The deportation of the Crimean Tatars ("Crimean Tatar Qırımtatar sürgünligi; "Russian Депортация крымских татар; "Ukrainian Депортація кримських татар) was the "ethnic cleansing of at least 191,044 "Tatars from "Crimea in May 1944. It was carried out by "Lavrentiy Beria, head of the Soviet "state security and "secret police, acting on behalf of "Joseph Stalin. Within three days, Beria's "NKVD used cattle trains to deport women, children, the elderly, "Communists and members of the "Red Army, to the Soviet Republic of "Uzbekistan, several thousand kilometers away. They were one of the ten "ethnicities who were encompassed by Stalin's policy of "population transfer in the Soviet Union.
The deportation was ostensibly intended as collective punishment for some Crimean Tatars collaborating with "Nazi Germany, though it is also viewed as actually being carried out due to the Soviet "plan to gain access to the "Dardanelles and acquire territory in "Turkey where the Tatars had ethnic kinsmen. While Soviet sources indict them as traitors, an opinion existing till this day, the Tatar nationalists refute it. Although the Nazis initially viewed the Crimean Tatars negatively, their policy was changed in face of determined Soviet resistance. Many of the "Soviet prisoners of war were recruited by the "Wehrmacht into support units. Meanwhile, 15,000 to 20,000 Crimean Tatars were persuaded to form "self-defense battalions to protect Crimean Tatar villages from attacks of "Soviet partisans as well as hunting them down, though these units sided with whoever was stronger in an area. In addition, Muslim Committees were also formed, giving them limited self-governance. This increased the suspicion despite a similar number as the self-defense volunteers also having joined the Red Army and thousands still serving when the Soviets "attacked Berlin, with numerous Crimean Tatars also joining the partisans. Majority of "hiwis and their families, along with those associated with Muslim Committees were later evacuated, with Soviet officials agreeing with this. However, the demand for punishing them grew louder.
Nearly 8,000 Crimean Tatars died during the deportation, while tens of thousands perished as a result of the harsh exile conditions in subsequent years. The Tatar exile resulted in the abandonment of 80,000 households and 360,000 acres of land. Stalin sought to eradicate all traces of the Crimean Tatars and in subsequent "censuses forbade any mention of the ethnic group. In 1956, new Soviet leader "Nikita Khrushchev condemned Stalin's policies, including the deportation of various ethnicities, but did not lift the directive forbidding the return of the Crimean Tatars. They were thus forced to remain in "Central Asia for several decades and it was not until the "Perestroika era in the late 1980s that 260,000 Tatars were permitted to return to Crimea. Their exile lasted 45 years. The ban on their return was officially declared null and void, and the "Supreme Council of Crimea declared on 14 November 1989 that the deportations had been a criminal act.
By 2004, sufficient numbers of Tatars had returned to Crimea that they comprised 12 percent of the peninsula's population. The local authorities did not assist their return or compensate them for the land they lost. The "Russian Federation, the "successor state of the USSR, did not provide "reparations, compensate those deported for lost property, or file legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the forced resettlement. The deportation was a crucial event in the history of the Crimean Tatars, and has come to be seen as a symbol of the plight and oppression of smaller ethnic groups by the Soviet Union.
The "Crimean Tatars controlled the "Crimean Khanate from 1441 to 1783, when "Crimea was "annexed by the Russian Empire as a target of "Russian expansionism. The Turkic-speaking population of Crimea had mostly adopted "Islam by the 14th century, following the conversion of "Ozbeg Khan of the "Golden Horde. It was the longest surviving state of the Golden Horde. They often engaged "in conflicts with Moscow—from 1468 until the 17th century, the Crimean Tatars made almost "annual incursions into Slavic lands, capturing many people used in the "slave trade—and were extremely averse to the new Russian rule. Thus, the Tatars began leaving Crimea in several waves of emigration. Between 1784 and 1790, out of a total population of about a million, around 300,000 Crimean Tatars left for the "Ottoman Empire.
