The Russian-Ukrainian crisis over Crimea is forcing Turkey into a delicate balancing act: Ankara feels a need to be seen as a protector of the peninsula’s Tatar minority, yet it does not want to vex Russia’s paramount leader Vladimir Putin in a way that complicates Turkish-Russian economic arrangements.
There are abundant reasons why Turkey is taking a close interest in Crimean developments. Crimea operated as a vassal khanate of Ottoman Empire from the 1470s until 1783. In addition, Turks are bound by a strong cultural connection to Crimean Tatars, an ethnic minority group that comprises roughly 15 percent of Crimea’s population. The number of ethnic Tatars
now living in Turkey -- most of them descendants of those who left Crimea following its 1783 annexation by the Russian Empire -- is estimated in the hundreds of thousands.
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.