Blogs From the archive

Remembering the decimation of Crimea’s Tatars

21 March 2014

9:55 AM

21 March 2014

9:55 AM

Crimea’s Tatars are nervous after Russia’s annexation of the territory. The Tatars, Sunni Muslims who account for 12 per cent of Crimea’s population, boycotted Sunday’s referendum worried that the Russians would impose repressive and discriminatory laws on them. Reading Bohdan Nahaylo’s 1980 article, Murder of a Nation*, you can see why.

First, Stalin deported the entire Crimean Tatar nation.

‘In the early hours of 19 May 1944, some 238,000 people were abruptly awoken by units of the Soviet security forces and within minutes herded into cattle trucks. Sealed in without food or water, they were transported several thousand miles eastwards and eventually dispersed in Soviet Central Asia. Denounced before the local population as traitors who had collaborated en masse with the Germans, the Crimean Tatars were left to fend for themselves in the harshest of conditions. Their losses were appalling. The Crimean Tatars estimate that they lost 46 per cent of their population as a result of the deportation and the privations that followed.’

Twenty three years later, the Soviet authorities acknowledged that the Tatars had not in fact collaborated en masse with the Germans, but they still weren’t allowed to return to Crimea. Thousands tried, and thousands were expelled. By the late 1970s, barely one per cent of Crimean Tatars had been allowed to register as resident there. They were forcibly evicted, their houses sometimes destroyed, and activists were imprisoned.


In 1980, Ayshe Seytmuratova was the Crimean Tatars’ only representative outside the Soviet Union. ‘A small, attractive human dynamo’, she’d only been allowed out of the country because she’d threatened to burn herself in front of the Kremlin. ‘Unknown to me, only a few days earlier, Musa Mamut [a 46-year-old father of three] had burnt himself to death in the Crimea,’ she said. ‘The authorities apparently panicked. They decided they didn’t want to create another martyr and let me go.’ Now she was fiercely lobbying western governments and human rights groups, trying to draw the world’s attention to the plight the Tatars.

‘Ayshe’s story is very much the story her people. As a six-year-old child she lived through the trauma of deportation. At school she was constantly told that the Crimean Tatars were traitors, yet she knew that her father had been killed at the front defending the Soviet Union and that her uncle had been shot by the Germans. She became actively involved in the Crimean Tatar movement in the mid-1960s while studying history at Samarkand University. Showing great courage and determination, she travelled to Moscow to lobby the authorities, signed petitions, collected information on the trials of activists, documented cases of discrimination and maintained links with Russian and Ukrainian dissenters. Her activities resulted in three arrests and a three-year term of imprisonment.’

Now she was in the West, she’d managed to get the Council of Europe to pass a memorandum charging the Soviet Union with ‘cultural genocide’. She was feeling optimistic that more and more, the human rights movement would rally behind the Tatars.

‘With great conviction, Ayshe argues that the Crimean Tatars are the Soviet Union’s Palestinian problem. She hopes that one day a Crimean Tatar representative will be allowed to address the UN General Assembly as Yassir Arafat was. ‘Of course,’ she promptly adds, ‘the Crimean Tatars have never used or advocated violence in all their long years of campaigning. Our struggle will continue, for the alternative is the slow murder of a nation.’’


* I have reproduced longer sections of this article than usual as the link to the original article is broken. The only way to read it in full is by clicking on zoom page in the black square to the right of the page.

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Show comments
  • Михаил Татарский

    Well, firstly it must be said:

    Importantly, few people know that actually all Tatars are one nation. Only
    in the anti Tatar and anti Horde ideology they were divided into “different
    nations”: “Crimean”, “Volga”, “Siberian” and many “other” Tatars – so that to crush them separately.

    All about this is explained in the book “Forgotten Heritage of Tatars” (by Galy Yenikeyev). It is about hidden real history of Tatars and their fraternal Turkic peoples. This e-book you can easily find on Smashwords company website:

    There are a lot of previously little-known historical facts, as well as 16 maps
    and illustrations in this book.

  • Cornelius Bonkers

    God, again. It’s not religion but Primitivism which is the problem, i.e., Islam – God help us all. And I’ve just heard that the Front Nationale is having success in the French municipal elections – A preamble to the results in the rest of rational Europe?

  • IAF101

    Before we get all misty eyed about the plight of the Tartars, let us remember that these same tartars were the people responsible for some of the worst excesses of slavery and torture in the Western world. Tens of thousands of Slavs and rural villages in slavic countries were raided, the women and children captured, tortured and then sold into slavery in the bazaars across the Ottoman empire.

    Tartars were such prolific and pernicious depredators that they have become legendary across continents. One of the Ottoman empire’s greatest queen’s was an Ukranian slave kidnapped and sold into slavery in Constantinople, only to become part of the royal harem and then through luck, fortune or just absurd chance wooed the most powerful sultan in the islamic world Suleiman the magnificent. That slave who would later be queen is remembered in history as Roxelena. The first courtesan to become queen in the history of the Ottoman empire and the most powerful woman in the Islamic world.

    With a reputation and history so vile, it is no wonder that Stalin had these undesirable people banished to the far reaches of the Soviet republic.

  • crosscop

    “Our struggle will continue, for the alternative is the slow murder of a nation.’’

    Isn’t that what Nick Griffin says? This Ayshe woman is obviously some sort of fascist. I mean, why doesn’t she just celebrate the diversity? The Tatars are a mongrel nation with a past steeped in aggression, imperialism and slavery… what goes around comes around… it’s payback time… suck it up…and everything else the Left constantly throws at the British when they say the same.

  • Shazza

    We only ever hear about the moslem victims.

    How about the decimation of non-moslems in countries that used to be majority non-moslem – for example –

    The Balkans
    Etc. Etc.

    When are we going to hear about this ongoing decimation?