The "Crimean War triggered another mass "exodus of Tatars. Between 1855 and 1866 at least 500,000 Muslims, and possibly up to 900,000, left the Russian Empire and emigrated to the Ottoman Empire. Out of that number, at least one third were from Crimea, while the rest were from the "Caucausus. These emigrants comprised 15–23% of the total population of Crimea. The Russian Empire used that to further Russify ""New Russia". Eventually, the Crimean Tatars became a minority in Crimea; in 1783, they comprised 98% of the population, but by 1897, this was down to 34.1%. While Crimean Tatars were emigrating, the Russian government encouraged "Russification of the peninsula, populating it with "Russians, "Ukrainians, and other "Slavic ethnic groups; this Russification continued during the Soviet era.
After the 1917 "October Revolution, Crimea was granted autonomous status inside the "USSR on 18 October 1921, but "collectivization in the 1920s led to severe famine from which up to 100,000 Crimeans perished when their crops were transported to "more important" regions of the Soviet Union. By one estimate, three-quarters of the famine victims were Crimean Tatars. Their status deteriorated further after "Joseph Stalin became the Soviet leader and started implementing various repressions that would lead to the deaths of at least 5.2 million Soviet citizens between 1927 and 1938.
In 1940, the "Crimean Socialist Soviet Republic had approximately 1,126,800 inhabitants, of which 218,000 people, or about 19.4% of the population, were Tatars. In 1941, "Nazi Germany invaded "Eastern Europe, annexing much of the western USSR. An excuse used for the collective punishment was that they had collaborated with "occupying German forces during the "Second World War. Soviet accounts of the late 1940s indict the Tatars them as an ethnicity of traitors, leaving no doubt as to the reasons for their deportation. This opinion was widespread throughout the Soviet period and still exists to this day. These claims are refuted by Crimean Tatar nationalists.
Per Soviet sources, over 20,000 Crimean Tatars were enlisted and sent to fight against the Nazis during the "German attack on the Soviet Union. Many of the captured Crimean Tatars serving in the "Red Army were sent to POW camps after "Romanians and Nazis came to "occupy bulk of Crimea. Though Nazis initially called for murder of all "Asiatic inferiors", this policy was revised in the face of determined resistance from the Red Army. They started recruiting from the Soviet prisoners in 1942. In this fashion, the German army created several distinct support armies from the Soviet POWs. From November 1941, German authorities allowed them to establish Muslim Committees in various towns as a symbolic recognition of some local government authority, though they were not given any political power.
Some of the Crimean Tatars were also organized into "Schutzmannschaft (police battalions) and "Selbstschutz (self-defense) brigades to protect Crimean Tatar villages from the partisan attacks as well as to track down the "Soviet partisans. These units however usually sided with whoever was the strongest in an area. The partisans also raided their villages for perceived collaboration. According to both German and Crimean Tatar evidence, the Germans persuaded between 15,000 and 20,000 Crimean Tatars to form self-defense battalions.
Majority of the "hiwis (helpers), their families and all those associated with the Muslim Committees were evacuated to Germany and "Hungary or "Dobruca by Wehrmacht and Romanian army where they joined the Eastern Turkic division. Many Soviet officials had also recognised this and rejected claims that they had betrayed Soviet Union en masse. However, with the German retreat, voices demanding punishment of the Tatars grew louder. In addition, the presence of Muslim Committees organized from Berlin by "Edige Kirimal and other members of Turkish and Dobrucan diaspora appeared particularly damning in the eyes of the Soviet government. The linking of Tatars with Turkey by the nationalists also increased suspicion.
However, not all people of that ethnic group joined the collaboration; Crimean Tatar Ahmet Özenbaşlı, for instance, was strongly opposed to the occupation and nurtured secret contacts with the Soviet "resistance movement to give them valuable strategic and political information. Many Crimean Tatars also fought on the side of partisans like the Tarhanov movement of 250 Tatars which fought throughout 1942 till its destruction. The suspicion on the Crimean Tatars rose despite that thousands of them were still serving in the Red Army when it attacked Berlin. It is also viewed as actually being carried out due to Stalin's plan to take complete control of Crimea. The Soviet "plan to gain access to the "Dardanelles and control territory in "Turkey where the Crimean Tatars had ethnic kinsmen, also led to them again being viewed as potentially disloyal.
