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Cuba Democracy Pamphlets
Civil Society 1

What is a non-governmental organization?
by Lutfi Osmanov

A non-governmental organization (NGO) and the third sector - these were completely unknown concepts to citizens of the former USSR, but today they come as no surprise.

However, for Crimean Tatars, non-governmental organizations are not just a theoretical concept nor a tribute to modern fashion, but they are and continue to be a basic form of existence and

After Stalin deported the Crimean Tatar nation to Central Asia from its homeland of Crimea in
1944, the Crimean Tatars found themselves in a situation that forced, and continues to force
them, to organize their own organs of self-organization independent of the government structures
of power. At the time when the Crimean Tatar national movement originated, these independent
structures were called initiative groups, but in recent years they have been formed on an elected
basis in a structure called the Mejlis (organs of self-government). If we speak in contemporary
language, these initiative groups of the mid 1950s could be called the largest non-governmental
organizations on the territory of the former USSR.

Thus, for Crimean Tatars there is no need to explain the role and possibility of the
non-governmental sector. This phenomenon is one of the main reasons for the effectiveness of
their work. Currently, their are many organizations working to solve specific problems such as
social welfare, health, education. They NGOs work on a par with the Mejlis, which can not be
called a typical NGO since they are formed on an elected basis. In connection with this I would
like to mentioned another important reason for  the effectiveness of this type of work: these
organizations were created particularly with the goal of solving real, rather than theoretical
problems, and their activities are beneficial for everyone in Crimea, not just for the Crimean

For example, we had our first contacts through the programs sponsored by the Centers for
Pluralism through the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe Warsaw. Together with
IDEE-Warsaw, we conducted seminars for NGO leaders, teachers, beginning journalists, school newspapers, parent committees, and finally, a training group was held in Crimea. It would be no exaggeration to say that this was a very serious program. Through these seminars, people of different nationalities were taught that basics of democracy, and most importantly, ways to come to come to agreement with eachother. It is also very important that our "own" trainers, who know better how to adapt methods, have already had their first experience with creating materials appropriate for Crimea on the basis of materials and methodologies presented by our Polish colleagues. 

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