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Crimean Tatars*

By Vladimir Polyakov

"My father, my grandfather, and I, are all pure Russians. I do not have any Tatar blood in me," explained Vladimir Polyakov in his letter to the editorial department of the newspaper. " I am a descendent of a generation sent to Crimea from Russia for industrial and technical development in the region."

Before the communist revolution broke out in 1917, my grandfather, Matvey Petrovich Polyakov, worked as a technician at the Simferopol Telegraph Center. My father was an officer in the Red Army, a fighter pilot. My father was fluent and spoke Crimean Tatar like a native because Crimean Tatar was at the time the principal spoken language in the region. Among his friends there were many Crimean Tatars. And, those friendships lasted throughout his entire life.

I would like to dedicate this article to the memory of my deceased father, Evgeniy Matveevich Polyakov.

Newcomers or Aborigines?

It seems as though you cannot find more of a misfit than the term "Tatar." This word came into our vocabulary in the beginning of the 13th century. It refers to groups of different people who came from the east. Soon enough, it became obvious that the word "Tatar" was not enough to describe all those nations. With time, we had to become more specific. For example: Astrakhan Tatars, Barabin Tatars, Kasimov Tatars, Crimean Tatars, and Siberian Tatars.

For someone who has little or no idea about this particular fact of history, it may seem as if we are referring to these people as one nation that has dispersed over a large territory. It is an incredible misconception to think this way. For example, Crimean Tatars have as many common roots between them and Kazan Tatars, as the Serbs and Russians. The only common element among Tatars is that they are Turkic people, and the Serbs are Slavs. The Slavs consider themselves among many nations across the European continent (eastern and southeastern). Turks do the same. There are: Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uyghurs, Karakalpaks, Karaims, Krymchaks, Turkmen, Gagauz, Kumyk, Turks, Azeriys, Tuvins, and all the Tatars that we mentioned above. That is why we should talk about Crimean Tatars as a unique and whole nation.

We can also see that the wrong use of this word throughout the whole Soviet period, when many people were called "Tatars," regardless of their differences. Nothing was changed from the past. As we can see even in Leo Tolstoy's Prisoner of Mountains, the word "Tatars" was used to describe the local people in a village, even though it was the Caucasus. We do have multiple misconceptions throughout history.

The first group of Batu Khan's vanguards reached the Crimean Peninsula in 1233 AD. And that's when mistakenly many historians began attributing the first appearance of Crimean Tatars in Crimea.

Let us take a closer look at who the newcomers were. Mongols? Kipchaks? As we all know pure Mongol-warriors were only soldiers of Chengiz Khan, and at the very beginning of his campaign. As his armies stretched westward, they expanded with new tumens (units of ten thousand soldiers), consisting of men from defeated nations. In the Russian language, we call Tumen as T'ma (huge amount). So, year by year, there were many Tumens who joined. Eventually the percentage of Mongols in those armies dropped drastically. By the time they reached the Black Sea, their presence was limited to military leadership only.

That is why, in all probability, other Turkic tribes under Mongol command came to Crimea in 1233 AD.

Unfortunately we don't have any records of the struggle for Crimea. All we know is that after the battle of Kalka, where Russian and Kipchak formations tried unsuccessfully to defend the passage to Crimea against the vanguard units of Batu Khan's army, the fate of Crimea was decided.

One can only wonder how smart and adaptive the newcomers were. They did not interfere in the accustomed life of the people who lived there already. We are talking of the Genoese from Italy who inhabited the coastal areas. They had already started their trading business by sea. These newcomers came to live side by side with the local people who were engaged in their own trading business. The economic base of these people was slave trading.

According to the chronicles that reached us, in 1239 AD the newcomers rounded up 12,000 young men from Crimea and sold them to the Egyptian Sultan. The Sultan created a National Guard out of them, called Mamalukes.

In the second part of the 13th century, the Mamalukes revolted. After a successful military coup they took control of power in Egypt. They put in power their own sultan, the former head of the army, Beybars bey (who was born in Solhat, the city of Old Krim).

In the opinion of many historians the 13th century was the "golden period" in that region. Despite the small size of Crimea, there were three major geopolitical areas. Feodora stretched over a mountainous area, the Genoese occupied the coast, and the Golden Horde ruled the steppes. Then this peaceful coexistence was disrupted when the Nogay tribes went through the region with swords and fire.

