At the beginning of the 20th century, the Crimean Tatar national movement represented a rather active political force in the Russian Empire. After decades of injustice, the indigenous people of the Crimean peninsula did everything in order to build their national life.

After the February Revolution of 1917, the Crimean Tatars held a congress that decided to establish a Provisional Muslim Executive Committee. 32-year-old Noman Çelebicihan was elected Chairman and, at the same time, the Mufti of Muslims of Crimea, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and western Russia. This body regulated the activities of the Crimean Tatars before the convening of a national congress.

A hundred years ago, on November 26, 1917, the First Qurultay of the Crimean Tatar people was officially opened in the Bakhchysarai Khan Palace. The delegates of the Qurultay elected 79 representatives of the Crimean Tatar people, among them were four women.

Ten thousand Crimean Tatars from all over the peninsula came to attend the Qurultay. The congress was welcomed by representatives of different peoples of Crimea, Plenipotentiary of the Ukrainian Soviets, Latvian organizations, and it also received a huge number of congratulatory telegrams from the Turkic peoples of Russia.

Shortly before the congress, Çelebicihan in his speech proclaimed a new political program of the Crimean Tatars:

“To protect the Crimea, to establish its own laws and order, we made a decision on the convocation of the Qurultay of the Crimean Muslims. Since among the Turks it has been a well known Legislative Institute for ensuring order and justice for centuries... Qurultay seeks to realize the principle of just mutual coexistence with other Crimea inhabitants ... There are plenty of flowers, colors and aromas in the Crimea. These flowers are the nations living in the Crimea - Crimean Tatars, Russians, Jews, Greeks, Germans and others. The task of the Qurultay is to unite them all and, having made a single wonderful bouquet of them, to turn the Crimea into a real cultural Switzerland.”

Such a poetic comparison of the peoples of Crimea with a bouquet of different colors is still considered the most famous statement of Çelebicihan. Then the march Ant etkenmen sounded for the first time, and blue flag of the Crimean Tatars flew over the Khan-Sarai.

The session of First Qurultay lasted 18 days. During this time the congress adopted the Constitution, laid the foundations for statehood and declared itself a parliament.

It is possible judge the democratic nature of the constitution proposed by the Crimean Tatars, according to one of the emissaries of foreign intelligence. The document regulates the equality of men and women, equal suffrage, the abolition of privileges and social classes, freedom of personal and social life.

“In general, those reforms and that constitution, which was proposed by the supporters of Çelebicihan and himself were truly European. But, nevertheless, attempts to degrade these efforts of the Crimean Tatars by their fellow countrymen, not the Crimean Tatars, but the Russian political elite, have done their job. I think that if at that time they did not look down upon the situation, but had an opportunity and desire to cooperate, then today we could live in a completely different Crimea,” a Crimean Tatar historian Gulnara Bekirova noted.

Prior to the Qurultay, the Provisional Muslim Executive Committee sent its delegation headed by Amet Ozenbashly to Kyiv for talks with the leaders of the Central Rada - Mikhail Hrushevsky and Vladimir Vynnychenko. At this stage of the struggle both Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars sought to achieve independence for their peoples.

However, then the realization of dreams was not destined.

On January 14, 1918, Bolsheviks entered Simferopol, and closed the work of Qurultay, accusing its leaders of violating the non-existent agreement. A wave of bloody red terror swept across the Crimea.

Cafer Seydamet, who was in charge of foreign affairs, had time to leave for Turkey. Asan Sabri Aivazov, the Chairman of the Parliament, remained and was forced to cooperate with the Bolsheviks.

Noman Çelebicihan was arrested in strange circumstances and taken to Sevastopol by anarchist sailors. After 27 days of his imprisonment, he was shot, and the body was thrown into the Black Sea.

After two months of hard work, the national movement of the Crimean Tatars suffered incredible losses.

“Here are three fates, in my opinion, poetic and pragmatic. Either you stay and become part of this system for a while, but then you will still be destroyed (as this country of the Bolsheviks has developed this way), or you leave, but you live far from your homeland and do not affect the processes, but somehow save your life. In fact, the political activity of Çelebicihan takes only one year, but we remember him as a hero, and as long as the Crimean Tatar people live, and I hope that they will live forever, we will remember the name of Noman Çelebicihan for the 12 months of his struggle for the existence of his people’s statehood, for attempting to make the Crimean Tatars the masters of their land," Gulnara Bekirova emphasized.

The Second Qurultay of the Crimean Tatar people took place only after 74 years. In spite of all obstacles on the part of the Soviet authorities, the national congress held a meeting in Crimea in 1991, which became a symbolic manifestation of the victory of the national movement.

"Crimean Tatars managed to keep that spirit, the spirit of attachment to freedom, to their own state, despite all the catastrophic historical periods for the Crimean Tatars. And it is the restored Qurultay, or as we call it the Second Qurultay, which played a very important role. It gathered all the forces of the Crimean Tatar people into a single fist when it was needed, when the Crimean Tatars returned massively to their land, and it was very important that this process be completed successfully. Despite all the difficulties, it was a success,” the Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Refat Chubarov says.

The National Congress elected the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people led by Mustafa Dzhemilev, and adopted a number of documents, in particular, confirmed the right to self-determination.

“Crimea is a national territory of the Crimean Tatar people, on which only they have the right to self-determination as set out in international legal acts recognized by the world community ... All the horror of deportation and genocide, a long struggle for the restoration of their rights, the critical state of the people on the verge of forcible assimilation and extinction - all of this requires us all to consolidate. If we do not do this - we will be ashamed before our descendants, we will not deserve their good commemoration on the land of our ancestors.” Reads the extract from the Appeal of the Qurultay to the Crimean Tatar people.

The Qurultay, which was held in 1991, consolidated the status of the peninsula on the territorial basis. But the dream of a national definition within the limits of autonomy did not leave the Crimean Tatars in the Ukrainian Crimea.

“In the 1991, literally a month after the Qurultay, the Soviet Union collapsed, and we had to work under conditions of Ukrainian jurisdiction. Despite the fact that the relationship seems to be very good, a lot of friends among human rights defenders, dissidents and state structures, and we had a good relationship with each president, but the most important issue - the Crimean Tatar national autonomy - has always remained open, and it was still open until the annexation of the Crimea by Russia," remembers Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Ilmi Umerov.

The last extraordinary session of the Qurultay of the 6th convocation was held in occupation. This time it was not in Simferopol, but in Bakhchysarai - where in 1917 the first historic congress took place.

Today all Crimean Tatars' self-governing bodies operate in the territory of mainland Ukraine in an emergency. The repression of the occupants against the indigenous people, who did not recognize the current status of the Crimea, is intensifying with each passing day. In such conditions, the issue of autonomy is acute as never before, while the issue of holding the seventh Qurultay remains open.