Thursday, May 15, 2014

70 Years Since the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars

Sunday is the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars to Uzbekistan and the Urals. On 18 May 1944, the Soviet NKVD began the systematic round up of the Crimean Tatar population and stuffed them on to cattle cars bound for Uzbekistan. By 20 May 1944, more than 180,000 people had been loaded into train echelons bound east. The Crimean Tatars formed the largest nationality ethnically cleansed from the Crimean peninsula by the Stalin regime during World War II. Smaller numbers of Crimean Germans, Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, and Italians making up another nearly 100,000 people in total also met the same fate. A very large number of Crimean Tatars died prematurely in exile due to the poor material conditions in Uzbekistan and the Urals. Estimates vary from 20%-40% of their total population. It is certain that over 30,000 excess deaths resulted from the extreme poverty the Crimean Tatars endured in Uzbekistan and other exile areas. They also suffered under the legal restrictions of the special settlement regime which greatly limited their freedom of movement. These restrictions and exile were declared by the Soviet government to be permanent in 1948. The restrictions were removed in 1956, but the exile continued for the vast majority of the population up until 1987. Since 1987, many Crimean Tatars have returned to their ancestral homeland where they have struggled over issues related to their status as the indigenous people of the peninsula. The recent Russian annexation of Crimea has been largely opposed by the Crimean Tatars. Many of them believe that they will fare far worse under Russian rule than they did under Ukrainian rule.

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