The mass deportation performed by the party and state leadership of the USSR became a tragic page of history of the Crimean Tatar people.
On the night of May 18, 1944, according to the Resolution of the State Committee of Defense of the USSR dated May 11, 1944, deportations of Crimean Tatars from Crimea started; they were accused of ‘betrayal of the Motherland’. NKVS (People’s Committee for Internal Affairs) was entrusted with completion of eviction of Crimean Tatars before June 1. According to the most reliable historic estimates, over 194,000 Crimean Tatars were deported. On June 24, their fate was shared by over 15 thousand Greeks, 12.4 thousand Bulgarians and 9.6 thousand Armenians (Resolution of the State Committee of Defense of the USSR dated June 2, 1944).
According to the Resolution of the State Committee of Defense of the USSR, special migrants were allowed to “take personal belongings, housekeeping equipment and food in quantity of up to 500 kg per family”. NKVS and other ministries were instructed to “ensure that trains with migrants are provided with health and sanitary services and hot food”. In reality, migrants only had minutes to collect belongings, therefore they were moved almost empty-handed, without food and sufficient clothing. Many families were prohibited from taking any belongings at all.
Beria’s report to Stalin in early June provided an idyllic picture: no deaths were reported during the deportation. Another official report still mentions 191 deaths in trains, but such a small number of casualties seems improbable. A comparison of the number of deportees in NKVS reports and of demographic deciphering of the number of migrants brought, settled and assigned to certain industries shows 7,889 dead.
The number of special migrants increased in 1945, when, following the end of the war, soldiers and officers who fought fascism were also declared ‘traitors’ and deported to their families.
Crimean Tatars were deported to remote areas of Siberia, Ural and Central Asia, where they lived without documents, under police supervision, and without the right to move even in order to search for the family members lost during deportations.
Difficult life in special settlements worsened by unfamiliar climate and infectious diseases, led to mass diseases and deaths of deportees, made worse by actual absence of medical services.
Because of that, as early as in July 1944 an epidemic of malaria and jaundice broke out in Uzbekistan. In particular, 40% of deportees became sick in Namangan oblast. According to NKVS archives, 13,592 deported Crimean Tatars died before January 1, 1945, in Uzbekistan, amounting to 9.1% of their total number; in the following year of 1945, 13,183 more deaths took place (6,096 of them being children, 4,525 – women, and 2,562 – men). Therefore, 17.8% of Crimean Tatars deported to Uzbekistan died during the first eighteen months of deportation.
According to data from the national movement of Crimean Tatars, 46.2% of them died in the first four years of deportation (23%, or 44.9 thousand, according to official statistics)
On November 28, 1948, the Presidium of Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued the Decree on Criminal Responsibility for Escaping from Places of Mandatory and Permanent Settlement in Remote Areas of the Soviet Union in the Period of the Great Patriotic War, which established perpetual term of deportation and set a 20-year hard labor punishment for escaping and a 5-year imprisonment punishment for hiding escapees.
Starting from 1954, the repressive policy lost its intensity. On July 13, 1954, the Presidium of Supreme Soviet of the USSR revoked its Decree dated November 28, 1948, on criminal responsibility for escaping from places of settlement.
The XXth Congress of CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) (February 1956) openly condemned the policy of deportations. In accordance with Congress’ decisions, the Presidium of Supreme Council of the USSR issued a Decree on March 27, removing Crimean Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians from the list of special settlers, while on April 26, 1956, it issued the Decree on Revocation of Limitations of Special Settlement Regarding Crimean Tatars, Balkars, Turks who are Soviet citizens, Kurds, Hemshins and Their Family Members Who Were Deported During the Great Patriotic War. These decrees, however, prohibited the deportees from returning to Crimea.
Despite the partial character of these decisions, they nevertheless eased the civic status of the deportees, no longer requiring from them humiliating formalities of registration. This enabled resettlement to other areas of the USSR, which the deportees could use.
Political actions by Crimean Tatars (petition campaign, creation of political organizations, protest activities etc.) led to another political success – on September 5, 1967, the Presidium of Supreme Council of the USSR issued the Decree on Citizens of Tatar Nationality Who Lived in Crimea. The Decree revoked accusations of treason from Crimean Tatars, however, it declared allegedly full establishment of Crimean Tatar life in Uzbekistan.
In January 1974, the Presidium of Supreme Council of the USSR revoked the prohibition of Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians and Crimean Tatars from return to Crimea to the places of their former residence.
On November 14, 1989, the Supreme Council of the USSR approved the Declaration on Recognition of Repressive Acts Against Peoples Subjected to Forced Resettlement as Illegal and Criminal, and on Ensuring their Rights, while on March 7, 1991, it approved the Resolution on Revocation of Legislation with Regard to the Declaration of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR dated November 14, 1989, on Recognition of Repressive Acts Against Peoples Subjected to Forced Resettlement as Illegal and Criminal, and on Ensuring their Rights.
The return of Crimean Tatars to Crimea became widespread, starting from 1987. In the early 1990’s, Crimean Tatars became the third largest ethnic group in Crimea.
