war crimes in Ukraine

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55 years since the deportation of Crimean Tartars

G. Altunian, Kharkov
On 18 May 1944 by the direct order of Stalin Beria’s henchmen headed by general Serov carried out an unprecedented action — during two days they deported from the Crimea all Tartars, together with assorted Greeks, Armenians, Karaites and Bulgarians. They all were accused of the collaboration with Nazis.

Nowadays, when supporters of the Communist party go to meetings and demonstrations with Stalin’s portraits, then one willy-nilly thinks how short is the peoples’ memory. How could they forget Stalin’s crimes, how could they forget the famine, the purges of 1937, the genocide of entire peoples. Cingis Aytmatov called the people, who have no memory, ‘mankurts’, and this is a great trouble for the people and for the country, if mankurts become a noticeable part of the society. That is why Aleksandr Tvardovskiy was right, when he said:

‘Memory!’. The worst that was

You must keep without a loss.

Now, when the Crimean Tartars with hardships return to the Crimea, and find the will and the resources to erect in the center of Simferopol the monument to Petro Grigorenko, the outstanding human rights protection activist, they win respect of the entire Ukraine.

I was at the meeting dedicated to the opening of this monument. I was standing side by side with the Crimean Tartars, who got enormous prison terms for their attempts to return to their motherland, side by side with the Ukrainians and Russians, who did their term in Krushchev – Brezhnev – Andropov concentration camps for their desire to be free citizens of the independent and democratic country, side by side with representatives of Moslem and Orthodox religion, side by side with ministers and people’s deputies of Ukraine.

Could Petro Grigorenko imagine, when he began to fight for human rights and for the rights of the repressed people, that thousands of people will come to the meeting to open his monument? I think not. Neither could he, a general, who was fighting through the Great Patriotic War, fancy that Aleksandr Tkachenko, the speaker of the Parliament of the independent Ukraine, could declare, with the Ukrainian President present; ‘Ah, Grigorenko!? But he is a spy. He defected together with Victor Suvorov!’ And this speaker became a candidate to the President of Ukraine! Oh, God, have mercy on our long-suffering land…

Unfortunately, the myth is still alive that the Crimean Tartars together with many peoples of the North Caucasus actively collaborated with Germans, so the deportation was the means to get rid of the fifth column.

Well, even if they collaborated, the blame could not be put upon women, children and old people, who made the overwhelming majority of the deported. How much the minds of people must be distorted to make them be silent when some people were made responsible for the sins of others (if there were any!). The attitude of the Crimean Tartars to Germans did not differ, on the average, from the attitude of other peoples.

The citizens of the Soviet Union had reasons, to put it mildly, not to love their power. The support of the occupants did not become massive because Hitler did not conceal his blood-thirsty intentions, introducing the new order by sword.

German successes in the beginning of the war resulted in millions of our soldiers becoming POWs. They were starving to death and were informed of the bestial orders of Stalin who called all the POWs traitors. This all put a dilemma: either death or collaboration with the enemy. The Germans formed military units form the POWs. Among them there were three battalions from the Crimean Tartars. One must bear in mind that regiments, divisions and even armies were formed from Russians and Ukrainians. On the other hand, the Crimean Tartars before the war counted about 25% of the Crimean population, while in the guerilla detachments in the Crime Tartars made about 40%.

Many years later a group of Crimean Tartars were tried in Tashkent, because they fought for the right to return to their motherland. The commander of a guerilla detachment was among them; during the war Germans gave many thousands marks for his head.

This little people sent to the front all its men. Most of them fought heroically and one of them, pilot Akhmedkhan, became a double hero of the Soviet Union.

Were there traitors? Perhaps. But was it a sufficient reason for deportation of all: women and children, communists and war veterans, invalids and old people. They all were driven to the load trucks within 24 hours and transported to the East.

Only after the declaration of independence by Ukraine the Crimean Tartars got an opportunity to return to the Crimea. The process is not smooth. More than 100 thousand of the returned do not have the Ukrainian citizenship yet, and this means that they have restrictions in acquiring the property, in finding jobs and so on.

Many tens of thousands cannot return from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia because they cannot sell their real estate or go from the citizenship of their present country. On the other hand, those who came have no money for building or buying living accommodation. They need help and if one takes into account that the Crimean Tartars is one of a few groups of the Crimean population, which support the independent Ukraine, it is clear, how important for the future of Ukraine is any help to the Tartars.

To solve their strategic problems the Crimean Tartars once in three years hold a congress, called kurultay. At such congresses Tartars elect medjliss, the executive organ. Until now the Ukrainian authorities did not prevent Tartars to hold kurultay, although de jure they did not acknowledge it, seeing a competitor in this organ. Many European countries, as well as the USA and Turkey, acknowledge medjliss, unlike Ukraine. It must be stressed that today medjliss headed by Mustafa Dzhemilev expresses the interests of the moderate majority of Tartars.

Scornful and sometimes hostile attitude of the leftish leadership of the Crimea to the Crimean Tartars necessarily increases the position of the most impatient, offended and daring.