Up to 130,000 people died during the Axis occupation of Crimea. The Nazis implemented a brutal repression, destroying more than 70 villages that were together home to about 25% the Crimean Tatar population. Thousands of Crimean Tatars were forcibly transferred to work as "Ostarbeiter in German factories under the supervision of "Gestapo in what were described as "vast slave workshops", resulting in loss of all Crimean Tatar support. The Nazis considered the Crimean Tatars and various other nations as "people of a lower race." In April 1944 the Red Army managed to repel the "Axis forces from the peninsula in the "Crimean Offensive.
|"We were told that we were being evicted and we had 15 minutes to get ready to leave. We boarded boxcars – there were 60 people in each, but no one knew where we were being taken to. To be shot? Hanged? Tears and panic were taking over."|
|— Saiid, who was deported with his family from "Yevpatoria when he was 10|
Ostensibly due to the "collaboration with the Axis Powers during World War II, a collective guilt and punishment was inflicted on ten ethnicities by the Soviet government, among them the Crimean Tatars. Many of these peoples were punished by being deported to distant regions of "Central Asia and "Siberia.
On 10 May 1944, "Lavrentiy Beria recommended to Stalin that the Crimean Tatars should be deported away from the border regions due to their "traitorous actions." This was despite the fact that 25,033 Crimean Tatars fought in the "Red Army during World War II, a greater number than the 15,000 to 20,000 persuaded to join the self-defense units that protected Tatar villages and also hunted down partisans. Eight Crimean Tatars were even awarded with the "Hero of the Soviet Union prize. It also ignored that majority of the collaborators had been evacuated from Crimea by the retreating Wehrmacht. Per Soviet sources, 20,000 Crimean Tatars had been evacuted with the retreating Germans. Several state officers thus claimed that the Crimean Tatars who had stayed on the peninsula were all those who had not betrayed the Soviet Union. Even though the "Volga Tatars actually participated in collaboration in higher number than the Crimean Tatars, with 35,000–40,000 volunteers fighting with the Axis, they avoided any kind of collective punishment. Many other ethnicities were also Nazi collaborators, even numerous Russians and "Jews, which indicated that some people in the occupied territories had been forcibly drafted.
Stalin issued GKO Order No. 5859ss, which envisaged the resettlement of the Crimean Tatars. The deportation was carried out in only three days, 18–20 May 1944, during which "NKVD agents went house to house collecting Crimean Tatars at gunpoint and forcing them to enter sealed-off cattle trains that would transfer them almost 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi) away to remote locations in the "Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. The Tatars were allowed to carry up to 500 kg of their property per family. By 8:00 on the first day, the NKVD had already loaded 90,000 Crimean Tatars distributed in 25 trains. The next day, a further 136,412 persons were boarded onto "railroad cars. They traveled in overcrowded wagons for several weeks and were plagued by a lack of food and water. It is estimated that at least 228,392 people were deported from Crimea, of which at least 191,044 were Crimean Tatars in 47,000 families. Since 7,889 people perished in the long transit in sealed-off railcars, the NKVD registered 183,155 Crimean Tatars who arrived at their destinations in Central Asia. The majority of the deportees were rounded up from the Crimean countryside. Only 18,983 of the exiles were from Crimean cities.
On 4 July 1944 the NKVD officially informed Stalin that the resettlement was complete. However, not long after that report, the NKVD found out that one of its units forgot to deport people from the "Arabat Spit. Instead of preparing an additional transfer in trains, the NKVD boarded hundreds of Crimean Tatars onto an old boat, took it to the middle of the "Azov Sea, and sunk the ship, drowning all of the people in it on 20 July. Those who did not drown were finished off by "machine-guns.
Officially, there was not a single Crimean Tatar left in Crimea. The deportation encompassed every person of Crimean Tatar descent, including children, women, and the elderly, and even those who had been members of the "Communist Party or the "Red Army. In March 1949, a total of 8,995 former soldiers of the Red Army of Crimean Tatar descent were registered in "special settlements. Among these veterans, there were 534 officers, 1,392 sergeants, and 7,079 soldiers. There were also 742 members of the "Communist Party of the Soviet Union and 1,225 members of "Komsomol. According to one Russian witness of the deportation, some men were still fighting at the Eastern front, but the deportation awaited them at the end of the war. This was especially humiliating for war heroes; Ilyas Ablayev, for instance, fought on various fronts in the war and served in the Red Army until May 1947, only to then live in exile in the region of "Tashkent.
