Historical excursion

Crimean Tatars are the indigenous people of Crimea and Ukraine.

The Crimean Tatar people were historically formed on the territory of the Crimean Peninsula and are the descendants of many tribes and peoples that inhabited these lands for thousands of years. The process of ethnogenesis of the Crimean Tatars was long and complex, Tauri, Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, Hellenes, Goths, Huns, Khazars, Kipchaks, Italians, Hordes and others took part in it and left their genetic traces. This is confirmed by the peculiarities of the anthropological type, race, language, character, traditions, religion and lifestyle of the Crimean Tatars. The Crimean Tatars formed as a people before the 14th century, and already in the 15th they created their own independent state – the Crimean Khanate.

Despite the fact that the formation process is well known, today there is still no generally accepted concept of the ethnogenesis of the Crimean Tatar people. The main obstacle on the way to the approval of the true version of the origin of the indigenous people of Crimea has always been its politicization.

The story of the origin of the Crimean Tatars was falsified at the end of the 18th century in russia. Scientists of that time faced the task of justifying the occupation of the Crimean Khanate in 1783 and proving that the Crimean Tatars had no reason to demand special rights on the peninsula. It was then that the still existing version appeared that the Crimean Tatars are descendants of the Horde people who came to the Crimea in the first half of the 13th century, from which it follows that they cannot be indigenous. This myth is still reproduced in modern historical literature. After the capture of the Crimean Khanate, many scientific works were destroyed or exported to russia. Then there was a century of taboo on the study of the history of the Crimean Tatars, and after the deportation of 1944, complete oblivion of the people.

The Crimean Tatar people are divided into three main sub-ethnic groups: mountain and foothills – orta yolaq or tat, steppe – nogay, and south coast – yalıboylu. Representatives of all groups differ in characteristics, dialect features, and customs. The inhabitants of different settlements had many differences from their neighbors, which made it possible to more clearly trace which of the peoples had the greatest influence on the formation of the population in this particular area.

In the 15th century, the Crimean Khanate appears on the maps – an independent state of the Crimean Tatars, which existed from 1441 to 1783 and occupied the entire Crimean peninsula, the steppes of the Northern Black Sea region between the Dniester and Don rivers, as well as the lands of the northern Kuban. The first capital was the city of Solhat (now Stary Crimea), later it was moved to the suburbs of modern Bakhchisaray – the impregnable cave fortress of Kirk-Yer (now Chufut-Kale), after that the Devlet-Saray palace was built at the foot of the fortress, and only then, in 1532 , the khan’s residence was moved to the Khan-Saray in Bakhchisarai, which now remains the only surviving example of Crimean Tatar palace architecture in the world.

The Crimean Khanate was a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and tolerant state, and the religious and ethnic policy of the Khanate was based on the principles of Islam. In addition to Crimean Tatars, Karaites, Krymchaks, Urums, Armenians, Crimean Chingene and others lived here. In the Crimean Khanate, in the modern sense, there was no concept of a nation – there was a system of “millet”, or “religious nation”. The traditions of religious tolerance were established from the moment the founder of the dynasty and the first Crimean Khan Khadja Gerai was enthroned. It was he who set an example of tolerance in the state: strictly adhering to Muslim legislation, he treated all faiths with respect and granted them many privileges.

The state and administrative system of the Crimean Khanate had many features in common with similar structures in the Ottoman Empire, but this did not mean that they were identical in composition. The khanate had a state apparatus and an administrative-territorial organization that was specific only to this country, which was approved in legislation. The state was headed by the khan and his closest relatives who held high posts – kalga (heir to the khan), Nur-ed-din (the second heir to the khan), or-bey (responsible for external security and the inviolability of the borders of the state), seraskirs (provincial heads) and anabeyim ​​(khan’s mother or sister).

In 1783, the sovereign Crimean Khanate was first occupied and then annexed by the russian Empire. From this period began the destruction of the Crimean Tatar statehood, the decline of cultural and spiritual life, traditional economy and economy. Tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars were forced to leave their homeland due to oppression by the russian authorities, confiscation of land from free peasants and religious communities, destruction of mosques, educational institutions, and so on. Thus, during the next century, the Crimean Tatars became a minority in their homeland, and more and more settlers from russia were brought to the peninsula.

Despite all the obstacles, at the end of the 19th century, a new reform movement appeared in Crimea, led by the Crimean Tatar intelligentsia, and primarily by Ismail Gasprinskyi. On the pages of his publication “Terjiman” (the first Crimean Tatar newspaper), he explained to his compatriots that they are a nation whose roots are in the Crimean land, and whose history goes back thousands of years. Emphasis was placed on the fact that they have the right to their Motherland.

