2.4 Appeal by Crimean Tatars to World Public Opinion [21 June 1968]

<< Issue No 2 : 30 June 1968 >>

21 June 1968

In 1944 THE WHOLE OF OUR PEOPLE was slanderously accused of betraying the Soviet Мotherland and was forcibly deported from the Crimea.

All the adult men were at the front; able-bodied older men and youngsters were in the labour corps. In one single day, 18 May, about 200,000 defenceless women, children and infirm persons were without warning driven out of their homes by KGB troops, loaded on to troop trains and removed under escort to reservations. The operation was directed by Marshal Voroshilov. For about three weeks they were transported in closed trucks, almost without food or clothing, to Central Asia. After the war was over the men who returned from the front were sent to the same destination. As a result of the inhuman deportation and the intolerable conditions in which we found ourselves more than half of all our people perished in these first years. Simultaneously, our national autonomy was extinguished, our national culture completely destroyed, our monuments pulled down, and the graves of our ancestors defiled and wiped off the face of the earth.

Deportation of Crimean Tatars, 1944

Deportation, 19 May 1944

During the next twelve years we lived as exiles and were discriminated against. Our children, even those born in exile, were branded as ‘traitors’; slanderous stories were published about us and are to this day still being read by Soviet people.

Following the 20th Party congress [1956] our people were relieved of the exile regime, but the accusation of having betrayed the fatherland was not dropped, and, as previously, we were not allowed to return to the Crimea. From 1957 until 1967 we sent to the party Central Committee and the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet hundreds of thousands of collective and individual letters calling for an end to be put to the injustice suffered. The representatives of our people in Moscow  [1] were, after persistent requests, received on several occasions by the Party and government leaders Mikoyan, Georgadze, Andropov and Shchelokov. On each occasion we were promised a speedy solution of the Crimean Tatar problem, but instead there followed arrests, deportations, dismissals from employment and expulsions from the Party.

Finally, on 5 September 1967, there appeared a Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet which cleared us of the charge of treason but described us not as Crimean Tatars but as “citizens of Tatar nationality formerly resident in the Crimea”, thus legitimizing our banishment from our home country and liquidating us as a nation. We did not grasp the significance of the decree immediately. After it was published, several thousand people travelled to the Crimea but were once again forcibly expelled. The protest which our people sent to the party Central Committee was left unanswered, as were also the protests of representatives of the Soviet public who supported us.

The authorities replied to us only with persecution and court cases. Since 1959 more than two hundred of the most active and courageous representatives have been sentenced to terms of up to seven years although they had always acted within the limits of the Soviet Constitution. Repressive action against us has been specially intensified recently. On 21 April 1968, in the town of Chirchik [Tashkent Region, Uzbekistan], Crimean Tatars who had assembled to celebrate Lenin’s birthday were dispersed by troops and policemen [2], and more than 300 persons were arrested. In May 800 representatives of the people travelled to Moscow to hand the Party Central Committee a letter calling for the people to be returned to the Crimea. On 16 and 17 May almost all the representatives were arrested and deported under escort to Tashkent [3]. At the same time four representatives of our intelligentsia were sentenced in Tashkent to various terms of imprisonment [4]. Every day dozens of people are summoned to appear at their local KGB offices and there pressured by blackmail and threats to renounce returning to our homeland.

The calumny is spread around that we want to return to the Crimea in order to expel those who are now living there. This is untrue. We are a peaceful people and have always lived and will live in friendship with the multi-racial population of the Crimea; we are not threatening anyone – it is we who are constantly being threatened with national extinction.

What people are doing to us has a quite specific name – GENOCIDE.

In the course of our struggle a total of more than three million signatures have been collected on the letters sent by our people to the Soviet Government. This means that each adult Crimean Tatar has affixed his signature to them at least ten times. But the appeal of 300,000 people, repeated ten times over, has re-echoed in vain. Not a single Party or government body has ever given us a reply; not a single Soviet newspaper has ever once referred to our fight.

We appeal accordingly to the world public.

We appeal to all the peoples of the Soviet Union as a small independent people appeals to brother peoples.

We appeal to all the peoples of the world and above all to those who have personally experienced the meaning of national inequality of rights and oppression.

We appeal to all people of goodwill in the hope that you will help us.

HELP US TO RETURN TO THE LAND OF OUR FATHERS!

The letter is signed by the following representatives of the Crimean Tatar people who hold a mandate authorizing them to fight on behalf of the people for the return to the homeland by all lawful methods:

1. Zampira Asanova, doctor, Bekabad [Uzbekistan]

2. Rollan Kadiyev, theoretical physicist, Samarkand [Uzbekistan]

3. Reshat Bairamov, electrician, Melitopol [S. Ukraine]

4. Murat Voyenny, builder, Tashkent [Uzbekistan]

5. Zera Khalilova, teacher, Tashkent

6. Mustafa Ibrish, engineer, Bekabad

7. Eldar Shabanov, driver, Namangan [Uzbekistan]

8. Ayshe Bekirova, teacher, Bekabad

9. Ramazan Muratov, worker, Bekabad

(and so on … In all, 118 signatures of doctors, engineers, manual workers of all specialities, pensioners, students, office-workers, and housewives; from Tashkent, Samarkand, Fergana, Chirchik, Margelan, Sovetabad, Andizhan, Angren, Begovat, Leninabad, etc. [in Uzbekistan], from the Kirghiz Republic, and from the towns of Leninsk and Novorossiysk in the Krasnodar Region).