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Column: Oppression in the Crimea

The Guardian's Luke Harding writes, "Spare a thought, meanwhile, for Crimea's Tatars. They are the peninsula's original Turkic-speaking Muslim inhabitants. Well-educated and politically organized, they now number 300,000, 15 percent of Crimea's population. They want to remain part of Ukraine."

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Indeed, Crimea's Tatar population, who have primarily supported the anti-Yanukovych protest movement and opposed Russian nationalists in their own region, are feeling understandably worried.

Tatars are certainly have a grim history of being scapegoated. In 1944, after Soviet forces regained control of Crimea and 2½ years of German occupation, Joseph Stalin ordered that the entire population be deported under the pretense that they had collaborated with the Nazis. (It was a false accusation: Quite a few Tatars had fought in the Soviet army.)

Officers from the predecessor to the KGB went from home to home ordering Tatars onto cattle trains. More than 180,000 people were deported, most of them to Uzbekistan. Many died on the train, many more in their new homes, where they found a harsh climate and local inhabitants unprepared and unenthusiastic about supporting the new arrivals. About 46 percent of the exiles died.

In 1953, after Stalin's death, the charge of mass collaboration was withdrawn from the Tatars (though the accusation is still periodically made today), but they were not allowed to return home until the late 1980s. Now of course, their problems seem to have multiplied dramatically.

© 2014 Slate

Column: Oppression in the Crimea 03/03/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 3, 2014 5:17pm]

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