Accepting Islam during Uzbek Khan's rule was a major event in the creation of the Crimean Tatars.

At the beginning of the 15th century old city fortresses were replaced by new ones. In some cases old ones were just expanded like Bakhchisaray, Ak-Meschit, Karasubazar, Or-Kapu, and Gezlev. Out of the original ones, only two, Kyrk-or and Sudak, retained their former function. Political life began to move to Bakhchisaray, the heart of Crimea.

Geopolitical changes in neighboring countries could not take place by without any effect. The Great Empire that was founded by Chengiz Khan fell apart. As we know that has always been the destiny of any Empire of ours.

We need to mention that Crimea had been developing into a monarchy for some time. Thus in 1433 Crimea became a sovereign country. But not for long. During the rule of Mengli Girey Khan, and with his help, Crimean Khanate became a vassal of the Turkish Empire. Mengli Girey (1468-1515), managed to introduce reforms in Tatar habits. Their lives changed from a nomadic to a settled life style. In a tyrannical move to ensure the disappearance of nomadic ways, Mengli Girey Khan ordered his people to hack the wagon axles to pieces with their axes. It is remarkable that during this period Crimean Tatars began to call themselves simply Crimeans. Interestingly, the Russian ambassador visiting Crimea recorded their meeting with the Crimean Khan, not the Crimean Tatar Khan.

For several centuries Crimea remained a Turkish satellite, and Russia became its main political and military opponent. The territory under Crimean control stretched from the Dniestr river to the Don river, from the Crimean Mountains to the Caucasus Mountains.

During those centuries, the Crimean Khanate was the main political and military power in Eastern Europe. Almost all the countries at that time tried various ways to approach it. We cannot hide and have to admit that the relationship between Russia and Crimea was very antagonistic. Once in 1571, in a successful raid, the Crimean Khanate almost wiped out Moscow from the face of the earth. And in the second part of the 18th century, Crimean cities and villages were under constant fire. Relations with Zaporozh Sich were very complicated. They had a joke saying that the continual problem with the Ukrainians was either they went with the Tatars against the Russians, or with the Russians against the Tatars.

The beginning of the 18th century marked the decline of the Ottoman Empire. As a result, Russia came to be a new superpower, drooling over Crimea from the north. It took over the role of Turkey, now exerting influence on the peninsula, just as others had since the Schithian era. This was not a result of subjective factors, not the evil will of Katherine or the weakness and ambitious ego of Shahin-Girey. Crimea became a victim of the changing geopolitical forces in the region. Maybe the centuries will pass, and Ukraine will take the place of Russia someday. But more likely Crimea will always be attached to its mainland.

Within the Empire

The annexation of Crimea by Russia was not a very happy event in itself, and it was a very painful transition for Crimea itself. Her Highness and her staff treated newly acquired lands as though they had never been inhabited, as if it was no man's land. Also there were some situations in which some large properties were given to local noblemen with full-scale enslavement powers, the old "divide and rule" technique. As a direct result of land appropriation, there was a mass exodus of population from Crimea. By 1787, the number of people who had left was approximately 8,000. They were mostly steppe people who had suffered the most from the loss of their land.

Crimea was not the first case of its kind for the Russians. Russia already had experience with handling other cases of conquered lands. First of all, at the beginning she did not interfere in religious affairs. Especially in Crimea, they created a new position for Mufti that would not be dependent on any body, not even the chief Mufti of all Muslims in Russia. They were trying as much as possible to involve local Beys and Mirzas in the government. Many of them were promoted to noblemen.

Let us not overlook certain noblemen we always will consider as the best, noblest people of Russia: Gavriil Derjavin, direct descendant of Narbek dynasty; Leon Tolstoy, direct descendant of Idris dynasty; Fedor Dostoevskiy of the Cheleby dynasty; Alexander Kuprin, Tugan-Baranovski, and Anna Ahmatova of the Chagoday dynasty. The very last names of these people speak for them: there were Aksakov (meaning, "limping" in Turkic); Kutuzov (from Khuduz, meaning, "mad"); and Kolchak (from Kholchakh, meaning, "glove").

For Crimean Tatars it was the harshest of times. In 1792 a new exodus from Crimea commenced. This time more than 100,000 people left. Again most of them were steppe inhabitants. This process never stopped. It varied in intensity. The climax came after the end of the Crimean War. This time more than 150,000 people left Crimea forever. As witnesses described the sight of abandoned villages, one could only hear dogs howling, doors clapping from the wind, windows missing or left open, creaking roofs of destroyed houses.

