In pictures: Meeting the Tatars of Crimea

The minority group, largely distrustful of Russia, is feeling increasingly vulnerable on the troubled peninsula.


Bakhchisaray, Ukraine - As political tensions continue to rise on the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine, the region's minority population, the ethnic Crimean Tatars, face an uncertain future.

Making up just 13 percent of the Crimean population, the Tatar minority is feeling increasing vulnerable following Russian military action across the peninsula.

The Tatar have a tumultuous history in Crimea, where they have lived for hundreds of years. Following World War II, tens of thousands were deported en masse by order of Joseph Stalin - accused of collaboration with the Nazis. The whole population was relocated to distant parts of the Soviet Union, with thousands languishing in the notorious gulags.

Following Ukrainian independence after the fall of the Soviet Union, many returned to Crimea - and have enjoyed a largely peaceful co-existence with their ethnic Russian and Ukrainian neighbours.

Now however, with as many as 30,000 Russian troops taking control of Ukrainian military facilities on the peninsula, the Tatars are fearful for the future.

In the quiet town of Bakhchisaray, the historical capital of the Crimean Tatars, many are forming local patrols to ensure their security as the political turmoil divides the community along ethnic lines, and between those who want to remain a part of Ukraine, those who seek independence, and those who want to join the Russian federation.