8.5 The demonstration by Crimean Tatars on Mayakovsky Square (6 June 1969)

<< No 8 : 30 June 1969 >>

On 6 June 1969, the second day of the World Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties [in Moscow], the Crimean Tatars staged a demonstration on Mayakovsky Square. There were five participants: Zampira Asanova, Enver Ametov, Reshat Dzhemilev, Aider Zeitulayev, and Ibraim Kholopov. At a quarter past twelve they unfurled banners at the foot of the memorial to Vladimir Mayakovsky, bearing the slogans:

HAIL TO LENIN’S NATIONALITIES POLICY!

COMMUNISTS, GIVE THE CRIMEA BACK TO THE CRIMEAN TATARS!

STOP PERSECUTING THE CRIMEAN TATARS!

FREE GENERAL GRIGORENKO!

The last placard carried a photograph of Grigorenko.

A large crowd of about three hundred gathered round the demonstrators, encircling them but not daring to approach very close. It was a silent crowd. There were two shouts of ‘They shouldn’t have betrayed Russia!’ No one asked the demonstrators to disperse. The policemen on traffic duty left their posts and, after a short consultation, elbowed their way into the crowd and signalled to about ten of the bystanders, using some special signs. The latter sprang into action. Forcing their way through the crowd to the demonstrators, and, supposedly expressing the ‘anger of the people’, they fell upon the demonstrators using physical violence. In a most professional manner they twisted the demonstrators’ arms, and two women amongst the attackers beat the demonstrators with their umbrellas. The demonstrators did not resist. Reshat and Aider shouted ‘Long live Freedom!’ ‘So it’s freedom you’re after, eh? That’s a good one!’ said one of the policemen. Irina Yakir, who had been standing near the demonstrators, was detained with them.

Because the traffic police had left their posts, the flow of traffic slowed and a jam built up on [nearby] Pushkin Square. Half an hour later the crowds had still not left the scene, but people had split up into groups and were wandering up and down the square. Most of the conversations revealed attitudes of great-power chauvinism. Some students who tried to voice a different opinion were threatened and left hastily without starting an argument.

Those detained were driven off to 38 Petrovka Street [Moscow Police Headquarters], where they were interrogated by investigators of the Ministry of the Interior. Irina Yakir was allowed to go later the same day, and the following day the participants in the demonstration were sent home. Very probably they escaped arrest because of the World Communist Conference which was then taking place.

At this moment further repressive measures are being taken against Reshat Dzhemilev. Dzhemilev is 38 and a construction engineer. Every year since 1965 the Crimean Tatars have been sending him to Moscow as one of their representatives. He was one of the 20 Crimean Tatars who on 21 June 1967 were received by the Chairman of the KGB, Andropov, the Secretary of the USSR Supreme Soviet, Georgadze, the Attorney-General of the USSR, Rudenko, and the Minister of Public Order, Shchelokov. The reception of this delegation was an important step towards the political rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatar people.

On 2 September 1967 Reshat Dzhemilev was arrested as an “organiser of the mass disturbances in Tashkent on 27 August and 2nd September 1967”. On 13 December 1967 the Tashkent City Court sentenced him to one year of corrective labour. By “mass disturbances” were understood the numerous meetings held by Crimean Tatars in defence of their rights.

After the demonstration of 6 June Reshat Dzhemilev was sent under escort to Nizhne-Bakanovka in Krasnodar Region where his family recently came over to join him, and where he has now begun building a house. On arrival he was met by the police, who threatened him with prosecution under Article 209 of the Russian Criminal Code (Vagrancy and begging), if he did not immediately obtain a residence permit and a job. One might add that for his residence at least permit Dzhemilev needs at least 14 square metres of living space since his family consists of a wife and three children.

A few days after this, on 15 June, an incident was staged at the railway station, as a result of which Reshat Dzhemilev was given 15 days for “petty hooliganism”. Reshat was standing in the queue for tickets when an old man he did not know came up to him, squeezed in front of him, and dropped a glass of yoghourt on his feet. Reshat remained calm, but the police immediately rushed up and seized him; the old man vanished and no-one tried to stop him; nor did they approach any witnesses although Reshat demanded that they do so. Most probably Reshat was given his 15 days “for security reasons”; this had already happened to another Crimean Tatar activist in Gulistan. (There exists a copy of an official police document stating quite openly that ‘this man has been imprisoned for a period of 15 days “for security reasons”.)

The other participants in the demonstration were deprived of their residence permits for the places where they lived in the Krasnodar Region.