Year by year the population of Crimean Tatars was going down. The number of Tatars living in Crimea was enough to be noticed, but not enough to be regarded as a nation. The twentieth century started with winds of national revolutions all over Europe. But Crimea seemed to have slept through all of it. And it is not surprising that Crimean Tatar society was missing its main ingredient – the intelligentsia, which was suppressed by the system, set up by Tsarist Russia. One exception we can name at that time was Ismail Gasprinsky . He was in charge of the first Crimean Tatar newspaper, Tarjuman.

Within the Soviet Union.

In 1917 when the Russian Empire started to crumble, just four years after their three hundredth anniversary celebration, nobody could even imagine Crimean Tatars as a political power. And while some were talking about the Great and un-dividable Russia, others about a Free Ukraine, and some about Soviet Russia, almost unexpectedly, Crimean Tatars came up with their slogan "Crimea for Crimeans!"

And they meant everybody under the Crimean influence. As it always works in such a situation, Tatars were not single-minded people. There were different political streams, and they came out with two main parties. One Muslim Party, which was very influential at the time, and the other, Milli Firka – the National Party. But in the long run all Crimean Tatars had the same ambition. As a result there was created a Crimean Tatars Kurultay.

The relations with Bolsheviks were not easy due to Bolshevik ignorance of the national question, which was so painful for Crimean Tatars. Once Bolsheviks adopted the policy of terror, they were bound to cross some lines. Crimean Tatars even tried to resist against the deadly punitive brigades of Bolsheviks that raged over such cities as Sevastopol, Simferopol, and Evpatorya. There they executed, without any courts, anyone who was identified as a non-working person. My father told me how he witnessed people getting shot just because they were wearing reading glasses or did not have any scars on their hands from hard labor.

After I grew up, I did travel to Evpatorya to record the memoirs of surviving people whom I could find. There I learned that I had a lot of relatives who perished almost in a day. At that time the Red sailors from Truvor staged a slaughter in the city. I did not even suspect that I had so many relatives who were doctors, engineers, and lawyers.

It was during those days that the first chairman of Crimean Kurultay, Numan Chelebi Jihan, and many of his friends were executed. And as the saying goes, "Violence calls for violence, Blood draws blood." Members of the government of "Taurida" were taken out and executed by Crimean Tatars.

The ideas of national freedom that Milli Firka was promoting were against not only the Bolsheviks but also "Greater Russia". Thus on August 23, 1919, counterintelligence units of the White Army destroyed the headquarters of the party. The Crimean Tatar Gymnasium was closed, and mass arrests were carried out in the city of Simferopol. Then followed the executions of party activists. This drew some resistance from Crimean Tatars against the White Army. The left wing of Milli Firka went underground and cooperated with the Bolsheviks, having created the Muslim Bureau of Underground Revolutionists, a committee of Ali Badaninskiy, Midat Refatov and others.

It is taken as a rule in historical works about civil war in Russia that the Crimean Tatar population was armed with cavalry bands fighting against the Soviets, even though it is not the truth. In reality they were also fighting actively against the White Army as well. The truth is being hidden about the Crimean Tatar’ rebellion army that fought against the army of Wrangel, with Osman Derenaiyrly as commander in chief.

Today, the name of Eugenia Jigalina is well known in Crimea, as a young rebel executed by the White Army counterintelligence units. On Komsomolskiy Square there is a mass grave for killed compatriots, with Jenya among them. Removed from the official records are the identities of the rest of the bodies, victims of executions. They were all Crimean Tatars. When the monument was first erected, it had engravings in both Russian and Crimean Tatar languages. During WW II this site was destroyed. When it was raised again after WW II, the government would not reveal the names of the fallen. The original engraving contained the names of: "Midat Refatov, Murad Reshit Asanov, Eugenia Lazarevna Jigalina, and Abdullah Mustafa Balichiev."

After the civil war was over, Crimea was given the status of the Crimean Region. This fact was barring any hopes for Crimea ever to get any kind of sovereignty. That kind of thinking at the moment was anti-revolutionary and was bearing grave consequences. It would have remained like that for many years to come if the reasons had not been raised in the light of power politics.

In the early years of Soviet rule, Turkey again played an enormous role, not directly, but rather indirectly in the life of the peninsula. After losing WW I, Turkey was in a very difficult situation.

