Deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 and measures taken by the Government of Ukraine for the purpose of their settlement and integration into society
The state-organized and forcible deportation of the Crimean Tatars from the Crimean Peninsula by the J.Stalin regime in 1944 was a form of collective punishment for their alleged collaboration with the Nazi occupants during 1942-1944. The event is also known as Sürgünlik in Crimean Tatar (meaning "exile").
The deportation began on May 18, 1944. More than 32,000 NKVD* troops participated in this action. The forced deportees were given 30 minutes to gather their belongings. They were loaded onto cattle trains and moved out.
238,500 people were deported, mostly to Uzbekistan. That included the entire ethnic Crimean Tatar population, which at the time constituted about the fifth of the total population of the Crimean Peninsula, besides smaller number of ethnic Greeks and Bulgarians.
At the same time, most of the Crimean Tatar men who were fighting in the ranks of the Red Army were demobilized and sent into forced labor camps in Siberia and in the Ural mountain region.
The deportation was poorly planned and executed; local authorities in the destination areas were not properly informed about the scale of the operation and did not have enough resources to accommodate the deportees. The lack of accommodation and food, the failure to adapt to new climatic conditions and the rapid spread of diseases had a heavy demographic impact.
Crimean Tatar activists evaluated the demographic consequences of the deportation through a census in all the scattered Tatar communities in the middle of the 1960s. The results of this inquiry show that 109,956 (46.2%) Crimean Tatars of the 238,500 deportees died between July 1, 1944 and January 1, 1947 due to starvation and disease.
Although a 1967 Soviet decree removed the charges against Crimean Tatars, the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement in Crimea and to make reparations for lost lives and confiscated property. The Crimean Tatars, having definite tradition of non-communist political dissent, succeeded in creating a truly independent network of activists, values and political experience. The Crimean Tatars, led by Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization, were not allowed to return for decades. Just after adoption of Supreme Soviet decree, "On Recognizing the Illegal and Criminal Repressive Acts against Peoples Subjected to Forcible Resettlement and Ensuring their Rights" on 14 November, 1989 the Crimean Tatars began to return to the Crimea in large numbers.
Ukraine since independence has assumed full responsibility for the fate of all its citizens, including those returning to its territory from deportation.
In 1992-2013 the repatriation process in Ukraine of the peoples formerly deported on ethnic grounds was part of the Agreement on matters relating to the restoration of the rights of deported persons, minorities and people, that was concluded in 1992 in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) by the participants of the Commonwealth of Independent States (the so-called Bishkek agreement) and prolonged in 2003 in St.Petersburg for the next ten years.
The legal basis for the implementation of state policy in the sphere of protection of the rights of formerly deported persons of ethnic grounds who have returned to live permanently in Ukraine, is the Declaration of Rights of Nationalities of Ukraine and Laws of Ukraine "On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression in Ukraine", "On national minorities in Ukraine" and others.
Since 1991, the Government of Ukraine has made great efforts to provide the necessary resources for resettlement and integration into Ukrainian society returnees who were deported on ethnic grounds by Stalin’s regime.
In order to address issues of integration of returnees the Government of Ukraine on January 25, 2002 approved the "Programme to promote social adaptation of Crimean Tatar youth in 2002-2005", and on May 11, 2006 approved the "Programme of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine resettlement of deported Crimean Tatars and other nationalities, who returned to Ukraine for residence, their adaptation and integration into Ukrainian society for the period until 2010", which was extended to 2015.
Prior to the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in February and March 2014 Ukraine actually using its own resources carried out extensive work aimed at solving social and economic problems of Crimean Tatars and other nationalities who returned permanently to the Crimean peninsular.
Since 1991, the State Budget of Ukraine has envisaged a separate line for resettlement of returnees. Budget funds were channeled mainly for housing, utilities, social and cultural purposes. The total amount of expenditure from the State Budget of Ukraine for the resettlement of formerly deported citizens on a national basis at the end of 2013 amounted to more than 1270 million UHR (more than $158 million.).
Eloquent testimony of the effectiveness of measures that were taken by the Government of Ukraine to ensure the repatriation process and the integration of formerly deported Crimean Tatars is the following:
1. Stalin regime deported from Crimea almost 200 thousand ethnic Crimean Tatars. At the beginning of 2013 for permanent residence in Ukraine, the Crimea, returned about 266 thousand ethnic Crimean Tatars.
