victims incl Crimean Tatars rehabilitated by Putin
Published time: April 21, 2014 15:12
Edited time: April 21, 2014 20:24
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree
officially rehabilitating the Crimean Tatars and
other ethnic minorities on the peninsula, who were
deported en masse in 1944 by Joseph Stalin for
alleged collaboration with Nazi invaders.
“We must make sure that as part of Crimea’s
integration into Russia, Crimean Tatars are
rehabilitated and their historic rights restored,”
the Russian leader said during an official meeting
Tatars in Crimean number about 250 thousand – one
eighth of the peninsula’s population. Since
gradually returning to the peninsula following their
banishment, many have been locked in land disputes,
and have struggled with a lack of political
“The same decree outlines the socio-economic
development of several territories that have been
neglected, and where there has not only been no
social progress, but the situation has actually
deteriorated,” said Putin.
he first mooted the rehabilitation decree last month,
Putin also proposed that Tatar becomes the third
official language in the autonomy, alongside Russian
decree also rehabilitates four other less numerous
minorities – Armenians, Bulgarians, Germans and
Greeks – who also suffered from Joseph Stalin’s
repressions during and after World War II.
Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine last month,
Tatars staged well-attended demonstrations against
joining Russia. The executive representative body of
Crimean Tatars, the Mejlis, rejected the results of
the referendum which it called to boycott, and
criticized the new constitution passed by deputies
earlier this month. Its leaders have threatened to
stage their own independence referendum.
Mustafa Dzhemilev, a leader of the Mejlis until last
year and a Ukrainian parliament deputy who is still
considered one of the public faces of Crimean
Tatars, said Russia was “trying to ingratiate
itself” with the decree, adding that he did not
recognize its authority.
the weekend, Crimea Governor Sergey Aksyonov accused
Dzhemilev of being on the payroll of Western secret
service, and said that his “provocations”
were hampering the “peaceful integration”
of Russians and Tatars.
Crimean Tatars – a Turkic people - dominated the
population of the peninsula when it was a vassal
state of the Ottoman Empire in the middle ages.
more and more ethnic Russians were given land in the
temperate and picturesque land, the proportion of
Tatars gradually declined. In the last census
conducted before war broke out with Germany, one in
five Crimeans – just over 200 thousand – put down
Tatar as their nationality.
Crimea was taken by Nazi troops early on during
World War II after a series of particularly brutal
battles, and remained under German control until May
Directives from the NKVD – Stalin’s secret police –
dated to earlier that year show that the Tatars were
viewed as untrustworthy. More than 20 thousand were
accused of deserting from the Red Army in the first
months of the war. The Nazis in Crimea also set up a
special ethnic Tatar local administration to run
parts of the peninsula – a tactic often used with
other minorities on Soviet territory.
week after the Soviet Army recaptured the peninsula
- on May 18, 1944 - those living in Tatar households
were woken up by NKVD agents with prepared
deportation lists, and according to eyewitness
reports, forced to pack their possessions in less
than an hour.
armed supervision, Tatars of all ages were escorted
to cattle trains – used for most mass transport
during the Stalin era - and ordered to board them.
The trains were headed to the central Asian republic
of Uzbekistan more than 3,000 kilometers away and
Overcrowded and unsanitary, the coaches became a
breeding ground for disease. Those who survived
arrived in a barren, scorching landscape. War time
food supplies were inadequate, and Tatars were not
allowed to go further than 7km away from their
lower boundaries of Soviet estimates say that at
least 15 percent of more than 180 thousand deported
Crimean Tatars died in the year following
deportation, while many contemporary Tatar
historians say the death toll may have been as high
as 46 percent.
there undoubtedly were widespread incidents of
desertion and collaboration by Tatars, NKVD officers
drew up their deportation lists on the basis of
ethnicity alone (though Tatar women married to
Russian men were spared). Among those deported were
thousands of men who served under the Soviet flag,
including several war heroes.
was only in 1967 that the Supreme Soviet of the USsR
adjudged the deportation of certain individuals
“partially unfounded,” and allowed Tatars to
return to the peninsula. The Soviet Union also
condemned the deportation as “illegal and
criminal” in 1989.
Tatars attempted to return to their homeland, they
faced significant obstacles – their houses and land
had been transferred to new owners. Many were
involved either in court cases to try and reclaim
their land, or simply occupied new settlements with
no regard for the formal owner. According to the new
decree, those Tatars with established landholdings
will be allowed to privatize them under a simplified