A generation of young people who thought freely and aspired to the restoration of statehood of the Crimean Tatars on the peninsula was raised on the ideas of Gasprinskyi and his associates.

After the February Revolution in 1917, the first Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar people was convened in Bakhchisarai, which proclaimed the creation of an independent Crimean People’s Republic. The Constitution was adopted and the head of the government was elected – he became Noman Chelebidzhikhan, who said: “Our task is to create a state like Switzerland. The peoples of Crimea are a beautiful bouquet, and equal rights and conditions are needed for each people, because we have to go together.”

However, the October Revolution in russia and the coming to power of the Bolsheviks threatened the existence of the young Crimean People’s Republic. In January 1918, the Bolsheviks took active action – they overthrew the Crimean Tatar government and arrested Noman Chelebidzhikhan. He was brutally killed by Sevastopol sailors, and his body was thrown into the sea on February 23, 1918. 

In 1921, the Crimean ASSR was created. russian and Crimean Tatar became the state languages, and the leadership consisted mainly of Crimean Tatars. However, the brief rise of national life after the establishment of the republic (then national schools were opened, a theater was created, newspapers were published) was followed by Stalinist repressions in 1937. Then most of the new Crimean Tatar intelligentsia was killed. April 17, 1937 became the blackest day, when several dozen of the most prominent figures were shot.

However, the total deportation on May 18, 1944 was the most terrible blow, the real genocide, which the Crimean Tatar people suffered.

In the “On the Crimean Tatars” resolution, submitted by Beria and signed by Stalin, dated May 11, 1944, the State Defense Committee of the USSR accused the entire nation of “treason, desertion from the ranks of the Red Army, switching to the enemy’s side, joining the volunteer Tatar military units formed by the Germans, participation in German punitive detachments and comprehensive assistance to the German occupiers”.

The operation to evict the Crimean Tatar people was carefully planned and prepared. It was headed by Deputy People’s Commissars of State Security and Internal Affairs Bohdan Kobulov and Ivan Serov. By May 15, everything was ready: Crimea was divided into operational sectors, the number of Crimean Tatars and their addresses were specified, the time and routes for the meetings were determined, and those responsible for the special operation were appointed.

On the morning of May 18, 1944, more than 32,000 officers and soldiers of the NKVD-NGDB were involved in the eviction of Crimean Tatars in all populated areas of Crimea. Crimean Tatars were given 15 minutes to assemble. But under the muzzles of machine guns, they were loaded into the bodies of cars and taken to the nearest railway stations, where they were herded into freight cars already prepared on the tracks. Thousands of trains with Crimean Tatars went to remote parts of the Soviet Union – to Central Asia, to Siberia, to the Urals. Three days were enough to take every Crimean Tatar out of Crimea – already on May 20, party functionaries reported on the successful operation. The trains ran for several weeks, many people did not survive this journey – in suffocating carriages, without food and water.

According to official data, 183,155 people were evicted from Crimea. This number did not include the Crimean Tatars who were at the front. They In the places of deportation, the Crimean Tatars received the status of special settlers – all the people were restricted in their right of movement and did not have the right to leave the borders of the settlement area without the commandant’s permission. Arbitrarily leaving the defined boundaries was severely punished. Special resettlers had to report regularly to the commandant’s office, heads of families had to report changes in the family (birth of a child, death of a family member, escape) within 3 days.

A significant number of Crimean Tatars died on the way or in the first years in the places of special settlements from hunger, disease and repression by the authorities: according to Soviet sources, 15-20% died, and according to the estimates of activists of the Crimean Tatar national movement, up to 46% of the population did not survive these events.

After the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, the Soviet authorities destroyed almost all references to the indigenous people in Crimea – the names of most Crimean toponyms were changed, mosques and cemeteries were destroyed, schools and madrassas were demolished, or buildings were used for other purposes. Immigrants from other regions of the Soviet Union were brought into the homes of the Crimean Tatars

Since the 1950s, after the death of Stalin, a national movement for the return to the Motherland and the restoration of the rights of the indigenous people has been born among the Crimean Tatars. Read more about the development of the national movement HERE.

In 1991, the second Kurultai was convened in Simferopol and a system of national self-government of the Crimean Tatars was created. Once every five years, elections are held for a new composition of the Kurultai, which, in turn, forms the executive body – the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people. From 1991 to 2013, the head of the Mejlis was national leader Mustafa Dzhemilev. Since 2013, Refat Chubarov has been the head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people.

Since 2014, since the beginning of the occupation of Crimea by russia, the Crimean Tatars, due to their active political position, have been constantly oppressed and subject to repression by the new Crimean “authority”.