According to the Sevr agreement, Turkey lost about three-quarters of her territory. She lost her small Navy, and most importantly she lost control over the sea passages. That represented a hard hit to her treasury. The new government of Kemal Pasha – Ataturk, with a determination to struggle for national freedom, fell into a political vacuum. There was no hope or help from anybody. But what happened shocked everybody, especially the British strategists. Russia was the one who came to help Turkey out of this situation.

And yes, Russia with her own economy in ruins, hunger and poverty. Involved in war, not only with the rest of the world, but with its own people, Russia offered to help. After Kemal Pasha announced his aims to fight Imperialism, Russia sent gold, weaponry, radios, and medicine. You may remember that the year was 1920. The Soviets were recognized as a legitimate government of Russia only by Iran, and later we learned it was not for free. It cost Russia 600 million rubles in gold and Afghanistan in exchange for recognition.

Friendship with Turkey cost a bit more. Russia returned freshly acquired Armenian territories, the cities of Kars, Ardagan, and Artvin. Also Turkey had a large Diaspora of Azeriys and Crimean Tatars living on its territory as the consequences of previous migrations. Upon a request from the Turkish side, Russia made some changes on its territorial borders. Thus the territory of Nagorno – Karabakh, populated by Armenians, was given to Azerbaijan with the rights of autonomy. (A half-century later, we witness this time bomb going off.) And Crimea was to be converted into a full-fledged Republic!

The outcome of this idea was a remarkable achievement. The Crimean Tatar language became, along with Russian, the official language of the Republic. It was not an empty declaration, like the one made by Crimean authorities in 1992. It was a full measured act. All legal papers were being issued in the Crimean Tatar language. Before this, not a single Crimean Tatar was part of the government structure. Now they account for 36 % of the government work force. Four people became Narcoms, the highest rank in the chain of command. But they were appointed not because they were capable, but they were first of all communists and secondly Crimean Tatars. That is all that Moscow required.

What kind of Republic was created in 1921?

Many historians today argue the question of whether it was the National or Territorial Republic of Crimea that was created in 1921.

I would like to bring to your attention the fact that in a letter to Shaumyan dated May 19, 1914, V.I. Lenin stated: "...the criteria for dividing the country into autonomous and self ruling territorial units are based on unique specifics. Among others, the main one should be the N A T I O N A L factor...."

Also the Big Soviet Encyclopedia states: "… the Soviet autonomy is built on a national foundation; it is based on territory characterized by its national specifics and style." (B.S.E. T#1, page. 461)

A very interesting fact is that before the USSR was founded, the Crimean Republic had the same status as others such as Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Kirgiziya. But alas the relationship with Turkey did not last long. By the year 1922, the Kremlin saw that Kemal Pasha was not doing what he said he would do. He did not destroy private property; he just tricked Russia into making some concessions, made a deal with the imperialists, and cut off contact with Russia.

This did the job for Crimea; what it had gained it lost very quickly. It just became another autonomous region like dozens of others within the Russian Federation.

Come to think of it, if relations with Turkey had remained good for another year, Crimea would have rights equal to those of other republics in the USSR. Eventually, after USSR’s disintegration, it could have become a sovereign country as a result of the "Byeloviej" agreement. But oh well….

Dreams, dreams…. But even under the autonomy Crimean Tatars were better off than they were in the Tsarist Russia or during military communism. Many times I have heard from Crimean Russians and Ukrainians that right before WW II, Crimean Tatars were being treated well by the government.

And while working in the archives, sifting through documents from that era, I encountered numerous proof of what they were saying. Government was conducting a policy of placing native people in all local and government structures. Crimean Tatar nationals were granted, along with Karaims and Krymchaks, hard-to-attain important positions. Large quotas within the government structure were established for them. Up to 20% of the positions were reserved in various educational institutions. Books and brochures issued for propaganda purposes noted how bad it was for Crimean Tatars in the Tsarist Russia and how beautiful it was now. And more to it, despite the Soviets' ugly treatment of any kind of religion, Crimean Tatar mosques endured minimal bad treatment.

Despite all nuances, positive and negative effects of that policy, one could see some results right before WW II broke out. We can say Crimean Tatar Intelligentsia was born. It was the communist – socialist majority. But it existed. There were many Crimean Tatar teachers, and lots of students were studying in various colleges and universities in Moscow, Leningrad, and other cities.

