13:58 18 May 2023

Ukraine commemorates memory of victims of genocide of Crimean Tatars

On Thursday, May 18, Ukraine honors the memory of the victims of the Crimean Tatar genocide, Rubryka reports.

The deportation of Crimean Tatars began on May 18, 1944, at 3 a.m. and continued until the beginning of June (the first and largest wave ended on May 20).

The official reason for the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people was the secret resolution of the State Defense Committee No. 5859 "About the Crimean Tatars" dated May 11, 1944, in which the Crimean Tatars were accused of alleged mass treason and mass collaboration during the occupation of Crimea by Hitler's troops.

According to official data (so-called numbers of Lavrentius Beria), 183,144 people were deported; according to Tatar sources, more than 400,000, of which about 46% of the deportees died during the first year and a half. Thirty-two thousand employees of the NKVD interior ministry of the Soviet Union took part in the punitive operation. People were given from a few minutes to half an hour for the meeting. They were allowed to take personal belongings, provisions, dishes, and household equipment with them. Most of the property remained and was confiscated by the state. Most of the deportees were sent to notable settlements in Uzbekistan, some to the Gulag concentration camp, and another part to replenish the special staff for the Moscow coal basin.

Deportation was one of the means of "de-Tatarization" of Crimea. Other means were the destruction of cultural and historical monuments and the replacement of historical local names with new ones such as "Sovietskyi," "Pervomaisk," "Krasnogvardeysk," etc. People from Russia and other republics settled in Crimea. During the post-war period, the population of Crimea increased almost ten times.

Stalin's policy towards the Crimean Tatars was not something new. As you know, the seizure of Crimea by Russia in 1783 led to the decline of cultural life on the peninsula:

  • many ancient manuscripts were barbarously burned,
  • many architectural monuments were destroyed.

Then, the first settlement of Crimea by Russians and foreign colonists began, and the brutal Russification policy took hold. After the transfer of Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR (1954), authorities issued a decree (unpublished) on the rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars, but practically without the right to return to their homeland. The mass return of Crimean Tatars to their land began only at the end of the 80s.

A Presidential Decree established the Day of Struggle for the Rights of the Crimean Tatar People on May 16, 2014. This was done to support the fight of Ukrainian citizens, specifically the Crimean Tatars, to secure their rights as the indigenous people of their land. This was necessary due to the threat of discrimination they faced, reminiscent of the deportation they had endured seventy years prior due to the actions of the USSR's totalitarian regime.

According to the Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, Oleksandr Tkachenko, every year on May 18, Ukraine commemorates more than 200,000 Crimean Tatars who were forcibly deported from Crimea by the Soviet authorities in 1944. As a result of forced deportation, they lost their home, homeland, and relatives, and many lost their lives.

In 2015, the Ukrainian parliament, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, recognized this crime of the communist regime as genocide of the Crimean Tatar people, Tkachenko said. Since 2014, as a result of the occupation of the Crimean peninsula, the Russian leadership returned to persecution, discrimination, and illegal violence against the Crimean Tatar people.

"As reported by the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, there are currently 286 individuals who have been imprisoned on political grounds or falsely charged with criminal offenses during Crimea's annexation. Shockingly, out of those 286, 195 are Crimean Tatars, 21 have been forcibly disappeared, with 15 of them being Crimean Tatars, and 28 of the 60 deceased individuals were also Crimean Tatar. This highlights the alarming discrimination and persecution that the Crimean Tatar people have faced," Tkachenko noted.

"The only way to stop and save the memory of the history of the Crimean Tatars and, most importantly, their lives, which are under serious threat under occupation, is to restore Ukraine's sovereignty as soon as possible," Tkachenko said. In his opinion, thanks to the defenders of Ukraine, "very soon we will again see a peaceful, flourishing Crimea, in which free people live."

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