During this mass eviction, the Soviet authorities confiscated around 80,000 houses, 500,000 "cattle, 360,000 "acres of land, and 40,000 tons of agricultural provisions that were left behind by the Crimean Tatars. In addition, all Crimean Tatars were fired from the Red Army. Besides 191,000 deported Tatars, the Soviet authorities also evicted 9,260 "Armenians, 12,420 "Bulgarians, and 15,040 "Greeks from the peninsula. All were collectively branded as traitors and became second class citizens for decades in the USSR. Among the deported, there were also 283 persons of other ethnicities: "Italians, Romanians, "Karaims, "Kurds, "Czechs, "Hungarians, and "Croats. During 1947 and 1948, a further 2,012 veteran returnees were deported from Crimea by the local "MVD.
151,136 Crimean Tatars were deported to the Uzbek SSR; 8,597 to the "Mari Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic; and 4,286 to the "Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic; and the remaining 29,846 were sent to various remote regions of the "Russian SFSR. When the Crimean Tatars arrived at their destination in the Uzbek SSR, they were met with hostility by "Uzbek locals who threw stones at them, even their children, because they heard that the Crimean Tatars were "traitors" and "fascist collaborators." The Uzbeks were also objecting because they did not want to become the "dumping ground for treasonous nations." In the coming years, several assaults against the Crimean Tatars population were registered, some of which were fatal.
The mass Crimean deportations were organized by Lavrentiy Beria, the chief of the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, and his subordinates "Bogdan Kobulov, "Ivan Serov, B. P. Obruchnikov, M.G. Svinelupov, and A. N. Apolonov. The field operations were conducted by G. P. Dobrynin, the deputy Head of the "Gulag system; G. A. Bezhanov, the Colonel of State Security; I. I. Piiashev, Major General; S. A. Klepov, Commissar of State Security; I. S. Sheredega, Lt. General; B. I. Tekayev, Lt. Colonel of State Security; and two local leaders, P. M. Fokin, head of the Crimea NKGB, and V. T. Sergjenko, Lt. General. In order to execute this deportation, the NKVD secured 5,000 armed agents and the "NKGB allocated a further 20,000 armed men, together with a few thousand regular soldiers. Two of Stalin's directives from May 1944 reveal that every aspect of the Soviet government, from financing to transit, was involved in executing the operation.
On 14 July 1944 the GKO authorized the immigration of 51,000 people, mostly Russians, to 17,000 empty "collective farms on Crimea. On 30 June 1945, the "Crimean ASSR was abolished and adjoined to the Russian SFSR.
"Soviet propaganda sought to hide the population transfer by claiming that the Crimean Tatars had "voluntarily resettle to Central Asia". In essence, Crimea was ""ethnically cleansed." After this act, the term "Crimean Tatar" was banished from the Russian-Soviet lexicon, and all Tatar "toponyms (names of towns, villages, and mountains) in Crimea were changed to Russian names on all maps. Muslim graveyards and religious objects in Crimea were demolished or converted into secular places. During Stalin's rule, nobody was allowed to mention that this ethnicity even existed in the USSR. This went so far that many individuals were even forbidden to declare themselves as Crimean Tatars during the "Soviet censuses of 1959, "1970, and 1979. They could only declare themselves as Tatars. It was only during the "Soviet census of 1989 that this ban was lifted.
|Year||Number of deceased|
|May 1944 – 1 January 1945||13,592|
|1 January 1945 – 1 January 1946||13,183|
The total "mortality rate as a consequence of the deportation of Crimean Tatars is still a matter of dispute, partially because the NKVD kept incomplete records of the death rate among the resettled ethnicities living in exile. Like the other deported peoples, the Crimean Tatars were placed under the regime of "special settlements. Many of those deported had to perform "forced labor: their tasks included working in "coal mines and in construction battalions, under the supervision of the NKVD. Deserters were punished by a death sentence. Special settlers routinely had to work eleven to twelve hours a day, with no days off. Despite this difficult physical labor, the Crimean Tatars were given only around 200 grams (7.1 oz) to 400 grams (14 oz) of bread per day. Accommodations were insufficient; some were forced to live in "mud huts where "there were no doors or windows, nothing, just reeds" on the floor to sleep on.
