The tragic events connected with the total deportation of the Crimean Tatar people in May 1944 and the subsequent decades of forced detention in places of exile were one of the widespread crimes of the Soviet regime; it does not cause any doubt in anyone in the world – with the exception of perhaps the most radical-minded members of the Communist Parties.
Significantly more discrepancies are revealed in attempts to determine exactly how to qualify this crime. The deportation (mainly of women, children and feeble older people, since most of the men fought as part of the Red Army) was carried out in an unprecedentedly short time – in just three days; the whole ethnic were taken out of Crimea in trains unsuitable for transporting people. During the deportation itself and the first years of the deportees to “special settlements” – mainly in the Central Asian republics, in the Urals and Siberia – as a result of hunger, cold, illness, inhuman living conditions, according to various estimates, from 38% to more 46% of the total population. To characterize what happened, lawyers and scholars – historians, ethnologists, political scientists – as usual, use different concepts. Most often, such researchers as “mass repressions against the Crimean Tatars”, “ ethnocide ”, “ethnic cleansing”, “crime against humanity” and “genocide” are used by individual researchers without bothering with the “legal purity” of the definitions, as synonyms.
In an effort to find out how much the loss of the Crimean Tatar population due to deportation falls under the concept of genocide, it is most appropriate 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 characterizes genocide as any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic or religious group:
- The killing of members of such a group;
- Inflicting severe physical or mental damage to them;
- The deliberate creation for this group of living conditions that lead to the complete or partial destruction of the group;
- Taking measures to prevent the birth of children in the group;
- Forcibly transferring children from this group to another.
Later, it was this definition of genocide that was upheld by the International Criminal Court (the decision to establish which was adopted by the UN 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 legal norms of national or international legislation, but on significantly simplified ideas about genocide – for example, such as: “genocide provides for the intention to destroy the people physically completely ”. In fact, what happened to the Crimean Tatar people in 1944 and subsequent years is quite possible to characterize as actions that fall under paragraphs . 2, 3, to a certain extent – paragraph 4 of the international definition of genocide.
It is another matter how to prove (and whether it is possible at all) that the purpose of such actions was the conscious intention of the complete or partial destruction of this ethnic group. Of course, such openly stated intentions can hardly be found in any archival documents. Nevertheless, substantial evidence in favour of precisely such intentions is the desire to completely get rid of the material and spiritual inheritance of the Crimean Tatars in their homeland, which consistently and systematically occurred after their deportation from the Crimea, as well as to make it impossible to study the native language, observe traditions, and develop a culture at all times after exile. Moreover, even the very name “Crimean Tatars” has 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 ethnic group.
Natalya BELITSER, Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy