Housing deal for Tartar teachers

13th March 1998 at 00:00
UKRAINE. Unemployed Tartar teachers are to be given the money to add two rooms to their houses on condition they run pre-school Tartar language classes in them for at least a year. It is expected that after that the classes will become self-financing.

The move is part of an international drive to reduce ethnic tension and provide a basic education for the quarter of a million Tartar people in the Crimea. Other measures include large-scale funding for textbooks.

There are an estimated 30,000 children. But there are virtually no schools which cater, even partially, for their specific needs; there are almost no schoolbooks reflecting Tartar culture and none in Tartar language.

The historical and cultural resources of the Tartar community were systematically destroyed by the Soviet government in the 1940s when all Tartars were forcibly repatriated to Uzbekistan and the Crimea repopulated with Russians. Following perestroika, Tartars were allowed to return, half have already done so and the flow continues.

Many sold their homes and lands in Uzbekistan only to be hit by the collapse of the rouble; savings became insufficient to complete the new homes in the Crimea. Unemployment is widespread.

The Ukrainian government is faced with a dilemma: to respond to vigorous Tartar educational and social demands and risk creating a climate for Crimean independence or to resist and risk violent protest.

Now a range of international organisations is helping to achieve the middle way. The International Renaissance Foundation (IRF), funded by the Soros Foundation is promoting the development of Tartar language schools, textbooks and other resources.

In a conference in Simferopol, Crimea, earlier this year held by the IRF, and the Foundation on Inter-Ethnic Relations, plans were made to fund a major development of Tartar language textbooks with the blessing of both the Ukrainian ministry of education and the Ukrainian autonomous government of the Crimea. Seventy writers were present and up to 100 texts planned.

Professor John Eggleston was consultant to the Simferopol conference

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