The sole transport to these remote areas and "labor colonies was equally as strenuous. The NKVD loaded 50 people into each railroad car, together with their property. They had only one hole in the floor of the wagon which was used as a toilet. One witness claimed that 133 people were locked up in her wagon. The conditions in the overcrowded train wagons were exacerbated by a lack of "hygiene, leading to cases of "typhus. Since the trains only stopped to open the doors of the railroad cars at rare occasions during the trip, the sick inevitably contaminated others in the wagons. It was only when they arrived at their destination in the Uzbek SSR that the Crimean Tatars were released from the sealed-off railroad cars. The first deportees started arriving in the Uzbek SSR on 29 May 1944 and most had arrived by 8 June 1944. Still, some were redirected to other destinations in Central Asia and had to continue their journey. Some witnesses claimed that they traveled in sealed-off freight cars for 24 consecutive days. During this whole time, they were given very little food or water while trapped inside. There was no fresh air, since the doors and windows were bolted shut. In "Kazakh SSR, the transport guards unlocked the door only to toss out the corpses along the railroad. The Crimean Tatars thus called these railcars ""crematoria on wheels." The records show that at least 7,889 Crimean Tatars died during this long journey, amounting to about 4% of their entire ethnicity.
|"We were forced to repair our own individual tents. We worked and we starved. Many were so weak from hunger that they could not stay on their feet.... Our men were at the front and there was no one who could bury the dead. Sometimes the bodies lay among us for several days.... Some Crimean Tatar children dug little graves and buried the unfortunate little ones.|
|— anonymous Crimean Tatar woman, describing life in exile|
The high mortality rate continued for several years in exile due to "malnutrition, "labor exploitation, diseases, lack of medical care, and exposure to the harsh desert climate of Uzbekistan. The exiles were frequently assigned to the heaviest construction sites. The Uzbek medical facilities were filled with Crimean Tatars who were susceptible to the local Asian diseases, not found on Crimean peninsula where the water was purer, including "yellow fever, "dystrophy, "malaria, and intestinal illness. The "death toll was the highest during the first five years. In 1949 the Soviet authorities counted the population of the deported ethnic groups who lived in special settlements. According to their records, there were 44,887 "excess deaths in these five years, 19.6% of that total group. Other sources give a figure of 44,125 deaths during that time, while a third source, using alternative NKVD archives, gives a figure of 32,107 deaths. These reports included all the people resettled from Crimea (including Armenians, Bulgarians, and Greeks), but the Crimean Tatars formed a large majority in this group. It took five years until the number of births among the deported people started to surpass the number of deaths. Soviet archives reveal that between May 1944 and January 1945 a total of 13,592 Crimean Tatars perished in exile, about 7% of their entire population. Almost half of all deaths (6,096) were of children under the age of 16; another 4,525 were adult women and 2,562 were adult men. During 1945, a further 13,183 people died. Thus, by the end of December 1945, at least 27,000 Crimean Tatars had already died in exile. One Crimean Tatar woman living near Tashkent recalled the events from 1944:
My parents were moved from Crimea to Uzbekistan in May 1944. My parents had sisters and brothers, but when they arrived in Uzbekistan, the only survivors were themselves. My parents' sisters and brothers and parents all died in transit because of catching bad colds and other diseases.... My mother was left completely alone and her first work was to cut trees.
Estimates produced by Crimean Tatars indicate mortality figures that were far higher and amounted to 46% of their population living in exile. In 1968, when "Leonid Brezhnev presided over the USSR, Crimean Tatar activists were persecuted for using that high mortality figure under the guise that it was a "slander to the USSR." In order to show that Crimean Tatars were exaggerating, the KGB published figures showing that "only" 22% of that ethnic group died. Hannibal Travis estimates that overall 40,000–80,000 Crimean Tatars died in exile. J. Otto Pohl cites Michael Rywkin's figures of at least 42,000 Crimean Tatars who died between 1944 and 1951—this would mean that around 20% of their population died as a consequence of this policy. Pohl described it as "one of the worst cases of ethnically motivated mass murder of the 20th century." The Crimean State Committee estimated that 45,000 Crimean Tatars died between 1944 and 1948. The official NKVD report estimated that 27% of that ethnicity died.
