Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Window on Eurasia: 90,000 Crimean Tatars Remain in Exile on 66th Anniversary of Their Deportation by Stalin

Paul Goble

Vienna, May 18 – Today, Crimean Tatars and their friends and supporters marked the 66th anniversary of Stalin’s brutal deportation of that nationality on completely false charges that the Crimean Tatars had collaborated with the Germans, a deportation whose consequences for that nation and its neighbors are far from being resolved.
On the one hand, the Crimean Tatars who have managed to return to their homeland in most cases have not been able either to recover the land that was stolen from them or receive compensation in return, shortcomings that have continue to cast a shadow on the future of the Crimean Tatar people.
And on the other, 90,000 Crimean Tatars still live in Central Asian exile, although research shows, Remzi Ilyasov, head of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea’s commission that deals with the deported, says, that 93 percent of them would return tomorrow if conditions were right (kr-alemi.com/index.php?name=News&op=article&sid=961).
The tragic reality that a quarter of the Crimean Tatars who were deported have not yet been able to return, Ilyasov continues, reflects a broader tragedy: “the economic crisis, inflation, difficulty in finding work and providing for education” are problems for all Crimean Tatars. Were these problems solved, the nation would be able to grow.
According to Ilyasov, one step in that direction would be the creation of land reserves for returnees so that they could build individual housing. Indeed, if the land problem were solved, he suggests, the Crimean Tatars would be in a position to invest their own money in rebuilding the republic.
But even before doing that, Ilyasov says, Ukraine needs to extend the State Program for the Return and Support of Crimean Tatars. That program comes to an end this year, and Ilyasov argues that it should be extended at least until 2015 and that its funding should be expanded as well.
And to that end, he calls for the adoption by the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada of the bill Mustafa Cemilyev has proposed “on the restoration of the rights of persons deported on a nationality basis.” That measure would provide financial compensation for Crimean Tatars who for one reason or another could not reclaim their lands or the lands of their ancestors.
Ilyasov’s comments and especially his reference to those Crimean Tatars who have not yet been able to return to their homeland and who thus cannot mark the anniversary of their deportation alongside those who have provide a useful context for the May 14th decree of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.
That decree, a copy of which has been posted on the Ukrainian president’s website (www.president.gov.ua/documents/11613.html?PrintVersion), has generated a great deal of interest among Crimean Tatars and their supporters both because of what it says and perhaps equally because of what it does not say.
From one perspective, Yanukovich’s decree is a hopeful sign. He speaks of the problems of the resettlement of Crimean Tatars and others deported as “burning problems” and he directs the Ukrainian cabinet and officials in Crimea to come up with programmatic plans within a month, thus suggesting that he sees the Crimean Tatar issue as a serious and important one.
But from another perspective, his words are less encouraging. Except for his order that a central mosque be constructed in Simferopol and his implicit support for extending the repatriation program to 2015, most of Yanukovich’s suggestions go no further than calling for studies, something many will see as yet another effort to bury the issue rather than address it.
Unless that changes, both the Crimean Tatars in Crimea and even more the Crimean Tatars who have not had the opportunity to return to their homeland since Stalin’s time face a difficult future, one that may lead some of them to radicalism and others to despair. But because of the importance of where they live, their difficulties will not be theirs alone.

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