European audience

Ukraine won the Eurovision song contest on 14 May, with a song framed around the deportation of Crimean Tatars under Stalin in 1944. Ellie Knott writes that the result highlights the plight of Crimean Tatars following the territory’s annexation by Russia in 2014, particularly in light of the recent decision by a Crimean court to ban the legislature of the Crimean Tatar minority, the Mejlis.

The 2016 Eurovision song contest was Ukraine’s second victory and Eurovision’s first song sung – at least partially – in the Crimean Tatar language.

The country’s contestant, Jamala, Susana Jamaladinova, sang ‘1944’, a song about Stalin’s deportation of Crimean Tatars from the Crimean peninsula to Siberia and Central Asia on 18 May 1944. It was also a personal song, about her grandparents who themselves were deported from Crimea alongside approximately 200,000 Crimean Tatars, many of whom died en route.


Following Jamala’s nomination to represent Ukraine, Russian authorities tried to lobby to have the song banned from Eurovision because political songs are against the rules of the contest. Russia’s reaction signals its uncertain approach to Stalin’s brutalities and creeping attempts to partially resuscitate Stalin as a World War Two hero and Soviet moderniser, rather than a brutal dictator.


As much as ‘1944’ seems political, it is also about remembering the past, in particular these personal experiences and traumas. Jamala herself was born in exile in present-day Kyrgyzstan, returning to Crimea, as many Crimean Tatars did, only after Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union. Jamala’s performance and Eurovision victory therefore helped to highlight the historic plight of Crimean Tatars and their deportation in 1944.

“I couldn’t spend my youth there, Because you took away my peace” – 1944, Jamala

But Jamala’s victory does also speak to the contemporary plight of Crimean Tatars, and Crimean society more broadly. Crimean Tatars have been the most visible and vociferous opponents of Crimea’s annexation by Russia in March 2014, and have faced the brunt of oppression by Crimea’s de facto authorities.

Most recently, Crimea’s authorities’ banned the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, the political organisation of the Crimean Tatar community in Crimea, limiting the already small recourse of Crimean Tatars against the de facto Crimean authorities and Russian regime. Since annexation in 2014, Crimean Tatars have been unable to officially and legally commemorate the Day of Deportation on 18 May.

Russia’s response has been to use Eurovision as a demonstration of how Europe is isolating Russia, as opposed to Russia isolating itself from Europe. The 2017 Eurovision contest will now be held in Ukraine, yet here have been no direct flights between these neighbouring states – Russia and Ukraine – since October 2015. The Russian team will therefore find it hard to travel to Ukraine next year, regardless of the potential fallout from doing so.

The politics, if not geopolitics, behind Eurovision voting strategies has long been emphasised, with states voting for their friends and not their arch-enemies. This speaks to the geopoliticisation of ties within Europe. Just 300 miles away, at the Lennart Meri conference in Tallinn, Sweden’s Defence Minister emphasised Russia’s annexation of Crimea as the linchpin of insecurity in Europe.

Yet, in the popular vote, voters in Russia and Ukraine gave each other the highest number of votes. As much as this year’s Eurovision should be remembered for highlighting Crimea’s annexation and the plight of the Crimean Tatars, it should also be remembered as a time in which the publics in Ukraine and Russia potentially signaled their desire to end their two-year violent conflict.

This post was originally posted on LSE's EUROPP blog: http://bit.ly/1R2z2hU