Stalin's government denied the Crimean Tatars the right to education or "publication in their native language. Although they had to study in Russian or "Uzbek, they still kept their cultural identity intact. In 1956 the new Soviet leader, "Nikita Khrushchev, "held a speech in which he condemned Stalin's policies, including the mass deportations of various ethnicities. Still, even though many peoples were allowed to return to their homes, three groups were forced to stay in exile: the "Soviet Germans, the "Meskhetian Turks, and the Crimean Tatars. In 1954, Khrushchev allowed Crimea to be included in the "Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic since Crimea is linked by land to Ukraine and not with the Russian SFSR. On 28 April 1956, the directive "On Removing Restrictions on the Special Settlement of the Crimean Tatars... Relocated during the Great Patriotic War" was issued, ordering a de-registration of the deportees and their release from administrative supervision. However, various other restrictions were still kept and the Crimean Tatars were not allowed to return to Crimea. Moreover, that same year the Ukrainian Council of Ministers banned the exiled Tatars, Greeks, Germans, Armenians and Bulgarians from relocating even to the "Kherson, "Zaporizhia, "Mykolaiv and "Odessa Oblasts in the Ukrainian SSR. The Tatars did not get any compensation for their lost property.
In the 1950s, the Crimean Tatars started actively advocating the right to return. In 1957, they collected 6,000 signatures in a petition that was sent to the "Supreme Soviet that demanded their "political rehabilitation and return to Crimea. In 1961 25,000 signatures were collected in a petition that was sent to the "Kremlin.
"Mustafa Dzhemilev, who was only six months old when his family was deported from Crimea, grew up in Uzbekistan and became an activist advocating for the right of the Crimean Tatars to return. In 1966 he was arrested for the first time and spent a total of 17 years in prison during the Soviet era. This earned him the nicknamed the "Crimean Tatar "Mandela." In 1984 he was sentenced for the sixth time for "anti-Soviet activity," but was given moral support by Soviet dissident "Andrei Sakharov who had observed Dzhemilev's fourth trial in 1976. When older dissidents were arrested, a new, younger generation would emerge that would replace them.
On 21 July 1967, the representatives of the Crimean Tatars, led by dissident Ayshe Seytmuartova, gained permission to meet with high-ranking Soviet officials in Moscow, including "Yuri Andropov. During the meeting, the Crimean Tatars demanded a correction of all the injustices that the USSR did to their people. In September 1967 the "Supreme Soviet issued a decree that gave amnesty to Crimean Tatars with regards to their charges of mass treason during World War II and also gave them more rights in the USSR. Still, the Crimean Tatars did not get what they wanted the most: the right to return to Crimea. The carefully worded decree stated that "The citizens of Tatars nationality who had formerly been living on Crimea […] have taken root in the Uzbek SSR." Individuals united and formed groups that went back to Crimea in 1968 on their own, without state permission—only for the Soviet authorities to deport 6,000 of them once again. The most notable example of such resistance was Crimean Tatar activist Musa Mahmut, who had been deported when he was 12 and who returned to Crimea because he wanted to see his home again. When the police informed him that he would be evicted, he poured gasoline over his body and set himself on fire. Despite this, 577 families managed to obtain state permission to reside in Crimea.
In 1968 unrest erupted among the Crimean Tatar people in the Uzbek city of "Chirchiq. In October 1973 Jewish poet and professor "Ilya Gabay committed suicide by jumping off a building in Moscow. He was one of the significant Jewish dissidents in the USSR who fought for the rights of the oppressed peoples, especially Crimean Tatars. Gabay was arrested and sent to a "labor camp, but still insisted on his cause because he was convinced that the treatment of Crimean Tatars by the USSR amounted to genocide. That same year, Dzhemilev was also arrested.