A month before the sad jubilee marches of the Crimean Tartars from all ends of the peninsula to Simferopol were organized with the aim of coming to the meeting at the central square of Simferopol on 18 May. In the morning not only the square, but all adjacent streets were crowded by the demonstrators. There were no drunken participants, there was no bad language. On 17 May the President of Ukraine and the speaker of the Supreme Rada of Ukraine met the Crimean authorities and the leaders of the medjliss. This meeting meant that the medjliss was acknowledged de facto. Besides the President of Ukraine issued the edict in which he created a Council of representatives of the Crimean Tartars as a consultative organ at his administration. Mustafa Dzhemilev was appointed the chairman of this Council, and the entire medjliss was incorporated into this council.

At the meeting of 18 May the edict was read by Sergey Kunitsyn, the head of the Crimean government. The edict and the accompanying speech by Kunitsyn were cheered. But little depends on Kunitsyn, because Mr. Grach, the speaker of the Supreme Soviet of the Crimea, says that it is unreasonable to deal separately with the problem of the Crimean Tartars. He argues that except Tartars other peoples were deported from the Crimea, and the attitude to all of them must be equal.

I believe that it is incorrect. The attitude must be equal to any individual, regardless of his nationality. We all are equal before law, but when we deal with the Crimean Tartars, we must understand that they have no other motherland, except the Crimea. That is why we must put into the agenda the question on restoring the national autonomy. The Crimean Tartar autonomous republic existed before the Great Patriotic War, and, by the way, it was created by Lenin’s order, and the first chairman of the republic was Dmitriy Illich, Lenin’s brother.

Summing up it should be stresses that on the position of the Ukrainian government, her President and Parliament, the issue depends, whether our country will remain one of the few on the post-Soviet territory, where the development proceeds slowly, painfully, but without shedding blood.

Let God make us elect such President and such Parliament, which would care about troubles of individuals and entire peoples!

PL commentary.
One of the tools, by which ‘the happy future’ was built in the Soviet times, was deportation of entire peoples. The coercive deportation of citizens of Ukraine during this time still remains ‘a white spot’ in our history.

The Kremlin leadership decided that the Crimean Tartars, as well as Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, Turks were traitors of the motherland. On 10 may 1944 L.Beria reported to comrade Stalin: ‘Taking into consideration betraying actions of the Crimean Tartars against the Soviet people and basing on the impossibility for the Crimean Tartars to live at the frontier of the USSR, the NKVD asks you to consider the resolution about the deportation of all Tartars from the Crimea’. On 11 May this project was signed by ‘the father of the peoples’. Here we must note that in 1939 the Crimea populated 218179 Crimean Tartars, 20652 Greeks, 15353 Bulgarians and 12873 Armenians.

The deportation was started in the small hours of 18 May 1944. By 18:00 hours on 19 May L.Beria reported by a telegram: ‘165515 people have been transported to the stations. 50 trains carrying 136412 people have already departed’. By 16:00 hours 20 May the deportation was completed. ‘All in all 180014 people have been deported’, read the final telegram.

‘The NKVD finds it reasonable’ — L.Beria reported to comrade Stalin on 29 May, ‘to deport from the Crimea all Bulgarians (12075 people), Greeks (14300 people), Armenians (9919 people)’. The order No.5984 was signed by comrade Stalin on 2 June. The order was executed.

According to the order No.6100 of 24 June citizens of Turkey, Greece and Iran, who ‘had expired national passports’, were deported too to the Fergana region. All in all they were 3531 citizens of Greece, 105 of Turkey and 16 of Iran.

By 1 October 1948 other 7219 people were additionally exiled from the Crimea (they were the demobilized, repatriates and so on). The deported people were related to the category of the exiled forever. The edict of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 26 November 1948 stipulated that these deportees had to be punished by 20-year term in the concentration camps for the attempt to escape from their settlements.

As to the conditions under which the deportees from the Crimea lived, it is known that from the beginning of the deportation to 1 October 1948 the number of the born was 6564, while the number of the dead was 44887. In particular, in 1945 these numbers equaled 1099 and 15997, respectively.

The deportation and casualties during the war decreased the population of the Crimea by the factor 3.4: from 1196 thousand before the war to 351 thousand immediately after the liberation of the Crimea from Germans. After the deportation of the Crimean Tartars their national autonomy was liquidated: in 1945 it was transformed into Crimean region of the Russian Federation.

Because of the coercive deportation of the local population the economy of the peninsula began to degenerate. In order to save the situation the Moscow authorities organized the immigration from the internal regions of Russia. O.Silayeva, the head of a department of the State Archives of Russia, wrote: ‘In the villages of central Russia ruined by the war, in hospitals, people were agitated to move to the Crimea. Only in 1944 13966 families were moved to the Crimea, in particular from Krasnodar region — 3100, from Voronezh — 2001, from Rostov — 1995, from Tambov — 1953, from Stavropol — 1950, from Briansk — 1048, from Orel — 1024, from Kursk — 985. As it often happened, the experimenting of ‘the father of the peoples’ did not succeed: in 1945 1615 families returned home, in 1946 this number was 4203, in 1947 — 3156, in 1948 — 950. All in all 55% of the immigrants returned to Russia in 1944 – 1949. The reasons of the back flow were rather accurately described by Adjubey. He quoted one worker of the collective farm: ‘It would be great if they will give at least one Tartar to one collective farm, he would explain to us where to take water and what to plant’. The immigration to the Crimea continued in early 50s. From 1950 to 1953 as many as 10739 families went in, and 1687 families went out.

The data are taken from Igor Vinnichenko’s book ’Ukraine in 1920 – 1980: deportation, emigration, immigration’

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