Speaking to more than 200 delegates gathered for the top Crimean Tatars' assembly, Refat Chubarov said: "In the life of every nation there comes a time when it must make decisions that will determine its future."
"I ask you to approve ... the start of political and legal procedures aimed at creating ethnic and territorial autonomy of the Crimean Tatars of their historic territory of Crimea."
He did not specify whether he wanted the region, if it obtains autonomy, to be part of Russia or Ukraine.
Crimea's Tatars met in their historic capital Bakhchisaray to decide whether to hold a referendum among their people to determine their future.
Such a vote would be a challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin who incorporated the region into Russia after Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to split from Ukraine following the overthrow in February of Ukraine's pro-Russian president.
Crimean Tatars largely boycotted that referendum, which the West said was illegitimate.
"Nobody asked us, the Crimean Tatars ... in what conditions we want to live," Chubarov told Reuters this week.
"Changing the status of #Crimea was carried out without the expressed will of the Tatar people" says Refat Chubarov— Paul Gypteau (@paulgypteau) March 29, 2014
We want "to create an autonomous territory for the Tatar people in #Crimea" says Refat Chubarov, head of the Majlis, the Tatar assembly— Paul Gypteau (@paulgypteau) March 29, 2014
Tymoshenko: "My 933 days in prison, 933 times I changed like a person there. I'm closer to you, now"— Maxim Eristavi (@MaximEristavi) March 29, 2014