It was recorded in my numerous interviews with old-timers in Crimea that the relations between all members of the nationalities in Crimean society at that time were very friendly.

Nobody felt left out. In Crimea two languages successfully coexisted, Russian and Tatar.

Anybody who lived in the countryside spoke Crimean Tatar fluently, even city people spoke it fairly.

There is something else that was going within the government. Veli Ibrahimov was appointed chairman of the Crimean Central Executive Committee of the government founded in 1921.

He did not have higher education, but was very smart in knowing the business in his own backyard. He was very fair and good-natured. He tried to defend what was given to him to manage and he saw the degradation of Crimea by the central power in Moscow. That was taking away all resources from the region for very little or no compensation at all.

The consequences were very grave. Operatives from GPU forged and incriminated Veli Ibrahimov in a plot that would separate Crimea from the Soviet Union and join to Turkey. Thus Veli Ibrahimov and many Crimean Tatar officials got arrested and executed as traitors (1928). Until that time membership in the Milli Firka was not considered dangerous, and in December 1928 GPU outlawed the organization. In January 1931 it began mass arrests of its members. They would all be executed later.

My father told me that he witnessed the arrest of one of his classmates from the Aviation College, the youngest brother of Veli Ibrahimov in 1931.

Once I read the minutes of a communist meeting, where they charged one of the communist comrades with a Crimean Tatar last name. They accused him of treason, of being Veli Ibrahimov's pander, an imperialist and Turkish agent. All because that person said something like " Moscow by the way takes all crops for a symbolic pay."

World War II

The response of Crimean Tatar families to the beginning of the war was exactly the same as any other. Some people volunteered to fight against Germany, and many were drafted by the army. Some were sent into battalions that became Partisan units.

Remember that the Perekop defense lines were effective only during the civil war and were managed by the White Army. The Soviet army in Crimea started getting ready for partisan war in a rapid progression. Vast amounts of ammunition and food were being sent to hidden depots in the forest. It was all done so hastily that no measures of discretion were taken. So it was no wonder at all then that during the first days of the German occupation of Crimea all depots were emptied. Some of it was taken by local people, some by retreating army units and the rest by the Germans.

And Crimean Tatars and Russians guided these raids on depots by the German units equally.

The Soviets found out the most stunning fact that many people, common people, were not sorry at all that the communists had left. Some of Crimean Tatars shared the same feelings with the rest. May be things would end up differently if the partisans had not run out of food. Due to mishandled plans for provisions, the partisans began making the so-called "Provision raids," which in reality, were pure robberies of the local population. In their memoirs Soviet partisans admit to taking food and live stock from persons, who were collaborating with the Germans, but during those hasty attacks they were not so sure who was who, and innocent people might have been targeted too.

Some partisan commanders did warn against the negative results on the population due these actions. But they were not taken seriously. Especially the winter of 1941-1942 was very harsh, and the blockade was so tight that the partisans fought more for food than against the Germans.

The Germans, on the other hand, were very quick to take advantage of the momentum. They armed the local people in order to protect their property against partisan raids. Here we see the beginning of the first civil-defense units in Crimea. Later on the Germans used these units as local support units, and some on front lines.

We can not close our eyes on reality; we had those Crimean Tatar units that took weapons from the hands of the enemy and turned against us. But were they alone? NO. They were not the only ones who decided to take that action. I remember once there was a show on television about Bielorussian partisans, and my father abruptly switched the channel and muttered, " indeed, I did see those Bielorussians who were shooting at our backs.... "

In the memoirs of partisans who fought at Bryansk (Byelorussia), I did find a very interesting description of police battalions that consisted exclusively of Russians, that were conducting regular exterminating raids on partisans. How about Ukrainian rebellion army?

This very sad list goes on and on…. And here I don’t want the reader to think that I am defending and or justifying treason, no… but the effects of the civil war, terror of CheKa (field court martial), GPU, NKVD, and collectivization could not go without any affect. The wounds are too fresh to forget.

Lots of people had their reasons with the Soviets.

At the same time many Crimean Tatars fought in partisan units along with the rest. For two and a half years in a row, Abdul Amirov, Khalil Kadyev, Mamed Molochnikov, and Kyrseid Muratov as partisans. Andrey Andreevich Sergul – a member of this particular partisan group, told this to me. According to him, only 27 members survived.

