Putting into question the necessity of a centralised nation-state (with one de facto titular ethnic group), Crimean Tatars have proposed and realised many democratic alternative social structures. Alternative types of unification and representation, developed by Crimean Tatars, presupposed local representative democracy and decentralization. These self-governance strategies also presupposed financial, cultural and organisational autonomy from centralised power, as they were aimed at defending the equal rights and freedoms of the inhabitants of Crimea.
The All-Russian Muslim movement of 1905, with Crimean Tatars as full members, proclaimed the need for the national and cultural autonomy of Muslims and demanded reform in the Russian Empire.
These demands were developed at the All-Russian Muslim Congress in 1917, where various alternatives to complete centralisation of power – namely, Muslim socialism, pan-Turkic and pan-Islamic unions – were discussed. The congress resulted not only in the consolidation of full equality of rights for women, but also in a union between federalist autonomy for the people of the “borderlands”, among them Crimean Tatars and unitarist national and cultural autonomy for peoples “within the empire”, whose full autonomy was impossible.
Autumn 1917 in Crimea marked the convention of the first Qurultay. The Qurultay is the highest representative body of the Crimean Tatar people, a democratic apparatus for key decision-making, independent from state power. The first Qurultay of 1917 consolidated the full equality of rights for women, freedom of speech and freedom of gathering. The second Qurultay of 1991 has affirmed the unique rights of Crimean Tatars, as the indigenous people of Crimea, to the soil and natural resources of the peninsula, in order to stop the ecological damage done to it.