Follow by Email

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tatars leaving Crimea

In 1944 Stalin decreed that Crimean Tatars had collaborated with the Nazis.  Within hours of placing an "X" on every Tatar household in Crimea, 200,000 were loaded onto cattle trains and deported to other parts of the Soviet Union, mostly to Uzbekistan and Siberia.  Many died on the way and their mosques were burnt to the ground.  At the same time, Stalin pulled Tatar soldiers out of the Russian Army and sent them to labor camps in Siberia and the Ural mountains.

When they eventually returned, they found their houses were taken over by Russians and Ukrainians and to accommodate the thousands of Tatars who were returning to Bakhchysaray after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a new "Sixth District" was built for 1,000 Tatar families.  Today there are about 240,000 Muslim Tatars living in Crimea, around 12 per cent of the population

 Khan Chair mosque in Bakhchysaray.

Since they have declared their support for the interim government in Kiev, their community is being intimidated.  Young men with a list of names were seen walking down streets, marking Tatar homes with an "X".  Some are scratched on with a screwdriver while others are marked with chalk.  The chalk is easily washed off but the scratches remain.  Men in cars have also been seen photographing Tatar homes.

Pro-Russian protesters (left) stand opposite Crimean Tartars, who support the new regime in Ukraine

Although there hasn't been a mass exodus, hundreds have left for eastern Ukraine or have taken boats to Turkey.  Meanwhile their communities are on the lookout for Russian-speaking men who are trying to scare them into leaving, or to provoke violence which would justify a crackdown on Tatars right across the peninsula.

Where will it end?