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Tepresh Celebrated in Istanbul

The traditional Crimean Tatar festival Tepresh was held on Sunday, June 13, in a wooded area near Catalca (Chatalja), west of Istanbul. Also known as Sabantui or Sabantoy among Volga Tatars, Tepresh is an occasion for families and friends to get together and to celebrate the end of the sowing season in agriculture. As Sabirzyan Badretdin noted (Tatar-L, "It's Sabantui time!" 5 June 1999), the festive Tatar tradition goes back many centuries. Normally, Tepresh is observed earlier than June, and various Tatar communities in Turkey already held their annual spring festival. A typical Tepresh includes folk dancing, folk singing and Guresh or Kuresh (a form of wrestling), as well as other fun activities. Of course, no Tepresh would be complete without traditional Tatar foods such as chee-borek.

This year's Tepresh, organized by the Istanbul branch of the Crimean Turks Cultural and Assistance Association, also coincided with a ceremony to mark the restoration of the graves of Crimean khans. Not too far from the picnic area in Catalca, in the village of Subasi, once stood a palace where deposed Crimean khans and their families lived. The palace in Subasi (no longer extant) was one of the residences used by members of the Giray family who ruled Crimea from the 1440s to 1783. The burial ground connected with the Subasi Mosque is where the graves of several Girays are located.

The ceremony held in front of the Subasi Mosque preceded the Tepresh activities. Participating in the ceremony were the Mayor of Catalca; representatives from Crimea, including Mustafa Abdulcemil Kirimoglu, chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis in Akmescit (Simferopol); leaders of the Crimean Tatar community in Romania; representatives from several Crimean Tatar associations in Turkey; as well as an official from the Ukrainian Consulate in Istanbul.

Inci Bowman