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Cemil Hasanlı : Crimean Tatars were deported 77 years ago

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It has been 77 years since the Crimean Tatars were driven from their lands. After the rout of German troops in the Crimea, the Soviet government launched a mass deportation of the native Turkic population of Crimea in May 1944. The Soviet Black Sea coast was purged of a possible fifth column against the background of worsening relations with Turkey. The order for deportation was given on April 2, 1944. In connection with this, head of the People’s Commisariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD), Lavrentiy Beria sent a three-page report to Stalin on May 10, 1944, which said: “Commissariats of Internal Affairs and State Security carried out an operation in Crimea to reveal and liquidate enemies of the people, accomplices of German-fascist occupants and other anti-Soviet elements. As of 7 May, 5,381 were arrested, 5,995 rifles, 337 machine guns, 250 submachine guns, 31 mortars and numerous grenades and cartridges were commandeered. Prior to 1944, over 20,000 Tatars betrayed their native land and deserted to Germans.” Further, Beria wrote that fascists, using the aid of Muslim White Guards from Germany and Turkey, arranged an intelligence network entitled the “Tatar National Committee” to operate in Tatar regions of Crimea. This organization sent 50,000 Soviet citizens to Germany, collected funds for the German army, persecuted the non-Tatar population, and stirred up various provocations. Taking into consideration the anti-Soviet activities of Crimean Tatars and the undesirability of their further inhabiting of the border regions of the Soviet Union, the Ministry of Internal Affairs sent a decision of the State Defense Committee to Stalin on the banishment of all Tatars from Crimea.
Beria recommended using Crimean Tatars in agriculture, kolkhozes and sovkhozes, in industry and construction sites of the Uzbek SSR, saying, “the settlement of Tatars in Uzbekistan has already been agreed with the Uzbekistan Communist Party Secretary, comrade Yusupov. According to initial data, there are between 140,000 and 160,000 Tatars in Crimea now. They are expected to be removed between May 20–21 and 1 June. In this respect the State Defense Committee has submitted a draft decision. I kindly ask you to express your opinion.” (The National Security Committee Archive at the George Washington University (hereinafter referred to as The NSCA at the G. Washington University), Doc. 3069).
A day after Beria’s appeal, Stalin signed an order on the deportation of Crimean Tatars. On 20 May, Deputy Commissar of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Ivan Serov and First Deputy Chairman of the National Security Committee Bogdan Kobulov informed Beria of the completion of the operation in Crimea. On 4 July, Beria informed Stalin of the end of the deportation. It was reported that total 225,009 people were deported from Crimea, of them 183,155 were Tatars, 12,422 — Bulgarians, 15,040 — Greeks, the rest — other nationalities. In accordance with the decision of the State Defense Committee (SDC) of May 21, 1944, 151,604 Tatars were exiled to Uzbekistan, and 31,551 Tatars — to different regions of the Russian Federation. From later nineteenth century until the deportation of 1944, an interesting picture was observed in the demography of Crimean Tatars. Published in 1922, the Statistical-Economic Atlas of Crimea indicated that 186,212 Turks lived in Crimea according to the 1897 census, and 186,715 in 1921. Tatars numbered 183,155 in 1944. This indicates a permanent outflow of the Turkic population from the peninsula. (A. Toptygin. Neizvestniy Beria. Moskva, 2002 (A. Toptygin. The Unknown Beria. Мoscow, 2002), p. 165; The NSA at the G. Washington University, Doc. 9077; Statistiko-ekonomichesky atlas Kryma. Vypusk 1. Simferopol, 1922 (Statistical-economic atlas of Crimea. Issue 1. Simferopol, 1922), p. 9). After this action, the Political Bureau of Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CC CPSU) adopted a decision on June 30, 1945 on renaming the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic into the Crimean region as a part of the Russian Federation. Of interest is that this decision was not published in the mass media. (On transformation of the Crimean ASSR into the Crimean region as a part of the RSFSR (without publication of the decree in press). June 30, 1945, Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Sotsial’no- Politeicheskoi Istorii (hereafter referred to as RGASPI), f. 17, op. 3, d. 1053, l. 9)
Despite tight control of the Soviet special services and Ministry of Internal Affairs over Crimean Tatars exiled, the latter contrived to secretly return to Crimea. In 1944–1948, internal bodies arrested 644 Tatars in Crimea. Owing to the increased number of these incidents, the Political Bureau of the CC CPSU passed a special decision on November 24, 1948 entitled “On Deportees ”, demanding a criminal persecution for “flight.” (Decision of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party on Removals. November 24, 1948, RGASPI, f. 17, op. 162, d. 39, l. 141). Prior to Political Bureau discussions, the question of returning Crimean Tatars was raised at a bureau of the Crimean regional party committee on September 13, 1948. It was decided that incidents arising from “flight” of Tatars came as a result of the violation of the passport regime and infringement of the law on special settlers. This contributed to the growth of tensions in Crimea, since the newly returned Tatars reappropriated their own homes, sold them, and evicted the residents. Leaders of the Crimean region entrusted the Ministry of Internal Affairs and security services to send settlers back. At the same time, they asked Minister of Internal Affairs of the USSR, Sergei Kruglov to stop issuing permits for the return of special settlers to Crimea. (Decision of the Crimean regional Communist Party on the return of Tatars to Crimea. September 13, 1948, RGASPI, f. 17, op. 162, d. 39, l. 178).
In the 20th Congress of the CPSU (1956), crimes of the Stalin period were made public; the rehabilitation process started; and victims of Stalin deportations returned to ordinary living conditions, although with certain restrictions. This process became known as the “Khrushchev thaw.” Despite gradual weakening of the Stalin totalitarianism of the 1930–1940s, the “Khrushchev spring” in the mid-1950s failed to put an end to it once and for all. The reforms of Nikita Khrushchev were indeterminate and failed to affect the foundations of the Soviet system. For instance, some repressed peoples were allowed to come back and restore their autonomy, while the rights of Crimean Tatars were still infringed. An April 28, 1956 resolution by the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR on rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks did not authorize them to return to their places of residence.
Cemil Hasanlı

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