Lenur Islyamov, the Crimean Tatar businessman, benefactor, media mogul, owner of the first Crimean Tatar TV Channel ATR, who has succeeded outside Crimea but came back homeland to be useful to his people has given an exclusive interview to QHA news agency.
Lenur Islyamov began his story from May 1944, when his grandparents and the whole family were deported from Crimea to Bekabad (Uzbekistan). Islyamov’s parents were doctors, thus, he graduated from medical institute in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Having worked as a dentist for some time he understood, medicine “was not for me”. It was the end of 80s, when he began his business, opened a building company “Aleko”, which was very successful. Then Islyamov moved to Moscow to work as AutoVAZ Company dealer that sold cars all over the Soviet Union. After some time, he opened a dealership enterprise in Moscow, and became a head of Uzbek ‘Avtoprom’ in Russia.
Later he went into the banking business, as, according to him, one business followed another naturally as where, there are cars, there are always crediting, insurance and so on. Now, Islyamov has a bank in Moscow.
-How often do you come to Crimea?
- I am here very often. During summer time almost all my family is here. We are very attached to Crimea; we have a lot of relatives, about 500 people.
-But your children study in Russia and will work in Russia?
- My daughter is studying in England, the middle son, Edem and the youngest get education in Moscow. Now Edem wants to enter Moscow State University. My youngest son, you can see him on ‘Lale’ (first in Crimea children’s channel) is also very often in Crimea. I take my kids to Dzhuma namaz (Friday prayer). It is important for me that my family feels we are Crimean Tatars.
-How did your business start in Crimea?
- It is remarkable, how it all began. My son Edem asked me at one point: Why we do things in Moscow, and nothing- in Crimea? We are very often in Crimea and should do something here too. I agreed. At that time I organized delivering of buses from Uzbekistan to Crimea. Thus I started implementing my own project in Crimea.
“I was ashamed of the old ATR channel, so I entered this business…”
- What was the reason you became the owner of ATR Chanel?
- The answer to this question needs a foreword. My father was a real patriot of Crimea and had raised us up this way. Now I am raising my children the same way. Crimean Tatars in Bekabad town, where we lived, were very active in national movement. I still remember the black flags waving at the meetings on May 18 (date of deportation of Crimean Tatars from Crimea). When we came to Crimea with my father and watched ATR, I understood no one would watch it. I felt ashamed of the Channel that was on air two hours a day and had terrible quality. It annoyed me.
I was not able to make clear who controls the Channel; the only answer I got at that time was “It is the Channel of Mejlis, the owner is Mustafa Dzhemilev.” Then I found out ATR management wanted to meet me. It was Shevket Memetov and Refat Chubarov I met with. They told me they planned to divide the shares of the Channel between 250 shareholders. Having experience in management I understood it wouldn’t work, as nobody would feel the responsibility. Later I bought 25% of its shares and then bought the rests. Now I own about 98% of shares. We invested much more than we expected. But we were not afraid of investing money as the purpose is to make contribution to Crimean Tatar culture development. We wanted Crimean Tatars all over the world to get the information about each other from a Crimean Tatar channel.
- As far as we know you own 2 TV channels, 2 radio stations and 2 news web-sites, do you plan to acquire all Crimean Tatar media and thus be able for form public opinion?
-You can buy anything, but what is next? I always explain to people that it won’t do if everything depends on one person. What if something happens to Lenur Islyamov? It is necessary to organize things so that they really function. For example, a newspaper should be cost effective. ATR also should become cost effective. We are not there yet, but getting there.
-What are your further plans in the mass media?
-As I said initially, I got into this business because in some way wanted to make a contribution to the development of our people, we can say, try to make it easier for people. To help Crimean Tatars in the world to know about each other through our own TV channel. We faced a lot of problems- including language, content, quality programs and others. Having solved one problem, another one appeared on the horizon. Ex-owners assured me they would provide ATR with content from Turkey. But as it turned out, we were on equal terms with other channels and had to pay the same money for movies. Nobody wanted to hear that we are just a developing regional channel.
“Want to feel my brother’s shoulder…”
-There is an opinion that your critical attitude towards Turkey is related to the situation on the ATR channel?
-No, I like Turkey very much. I just want to stress out that TV channel is not a business venture. If Crimean Tatars had state TV, which was subsidized from the budget, private channels would not be such an issue. Unfortunately, we have no such opportunity. ATR is the only Crimean Tatar channel we have; one may love or not love it. But if we don’t have it- we have nothing. Lenur Islyamov may lose part of his business, but I think that Crimean Tatar people will lose much more.
- Are you waiting for Turkey to support?
-Sure. I want to feel our brothers’ help and support.
- Perhaps that is why you opened the first ATR news bureau in Turkey? Or because the largest Crimean Tatar diaspora is in Turkey?
-I have special attitude to our diaspora in Turkey. I am for information! I want Crimean Tatars in Turkey to get information from the original source, from the Crimean Tatar channel.
-What about Europe, Russia?
-We will expand in Russia. On September 1 we are opening a news bureau in Moscow. We plan to open in Uzbekistan, Tatarstan.
- I can’t but ask you this question: as we know ATR Channel is not profitable yet. No one, even the richest businessmen would invest in it, still you do. And we can see the results of your work. There is an opinion you want to be a new leader of Crimean Tatars.
- I’ve heard about it. But I don’t feel so. I’ve been working on my business for 10 years; there is no need to work so hard to come to Crimea to break the structure of our Mejlis. That is nonsense. It could be said only by inexperienced people. May be thus some people try to explain unexplainable. I think most of these issues have already been exhausted.
(To be continued)