Repatriates returned to the territory where their former settlements and houses were occupied, while job opportunities where limited or nonexistent. The authorities had to take rapid and efficient steps to provide the arrivals with housing, jobs and social infrastructure – healthcare, education, culture and leisure facilities etc. Taking into account the socioeconomic crisis in the whole post-Communist space, the resolution of the said problems became a very complicated task. Resettlement of those who returned to their Motherland from places of deportation required considerable funds.
Since Ukraine declared its independence, it took complete responsibility for the destiny of all its citizens, including those who return to its territory from the places of deportation.
In 1992-2013, the process of repatriation to Ukraine of individuals formerly deported on the national basis took place under the Agreement on Issues Related to the Restoration of Rights of Deported Individuals, National Minorities and Peoples concluded in 1992 in Bishkek (Kirgizia) by the CIS Member States (so-called Bishkek Agreement), which was extended in St.Petersburg for a subsequent ten-year period in 2003.
The Declaration of Nationalities’ Rights in Ukraine, along with the Laws of Ukraine on Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repressions in Ukraine, on National Minorities in Ukraine and others represent the legal framework for the implementation of the state policy in the sphere of protection of individuals formerly deported on the national basis who returned to Ukraine for permanent residence.
Since 1991, Ukraine’s authorities make significant efforts to ensure the necessary resources to settle and integrate repatriates who were deported on the national basis by the Stalinist regime into the Ukrainian society.
In order to resolve the problems of integration of repatriates, the Government of Ukraine approved the Program of Promotion of Social Formation and Adaptation of Crimean Tatar Youth for 2002-2005 on January 25, 2002, and approved, on May 11, 2006, the Program of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to Settle and Develop the Deported Crimean Tatars and Individuals of Other Nationalities Who Returned to Ukraine for Residence, their Adaptation and Integration into the Ukrainian Society for the Period Until 2010, which was extended by a relevant government resolution for the period until 2015.
Before the Russian Federation occupied the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in February-March 2014, Ukraine, in fact, spent its own resources on a large-scale work to resolve the socioeconomic problems of Crimean Tatars and individuals of other nationalities who returned to Crimea for permanent residence.
Starting from 1991, the State Budget of Ukraine had a separate item to settle the repatriates. The budget money was spent mostly on the construction of housing, engineering communications, and sociocultural objects. The total expenditure from the State Budget of Ukraine to settle the individuals formerly deported on the national basis amounted to over UAH 1,270 million (over $158 million) as of end-2013.
The efficiency of measures taken by the Government of Ukraine to ensure repatriation and integration of formerly deported Crimean Tatars, is eloquently demonstrated by the following data:
1. Stalin’s regime deported 200,000 ethnic Crimean Tatars from Crimea. As of early 2013, about 266,000 ethnic Crimean Tatars returned to Crimea for permanent residence in Ukraine.
2. According to the results of elections to local councils in 2010, the share of representatives of Crimean Tatars in local self-government amounted to 16%, while Crimean Tatars represented 13.7% of Crimea’s population.
8 managerial positions in the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea were occupied by Crimean Tatars. Over 1,800 representatives of deported nationalities worked in government service and local self-government, which amounted to 6.4% of the total number of officials.
3. According to the Republican Committee of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea for Land Resources, as of end-2012 the share of land plots allocated to Crimean Tatars for residential construction (over 85,000 plots with a total area of about 11,000 hectares) was 17.1% of all land allocated for that purpose for Crimean population.
4. In 2013/2014 school year, 15 schools that taught in Crimean Tatar language (3,092 students) operated in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
The Republican Higher Educational Institution ‘Crimean Engineering-Pedagogical University’ and philological faculty of V.Vernadsky Tavria National University trained teachers of Crimean Tatar language and literature.
The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine has created and printed educational programs on Crimean Tatar language and reading for 1-4 grades and for 5-9 grades, as well as schoolbooks on Crimean Tatar language and literature, the Ukrainian-Crimean Tatar and Crimean Tatar-Ukrainian school terminology dictionary, ‘Tales of a Large Family’ textbook for elementary school students in Crimean Tatar language.
Thus, in 2001-2013, 103,207 copies of 82 types of schoolbooks for Crimean Tatar schools, about 30 study guides of Crimean Tatar language and literature for kindergartens, schools and colleges were printed. The budget of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea financed the publication of 63 types of educational and methodological publications and of 60 fiction books to the amount of UAH 3.748 million.
5. The number of religious buildings and premises grew by 122% in 12 for Muslim organizations (from 146 in 2000 to 324 in 2012).
The Ukrainian State, realizing the complicated character of the process of integration of repatriates into the Ukrainian society, strived to provide for religious needs of Crimean Tatars and to resolve conflicts among representatives of the government and religious organizations by means of constructive dialogue.
6. ‘Kyrym’ and ‘Maarif Ishleri’ newspapers and ‘Tasyl’ and ‘Kasevet’ magazines were printed in Crimean Tatar language to provide for informational needs in 2013. The Crimea State TV and Radio Company had ‘Meydan’ Crimean Tatar desk that covered 7% of total broadcast time.
7. Before March 2014, the state protected dozens of historic memorials of the Crimean Tatar people.
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