On front lines during WW II, there were four Crimean Tatar generals, more than eighty colonels, more than a hundred lieutenant colonels and countless officers and privates fighting for the Soviets. I am not saying all this to make Crimean Tatars look better – they do not need it. It is just to show that any nation has different people among them. Seven Tatars are Heroes of the Soviet Union, Ahmet-Han Sultan had this honor twice. Altogether there were more then 50,000 Crimean Tatars honored by different kinds of medals. That is providing that in 1944-1945 no Tatars were given any medals.

Needles to say, under the Nazi occupation everybody suffered the same fate. The Germans transported many young Tatars to Germany as "ostarbeiters." In retaliation to partisans’ actions, many people, including Tatars, were hanged in order to scare the population, and many Tatars were held as hostages. And, the list goes on and on.

After the war it was a very popular theory that all that went wrong with Crimea was because of Crimean Tatars. This is outright wrong. There were so many reasons and it is all too complicated.

The odds were on the side of enemy, 99.9% being due to demographic and strategic situation of armies.

The situation was also worsened by subjective factors, like the antagonisms between regular army units and party apparatchiks. The commanders who came together as a result of circumstances had to deal with partisan units. Regular army officers did not want to take orders from local partisans, due to different schools they went through. Mainly, army officers were trying to bring partisan operation to zero, limit them to just reconnaissance sorties.

I have very special document in my hands, which I’d like to bring to your attention:

Assessment of Crimean OBKOM VKP(b)

OBKOM - Regional Committee

Mistakes that were made in regard to Crimean Tatar population, and measures needed to eliminate mishandling of situation among Crimean Tatar population.

November 18, 1942.

According to proof that is available OK BKP(b) (regional communist party staff), the population of many villages not only sympathizes but actively helps local partisans. A number of villages, namely, Koktash, Chermalyk, Beshuy, Aylanma, Ay-Serez, Shah-Murza and others, had helped partisans all the time they had been there. The paratroopers who had arrived in January 1942 lived totally out of local people’s charity. For four months people fed Seleznev’s brigade from the village of Beshuy.

We also can not ignore the cooperation of Crimean Tatar population when a group of 300 partisans coming out of the enemy’s encampment waited for three days near the villages. But none reported to the Germans their whereabouts. In addition, a Crimean Tatar shepherd let his animals go over the partisan’s footprints in order to cover them up.

Analysis of facts and field commanders reports indicate that alleged negative behavior of Crimean Tatar population towards partisans is totally baseless, and this kind of thinking is wrong and very damaging politically. Former commanders in charge, comrades Mokrousov and Martynov, instead of admitting real life facts, closed their eyes and ears, and made false reports about the Crimean Tatar population, which sometimes resulted in totally wrong military actions.

Hereby we outline the need for correcting distorted views of Crimean Tatar population’s actions. Explain to masses that Crimean Tatars feel the same towards German-Romanian occupants as the rest of working class Crimea.

Like nobody else, the Crimean Tatars were singled out and discriminated against when it came to appreciation and awards.

I read the diary of my friend, who helped me with research on the restoration of fallen partisans’ names. He was a known partisan commander, and spent the entire time from the beginning to the end of the occupation of Crimea in a forest. His name is N.D.Lugovoy.) Accordingly, the partisans command staff was infuriated when their requests for promotion, particularly for Crimean Tatar fighters, were systematically denied.

Each time, the Partisans’ Movement staff in Krasnodar refused to promote, they would say, " we will do it right after the war is finished." So when the time came, Marshal Vasilyevskiy sent a list of award nominees to Moscow, and something interesting happened to it. And, Marshal Vasilyevskiy was second in rank, after Marshal Zhukov. The name of the person who took list to Moscow was Aleksey Vadnev. He said that, when he handed the list to the person in charge of awards on the general staff, he tossed it in a casual manner into trash basket, saying "We should teach more manners to these Tatars."

Deportation

When I started working on this chapter, I automatically picked up a vocabulary book, " Dale." I looked up the definition of the word "Deportation," and could not find it. Then looked it up in a foreign word thesaurus book. It said: " Deportation (Latin depotatio)" – in bourgeois countries this word means forceful relocation.

Ah so!?… it is only the capitalists who do this kind of job, but not us. Not here, nope.

By the way here in the Soviet Union we know these words very well, without the use of any thesauri books.