2. In 2010, the share of Crimean Tatars in the local government was 16 %, while the share of Crimean Tatars in Crimea overall ethnic composition was 13.7 %.
In 2013 in the Council of Ministers of Crimea Crimean Tatars held 8 executive positions. In the civil service and as local government officials there were more than 1 800 people from among the representatives of deported nationalities, representing 6.4% of the total number of employees.
3. According to the National Committee for Crimea Land Resources at the end of 2012 the share of lands allocated to the Crimean Tatars for housing (over 85 thousand plots of approximately 11 hectares) of total land allocated for this category of Crimean population as a whole was 17.1%.
4. In 2013/2014 academic year there were 15 secondary schools (3,092 pupils) in Crimea with Crimean Tatar language.
Crimean Tatar language and literature training for teachers was carried out by the Republican "Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University" and philology department of the Tauride National University.
In 2001-2013 for secondary schools in Crimean Tatar 103,207 copies of textbooks, about 30 teaching aids on the Crimean Tatar language and literature for primary, secondary and higher education were published.
5. Number of religious buildings for Muslims increased from 146 in 2000 to 324 in 2012. Ukrainian Government amid complexity of the integration of returnees into Ukrainian society, sought to ensure the religious needs of the Crimean Tatars and settle disputes between the Government and religious organizations through constructive dialogue.
6. In 2013 newspapers "Khyrym", "Maarif yshleri" and magazines "Tasyl" and "Kasevet" were published in the Crimean Tatar language. The state broadcasting company "Krym" (7% of the total Crimean broadcasting) was given to the Tatar Edition "Meydan".
7. Until March 2014 dozens of monuments of the Crimean Tatar people remained under the state protection.
In March 2014 Russian Federation annexed the Crimean peninsular.
After the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in March, 2014 the situation with human rights of the Crimean Tatars in the peninsular take a turn for the worse:
- The occupation Russian authorities in Crimea were handed an official order barring Mr.Mustafa Dzhemilev, the Crimean Tatars leader from returning to Crimea.
- Mr. Vitaliy Milonov, the leading Russian parliamentary, in his latest escapade called Crimean Tatars “pigs”, “the grandsons of Hitler’s thugs”, “acting on the money of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan”…
- Due to Russia’s invasion to Crimea and following growing activity of the Russian chauvinistic military movements and beginning of repressions against Muslim indigenous people of Crimea - Crimean Tatars, thousands of refugees from the newly-annexed Crimea have begun pouring into mainland of Ukraine, so far, the most refugees to be the ethnic Crimean Tatars.
- Due to Russian occupation the Crimean Tatars became foreigners in their historical homeland, as the majority of them refused to accept Russian citizenship. The occupation authorities force the Crimean Tatars to accept Russian citizenship by the violation of their right to property, education, work, freedom of movement, etc.
- The occupation Russian authorities perform Islam religion as the protest ideology. In particular, currently the big Muslim religious community "Daveth" exposed the great pressure by the occupation law enforcement.
- Now the distribution and holding of the Islamic literature are partially prohibited in Crimea. On March 16, 2014 Mr. I.Selentsov was detained in Crimea for distribution of the Quran. Mr. I.Selentsov was tortured by the occupation law enforcement during several days, all that time he was not allowed to meet an advocate. Without any Court decision Mr. I.Selentsov was deported from Crimea to Ukraine with no right to enter the peninsular for 30 years.
- Mr. Reshat Ahmetov, the father of three children was tortured and killed after a silent one-man protest against Crimea’s occupation in Simferopol. Cause of the death: stabbed in the eye.
- The Crimean Tatar people every day more and more exposed to harassment of the Russian occupying authorities in Crimea. Since May 15 the mass warrantless searches of the Crimean Tatars’ homes began under the pretext of antiterrorism actions. The occupation authorities forcibly photograph and collect fingerprints of all the Crimean Tatar population of the peninsula.
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe indicated the serious human rights problems in Crimea, especially in relation to the Crimean Tatars.
Ukraine strongly condemns such actions of Russia and the occupying authorities in Crimea. They violate human rights and fundamental freedom, including the rights of indigenous people, stipulated by international law, in particular by the United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Such actions are a manifestation of xenophobia and intolerance which are now instilled by the occupying force in Crimea.