Despite the process of "de-Stalinization, it was not until "Perestroika and the arrival of "Mikhail Gorbachev to power in the late 1980s that things started to change. In 1987 Crimean Tatar activists organized a protest in the center of Moscow near the Kremlin. This compelled Gorbachev to form a commission to look into this matter. The first conclusion of the commission, led by hardliner "Andrei Gromyko, was that there was "no basis to renew autonomy and grant Crimean Tatars the right to return," but Gorbachev ordered a second commission that recommended the renewal of autonomy for Crimean Tatars. On 14 November 1989 the ban on the return of the deported ethnicities was finally officially declared null and void while the "Supreme Council of Crimea issued a declaration that the previous deportations of peoples were a criminal activity. This paved the way for 260,000 Crimean Tatars to return to their homeland. That same year, Dzhemilev returned to Crimea, and by 1 January 1992 at least 166,000 other Crimean Tatars had done the same. The 1991 Russian law "On the Rehabilitation of Repressed Peoples addressed the "rehabilitation of all ethnicities repressed in the Soviet Union. It adopted measures which involved the "abolition of all previous RSFSR laws relating to illegal forced deportations" and called for the "restoration and return of the cultural and spiritual values and archives which represent the heritage of the repressed people."
By 2004 the Crimean Tatars formed 12% of the population of Crimea. Despite this, the return of Crimean Tatars was not a simple process—in 1989, when they started their mass return, various "Russian nationalists staged protests in Crimea under the slogan: "Tatar traitors - Get out of Crimea!" Several clashes between locals and Crimean Tatars were reported in 1990 near "Yalta, which compelled the army to intervene to calm the situation. Local Soviet authorities were reluctant to help Crimean Tatar returnees find a job or a residence. The returnees found 517 abandoned Crimean Tatar villages, but bureaucracy strained their efforts to restore them. During 1991 at least 117 Crimean Tatar families lived in tents in two meadows near "Simferopol, waiting for the authorities to grant them a permanent residence. After the "dissolution of the USSR, Crimea found itself a part of "Ukraine, but "Kiev gave only limited support to Crimean Tatar settlers. Some 150,000 of the returnees were granted citizenship automatically under Ukraine's "Citizenship Law of 1991, but 100,000 who returned after the country declared independence faced several obstacles, including a costly bureaucratic process. Since the exile lasted for almost 50 years, some Crimean Tatars decided to stay in Uzbekistan, which led to the separation of families who had decided to return to Crimea. By 2000 there were 46,603 recorded appeals of returnees who demanded a piece of land. A majority of these applications were rejected. Around the larger cities, such as "Sevastopol, a Crimean Tatar was on average given only 0.04 acres of land, which was of poor quality or unsuitable for farming.
|The "KGB collaborators are furious that we are gathering statistical evidence about Crimean Tatars who perished in exile and that we are collecting materials against the sadist commandants who derided the people during the Stalin years and who, according to the precepts of the "Nuremburg Tribunal, should be tried for "crimes against humanity. As a result of the crime of 1944, I lost thousands upon thousands of my brothers and sisters. And this must be remembered!|
|— Mustafa Dzhemilev, 1966|
Ukrainian-Canadian historian Peter J. Potichnyj concludes that the dissatisfaction of the Crimean Tatars over their life in exile mirrors a broader picture of non-Russian ethnic groups of the USSR that started to publicly express their anger against injustices perpetrated by the "Greater Russian ideologists. In 1985 an essay by Ukrainian journalist Vasil Sokil titled Forgetting Nothing, Forgetting No One was published in the Russian emigre journal Kontinent. In an often sarcastic manner, it highlighted the selectively forgotten Soviet citizens and ethnicities who suffered during World War II, but whose experiences disrupt the official Soviet narrative of a heroic victory: "Many endured all the tortures of "Hitler's concentration camps only to be sent to the Siberian "gulag. […] What, in truth, does a human being need? Not much. Simply to be recognized as humans. Not as an animal." Sokil took the Crimean Tatars as an example of the ethnicities who were denied this recognition.
Between 1989 and 1994, around a quarter of a million Crimean Tatars migrated from Central Asia to Crimea—it was seen as a symbolic victory of their efforts to return to their native land. They returned after 45 years of exile.
Not one of the ten ethnic groups who were deported during Stalin's era received any kind of compensation. Some Crimean Tatar groups and activists have called for the international community to put pressure on the Russian Federation, the "successor state of the USSR, to finance rehabilitation of that ethnicity and provide "financial compensation for forcible resettlement.