The Crimeans have learned this back in collectivization years. The only difference back then was the reason for deportation: One's social class and not nationality. Amazing, they would say they were deporting "Kulaks" (well off farmers), but then how did they define "Under-Kulaks"? You can look from any angle you want, they would be the poorest of any who was there then. Regardless, they were deported too.

I had a chance to talk to eyewitnesses from that period. What is most astonishing is that most people did not feel anything abnormal about this business of deportations (need to point out –people who were not deported). They were even somehow convinced that all was in order. And people felt pretty confident that it would not touch them, until the time came. The assuring thought was: " Look, I am not a rich man, I am not a kulak." But years passed, and suddenly we saw that Italians were being deported. The self-assuring explanation pops out right away. "I am not an Italian. They backed Franco in Spain, so they deserve it."

World War II started, and again some people were forcefully taken away. This time it was the Germans. Don’t mind that they did not do anything themselves, but they just happened to be the same nationality as the aggressor. Again, no one asked himself the question: " For what?…May I be in his shoes tomorrow?" Nothing. Same thing again. What am I? a German?

There is a saying that once tiger tries human meat, it becomes a man-eater. It is the same with the government. Once it decided that the simple solution to certain problems is deportation, it finds very easy to use it again and again.

In occupied Crimea, people did not then have any idea that this tiger already was eating one human after another. Deported were – Kalmyks, Karachays, Balkars, Ingush, Chechens, and Mes’hets. Long before the war, there were – Kurds, Koreans, and Hemshids. But Crimea was not aware. Crimeans, tired of the war, were waiting for the time when it would all finish. They were waiting for their fathers, brothers, and sons to return.

In my life I met people with all kinds of life experiences. One army officer was telling me a story, how hard it was to deport the Chechens in 1943. "They would fight for each inch of their land, for each house." That officer was complaining about the Soviet Army’s losses in that action. I guess the Chechens started their fight for freedom with the Soviets a while ego. God will judge them. But we should not forget our lessons.

Anther officer told me about the Crimean Tatar deportation. During the war he had fought near Moscow. He was wounded, and after getting better he was sent to Crimea as part of border patrol forces. First he felt that something was going on, when he witnessed large concentration of NKVD forces on the peninsula. Border patrol units were not directly involved in deportation. There were special units that would conduct the ordeal. He did not have any reports of armed resistance. Needless to say, most of the male population was fighting on the front. Those deported were mostly women with children and the elderly. The officer said he could not bear to see how people were treated, thrown into trucks like trash. It was unspeakable.

How did the rest of Crimean population accept the Crimean Tatar deportation? Same way it did before. Everybody was informed by the party that Crimean Tatars were traitors, and in order to make the borders safer, they must be deported far away from here. So people said, if it needs to be done, then "Why not?" It has nothing to do with us… Only two weeks passed and deportations began again. Now what? Who? Ah.. Armenians, Bulgarians, and the Greeks. What is the reason now? Answers are already there. They collaborated with the Germans and had some trading with them. Oh well, at least we did not collaborate, we are safe. Wrong again. The fifties came, and here we go again, this time it was the Jews. Siberia was already set to admit new echelons of deportees. But something happened. The father of all peoples in the Soviet Union died, and the deal was stopped short, from its fulfillment. Did that scare the people who were left in Crimea, nope. Not a bit.

In 1954 Crimea became a part of Ukraine. Were Stalin alive, who knows, very possibly the Russians could have been sent out of Crimea to somewhere in Siberia. And then again, whoever would not be deported this time would not mind it at all. Forgive me for this bitter way of reasoning, but for me as a Crimean (Russian), it is very scary and a real plausibility. Who’s going to be next? Would it be the Russians, Caucasians, Jews, or Ukrainians?

I don’t have an exact number of Crimean Tatars who never made it to final places of deportation.

But it is estimated that a quarter of those who were deported died on the road from diseases, hunger, and hard labor! And this is not all.

The people from Crimea were not just deported, they were repressed. They were prohibited from leaving places of stay, with a threat of being thrown into jail. 12 years passed before this rule was removed. How many young people did not become engineers, artists, or sportsmen? They were doomed to remain villains in the Soviet Union.


*Translated into English by Mansur Alyadinov, with the permission of the editor of Gazeta.Ru (www.gazeta.ru). Mr. Vladimir Polyakov, the author of the article, is a school principal in Simferopol, Crimea, with a special interest in historical research.