Deportation of the Crimean Tatars as another genocide in the USSR


Excerpt from the article.

The tragic events connected with the total deportation of the Crimean Tatar people in May 1944 and the subsequent decades of forced retention in places of exile were one of the large-scale crimes of the Soviet regime: this is beyond any doubt in the eyes of the whole world except perhaps the most radical members of the Communist Parties.

Significantly more discrepancies are revealed in attempts to determine how exactly this crime should be classified. The deported ones were mostly women, children and feeble elders since most of the men fought and served as part of the Red Army. They were carried out in an unprecedentedly short period in just three days; the whole nation was taken out of the Crimea by trains unsuitable for transporting people. During the deportation itself and the first years of their stay in “special settlements” – mainly in the Central Asian republics, in the Urals and Siberia people died due to famine, cold, disease, inhuman living conditions. According to various calculations, the number of victims varies from 38% to more than 46% of the total population. To characterise what happened, lawyers and scholars – historians, ethnologists, political scientists – as usual, use different concepts. Most often, such as “mass repressions against the Crimean Tatars”, “ ethnocide ”, “ethnic cleansing”, “crime against humanity” and “genocide” are found by individual researchers, not bothering with “legal purity” of definitions and use them as synonyms.

To find out how the losses of the Crimean Tatar population due to deportation fall under the concept of genocide, it is best to use the definition of the latter, proposed in 1948 by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Article 2 of this Convention describes genocide as any of the following actions committed with the intention of destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic or religious group:

  • Killing members of such a group;
  • Causing them severe physical or mental damage;
  • The intentional creation for this group of living conditions that lead to the complete or partial destruction of the group;
  • Taking measures to prevent childbirth in the group;
  • Forced transfer of children from this group to another.

Later, this definition of genocide was supported by the International Criminal Court (the UN adopted the decision on the establishment of which in 1998 in connection with the wars in the territory of the former Yugoslavia; this decision entered into force on July 1, 2002 ). It should be noted that some well-known scholars, considering this aspect of the Crimean Tatar problem, often rely not on the legal norms of national or international legislation, but on significantly simplified ideas about the genocide – for example, such: “genocide provides for the intention to destroy the people completely physically”. What happened to the Crimean Tatar people in 1944 and the following years can be described as actions that fall under p. 2, 3, and to a certain extent of paragraph 4 of the international definition of genocide.

Another thing is how to prove (and whether it is possible at all) that the purpose of such actions was the deliberate intention of the complete or partial destruction of this ethnic group. Of course, such frankly formulated intentions can hardly be found in any archival documents. However, strong evidence in favor of just such intentions is the desire to completely get rid of the material and spiritual legacy of the Crimean Tatars in their homeland, which consistently and systematically occurred after their deportation from the Crimea, and also make it impossible to learn the native language, follow for traditions, and develop culture at all times after the exile. Moreover, even the very name Crimean Tatars disappeared from the list of nationalities living in the Soviet Union; instead, they were simply recorded as “Tatars”, which indicated a desire to completely deny the very existence of the Crimean Tatar people as a separate ethnos.

Natalia BELICER, Pylypp Orlyk Institute for Democracy

Author: Редакция Avdet