Scholar "Walter Kolarz alleges that the deportation and liquidation of Crimean Tatars as a ethnicity in 1944 was just the final act of the centuries-long process of Russian colonization of Crimea that started in 1783. Gregory Dufaud regards the Soviet accusations against Crimean Tatars as a convenient excuse for their forcible transfer through which Moscow secured an unrivaled access to the geostrategic southern "Black Sea on one hand and eliminated hypothetical rebellious nations at the same time. Professor "Brian Glyn Williams states that the deportations of "Meskhetian Turks despite never being close to the scene of combat and never being charged with any crime lends the strongest credence to the fact that the deportations of Crimeans and Caucasians was due to Soviet foreign policy rather that any real "universal mass crimes".
In March 2014 the "annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation unfolded, which was in turn declared illegal by the "United Nations General Assembly ("United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262) and which led to further deterioration of the rights of the Crimean Tatars. Even though the "Russian Federation issued decree No. 268 "On the Measures for the Rehabilitation of Armenian, Bulgarian, Greek, Crimean Tatar and German Peoples and the State Support of Their Revival and Development" on 21 April 2014, in practice it has treated Crimean Tatars with far less care. The "Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a warning against the Kremlin in 2016 because it "intimidated, harassed and jailed Crimean Tatar representatives, often on dubious charges", while the "Mejlis, their representative body, was banned.
The UN reported that over 10,000 people left Crimea after the annexation in 2014, mostly Crimean Tatars, which caused a further decline of their fragile community. Crimean Tatars stated several reasons for their departure, among them insecurity, fear, and intimidation from the new Russian authorities. In its 2015 report, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that various "human rights violations were recorded in Crimea, including the prevention of Crimean Tatars from marking the 71st anniversary of their deportation. Dzhemilev, who was in "Turkey during the annexation, was banned from entering Crimea for five years by the Russian authorities, thus marking the second time that he was evicted from his native land.
Modern interpretations by scholars and historians sometimes classify this mass deportation of civilians as a "crime against humanity, "ethnic cleansing, "depopulation, an act of "Stalinist repression or an ""ethnocide", meaning a deliberate wiping out of an identity and culture of a nation. The Crimean Tatars call this event Sürgünlik ("exile").
Some activists, politicians, and historians go even further and consider this deportation a crime of "genocide. Soviet dissidents Ilya Gabay and "Pyotr Grigorenko both classified the event as a genocide. On 12 December 2015, the "Ukrainian Parliament issued a resolution recognizing this event as genocide and established 18 May as the "Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Crimean Tatar genocide." Some academics disagree with the classification of deportation as genocide; Professor Alexander Statiev argues that Stalin's administration did not have a conscious genocidal intent to exterminate the various deported peoples, but that Soviet "political culture, poor planning, haste, and wartime shortages were responsible for the genocidal "death rate among them." He rather considers these deportations an example of Soviet "assimilation of "unwanted nations." According to Professor Amir Weiner, "...It was their territorial identity and not their physical existence or even their distinct "ethnic identity that the regime sought to eradicate." According to Professor Francine Hirsch, "although the Soviet regime practiced politics of "discrimination and "exclusion, it did not practice what contemporaries thought of as "racial politics." To her, these mass deportations were based on the concept that nationalities were "sociohistorical groups with a shared consciousness and not racial-biological groups".
In 2008, Lily Hyde, a British journalist living in Ukraine, published a novel titled Dreamland that revolves around a Crimean Tatar family returning to their homeland in the 1990s. The story is told from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl who moves to a demolished village with her parents, brother, and grandfather from Uzbekistan. Her grandfather tells her stories about the heroes and victims among the Crimean Tatars.
In 2015 Christina Paschyn released the documentary film A Struggle for Home: The Crimean Tatars in a Ukrainian–Qatari co-production. It depicts the history of the Crimean Tatars from 1783 up until 2014, with a special emphasis on the 1944 mass deportation.
During the "2016 Eurovision Song Contest, the Ukrainian Crimean Tatar singer "Jamala performed her song "1944 which refers to the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in that year. Jamala, herself born in exile in "Kyrgistan, dedicated the song to her deported great-grandmother. She became the first Crimean Tatar to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest, which she won representing Ukraine.
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